False Body Positivity and What to do Instead

People think that I’m immune to certain things because I’m a dietitian. Well let me tell you, I’m not! I think it’s important to be real and honest about those things.

body-imageI often notice a girl who goes to the gym about the same time I do. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for her continuous work to build strength and athleticism. Despite this, I realized I began comparing myself to her and feeling negative about myself. “You need to work harder to be leaner like her,” and “You need to lift more to be as strong as her,” were thoughts that crossed my mind. As if simply comparing myself to her weren’t enough, I caught myself at another, equally dangerous behavior: I started comparing her to myself. “She probably wishes she had my height,” I thought.

When I actually noticed those thoughts going through my mind and recognized what it was doing to me, my stomach turned.

“What’s so bad about that? She probably does wish she had your height,” my champions would cheer.

Well, maybe she does and maybe she doesn’t wish that. What that other girl may or may not envy about me is beside the point. I aim to be okay with myself as-is, no questions asked, unconditionally, in any situation. That means noticing when I’m making comparisons, and digging deeper to find out from where that comparison is coming. Taking a compassionate, non-judgmental perspective can help me explore what I’m feeling and why I’m assessing myself in that way.

Cutting myself down by comparing myself to another person is a slippery slope that will surely to lead to discontentment. Do I really want to feel good about myself by diminishing someone else? If finding fault with another is the only way I can be okay with myself, I need to do some serious work figuring out why I’m in a rut of negativity.

Many who struggle with self-acceptance have heard “body positivity” sayings such as, “Everyone has something they’re insecure about,” or “Even the most attractive person in the world would probably be jealous of something about you.” I am here to tell you these are nonsense. Yes, they might be true, but do they matter?

Essentially, relying on others’ insecurities means that you cannot be content unless others are dissatisfied. Why avoid your own insecurities by taking solace in the fact that others have them, too? Why would you need the most attractive person in the world to be jealous of something about you before you accept yourself? Each of those statements are false body positivity. They are backwards comparisons masquerading as foundations for improved body image and self-esteem.

By relying on false body positivity, you hinge your happiness on something external over which you have no control. What if that foundation is shaken? Where will you turn for your true, unwavering body positivity?

Even I, as a dietitian and someone who encourages self-acceptance and a confident body image, fall prey to these comparisons. I have found two methods to help myself internalize self-acceptance rather than seek it from outside of myself:

  1. Be thankful for what your body is capable of, thankful for the aspects of your health that are good, thankful for the opportunity to improve the negative aspects of your health. Focus on the things you love about your body, not because anyone else should love them, too, but simply because you love them.
  2. Speak for yourself, not against anyone else. Strive to focus on your own merits and improve in the areas where you are weakest. This goes for nutrition, fitness, and health in general, in all aspects of your life. Eating one brownie when your friend ate two does not make you a better person. Stick to one brownie because you feel satisfied and are honoring your hunger, or eat a second brownie if that’s what your body is telling you! Drop the comparison, and listen to your individual needs.

When it comes down to it, how you feel about your body or mind or soul or decisions has no bearing on anyone else. Build your own self-acceptance from the inside for a resilient confidence.

Please share your experiences with comparisons and self-acceptance in the comments section below! How do you practice internalizing a positive self-image?

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