"I realized I had got it all wrong," the fitness influencer admitted in an Instagram post.

By Julia Guerra
August 12, 2019
Nicole of Nix Fitness squatting with resistance bands around legs
Credit: Instagram/@nixfitnessofficial

Everyone has a right to love the skin they're in. That's a positive message everyone can agree on, right? But ICYDK, loving yourself and practicing body positivity aren't one and the same.

Though often paralleled, there's a difference between self-love and body positivity—a detail that was recently brought to the attention of fitness influencer Nicole, of Nix Fitness. She took to Instagram to share that she'd been told body positivity "is not for [her]" because she's a "thin" woman.

"Initially, I was quite hurt and confused hearing this," she wrote in her post. "'Doesn't everyone have the right to love the body they're in? It doesn't seem very inclusive' I thought." (Related: Why Body-Shaming Is Such a Big Problem—and What You Can Do to Stop It)

Nicole then took it upon herself to do more research on body positivity so she could understand what the movement is really about. (Related: I'm Not Body Positive or Body Negative—I'm Just Me)

"I realized I had got it all wrong," she wrote. "Yes, everyone has the right to love their body but that's not body positivity, it's self-love. And there is a difference."

The true purpose of the body-positivity movement is to encourage people with marginalized bodies (curvy, queer, trans, bodies of color, etc.) to not only practice self-love but feel worthy of self-love, Sarah Sapora, a self-love mentor and wellness advocate, previously told us. However, as the movement becomes "more widespread and more commercialized," its original intention has been "watered down" and taken on multiple meanings, explains Sapora.

Lumping "body positivity" and "self-love" together essentially ignores the struggles that people with marginalized bodies have faced for years. "Body positivity can't just be about thin, straight, cisgendered, white women who became comfortable with an additional 10 pounds on their frames," Stacey Rosenfeld, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and fitness professional, told us in a recent interview.

Nicole seems to have come to a similar conclusion: "As someone who has not been in a body that has been discriminated against, I can't call the celebration of my soft belly 'body positivity', it's simply self-love," she wrote. "⁣Although our insecurities are still valid, I think it's important for us to recognize the difference because a failure to do so, takes away the voices of the people the movement was created for." (Related: Can You Love Your Body and Still Want to Change It?)

Bottom line: You can love yourself and practice body positivity—just know that the two terms are different from one another. While self-love is something you can work on internally and encourage others to practice, body positivity means being an ally to those with marginalized bodies, calling out body privilege when you see it, and challenging preconceived notions about the validity of people's bodies.

In practice, that means checking your own body-related biases and giving others the space to make their voices heard, Sapora told us. "If you are a slender person, or one who fits the 'norm' of society, make sure your voice and your body story don't drown out the voices and stories of those who are under-represented," she explained.

Katie Willcox, a model, author, and founder of Healthy Is The New Skinny, suggests leading by example: "You can do your part not by preaching, judging, or portraying a perfect life on Instagram, but by being a living example of someone who loves themselves and lives in a way that reflects that outwardly."