Ria was speaking with him on a video call and her brother asked, “How is Dev?” Dev was her husband. She quickly called out to him and he appeared on the call, all smiles and beaming. “Hey, it’s been a long time. So good to see you!” Her brother, responded, “You have put on so much weight! What are you doing, bro?” Dev’s smile almost disappeared yet he mustered a smile and mumbled, “Your sis feeds me with all her love, what can I say!” Ria went quiet.
Studies have indicated that the body shaming begins at home with family members and/or friends topping the list of unwelcome comments about size, weight, or food choices. When body shaming comes from the people you love and care about, it hurts and feels real.
There are two types of bodyshamers, the cruel one whose only intention is to hurt and psych you and the others who are unintentional, and have no idea how their words make you feel.
The truth is, many of us are battling insecurities and emotions that related to those insecurities regarding our status in society, bodyweight, job and physical appearance. Emotions get exacerbated when people highlight these weaknesses, during a social interaction, in public. It causes embarrassment, low self-worth, anxiety, sadness and even anger.
However, is weight or size the only indicator of good health?
Are looks, the only metrics for
When you are being judged on your physical appearance, popularity, and social media analytics, it is humiliating and cements the belief that looks matter more than who you are as a person and what you do.
Couple that with the daily flood of images in social media of perfectionism when it comes to physical appearance. You look in the mirror and compare yourself to those “Instagram influencers” or fitness fanatics who have the looks of a fashion model and a perfectly worked out body to match. You forget you are a teacher, an artist, a tech expert or whatever profession you are in. Your looks and body don’t matter or affect your work or talent. You do not have to live up to the exacting expectations of super models.
If you have encountered bodyshaming, you are not alone.
If you think it only affects the young, you may want to think again. The elderly, are a butt of many comments and jokes related to their physical inabilities like hair loss, loosing teeth, failing eyesight, slow walking, etc. The shame they experience is harsh and derogatory and can severely affect their mental health.
Here is how do you handle the abuse and bullying of body shaming?
There is NO global standard for beauty.
Each and every body on this earth is different. In shape, size, colour defined by geographies and genetics. How can there be one defining standard? How did you believe it? Begin by accepting that.
Focus on love.
Bodyshaming begins between the ears. How often do you look into the mirror to criticise your appearance? Well, change the narrative. Look into the mirror and search for all that is beautiful about you. Where focus goes, attention flows. Every part of you makes for a wholesome and complete you. Whether it’s the softer arms, rounder abs, crinkly eyes – they are you. Foster body positive habits and begin by loving each part of you.
Don’t personalise and internalise it.
When you encounter body shaming, the insensitive comments can weigh on your mind and seem true. Other people’s opinions, reveal their personal prejudices and misconceptions. When you internalise it and personalise it, they become facts and steal the joy of life.
What you tolerate, continues. If you don’t stand up against body shaming, people will find it acceptable to make you feel horrible. A client, a doctor in her 50s, was constantly reminded by her parents of her ‘dark skin’ and ‘short height’. Till one day, she confronted them and asked, “How does it matter? And, what do you think I can do about it?” Her parents stopped commenting and prompted other relatives to not do so as well. All it took was courage to speak and setting the raging emotions aside.
Stand up for others.
What people speak in your company about others, they speak about you to others. Discourage people from body shaming by not participating and contributing to the conversation. I personally dislike people name-calling and more so if it’s related to their appearance. It may seem harmless however it is not. Someone may be over or under weight due to a physical/emotional health disorder. A friend who was of average weight suddenly gained double after she lost her parents to cancer and went through a messy divorce. People at her office would comment on her weight and goad her, “Don’t you care?!” And, one day her boss, defended her and asked them, “Why do you care?” There was pin drop silence.
Make it body positive.
It is an even better idea to flip the bodyshaming comments with aplomb. For e.g when someone says something cruel like “Hey, Stix or Dumbo” you can respond by saying, “Would you mind using my name?” or “Hmmm Really? What made you say that? You do know am a Mensa, right?” You get the drift.
Identify a role model.
Research states that 63% of girls think the body image represented by the fashion industry is unrealistic, yet 60% say they compare their bodies to fashion models.
Look for role models who you look up to beyond the perfection in fashion magazines. Role models who elevate your purpose and values for a well-lived, meaningful life. Emulate them. If you follow a role model for their looks and physique, you may find yourself under constant pressure to be someone who is not what you are about. Prepare your own benchmark of ideal and be your own model and stay true to who you are.
Seek support/talk to an expert.
If you feel overwhelmed then it is time to seek support. Take the help of a therapist or expert in the field for guidance and advice. Make choices that give you inner confidence without an appendage. Nothing is more important than you and your peace.
Body shaming is NOT okay. And, rationalising it by saying, they were unintentional is not an excuse for callous behaviour.
The only way to wage a war against it is by speaking up – to yourself first and others. It begins at home and stays between the ears. The eight tips may not be easy however, it could be your way to self-love and acceptance that there is no universal beauty grade. Be you, be true, be body positive and spread positivity.