• Sarah Tulej

I won't make you beautiful: from body positivity to body neutrality

Updated: Aug 24


Photo: Sarah Tulej

I’ve been on the hunt for a new bra lately.


Something that really struck me as I trawled the internet is how many brands are now using models of all shapes and sizes and ages. With different skin tones, showing belly rolls and wrinkles, even pimples.


I have to say, seeing this online does make me more accepting of my own body.


Like most people, I’ve struggled over the years with how I look. I had bad acne and braces as a teenager. I then suddenly put on weight after being put on the pill to help clear up my acne.


Which led to the bullshit of obsessing every minute over my weight and the size of my stomach, well into my thirties.


The positives of body positivity

In my opinion the body positivity movement has been a force for good.


It has brought to light the relentless body shaming that goes on. The media decides which bodies are deemed worthy of showing and which should be banned or censored, as happened to model Nyome Nicholas-Williams.


After posing for photographer Alex Cameron and posting the images online, Instagram deleted the image and warned Nyome that her account could be shut down. This despite millions of images being posted daily of nude, white, thin women with no repercussions.


Enter, body neutrality

But now there’s another movement - body neutrality - that is gaining popularity.


Body neutrality is about appreciating your body for what it can do (carry you up hills, birth babies, hear music), rather than for what it looks like.


Listening to the I-Weigh podcast the other day I heard self-titled ‘optimism doctor’ Dr Deepika Chopra talk about how neutrality as an emotional state (about your body, your life, etc) was hugely underrated. She spoke about how alienating it can feel for people going through difficult emotions when online spaces are designated "good vibes only."


Love yourself! Or else…

Chopra then went on to explain that it's extremely difficult to suddenly go from hating how we look to loving our bodies unconditionally. It’s just too deep-seated to shake off like that. Telling people to “love yourself!” can quickly become a militant or ‘toxic’ form of positivity that ignores the complexity of our lives and our relationship with ourselves.


So, taking the focus off having to love how we look to a cultivating a more neutral stance makes sense to me.

Photo: Sarah Tulej

I won't make you beautiful

When I write copy for my website, or social posts, I deliberately avoid giving specific tips on what to wear, or claiming that I will make people look beautiful in my photos (although in my opinion, they often look pretty damn good).


That's because I realise that lots of us struggle with how we look. I want people be themselves in front of the camera, to relax so they can tell their story and show their character to the people that matter to them.


To do that, it is not about hiding their flaws or focusing on their looks. It is about helping them take up space, capturing their spark, and helping them see all the positive things that the rest of the world sees.


Far too many of us shy away from being visible because of a fear of not looking good enough, and I want to help change that through the way that I photograph people. I want to be the photographer that serves people of all body types, genders and backgrounds.


What do you think? Had you heard of body neutrality? Has the body positivity movement helped you? Let me know...


If you're feeling like it's time to be more visible, I'd love to talk to you. And, if you sign up to my mailing list, you'll get €250 towards your first personal branding experience with me. Here's the link to sign up.

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