Елена Вахненко

Body Positivity: Pros and Cons

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder... and body positivists quite agree with this postulate. But what is the danger of body positivity?

Russian version of the article

 

Controversy serves the cause of truth, Socrates used to say, so I suggest arguing a little bit. Let's dispute the topic of non-standard beauty and the benefits of a body-positive attitude towards yourself and others. We'll also discuss how to use this newfangled trend in our favor.

So… Let's get started?

Vulnerable Youth

Oh, how many times I wanted to look in the mirror and see the reflection of the ideal beauty: with an impeccable figure, a chiseled nose, puffy lips, legs for days... and so on, the list is well known, isn't it?

Alas, this only happens in fairy tales, and reality is harsh on us and our dreams. Now I have learned to accept my physical flaws and live with them, but in youth, my own imperfection used to drive me to despair. The slightest deviation from the far-fetched benchmark upset me, and I considered myself almost ugly. I paid no attention to my good appearance qualities (and I had them, of course!), I could notice only those face and body features that seemed to deprive me of the chance to look pretty. Beauties in glossy zines were not like that, and it was they who served as role models.

Sounds familiar? I think yes! Many women suffer for their own mismatch with the idealized measurement standard early in life, they don't realize they are beautiful by the purity of youth. I remember a funny story related to this… I was only 15 then, and my grandmother and I discussed my peer, a charming, a bit chubby girl. I considered the subject of our argument to be fat, but my granny told me: “Oh, no, she is young, and therefore beautiful! She's shining...”

And now I understand what my wise grandmother had in mind. Yes, in our youth we all shine, we are all beautiful... which we, unfortunately, are not aware of. And such insecurities are quite natural: in the end, immaculate beauties, girls without a single flaw, smile at us from the magazine covers. Of course, crowds of make-up artists, stylists and hairdressers had been working on the image of each of them really hard, after which Photoshop experts entered the game... however, this is a completely different story.

Youth is too vulnerable, the young had no time to build up armor able to protect them from criticism and attacks of the merciless world. And sometimes such defenselessness leads to sad consequences.

What exactly are the consequences? Let’s see… 

Caution: Danger Zone!

In my teenage years, I sometimes had the thought of resorting to rhinoplasty, and even more often I dreamed of doing hip liposuction: the hips are a very insidious area, and losing weight here is a real problem. It is much easier to undergo a relatively simple surgical procedure and forget about the trouble forever (or at least for a long time). I had no idea about all kinds of side effects, and even if I had known about them, I would have given no damn about the possible consequences. Fortunately, I, just a high school student, didn't have enough money, so I couldn't take such a rash step. However, I still found a way to ruin my health in the pursuit of imaginary beauty by exhausting myself with diets and the wrong approach to sports (though, we’ll talk more about this another time).

But if I didn’t have money, other young ladies (as well as mature ones) have them. And these insecure girls start remodeling themselves in one fashion or another. Many of them later regret what had been done... when, alas, it's too late.

By the by, if earlier we dared to make radical changes under the influence of the promoted celebrity images of such famous persons as Angelina Jolie, Selena Gomez or someone else, today these famous women (and men) have been replaced by a different trend, namely… 

Virtual Ideality

You’ve probably heard about programs that can improve your video and photo images: enlarge lips or eyes, remove wrinkles and pimples, “erase” cellulite, and more. Or maybe you not only heard but also experimented with them, right? Why not, such services are affordable, easy to use, and the results are amazing! But there's the downside either: the mirror is still ruthless, and the reflection doesn't change... a painful blow to pride and sometimes - to the psyche!

The result is sad: according to plastic surgeons, today clients are increasingly asking to make them look “like in the filtered photo”, whereas before women wanted to resemble Kim Basinger, Cindy Crawford or Jennifer Aniston (insert the name to your taste). That is, modern people wouldn't minding turn into an improved version of themselves.

And this coin has two sides:

  1. The desire to be like a top model or resemble a famous actress is understandable but hardly feasible: no matter how much you improve yourself, you won’t become a completely different person. A vivid example is a certain Stephanie Mülik from Sweden, who had spent a lot of money on plastic in the hope of turning into a Barbie doll. The effect was frustratingly frightening. But if you show the plastic surgeon a picture of yourself, but with some “modifications”, there would be every chance to achieve a decent result.

