Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Beauty vs. Body Acceptance

A question wandered into my thoughts the other night as I was heading to bed, and it got me to thinking. Is body acceptance compatible with taking pride in one's appearance? Obviously, taking pride in your body no matter what it looks like is a form of acceptance. But what if you're interested in fitness, and watching your weight, and things like that - not purely for the health benefits, but because you think it makes your body look more attractive?

I don't hide the fact that I put a lot of value in looks. I'm a very visual person - especially in the way that I express my sexuality. And I think that certain body types are more attractive than others. But I'm down with the principles of body acceptance. I just wonder if there's a contradiction there. Can I really support body acceptance if I'm simultaneously signing off on the idea that some bodies look better than others?

From the start, my guiding principle has been the assumption that the human phenomenon of beauty has an intrinsic and uniquely important value. And the sometimes ugly truth about beauty is that some things are not as beautiful as others. But if beauty is important, I also really like the principles behind body acceptance. I've tried to explain my stance before - and hopefully I've done a good job. On the one hand, I believe that beauty is worthwhile. But it is not the only thing in life that matters. So while it is generally a good thing to pursue beauty, the fact is that not everybody is going to be beautiful (in any one particular, narrowly defined way). There are other qualities to pursue - e.g., athleticism (which sometimes but not always correlates with beauty), intelligence, kindness - that all have intrinsic value of their own.

I just think it's ironic because I'm extremely comfortable in my own skin. I wasn't always that way, but I certainly am now. I'm a nudist. I have no qualms about being seen naked. And while I've worked (and continue to work) to improve my physique - because doing so makes me feel better, looking at myself in the mirror (and even more so as a model) - I would be no less shy getting naked in a crowd if I were considerably less attractive. (Case in point, a couple years ago I weighed 40 more pounds than I do now. I didn't like the way I looked in the mirror so much. But it didn't stop me from practicing nudism, or wearing what I wanted to wear, or continuing to take pictures of myself, even if I was less inspired).

So that's my stance. Beauty is good, but it's not the only thing that's good. If you can have it - fantastic. It's worth pursuing. But if you can't, or if you're just not that interested in it (because you don't have to be), then that's fine, too. There are other ways to be a valuable, interesting, worthwhile human being. So, in my mind, it's not incompatible for me to pursue beauty and praise those who are beautiful, while supporting the platform of body acceptance. Maybe not everyone will see it that way, but that's the way I see it. People who praise beauty are not the ones contributing to body image disorders - it's the people who shame and criticize those they consider not beautiful (especially when they actually are), and imply that being beautiful is the only thing that matters in life, that do so.

Am I justified in these beliefs, or am I just deluding myself?

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