Body Shaming: how to stop the self-shame spiral?
Body shaming is the act of ridiculing, mocking and humiliating someone based on their appearance. You have probably heard about fat-shaming, but body shaming is much more than that. People get humiliated and criticised (straight-up bullied, even) for being overweight, underweight, normal weight, short, tall, for being disabled, for being “ugly”, for being “too pretty”, for having freckles, beauty marks or any recognisable characteristic… The cycle of abuse just doesn’t stop – and we, as a society, need to put an end to it.
However, there is something even more hurtful than body-shaming someone: it is body shaming ourselves. Unfortunately, this self-hate is very internalised and even normalised, that it goes by almost unnoticed. Girls and women all ages have historically been the main targets of this form of abuse and self-hate. As you surely are aware.
Every single time you refused to wear a bikini at a pool party because you felt “too fat”, every time you hid your body behind loose and oversized clothes, every time you didn’t eat something to cut on calories, or overexercised to get “those curves”, every time you’ve called yourself ugly, or not pretty enough… you were body shaming yourself. And this needs to stop.
Be kind to yourself. Stop the self-body shaming!
Your body has been through so much. It is an inherent part of yourself. It has brought you here. It has survived through tough times, and it been there through the happiest of times. You are not just a body, but your body is what makes it possible to be you. Stop hating it. Stop shaming it! Stop the body shaming on yourself.
How horrible would it be if we were all the same? Isn’t the world beautiful because it is so diverse? We travel to experience the cultural difference, and to see different landscapes and climates, so why do we feel we need to be formatted into whatever the “beauty standard” is? Stop comparing yourself to others – it is very toxic, dangerous, and self-harming – and body shaming in the process.
Appreciate your quirks
Those freckles are yours. That rebellious hair swirl is yours. That single cheek dimple is yours. That long scar is yours. That birthmark? Yep, also yours. There are things in you that might be different from the norm and may be seen as undesirable by some toxic industries, but that doesn’t mean they are. They are part of you and part of how you look. They’re your quirks! And anyone who directly or indirectly makes you feel bad about something of your body that you cannot change is body shaming you – don’t be that person to yourself.
Put yourself on an outside perspective
When you go out in the street, do you think “Ewww” when you look at random people? You don’t. Do you look at someone and decide they are worthless because they are “ugly”, “skinny”, “fat”, or some other horrible thing? That’s right, you don’t. So why do you look at yourself like that? Put on an outside perspective when you look at yourself: how outraged would you feel if someone said such things about a person who looks just like you, but isn’t you? How can you loathe body shaming but still inflict it on yourself? A lot to think about.
Don’t use makeup to hide, use it to enhance
Wearing or not wearing makeup is a heated topic. There are a lot of opinions and tastes out there, but the only one that matters is yours. Do you like to put on makeup? Does it make you feel good? Is it a form of art for you? Then, by all means, use and abuse makeup. Or does it on the other hand feel like an obligation? Does it make you feel you have to hide your face? Does it feel like body shaming? Then, please, do not use it. The gist is: do what makes you comfortable and don’t do it for anyone else but you.
Focus on health
But hey, to stop body shaming and to start accepting yourself does not mean you can’t work on a better version of you. Yes, you can and should exercise – even if your goal is to become more fit. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to become more fit, just as there is nothing wrong with not wanting to become more fit. Everyone should live a healthy lifestyle: eat well, sleep well, exercise, have a healthy social life, and so on. And the rest is just an accessory.
Choose the social media message you want to be exposed to
Social media can harm. As you most certainly know. But the body shaming in social media is sneaky: it rarely is openly declared; it moves stealthily and shows in small microaggressions. And while there is not much to do to end it, you can certainly avoid it. So, for your own mental health, stop following those pages that make you feel less than, and like you need to be someone else. Dedicate your free time to pages and people who can help you learn, grow, and be happier.
Practice body-positivity and self-affirmation
It is not easy to go from hating yourself to loving yourself. In fact, it is much, much easier to hate yourself. Love takes understanding and compassion, takes patience and kindness, requires forgiving and letting go. However, the pay is amazing. Change the way you talk to yourself. Instead of “I look ugly in this dress”, say “This dress doesn’t make me feel empowered”. Instead of “My hair looks terrible”, say “Today I will wear a different hairstyle”. And, of course, every time you do feel good in something, say it! “I look good”, “I am pretty”, “These shoes compliment my legs”, etc. If you change the words (and thoughts) you direct at yourself, it is easier to start changing the way you think of yourself.
Take care. Of your planet. Of your body. Of your soul. Take care of yourself.