  2. On the other hand, is it wise to resort to surgeons for no good reason, out of a vain desire to become ideal? Isn’t it better to concentrate on a more worthy goal? After a certain age, it's time to live a real life. However, it's not easy to stop feeling insecure, especially when you constantly see your own younger and prettier image.

The situation came to a head, and that's why senior officials began to gradually ban such services. For example, the owners of Instagram removed filters with the effect of age-related plastics, and Facebook plans to introduce a special recognition system: it's needed for disclosure of overly corrected unrealistic photos.

Unusual Beauty as a Fashion Trend

All of the above is fertile soil on which the trend of body positivity has flourished. In fact, its appearance is a sad inevitability in the current conditions... there was no other way. Or we, humans, would have simply died out.

So, for starters, let's answer the question… 

WHAT IS BODY POSITIVITY?

Body positivity convinces us to be more loyal to the human body and accept it with all its imperfections. Moreover, the most ardent supporters of this trend don't want to just put up with their own shortcomings; true “body positivists” believe that each flaw makes a person unique, and uniqueness is more important than standardized beauty. Not even beauty... prettiness!

And in some ways, they are quite right, at least in my opinion. Let's talk in more detail?

THE BENEFITS of an UNUSUAL APPEARANCE

What is good about body positivity? There are several reasons for its popularity:

  1. No boredom. If everyone looks like a certain standard, the world might become monotonous and boring. Women are gorgeous blondes with magnificent breasts and thin waists, men are green-eyed black-haired athletes… and no variety!

  2. Different strokes for different folks. Recently, my friend and I watched the movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The roles of the main characters were played by the muscular Brad Pitt and the charming Leonardo DiCaprio: also handsome but without any hint of athleticism. Discussing later these good-lookers, we were surprised to find that our opinions didn't coincide. I liked B.P. more, but my friend gave preference to the former hero of the Titanic. “I love men as soft as bears,” she explained. Why did I tell you this? Because you definitely see: our tastes are completely different... and if so, what's the point of striving for being someone else? Perhaps there is a person looking for just such a woman (man) as you.

  3. No bullying. If a person is far from being ideal, this doesn't mean he or she should suffer from what the Americans call "bullying." Hearing insulting nicknames and scornful comments behind you is always unpleasant, especially if the reason for “ugliness” is our nature, poor health, genetic predisposition, and other factors that aren't dependent on us. A positive attitude towards the body's imperfectness teaches us to be loyal and respectful.

  4. No self-doubt. According to the new trend, we have no reason for self-doubt: we are what we are, and this is wonderful! 

  5. It is only a body. Accepting ourselves and others with our shortcomings leads to the ability to see a true person: a person with all his habits, inclinations and talents. Too soft body, an abundance of freckles, a snub nose, and another discrepancy to the canon are only external, physical features... but we aren’t limited to them, do you agree?

GOLDEN MEAN

However, in some cases, body positivity can be harmful. I am talking about the following ...

#1. Scruffy appearance

It is one thing to accept oneself with all the shortcomings, and it’s quite another to neglect your own appearance by abandoning such a concept as “body grooming”. Here are some great examples to illustrate my point.

  1. Gray hair. Now it’s fashionable to refuse to hide gray hair by dyeing them. Perhaps this approach is justified, but gray hair looks good only on young girls. In such cases, silver strands in sparkling curls only emphasize the youth and innocence of beauties. Alas, if a woman is 35+, the story is completely different: gray hair visually ages such a lady and sometimes gives her a touch of scruffiness. 

    1. Conclusion: if for some reason the girl turned gray too early, she doesn't have to start actively dying her hair... but if her age is closer to 40th, it is better to hide the first signs of maturity.

  2. No makeup. I myself am a supporter of nude makeup (the so-called “naked” makeup): pastel colors, the maximum effect of naturalness, nothing more... But a little makeup and a complete lack of it are different things. A girl who refused any makeup products will look next to her bright girlfriends pale and sleepy. Do you need it?

    1. Conclusion: Makeup reminding 'war paint' is vulgar and not popular anymore. And anyway, too vivid, flashy makeup is appropriate only under artificial lighting: for example, at a party, a date after work, and so on... otherwise, the “optimal minimum” of decorative cosmetics is more than enough. I usually use mascara, natural lipstick, a little powder (sometimes, if desired)... and that’s it. Your “necessary minimum” may not coincide with mine, I just gave an example.

