Understanding & Embracing Body positivity - Beyond the Buzzword and the Hype

Posted on April 1st, 2022 12:11 PM
Understanding & Embracing Body positivity - Beyond the Buzzword and the Hype

‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.’ I often wonder how far is this true? We live in a world where everything has to be picturesque and Instagramable - our homes, our food, and even our appearances. Our standards of beauty are defined by the latest filters. We have elaborate make-up tutorials for a ‘no-makeup’ look. We try innumerable poses before clicking a ‘candid picture’. In this scenario, where the eyes of the beholder are filter-tinted, I would rather change the aforementioned quote to ‘beauty lies within.’ It’s about time we put the spotlight on body positivity.

Social media - the boon and bane for body positivity

The thing about digital media is that everyone - celebrity or not, can match up to the stereotypical beauty standards - slimmer body, fairer colour, and perfectly smooth skin. Thanks to the filters and photoshop. The aftermath is that people are constantly comparing their appearance to this digital mirage and finding it more and more difficult to accept the real versions of themselves. A study suggests that 1 in 50 people worldwide, suffer from Body Dysmorphia. A condition where people become extremely anxious about their physical defects (real or imaginary). While social media may not be solely responsible for these numbers, it surely has a role to play in amplifying the effect.

From the historical fashion of corsets, foot binders, tight collars to today’s high heels, skin-tight clothes, and fairness creams - as a society, we have always been consumed with defining beauty standards and then almost compulsively forcing them on people. Social media is just another device that is continuing this trend, delivering a constant barrage of an endless carousel of perfect bodies and beautiful faces.

But there’s also a flip side to the dystopian world of social media. It has fueled conversations around body positivity. The body positivity movement started in the 1960s with the establishment of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA). Over the years, the movement has further grown, and social media is in some way contributing to this change. We see body positivity influencers owning their bodies and encouraging others to do so. Sameera Reddy, Harnaam Kaur, Sakshi Sindwani, Masaba Gupta, and many more such influencers & celebrities are leading this conversation.

But is it enough? The number of seemingly ‘perfect’ looking people on social media surpasses the number of influencers that advocate body positivity. So, is body positivity becoming another marketing ploy for brands? Or are we seeing a slow and steady shift in the way people perceive beauty and accept themselves? The answer is yes and yes.

Body positivity is finding a voice in popular culture. We are also seeing a slow shift in the representation of beauty in the entertainment and advertising industry with the inclusion of models and actors of various body types, skin colours, and genders taking up the place that was earlier occupied by faces that adhered to the stereotypical (and absurd) beauty standards. While brands like Dove, Victoria's Secret, and more are making way for body-positive narratives, others like Fair & Lovely which have thrived on India’s obsession with fair skin had to change their name to adapt to this new wave. Slowly but steadily the body positivity movement is starting to get the attention it deserves, but there’s still a long way to go.

Beyond the hype, what exactly is body positivity?

As a practising dermatologist for two decades, I have met many people who are extremely anxious about even the smallest defect on their skin. Often, they end up abusing their skin with toxic cosmetic products and damaging it more. I have always believed in a holistic and mindful approach to skincare. My views about body positivity stem from this same foundation.

Body positivity for me is accepting and loving the way one is, taking care of your health and therefore your body in a mindful way, and being consistent towards treating your body right. Body positivity is about how you feel inside. The three crucial aspects of body positivity are - acceptance, positivity, and health.

  • Self-acceptance - Accepting your body in every way and being at peace with it.
  • Positivity - Adopting a non-comparative and positive outlook towards your body.
  • Health - Consistently maintaining efforts towards maintaining good health.

Practising body positivity - moving towards a body-positive mindset to embracing it as a lifestyle

We all know having a body-positive mindset will bring us peace. But with decades of social engineering around the perceived standards of beauty, practising body positivity can be an uphill task for many. Here are a few tips to start changing your mindset and then slowly embracing body positivity in your life-

1) Positive self-affirmations - Body positivity starts within. Giving yourself small positive affirmations every day is a great way to begin. Reminding yourself that you are enough, being grateful for people who love you, and simply looking yourself in the mirror and telling yourself that you are beautiful - can help you slowly shift your mindset, one day at a time.

2) Mind your health -There’s a thin line between embracing yourself the way you are and being stuck in an unhealthy lifestyle. Like I said before, body positivity starts within. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will make your body and mind happy. So, take care of your health by eating right, sleeping tight, and exercising regularly.

3) Watch what you ‘watch’-We are what we consume. A lot of us are endlessly scrolling social media and continuously watching people with unrealistic parameters of beauty, built by fake filters and photoshopped images. This excessive social media exposure only ends up making us feel that our real selves are not good enough. It is important to know when to stop and constantly remind ourselves that this is not real and real is beautiful. Follow people and watch content that inspires you and encourages you to love yourself and embrace a healthy life.

4) Be choosy about the company you keep - A lot of times negative self-image is built because of people who surround you are criticising, comparing, and commenting on the way you look. Remember, not everyone in your life will positively influence you. There will be many who will criticise you, compare you, and make you feel less, no matter what you do. Stay away, and be ruthless while cutting out such people from your life.

5) Practice self-love - Make yourself your first priority. Give yourself time. Take that hour-long bubble bath you have been postponing, go to that spa, get that long-awaited haircut, follow a healthy skincare routine, dress for yourself, and above all - learn to love yourself. We are taught to put ourselves second and this can make practising self-love difficult. In that case, take baby steps, start with body neutrality. Body neutrality simply means being neutral towards your body, don’t love it, don’t hate it, don’t compare it - just live with it and be at peace with it.

Wrapping up

“I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself.” — Emma Stone

The body positivity movement is slowly picking pace and getting the attention that was long overdue. A study from the American Psychological Association states that dissatisfaction with body image may be on the decline and will further retreat as perceptions continue to change and evolve.

But beyond the revolution, the conversations, or the social media hype - I believe a body-positive mindset should be integral to our lives. It requires patience, practice, and a lot of self-compassion to bring that change. But once we achieve it, there’s no looking back. After all, we are all enough!