Body Shaming

Paula H. Cookson LCSW
body shaming

Body shaming is criticizing yourself or others based on physical attributes. It is a widespread issue that affects both men and women. Media perpetuates body shaming through television shows, commercials, and written content that reinforce negative body perception. Society reinforces body shaming by social convention; think of how many times you and your friends have complained about your weight to each other as if your body size is somehow intrinsically linked to your value as a person.

The Consequences of Shame

There are a variety of consequences associated with body shaming, including an increased risk of eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, decreased self esteem and in extreme cases, suicide attempts. Some claim to use body shaming to inspire weight loss or focus on physical health, but studies have shown the outcomes are just the opposite and lead to negative self evaluation and further weight gain as a result.

This type of shame isn't restricted to just weight, or just to women. Men who feel like they are too thin or not muscular enough, people of both genders who feel too short, too thin, or even too tall, and women who haven't "bounced back to normal" after pregnancy are more examples of people who feel the effects of body shame.

How to Deal With Body Shaming

If you have experienced body shaming, the best way to deal with it is to challenge it. Try these steps to undo the negative impact of body shaming in your life

Join the Movement

A social movement called 'body positive' encourages people to embrace their appearance regardless of size or shape. Join the movement by visiting a body positive website or Facebook group.

Get Naked and Truly Look at Yourself

Stand before a full length mirror naked. What do you see? Rather than looking at yourself with criticism, admire your body, whether you are long and lean or soft and curvy. Beauty is where you find it, and it has to start with self-love.

Call Out Your Friends

If the conversation with friends and family frequently turns to self-critical talk about body weight or size, talk about your decision to avoid body shaming conversation and encourage them to do the same.

Preventing Body Shame

One of the most important aspects of preventing body shaming is challenging the status quo.

  • Rather than focusing on weight or shape, focus on a healthy, balanced lifestyle in which mind, body, and spirit are valued. Focusing only on physical appearance devalues your worth.
  • When you hear someone being degraded due to their appearance, confront it.
  • If you find yourself harshly criticising your own body, take an internal inventory of your positive qualities. Make a list of what you like about yourself, inside and out.

Hasn't Society Come Too Far for This?

Society has fended against oppression of all forms, yet body shaming continues to be a part of the social norm. Isn't it time to put body shaming to rest? It continues due to society's tacit acceptance in every aspect of culture, from media to living room conversation to classroom banter. Change can only happen when people make it happen. Be the change.

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Body Shaming