  3. American style. My American friend once said that many of his compatriots had started completely ignoring the factor of grooming recently, for they wanted to be loved “for their beautiful soul”. And this is the right decision, it just seems to me that a beautiful soul should be placed in a clean beautiful vessel. Isn't it so? Disheveled hair, clothing not in size, and indifference to details rarely look good on a person. Why not make a little effort so that others have a desire to see your beautiful soul? After all, who wants to study the contents of a dubious “vase”?

    1. Conclusion: there is no need in wearing your evening finery when shopping, but minimal attempts to look nice never hurt. You don’t know who you'll run into in the street!

#2. Unhealthy status

There are times when it is dangerous to turn your flaws into good qualities... sometimes they are an alarming signal of our body, a request for help, figuratively speaking.

Disadvantages as a symptom

There was a period when rashes appeared on my face too often, and for an unknown reason: adolescence has been left behind, and it is adolescents who suffer from troubles of this kind. However, I didn't pay much attention to the skin problem, in other words, I treated my own shortcomings in a body-positive way (which I didn't realize).

This went on for several years... and then I decided to reduce sugar consumption and excluded sweet drinks from the menu (which I loved very much in those years). And my troubles disappeared along with an excess of glucose: the skin cleansed by itself. Apparently, sugar was the source of the problem.

Why did I tell you this? It's very simple: skin rashes were an obvious symptom of some internal body malfunctions, their external manifestation. And if I had sounded the alarm earlier, I would have achieved positive results much faster. Alas, I preferred to accept the way I look (though it was unhealthy).

Or you can take the problem of fatness. If a woman or a man makes a lot of effort to lose weight but doesn't achieve a real effect, the decision to become a follower of the size plus models is not necessarily the right one. What if excessive stoutness is a sign of hormonal imbalance or malfunctioning of the thyroid gland, and that is why sports and diets don’t work? Then it’s not about beauty! A visit to an endocrinologist is strongly recommended in such a case, and only then you can think about accepting yourself with all the extra pounds, no matter how many there are.

Disadvantages as a reason

Let’s continue the topic of excess weight, it is very relevant today.

So, if we are talking about 10-15 pounds above the conventional norm, there is nothing to worry about, our body will only be glad to have such a strategic reserve "for a rainy day." However, when it comes to 35+ pounds or more, the situation is much more serious. If you don't take action, you can get health complications of one kind or another.  

By the way, an overbite can also lead to health problems: such a defect not only violates the impeccability of our smile but also provokes headaches, ruins our teeth... accelerates aging. And sometimes putting braces to correct the situation from the very beginning is much wiser than suffering from migraines for many years or visiting a dentist on a regular basis.

Imperfect Beauties

Not all diseases are curable, at least not yet. And some of them have a bad effect on our appearance. Although “bad” is a relative concept, and these three girls proved that true beauty is unique and doesn’t depend on patterns and standards.

Winnie Harlow

The real name of the beauty is not Winnie Harlow, but Chantelle Brown-Young. Today, she is a fairly well-known Canadian fashion model who had won the love of the public… and partly this sympathy of fans is caused by her atypical appearance. However, this was not always the case.

Chantelle has been suffering from vitiligo (a disease that destroys melanin) since childhood, and in her school years, other kids used to make fun of her. Children are cruel, and girl's unusualness scared them... caused their aggression. “Cow” and “zebra” are the most pleasant of nicknames that the poor thing heard about herself. It is not surprising that in the most vulnerable moments she considered committing suicide… 

Everything has changed thanks to the American Top Model show, in which Chantelle took part. The girl failed to win, but she was remembered by TV watchers. And since then, her career has taken off.

By the by, the capacious nickname Winnie Harlow is also the legacy of the show that made her famous.

Madeline Stuart

Madeline Stuart has another problem. She suffers from Down's Syndrome... which didn't stop her from becoming a popular Australian model. Her portfolio includes collaboration with the most famous fashion giants and filming for such illustrious magazines as Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and NY Times. There is something to be proud of, isn't it?

Maeva Giani Marshall

It turns out that freckles may appear due to poor health. This is exactly what happened to Maeva Giani Marshall, a pretty French model. Sick kidneys led to a strong pigmentation of her face, but could not break the spirit of a scrumptious girl: and she is scrumptious, for, despite the brown spots appearing on her cheeks and cheekbones, Maeva remained charmingly attractive. Moreover, many believe that freckles gave Mademoiselle Marshall a special charisma. And it’s hard to argue with that!

