As boudoir photographers we ardently believe that all bodies are beautiful. As women, we know that everyone else can tell you how beautiful you are, and you can still struggle to believe it to be true.
Over the last few years, the body positivity movement has grown exponentially, helping numerous women come to love their bodies and to see their body beyond the aesthetic. With the 90s coming back in style, I’m hoping the “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” mindset doesn’t come back with it. Frankly, cake tastes better than skinny feels. Forcing your body to be below its unique healthy weight feels hungry, hollow, desperate, isolating, sad. It doesn’t feel good at all.
What does feel good, is health, vitality, confidence – and you can have these regardless of your body size or shape.
Still, I know that for many women, the idea of loving our bodies feels impossible. There are too many years of self-hate, too many years of self-criticism, too many years of forced diets and exercise in an effort to control our bodies and make them adhere to societal beauty standards. Going from hate to love, seems a tall order. The good news is, there are many steps in between. If you never quite manage to love your body, if you can attain a state of body acceptance, of body neutrality, you will still be in a better place physically and mentally.
Body acceptance is a practice of being present with yourself, and allowing yourself to be as you are. There is no pressure to change. It is an acknowledgement that your body is good enough as it is. Reaching a state of body acceptance allows us to acknowledge that we may have rolls, cellulite, blemishes, and wrinkles (all the things we are conditioned to hate), but not feeling like we have to change any of it. It’s being able to see our bodies as they are (without any dysmorphia) and accept them.
Body neutrality is a practice of holding zero judgement towards your body where you no longer attribute values – good or bad – upon your body, or your personhood, based on aesthetics, or even physical accomplishments. Similar to how the diet industry has taught us to think of some foods as “good” (eg. vegetables, protein) and others as bad (eg. carbs, sweets), we have been led by the beauty, fashion and even fitness industries to similarly label our bodies. The problem with this really ramps up when we realise that we then translate those values to ourselves. If we eat “good” food, we are a “good” person. If we look “good”, we are a “good” person. Being able to detach from these arbitrary values and their placement on our bodies allows us freedom to separate our aesthetics from who we are as a person. We can not meet societal beauty standards and still be a remarkable, loving, intelligent, beautiful human.
By practicing body acceptance and neutrality, we let go of the pressure, the criticisms, the expectations. We stop basing our self-confidence and worth in how we look. We recoup all the energy we have expended on trying to force ourselves to be something we are not, and can re-channel that energy into things that light us up. We can live our lives more fully.
Being able to celebrate our bodies, not for how they look, but for all the things pedestrian and miraculous that they do, is another step we can take on the path to body love. Every day our bodies allow us to experience this life. Experiencing the world through our five sense, our organs functioning without our conscious thought, the way our muscles constrict and relax to allow us movement – our bodies perform these little miracles every day. For some of us, our bodies will house and grow little humans. They allow us to go on adventures, to play sports, make art and connect with other people. Our bodies do a lot for us, they deserve our gratitude, our care and a bit of celebration. (And we happen to know of a great way to celebrate your body….*cough* boudoir photography *cough*)
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