What is Body Positivity and how did the Body Positive Movement Spread?

The body positive movement has gained popularity over the past decade, but what does body positivity mean? The answer is tricky since body positivity can mean different things to different people.

To put it simply, body positivity is the belief that all people deserve to feel satisfied with their bodies and their self-image. Body positivity is about practicing self-acceptance of your flaws without letting those flaws negatively affect your self-esteem. It’s not easy, but with a little understanding, you can begin practicing body positivity too. Keep reading for all you need to know about the body positive movement!

Body positive movement - men and women jumping in the air, smiling.

What is the Body Positive Movement?

Body positivity is a social movement geared towards helping people accept themselves at any weight or size. However, it has grown to encompass other groups stigmatized for their appearance. This includes women who don’t wear makeup or those who prefer to rock natural body hair!

How did the Body Positive Movement Spread?

Body positivity has only begun to gain momentum over the past twenty years, but this movement dates back to the Victorian period.

During Victorian times, a group of women advocated for other women not to wear corsets or conform to the other unrealistic beauty standards.

The body positivity movement picked up momentum again in the 1960s. A body positivity activist named Lew Louderback wrote an essay criticizing fat-shaming culture and called for larger women to be in ads.

Who Invented Body Positivity?

After Louderback’s essay, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance was formed.

The concept behind the body positive movement under NAAFA was “healthy at any size.” They believed that blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol should indicate body health rather than measuring health by weight or size. (Source: Penn State University)

Today, most of the activism involving body positivity is on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Through body positivity related hashtags, women and men worldwide are coming together like never before to practice radical self-acceptance of their bodies!

Four Aspects of Body Image

Body image can be broken down into four aspects.

  • Perceptual: A person’s perceptual body image refers to the way they view themselves and their own body.
  • Affective: A person’s affective body image is how their body image affects their emotions when they think about how their body looks.
  • Cognitive: A person’s cognitive body image consists of the actual thoughts that go through their mind when they consider their body image.
  • Behavioral: A person’s behavioral body image is how they act in relation to how they feel about their appearance.

As you can see, body image isn’t just about how a person feels about themselves. It is the driver for a lot of different aspects of human behavior. How a person’s body image is perceived also dictates how they are treated by the rest of society.

What Causes Bad Body Image?

What can drive a person to view their appearance in a negative light?

  • Body negative upbringing: Many people who develop a bad body image inherited it from their immediate surroundings in childhood and adolescence. A person who has been around people negatively fixated on appearance is more likely to develop poor body image later in life.
  • A cultural emphasis on appearance: Some cultures place emphasis on physical beauty and high standards of appearance. For example, South Korean culture is often criticized for pushing an unrealistic standard of beauty. South Korea is also the plastic surgery capital of the world. (Source: Medium)
  • Comparing appearance to others: One way that people diminish their own body image is to compare themselves to others. This has gotten worse in recent years by social media, where filters and Photoshop keep standards of physical beauty impossibly high.

Body positivity has gained popularity because the immense pressure placed on body image has resulted in people negatively obsessing over their appearance. While it’s not easy, there are beautiful things that happen when you begin to accept yourself that make the body positivity journey worth it!

4 women displaying body acceptance as part of the body positive movement

Body Positivity and Body Image

While body positivity isn’t all about body image, a lot of what body positivity is about is wrapped up in body image. Body image is a person’s perception of the aesthetics or general attractiveness of their own body.

A person’s body image may be affected by blemishes such as scars, freckles, wrinkles, birthmarks, acne, or moles. Excess (or lack of) weight/body fat, the color of their skin, height or the shape of their facial features.

Each person might have very different hangups about their personal appearance based on how they look. Excess weight is only one aspect of a person’s body image that might negatively or positively impact the way they see themselves.

The impact of social media can be supportive of body positivity but can also bring us down with unrealistic body images. Be sure to practice self-care with your social media exposure.

Girls taking a selfie while practicing shelf care in body negative a social media world.

Why Is the Body Positive movement Important?

The idea of body positivity has its share of critics, but body positivity is an important movement. Lack of body positivity leads to a wide variety of negative behaviors such as eating disorders, self-harm, and depression.

Having body positivity makes developing a healthy lifestyle a lot easier because it prevents you from being effected by negative body image. If you don’t have a strong sense of self-worth, it’s hard to care for your own health.

  • Boosts self-esteem: Body positivity affects how a person views their body. Whether that is positive or negative usually has a strong effect on how that person is view by other people.
  • Affects attitude towards food and exercise: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a difficult task in today’s society. The self-loathing that comes with lacking body positivity makes it even harder to keep up the motivation to make healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Promotes self-acceptance: Self-esteem and self-acceptance have a huge impact on your overall happiness. Regardless of a person’s size, self-acceptance can have a positive effect on a person’s life.

Body positivity is not just about developing a positive body image. It is a social justice movement designed to remove the stigmas around weight in a society that actively contributes to poor health.

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