Body shaming, the act of making humiliating or negative comments about someone else’s body shape or size, has become a huge problem. Not only is it potentially damaging to someone’s mind and mental health, but it is a form of bullying that has become far too common.
In a society that is attempting to become more diverse, why are there those who refuse to accept other’s differences? Could social media be to blame?
What is Included in Body Shaming?
Body shaming is a form of harassment. Anyone can be targeted and it is usually done online. Any kind of negative comment about someone’s body, such as telling them to lose weight, and that has the potential to hurt their feelings can be considered body shaming. A woman is more likely to be body-shamed than a man.
Body shaming can include comments about being too overweight or too skinny, too tall or too short – you can even body shame yourself by thinking negative thoughts about your own physique. It also includes racist comments about the colour of someone’s skin and comments about disabilities.
What Body Shaming Does to People
Body shaming can be incredibly damaging to the recipient, particularly if it is done over a long period of time. Body shaming has been known to lead to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphia (where someone views their body differently, like thinking they are fat when they are not). It can also cause mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, as well as reduced self-esteem.
Body shaming does nothing to “help” people lose weight. Telling someone to go on a diet is not advice – it’s a potentially damaging and hurtful thing to say. Obesity can be a cause of other health issues; a recipient of body shaming may be unable to lose weight.
Why Do People Body Shame?
There are a few reasons why someone may feel the need to body shame someone else.
It could be because they are self-conscious about their own body, so project those negative feelings onto someone else. People who are bullied themselves often become bullies as a form of defence.
It may be because they feel they are being “helpful” by pointing out someone else’s flaws; perhaps they feel it will motivate the person to make changes (scientifically, this has proven to not work – in fact, body shaming can cause people to gain weight due to the stress).
It may be a way of getting attention or a reaction, particularly if the body shaming is done online to or about a celebrity.
Some people body shame others or themselves and use it as a way to bond with others; this has even become an object of psychological research.
Some people enjoy making cruel jokes as a form of entertainment. They enjoy getting a “rise” out of people by causing arguments or saying upsetting things. This is called online trolling.
Regardless of the reasons, it is not an acceptable way to treat other people (or yourself).
Tips For Dealing With Body Shamers
Dealing with body shamers can feel like a minefield, but it’s important for your mental and physical wellbeing to learn how to cope with it. Models, in particular, are open to body shaming as they are in the public domain, where people can comment on their looks constantly. Because modelling is a job that revolves around looks, there tends to be a lot more judgement and harsher critique of models.
Whether you are a model or not, try not to focus on comments made on social media. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are some of the worst places for body shaming as it is done by people who can easily hide and avoid repercussions for their comments. Block negative people and try to focus on the positive comments.
This can be difficult – it’s proven that we focus more on negative comments than we do on the positive, and we remember negative comments for far longer – but it is important for your mental health to avoid toxicity online. Remember, you don’t have to reply to the bullies – sometimes blocking them and moving on is the best course of action.
When Body Shaming Affects Your Mental Health
If body shaming is affecting your mental health, it might be time to have a break from social media. Some people like to practise mindfulness or yoga daily in order to keep a clear, calm head. Others try positive words of kindness directed at themselves in order to help build up their confidence.
If you feel depressed or anxious because of body-shaming comments, it’s important to seek help. Talk to someone you trust about how you feel. You may want to talk to your doctor, who should be able to advise you on certain therapies that can help give you your confidence back.
Remember – there is no such thing as the perfect body. We all have flaws and we should learn to embrace them to be positive role models.
Dealing with body shaming at work can feel more difficult, but it’s important you stand up for yourself to prevent it from happening to someone else. While you are likely to be turned away from certain jobs for not looking the part, no model should be told to lose weight to a dangerously thin level. You should also not have to accept humiliating comments about your looks. Be sure to speak out if this happens and avoid working for any company that is known for bullying or harassing its models.
How Can You Deal With Body Shaming From Your Family Members or Friends?
It can feel even more awful to receive hurtful comments from those who are close to us. Do not put up with it – make sure you tell the shamer how their comments make you feel. Have an open, calm discussion about body shaming and about the negative consequences such comments can have.
If they do not listen and continue to body shame you, it’s time for some space. Just because they are a blood relative or close friend does not give them the right to mistreat you. You may wish to speak to another friend or family member to get them onside, or you could even talk to a teach/work colleague for some support.
How Can You Protect Others From Body Shaming?
There are several things you can do to break the cycle of body shaming.
- Refuse to engage in body shaming. This includes validating people who are body shaming themselves.
- Be kinder to yourself. This can take some practice, but whenever you think a negative thought about yourself, stop and exchange it for something kind.
- Encourage others to be kinder to themselves and others. If you hear a friend or family member body shaming themselves, stop them – ask them why they feel the need to put themselves down.
- If you feel strong enough, call out those who body shame (though don’t get sucked into a toxic argument).
- Make the effort to compliment others and leave positive comments online.
Are You a Body Shamer?
Think back. Have you ever left a negative comment on a celebrities social media site, thinking they would never see the comment? Have you ever made an offhand “joke” about a friends weight? Or have you ever said something like “You’re short for a guy”? You may have unintentionally body shamed them.
It’s important to be mindful of making comments both in-person and online, particularly when commenting on an image has become an everyday occurrence for many people. We have all probably said or at least thought something negative about someone looks in the past. Intentional or not, if you have ever done the above you may be (or have been) part of the problem.
There is no such thing as the perfect body. Before making a hurtful comment, decide first whether you would be hurt upon hearing it said about your own body. If yes, it’s likely body shaming.
Think before commenting – if you feel what you’re about to say could hurt their feelings, don’t say it.
How to Build Confidence in Yourself and Overcome Body Shaming
Ever heard of positive affirmations? They’re great for building confidence. Overcoming body shaming is all about finding and doing things that make you feel good about yourself. That can be different for everybody – whether you like taking a relaxing bath, putting on make-up, or wearing your favourite bathrobe, feeling good about yourself is an important part of feeling confident.
If you can’t think of anything, maybe it’s time to branch out – try a different hobby, take up painting, try playing an instrument, or try that sport you’ve always wanted to try. Doing things we are especially good at will also make us feel good and help to improve confidence.
If you’re really struggling, there are certain therapies made specifically to help with body image difficulties. Insecurity, anxiety, eating disorders and depression can all come from feeling bad about ourselves. A therapist will be able to help talk you through your feelings.
As long as you are healthy and happy, you should feel no reason to diet unless you want to. Body shamers have no idea about your body, your health or your life. Never put yourself at risk to appease a body shamer.
Remember; if you experience body shaming or witness it, speak out. Body shaming is wrong, and we need to break the cycle of negativity is causes.