The career of an attractive Frenchwoman is also enviable: among the brands, Maeva Giani Marshall successfully works with, are really glorious names, for example, Jil Sander, Jaquemus and Coach.

5 Steps to Accepting Yourself

It remains only to discuss how to take advantage of the body positivity trend. For myself, I came up with a simple scheme consisting of 5 steps.

So, suppose you are annoyed by a certain flaw. It doesn’t matter whether it is fatness or thinness, an imperfect nose, too narrow or too large lips... anything! The main thing is that the problem worries and bothers you by creating discomfort of some sort. That's when I suggest that you ask yourself a few questions... and take your time while answering them!

  1. Cause or symptom? First of all, try to determine if this annoying shortcoming could possibly lead to health problems. And if not, could it be the result of some disease? If both answers are negative (which I sincerely hope), you can safely proceed to the next point, namely...

  2. The flaw as the cherry on the cake? As the saying goes, let’s make lemonade out of a lemon. The top models I mentioned earlier managed to achieve such a goal, why can't you? It's not necessary to be perfect to look attractive and hot. Just don't rush! If you failed to convince yourself that a large nose belongs to the pros rather than the cons, don't give up further attempts to be creative in this matter. Sometimes it takes time to find the right approach to yourself and your image.

  3. Can you come to terms with yourself? If you are unable to accept yourself in a body-positive way, try to come to terms with your current appearance, with all the imperfections. But you must learn to look in the mirror without disappointment, at least with indifference, admitting: “Yes, I don’t like this feature of my appearance, but I, in general, do not care much... for me, this is not a real problem”

  4. Can it be hidden? If you feel constant dissatisfaction, irritation, discontent every time you see your reflection... well, then you should do your best to hide the flaw that gives rise to such a storm of negative emotions. It's not about something serious like surgical intervention, the measures are the simplest: for instance, makeup is able to correct the shape of the nose and eyes (at least,  visually), and a properly selected outfit might hide extra pounds (or something else).

  5. Auto-training as the last straw. If all of the above produces no results, then it's time to apply the last resort. And again, I'm not talking about something big like “enlarge breasts with silicone”. I can’t say I am categorically against such radical measures. Not at all, sometimes they are quite acceptable, but the topic of my article is a body-positive attitude towards oneself and others, and this has little relation to plastic surgery. Therefore, the 5th item on my list is auto-training. What kind of affirmations should be repeated and how to make this process most effective? I'll give you a couple of tips:

    1. no negative wording. Everyone probably knows that our subconscious doesn't perceive a “no” particle. Just in case, I’ll clarify: instead of “I’m not fat,” you should say “I’m slim”, instead of “I’m not ugly” - “I’m pretty”, etc.

    2. choose epithets carefully. If you keep saying “I am pretty” or “I look perfect”, the effect would be negligible. You don’t believe in your attractiveness, that’s the trouble, otherwise, one of the first points on my list would work. Therefore, it is better to choose affirmations, in which your subconscious mind will believe more readily... A few examples: “I am hot”, “I am interesting”, “I am charming”. 

    3. combine business with pleasure. Lack of time aggravated by laziness is a common problem. The bottom line: you honestly want to practice auto-training, but you do it irregularly, which means to no avail. I suggest not allocating special time for this kind of work on yourself, but practicing it simultaneously with other activities: say, while you're brushing your teeth in the morning and evening (and looking in the mirror anyway), walking around streets, etc.

How many days (weeks, months) do you need to practice auto-training? It all depends on the level of your dislike for yourself. When you notice that your own reflection is no longer annoying you, try to go through my list again. Perhaps this time the attempt will be more successful.

P.S.

Of course, what I wrote is hardly sacred truth, these are my purely personal considerations on a popular topic. I was interested in systematizing my own thoughts and turning them into a full-fledged article. 

Perhaps you don't agree with me in everything, and your opinion is fundamentally different from mine... well, all the better. A variety of thoughts makes our world so interesting and ambiguous... and so bright! 

And by the way, I don’t consider the body positivity issue closed. I will continue my “research” in other posts. And next time I’ll touch on the size plus models.

So, see you soon!

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