Two Asian women in workout clothes and headphones.

The phrase “love your body” has come to be many things to many people over the years. Depending on whom you ask, it can signify anything from in the privacy of your home to displaying your curves for all the world to see. It’s an organized battle cry and personal mantra, a philosophy and a way of life. But what does it really mean and why is it important?

What Does “Love Your Body” Mean?

It would be naive to believe that the origins of the phrase “love your body” are pure and detached from motive. It’s become the crux of several beauty marketing campaigns and, therefore, also the subject of much criticism.

Its message is simple but hardly straightforward because it implores women – who have always received conflicting advice – to “love” the body they’re in. Going by the most basic definition of “loving” something, this means one has to like, delight in, and enjoy not just the idea of their earthly vessel, but also their physique. Everyone knows how difficult that is and how toxic it can be to force such love.

The Pressures of Self-Acceptance

Between every wave of trends comes a tsunami of wellness and beauty fads that encourage an unhealthy obsession with , working out, and the fashionableness of doing both. It’s not easy to accept yourself when you’re constantly bombarded with “ideals” and “after photos” of what you could look like if only you “tried.” 

These trends will say loving your body means taking care of it – not too little, not too much, but just right. And they will leave it up to you – a woman raised by both Mattel’s Barbie and Greta Gerwig’s – to determine what’s enough. They will leave it up to you – a woman who has to dodge both catcalls and daily – to decide where to draw the line. They will leave it up to you – a woman who loves her flat morning stomach and hates her bloated post-lunch belly – to self-regulate.

To love anything takes a lot of work; to love your body will take an endless cycle of determination, kindness, understanding, and . But what if you’re not ready to accept yourself just yet? Does that make you somehow less evolved or enlightened? Is it okay to simply live in the body you have without placing it on a pedestal, let alone think about it as anything more than flesh? 

In a perfect world, all women would be happy with their appearance regardless of size, weight, or shape. There would be no need for marketing campaigns or body-positive movements; the love would come naturally without much need for prodding. But in reality, all women live in the shadow of decades-old that can’t be outgrown so easily.

Do You Need to Love Your Body?

Every woman carries at least one memory of body-related shame – can it be erased by a sudden burst of self-love? Perhaps. Body positivity is often described as “radical acceptance” after all. But to sustain a healthy appreciation for the self, body and all, is essential.

Do you need to love your body to accomplish that? The mere intent to do so is a good start. According to the , self-love motivates you to make healthier choices, from eating healthy and exercising to having fulfilling relationships. It recommends being kind, patient, gentle, and compassionate with yourself the way you would with someone you care about. A healthier body would be an icing on the cake, not a goal. 

As you go on this journey, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Create a that makes sense for your lifestyle and use products that make you feel nourished and happy. Start with a shampoo like Sunsilk Smooth & Manageable Shampoo, which leaves the hair smooth and tangle-free.

Next, cleanse your skin with Dove Deeply Nourishing Body Wash, which moisturizes the skin up to 20 layers deep. Finally, pamper your underarms with Dove Radiant + Care Deodorant Dry Serum 3% Niacinamide 10x Vitamin C & E Dark Marks Reducer, a dual-powered powder serum that brightens dark spots.

There are many ways to love your body and you don’t have to force yourself to flaunt it, celebrate it, or whip it into shape for all the world to see. If all you want to do is be happy with a balanced diet that includes the occasional donut, go for it. Be authentic with your love language, mindful of your choices, and allow yourself to fall in love with the shape that you’re in.