I Can't Think About My Stretch Marks Anymore: Why I'm Switching From Body Positivity To Body Neutrality

Photo: Unsplash / Wearehuha
Why I'm Switching Away From Body Positivity To Body Neutrality
Self

When body positivity just wasn’t doing it for me, I embraced body neutrality instead. 

I tried it. I really did. I looked in the mirror and thought happy thoughts about my stomach rolls. I tried to wear shorts in the summer even though I hate my thighs. I even posted Instagrams with my stretch marks clearly visible. 

Sometimes I had fleeting moments of self-love where it all worked and I believed everything the body positivity bloggers told me to think about myself. 

Other times, most times, it didn’t. All these parts of myself that I had previously wanted to change were now supposed to bring me unadulterated joy because some curvy influencer told me so

I couldn’t convince myself to be happy in my skin 24/7. And when the positive affirmations failed I felt like not only had I failed at having the perfect body, I’d failed at having the perfect mindset, too.

Because that’s what the body positivity movement is built on, isn’t it? A change in mindset that switches negative thoughts about yourself into positive ones. That would be all well and good if the mind was a static entity. 

RELATED: I Don’t Care How My Summer Body Looks, And Neither Should You

What the body positivity movement fails to acknowledge at times is that how we feel about ourselves is not one upward-moving graph. It fluctuates. 

Trust me, I switch between crippling insecurity and a God-complex at least once a week.

What about the days where your jeans just don’t button up as easily as they normally do? Are you really supposed to stand there, pants undone thinking: “I’m loving this right now”? 

For me, practicing body positivity never felt like I was challenging my negative perceptions of myself. Instead, I was just pasting over them with buzzwords. By replacing a negative preoccupation about my body with a positive one, I was simply dressing up my body obsession in a different outfit. 

By encouraging us to be constantly thinking about how much we love each and every bump, lump, and curve, the body positivity movement leaves you vulnerable to those natural self-deprecating thoughts that creep in every now and then. 

I found myself quickly drifting in and out of loving my body and to be honest, neither felt that good. 

RELATED: I Only Like My Body When It's Completely Covered Up

The truth is, I don’t really hate my body. I just don’t like to think about it. 

It works fine most of the time. It gets me from place to place, it’s fun to dress it up in cute outfits. But it’s not my favorite part about myself — nor is it something that I enjoy advertising to the world. 

I like my mind and my sense of humor. I like my creativity, my sense of adventure, my courage. Those are the parts of myself I want to feel positive about — not stretch marks or scars that have no reflection on who I am as a person.

Body neutrality offered an opportunity to stop thinking about my body and start thinking about, well, anything else. 

The term, when I first heard it, was popularized by Jameela Jamil who is often viewed as the face of the body positivity movement — though it's a title she rejects. Jamil is has been recovering from an eating disorder since she was a teenager and has said body neutrality helps her step away from a mindset that is constantly focused on looks. 

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

"I can't do body positivity because it takes up still too much of my time! Stand there in front of the mirror and be like, 'I love thighs! I love my cellulite!' I'm still too body dysmorphic to be able to do that, so instead, I just don't think about it,” Jamil says. “I'm neutral! I don't love my body, I don't hate my body."

Another reality often overlooked by people who enthusiastically post under body positivity hashtags is that this movement is not for everyone

Body positivity is specifically designed to empower and create a space for marginalized body types that are often discriminated against in the media, in medicine, and in society. 

Part of my skepticism towards the body positivity movement stemmed — without me realizing it at the time — from the fact that the movement was never intended for me. I, a medium-sized white woman who is neither super-skinny nor particularly fat, did not need to be taking up space in a movement that I have no place in.

If anything, adopting body neutrality and giving up on trying to convince myself and my social media followers that my body was beautiful allows marginalized body types that don’t look like mine to have their chance to shine — I hope.

Moving towards body neutrality — and yes it is a constant, ever-changing movement — means I get to decide where I allocate my time and energy. Yes, I still listen to my body and nourish it, and even love it if it needs it. 

But most of the time I just exist within it and let it do its thing all while leaving the positive affirmations, stomach selfies, and body positivity mantras to the people who need it more than I do.

RELATED: My Horrible Body Image Sabotaged Every Relationship Until I Finally Changed Something

Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a generalist with an interest in lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.