Body shaming, what is it? Walden Behavioral Care describes it as, “criticizing yourself or others because of some aspect of physical appearance.”
Body shaming can come in many forms. Common ones that come to mind include fat shaming and skinny shaming, but there are many more ways in which we shame bodies. Recently, I’ve seen at least 2 articles about women celebrities who are in their 50s and wearing bikinis. The article titles suggest that “Wow! Even women in their 50s can look good in bikinis!” We are supposed to be surprised at that information because I guess there is an age limit for what we can wear and not wearing what other’s deem “age-appropriate” is apparently a thing we can be shamed for.
In their study of over 1,000 participants, fitrated.com reported that 92.7% of women and 86.5% of men reported being body shamed. Of course, body shaming is different for men and women, but the fact is no gender is safe from being body shamed. From that same study, Hello Giggles has an article listing the 6 facts of body shaming based on the study. One of those facts is that body shaming “tends to haunt women for a lot longer” than men.
The study also reports that people who have been body shamed are 32% more likely to shame others.
So, why do we shame other people? But more importantly, why are we shaming ourselves?
The latter is a new concept to me. Of course, I have felt shame because of my body and 90% of my survey participants said that they have felt shame because of their bodies. But before reading the Walden Eating Disorders article, my thoughts on body shaming were focused on the external – someone shaming another person. I never really stopped to think about how I was shaming myself due to my inner dialogue.
I was aware of my body at an early age. And for most of my life, I felt that my body was somehow inadequate; there was the feeling that it should be smaller. This led me to not learn about my body as I saw it as something that always needed to be fixed. Criticizing my body became the norm and I never questioned the legitimacy of my thoughts.
There are many aspects of body shaming that we all fall into without realizing it such as worrying more about dieting than putting nutritious foods into our bodies or judging someone else for undergoing plastic surgery. Part of this is the media, but a lot of it is also the people around us, our friends and family.
Even the most innocent of intentions can become ingrained in our minds. Phrases like, “Real women have curves,” or asking a naturally thin person why they are eating healthy because “they don’t need to” are ways that we body shame without realizing.
How many people do you know that hate having their photos taken? I know a few and have been guilty of this as well. We avoid the mirror or the camera because we don’t want to look at ourselves. We don’t want to look at ourselves because we think there is something wrong with us because we have become ashamed of our own bodies. I’m guilty of this too – shaming my body by criticizing my stomach and its roundness.
With all this in mind, it’s no wonder why some people spread the body shame to others – it takes the focus off their perceived inadequacies. After all, if I was taught to see your body as inadequate too, then I’ll make myself feel better by focusing the attention on what you need to change about your body.
Our bodies are unique. We all come in different shapes and sizes. The next time you want to comment negatively on someone else’s physical appearance, stop and compliment them instead. Instead of looking in the mirror or a photo or a video of yourself and pointing out all the flaws, stop and compliment something about yourself.
It will take a conscious effort to undo all the shame we have learned to internalize. I’ve come to understand that life is more beautiful when we learn to love our bodies for what they can do for us rather than their size, shape, or ability.
This week’s featured song is one of my personal favorites, “Fuckin Perfect” (Explicit Version) by P!nk: