The body-positive movement continues to inspire people all over the world, as messages of acceptance and self-love encourage everyone to feel beautiful in the skin they're in. However, it's often hard to know whether or not this movement is truly making a tangible difference in the world. But new research suggests women are feeling more body-confident now than they ever have before, so I guess this movement is doing something right.
Women's Health UK distributed a global survey for its September Naked Issue, asking women a series of questions that focused on body image. Nearly 2,000 women responded, and of that number, 46 percent said they felt better about their physical body than they had four years earlier.
While not an overwhelmingly fabulous statistic, it's definitely a start.
Women are doing more for their bodies now than they were four years ago.
There's an unlimited supply of resources to upscale our healthy lifestyles thanks to social media influencers, health and wellness gurus, and registered dietitians — all of whom are not only willing, but excited to offer their expert advice. When you pair all of the viral workouts you can find online with the endless lists of whole food recipes out there, it's simple to figure out the best way to keep our bodies at their healthiest.
So when Francesca Menato, assistant digital editor for Women's Health UK, reported that 58 percent of those who completed the survey said that the “investment they've made in their physical well-being” has positively shaped their body image, it doesn't come as too much of a surprise. Getting in shape and eating clean has become less athlete-exclusive and more universally accepted.
But, there's still a long way to go.
Being proud of your body is one thing, but being comfortable and confident enough to publicly show it off is a totally different story. Though the progress in body acceptance reflected in this study is a total win, the fact that 79 percent of participants responded “not exactly” when asked if they feel confident in a bikini proves there's still quite a lot of work to be done.
This isn't to say that total body acceptance is defined by how comfortable you feel strutting your stuff in a bikini, but for such a high percentage to express their hesitance is a genuine concern.
With so much of our everyday activities showcased on several social media outlets multiple times a day, our society has pretty much grown to be hyperaware of one another's eating habits and exercise routines. Selfies have expanded from close-up profile pictures to full-body shots on Instagram.
Bottom line: Women (and men) may be searching for validation in all the wrong places.
Sebastian Naturski, CEO of Your Diamond Teacher, told Forbes,
The need to be liked reaches a fever pitch on social media channels, especially when it comes to pictures. When people upload pictures on social media channels, they want instant validation, and if their pictures don't get enough likes, they think there's something wrong with them.
While I'm not saying there's anything wrong with uploading a photo of yourself when you feel amazing, or sharing your before-and-after progress with family and friends, fixating on these social-media-made highlight reels can often lead you to compare yourself to someone else in a toxic, unhealthy way.
It takes work, but total body acceptance is possible.
I wish I could tell you there's a golden rule when it comes to achieving total body acceptance, or that altering just one aspect of your life will change your mindset entirely, and you'll feel instant gratification by doing this one little thing.
Unfortunately, like anything else worth having, to unconditionally love the skin you're in takes time and effort.
Personally, I think the best way to achieve total body acceptance (and note: I'm still not all the way there yet myself) is to spend time with your body. This could mean going on a walk by yourself, meditating, exercising, taking a bubble bath, or even giving yourself a foot massage.
I think the more we get to know our own bodies, the more we can genuinely appreciate them and all they're capable of.