The Instagram fitness community is seeing an overwhelming trend of body positivity and self-love at every stage of the “get fit” process. While I love that being BoPo is SO hot right now (it should always be in style, IMO), I’m not on the Posed vs Relaxed bandwagon — and won’t be jumping on it at all.
This isn’t to put down anyone who has posted a selfie of the like, with one side showing you posed at a good angle and good lighting next to a picture of you non-posed, relaxed, just like you are in “real life.” I do believe these posts were all made with good intention. They were posted in an effort to be transparent in the fact that the majority of Instagram feeds, especially those of Social Media Influencers, are posed + curated to increase engagement and follower counts. To show the people that are following that you aren’t always working with a good hip-to-booty ratio pose, your abs aren’t always flexed, and the lighting isn’t always flattering.
The intentions are good. And honestly, I love the transparency! But, if the message that is trying to be conveyed is “Don’t compare yourself to my highlight reel because I don’t even look like my highlight reel all of the time” wouldn’t it be more beneficial to our followers to just simply post more non-flexed, relaxed, natural selfies?
Most of the posed vs relaxed pictures have captions that reiterate that the person posting the picture does not see one as good and one as bad, just different. But… if that’s sincerely the case and the relaxed isn’t a picture where you think you look bad, why aren’t you posting that picture?
The comparison of the two, in itself, implies to your followers “I like this posed one and always post selfies like this, but I typically look like the relaxed picture, and despite the fact that I don’t look bad in the relaxed picture, I’d still rather post the one where I’m posed.” And if you’d rather post one over the other (as you do according to your feed), then your followers would infer that means you DO prefer one over the other.
Instead of making it a comparison, why not just post a picture of you looking like… you, in all of your beautiful, non-posed glory?
Instead of prefacing the caption with “Not flexed and not posed”, why not just post it without feeling the need to vocalize to your audience that you are not flexed or posed? Making it known that you are not doing those things is almost as if you are saying “I know I don’t look as great as I do in most pictures, but that’s because I’m not flexing or using my angles.”
If the message we really want to convey is, “I’m not perfect, I look normal when I’m not contorting my body to show my best angles,” then why not just share more pictures where you aren’t contorting your body to show your best angles?
I read a post the other day, from a woman who is clinically obese and uses her Instagram platform to promote Body Positivity and self-love. Her post conveyed a message that she was not pleased with some women using their thin privilege to convey how “we all have rolls when we sit down” (I’m sure you’ve seen these posts on Instagram, too). Even with the stomach standing vs tummy “rolls” sitting trend on IG, I believe the intentions were good — the way of conveying it just misses the mark. It’s almost as if you’re saying, if you sit down and have tummy “rolls” it’s okay because I do, too. But what about those people who have tummy “rolls” no matter if they sit or stand? Are those rolls okay, too? OF COURSE THEY ARE! But that isn’t the message that’s being sent.
My intentions here are not to criticize those who have made these posts, because I do believe they came from a place of good. I believe they came from a place of love and wanting to promote body positivity to followers. I’m just wondering if we should think more critically about the way these comparison pictures are perceived by those who aren’t “fitness models” with relatively low body fat percentages all year-round.
As those who are promoting fitness, we must understand that there will be people who look up to us who are NOT considered to be at a healthy weight, and the way we speak and talk about our bodies reaches women of all ages, shapes, and sizes. So if you’re a fitness model or fitness influencer with a really large reach, I urge you to keep promoting self-love, body positivity, and fitness… but I also strongly urge you to look at how your messages may be perceived by the women who look up to you.
I think we can all do better in the transparency department. More non-posed, non-flexed pictures will be gracing my Instagram feed.