I mean, to be clear, I want both. Trust me. But only one can be my absolute priority, and focusing on how I feel is much better for my mental health.
Do you remember the show “Star Search?” It was the first competition show, before “The Voice” and all the rest. One image from that show got seared into my brain and has informed me ever since. It points to the power of a new movement called “Body Neutrality.”
Here’s what I saw on the show: All the winners were on stage at the end: the “TV Spokes model,” the dance troupe, the comedian and the singer.
The model, with her perfect makeup, socially coveted body shape, coiffed hair and sexy outfit, was standing still, pinched in her perfection. While right next to her, the dancers, in their variously shaped bodies, with hair pulled straight back, negligible makeup and functional outfits, were VIBRATING WITH JOY. I was stunned by how much more beautiful their radiant exuberance was than the posed perfection of the model.
In my experience, the way I feel from the inside out has everything to do with my confidence.
This is because I am not my age or my body. I am my ENERGY.
Ironically, the better I feel from the inside out, the more I like my reflection in the mirror. But when I focus too much on how I look, I lose that confidence. It’s like I’m trying to squeeze myself into a box, like the awkward model.
Described by Charlotte Cowles of the NY Times, Body Neutrality “prioritizes the function of your body and what it can do for you, rather than what it looks like.” So, exercise is about the pleasure of moving, rather than to achieve a visual result later. In fact, studies show that people enjoy exercise much more when their motivation is feeling better that very day, rather than a long-term goal of changing their body shape.
Body neutrality differs from “body positivity,” which might actually backfire sometimes. For example, if you look in the mirror and say, “I LOVE the way my arms look,” but inside that feels like a lie, it will leave you feeling worse about your arms. Now you’re in body negativity. A body neutral approach would be to say, “I love how my arms help me swim. I love how they’re getting stronger each day.” This leaves you feeling empowered about your body’s function, but neutral about the way your arms “look.”
The power is ours. It’s all about who we are from the inside out. No matter what your age or body composition, you can take care of yourself, do things that make you FEEL good and radiate confidence now.