Stop Bullying And Body Shaming, Instead Respect Ourselves For Health’s Sake
Body and fat shaming has nothing to do with actual health, and in fact is very much promotes the opposite. It is just as much a social construct as, well, computers or anything else that has become such a part of the culture that we hardly realize it’s there anymore. It is a ‘construct’. It is not needed and it is very harmful. One thing is for sure, the more shame someone feels about their weight, the more harm it can cause them. We must learn to stop body shaming, ourselves and others, first and foremost for your own health and well being.
When did “body shaming” or “fat shaming” become a “thing” as we know it today? A term that people use, an accepted way of talking to and about people? Any guess? Have you ever considered it? Well, I had to look it up as well and found out that our modern day “fat shaming” culture started mid-19th century.
What’s my point, you may ask? “What does this have to do with how I view and talk about my own and other people’s bodies?” What does that have to do with the barrage of messages young girls and boys are getting from their parents, peers and other regularly to this day. Everything.
Let’s learn to love the body you are in regardless of the shape it’s in. There are many reasons for our physical shape, and if we truly want it to change, let’s love ourselves through it. Nothing changes for real with shame and guilt at its root. In fact, body image and actual body size may not be the same at all, as we all know, and it’s the feels we have that have the most devastating effects.
We must remember that every culture and generation has it’s own ‘preferences’ and ‘status quo’ based on whatever seems to fit into the environment at that time. In many ways it seems to change with the way the wind blows. Sure there are reasons for why the ‘status quo’ is such, but if you were to compare norms of today with some of those 500 years ago, we may find things that be ashamed to think we were related, albeit distantly, from them.
Likewise, they would be just as ashamed of us over some things we do. We do not have the moral authority just because we call ourselves ‘civilized society’. Body shaming is not a moral issue. In fact, it is important to know that our body images are not correlated directly to healthy issues, either. It is simply a social bullying.
Just like all ‘social norms’, they come and go and so will this. Try not to take it so seriously. That’s extremely hard to do for people that are on the receiving end of such bullying. It very often has deep and wounding consequences. It is important to remember also that our body image and feelings, often trace back to other things that shaped how we felt in and about our bodies. The telling interview with the daring author Roxanne Gay who revealed some of her challenges with this painful subject in your new book “Hunger”.
Whatever the cause or circumstances, the sense of shame over one’s body cuts very deep and affects every part of someone’s life. While we can’t always stop the external bullying immediately, we can begin to do what we can to quiet the internal one. Our internal voices often cause the most lasting and devastating consequences.
I had the experience of being taught while in high school how to deconstruct society's messages about body image. A powerful women’s group I was a part of discussed how most, if not all of the images we see of women, and men, are ‘photo shopped’. We watched a video documenting the changing face (and bodies) of women over the years and how we start accepting what we see as the ‘norm’, ‘good’, and ‘healthy’. It is not the other way around. This really helped me to depersonalize all the messages from society about how I “should look”. We must teach our children, and yes, ourselves, these same things. We must use positive role models and mentors to help us see past the hype and embrace ourselves for who we are, regardless of what we look like.
When are we take back our own sense of self-acceptance, we feel more empowered, free, alive and truly give ourselves the chance to be healthy. It will not happen through shaming. Shaming is never a motivation to change in a positive direction. It has the opposite effect of producing more of the negative result we were afraid of in the first place.
When are we going to stop body shaming ourselves? We need to begin stopping it now. Start loving yourself just as you are. If you want to ‘change’ something about yourself, so for it. It certainly doesn’t require shame to accomplish that. Learn what you need to do to get to your goal, make a plan and get help along the way.
We must use mentors, positive role models and others who can help us along the way. There are many examples when we search them out. Like a business or financial or any life goal. Same steps. The guilt and shame around feeling like you ‘can’t’ or ‘aren’t good enough for it’ or any of the other destructive self-critical statements are walls in the way of the goal, not steps. Break them down and push them aside. Love is what motivates and propels people to accomplish what they really want. Love first.
Yes, it’s a process. Changing any habit, especially deeply ingrained subconscious ones, take effort. It will not happen on its own. It begins by simply wanting to.