Body Positivity is Toxic Positivity in Disguise


Dionne Peterson

The “Shirt Challenge” on Tiktok is where girls wear an oversize t-shirt and then tighten it around their waist area. Some had an hourglass figure, some had a large stomach, and some were in between. Some stomachs had stretch marks, some had abs, and some had neither. These videos were all under #all bodies are beautiful, a united message of body positivity. 

Millions of users participated in these trends and similar ones, encouraging their followers to embrace their imperfections and love every flaw of their bodies. Some even compared their insecurities with celebrities to prove that, yes, even the most considered beautiful actresses share similar weaknesses. 

The most common flaw that many users share on the app is stretch marks. Many self-love influencers show off their stretch marks and wear low-rise pants or crop tops to flaunt their confidence and encourage others to do so. The video’s caption usually follows: “I love my stretch marks, and you should too!” 

Although these self-love messages seem inspiring, it also poses a question. Body positivity demanding us to embrace our flaws is causing us to view ourselves negatively. After all, why are stretch marks even labeled “flaws?” 

Stretch marks can be caused for many reasons, most commonly from puberty, pregnancy, or when the body shrinks or stretches quickly. “Stretch marks don’t mean you’re overweight,” Boys Town Pediatrics declares. “Thin people can get the marks too, especially when experiencing a rapid growth spurt.”

Why does social media peg stretch marks as a flaw, if they are completely normal? 

It all circles back to trying to attain an idealistic outside appearance. Humans are proven to go to extremes to become beautiful, and we idolize those who have achieved these intangible standards. When we view beautiful women or men on social media, stretch marks aren’t usually portrayed. 

In a video titled “I hate my body,” Jackie Liu speaks about how social media generally focuses on the aesthetic appearance of our body instead of appreciating the body’s functionality. 

“[Body positivity] insinuates that you should love yourself despite these flaws, which are often just normal parts of normal bodies that [social media influencers] are telling you are flaws.” 

Instead, she introduces the idea of body neutrality, which suggests respect for the body instead of love. 

[Body neutrality] more so encompasses the nonphysical characteristics. For example, you may love or grow to accept how strong your body becomes when lifting weights,” Regenrx states in an article titled “Body Positivity vs. Body Negativity.”  

Body neutrality is also helpful when being positive about your body seems unrealistic. Instead, it imposes that you let your body simply exist instead of worshiping it for its appearance. 

Instead of picking over insecurities that social media has determined as flaws, remind yourself that being healthy is more important than creating the most idealistic appearance and appreciate everything your body can do for you.