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Does body positivity support a meaningful life?

Aug 3, 2022 | Insights

Home » Does body positivity support a meaningful life?
Body positivity promotes choice and defies social pressure but don’t let it hinder your ability to create change and make a difference.
Last week Lance Sergeant Morgan, a fitness instructor with the British Army, took the Body Positive movement to task.

Freedom of choice and non-conformity are at the heart of Body Positivity. The movement promotes acceptance of your body irrespective of the powerful social pressures deemed partly responsible for today’s damaging attitude of negative self-worth and mental health problems.

However, Morgan claimed Body Positivity promotes obesity and leaves soldiers unable to cope with life in the Forces. The fitness instructor highlighted the contrast between young recruits, who want to be happy in their skin irrespective of their health, and the Services, which need fighting fit men and women.

Body Positivity and your search for meaning

Does a similar conflict exist between being happy in your skin and living a life of meaning? Possibly. There are three good reasons why taking Body Positivity too far can impair your drive for a life of purpose.

First, a concern of body positivity is the emphasis on ‘me’. Body positivity focuses on how “I” look and what makes “me” happy. Conversely, those searching for a meaningful and purposeful life will probably be more outwards looking and concentrate on making a difference to others.

Second, your body is a reflection of your health. As with the Services, good health is essential to the resilience you need to keep making a difference to others even when the chips are down. When you set out to make a difference, others will come to rely on you. You accept responsibility for others, so your health becomes essential in your ability to keep going. 

Finally, beware of promises that Body Positivity will lead to happiness. Of course, everyone wants to be happy. However, hunting for happiness is like fighting for peace or fucking for virginity. It doesn’t work. The feel-good factor you get from maximising pleasure and minimising pain is usually transient and shallow.

Instead, focusing on meaning often involves challenges, suffering, personal growth, achievement and integrity. Yet, paradoxically, long-lasting, sustainable happiness comes naturally when this happens.

Tell the world ‘I am enough’.

So, yes, be yourself, be positive about your body. Defy social pressures. Tell the world “I am enough” and “I have enough”. Ignore those who say otherwise. (And it’s worth asking if the Body Positive movement now exerts negative social pressures to not conform). 

However, ensure your body is in good shape to enable you to go out and change the world, make a sustainable difference and give your life meaning.

Attributions and references

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

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