A Strategy For Moving From Self Negativity Toward Realistic Positivity
Appreciating what our body does for us instead of focusing on how it appears is what Marsha Hudnall calls “body neutrality.” It is viewing the body as a “home,” a vehicle that allows us to do things.
Embracing “body neutrality” is liberating although living as though you have embraced it takes persistence. Thinking of the body neutrally is, for many of us, contrary to our habitual negative self-talk.
Body Neutrality: Not Positive Thinking
Body neutrality is not thinking about the body with positive thoughts. Hudnall describes it as being “halfway between hate and love,” a strategy to help people decrease their negative self talk and self loathing. A neutral view of the body makes it possible to journey from hate toward love.
Going from a mindset of body negativity to one of body positivity can be a daunting prospect. It usually takes countless small steps to move from the negative pole closer to the positive. Neutrality is a place between the poles where people can rest and gradually assimilate positive messages and concepts about the body.
It Gets Us Where We’re Going
To utilize body neutrality as a strategy we must acknowledge what our body is instead of dwelling on what we want it to be. It means putting appreciation for what the body allows us to do above the influence of our feelings about its looks.
This may seem a bit pie-in-the-sky, but appreciating the body as you would a well-tuned car shifts body perception away from appearances toward utility, and this is helpful. You do not have to love a car to take good care of it. You take care of it so it gets you where you want to go. Cars serve their purpose when they are well maintained and sometimes we end up loving them for it.
Appreciating the body because of what it does for us, though it may sound cold and utilitarian, may eventually stir feelings of love. This was discovered when doing meditations by Andrew Weil from his CD called “8 Meditations for Optimum Health.”
One of Weil’s meditations focuses on the heart and how it is constantly pumping - doing its work without a break night and day - so that we can breathe, walk, love, and go about our business. Realizing how the body ceaselessly supports us can create an appreciation for it that goes beyond gratitude for its service, to a deeply felt sense of love.
We can learn to love our body as a dear but flawed friend instead of identifying with it as our self. This does not prevent the sting of disapproving looks and unkind comments, or stop negative thoughts from cruising through the mind. It does prompt us to choose our response to unkind and negative judgments with care.