The Effects of Body Shaming

The Effects of Body Shaming

Body shaming

Have you ever stopped to question, ‘Why I am entertaining other people’s messages’? What is it about the human psyche that causes us to feel a need to appease others? Are we conditioned to be a passive society? Do we listen to the words of others because it makes us feel accepted?

We live in a society conditioned by the media, our educational system, our communities, our neighbours, places of worship and our families. From our earliest memories, we are taught what is right and wrong. We are informed of what to wear and what not to. We have been told by a variety of practitioners what our ideal weight and height should be. Our parents may have even been given a growth chart to track our weight and height throughout our development. As a society, we have become very conditioned to think that our bodies must fit into a specific set of parameters. It is strangely funny that we have a need not only to track our body mass index but that every person must fall within a certain guideline.

The world is so obsessed with body image that there are ads that target specific issues. Beauty magazines are constantly offering tips on how to lose weight; improve your appearance; what clothes to wear and what not to; and why we should care.

What is Body Shaming?

Body shaming is not gender, weight, height, or body specific. At its core, body shaming is the intentional act of humiliating another. It occurs through mocking, critical comments and shaming related to one’s body type. It is the intent of an individual not only to humiliate another but to cause them to conform to a specific standard. Body shaming is anything that causes an individual to feel shame or disgust in relation to his or her own body. It perpetuates a false impression of the right body type and fuels self-doubt and issues related to self-esteem. It contributes to a number of psychological, physiological and mental health disorders.

Body shaming may be a projection of one’s own perceptions and worldview placed on the canvas of another. If I am not comfortable in my own skin, then I may deflect my own insecurities onto the image of another. Essentially, body shaming is anything that compromises the integrity and security of another.

Also Read: Understanding the Crucial Bond Between Mental and Physical Health

Shame has become the norm in our society. We live in a world where we are taught to be jealous of one another. Jealousy is fostered through the media by images of the perfect body and the perfect look. The media is not the only one to blame; television and movies have a major influence on the ever-evolving and changing definition of the ideal body. In today’s society, the problem with the concept of the ideal body is unrealistic and unattainable for a majority of people. We, as a society, are also to blame for this unrealistic and often unattainable body type.

Impact of Media and Social Media on Body Image

The media is so enamoured with the “perfect body” that ad campaigns often reflect it. In 2014, Victoria’s Secret had an ad campaign called “The Perfect Body” which promoted the “Body” lingerie line. The backlash had a boomeranging effect and could be felt globally. Victoria’s Secret had made a major misstep in its ad campaign. Ad campaigns are not the only ones to blame for body shaming. Body shaming occurs throughout our society and is no longer isolated to the well-known. In recent years, there has been an uptick in body shaming occurring on social media. According to a study conducted by the Dove Beauty Company, there are more and more women looking to social media for beauty tips, inspiration, and confirmation of their personal beauty. Sadly, Dove’s findings are alarming. Here are some key findings from our recent study “The Real Truth about Beauty: Revisited”

  • Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful (up from 2% in
  • 2004)
  • Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable describing themselves as ‘beautiful’
  • 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful
  • 80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful, but does not see their own beauty.
  • More than half of women globally (54%) agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic

While Dove did not examine men, there is a strong likelihood that the same would hold true for men as well. Men are frequently bombarded with messages of masculinity and the right body type. Men are just as vulnerable, susceptible and impressionable as women. The truth is, that it remains a silent discussion that we have yet to openly explore.

Why Does Body Shaming Occur? How does body shaming affect us?

Body shaming occurs for many different reasons. While the reasons may vary, the outcome of the shame remains the same. Whether the body shaming is intentional or not, it has the ability to decode the perception of self and worldview.

Also Read: Have You Ever Felt Shame For Your Looks?

Parents often have the best of intentions, but not all parents are equipped to communicate concerns. Be diligent that you are supportive of your child and not the cause of your child’s feelings of vulnerability. You may have a desire for your children to thrive and be well, but focusing too much energy on a child’s physique can cause your child to develop internal issues related to his or her own self-esteem and self-image.

The media focuses a great deal of its attention on the perceived perfect body. The idolization of body types can be an attraction for someone who feels that they are unattractive or that they have the wrong body type.

Being uncomfortable in your own body can skew your perceptions. It’s critically important that you are not only comfortable with your own body type, but that you are accepting of your body.

Promoting Body Positivity and Mindful Communication

Commenting on an individual’s choice of food or beverage can create apprehension and become an individual’s internal dialogue. Be diligent in focusing on nutrition rather than diet. Be aware of the language with which you are communicating. Body shaming occurs through the least obvious of gestures and communications. If you are joking that someone is too thin or too fat, they may internalize this communication as a shame. When we place too much emphasis on an individual’s physical appearance rather than his or her abilities, talents, and state of mind.

Judging an individual’s sexuality can be a catalyst for an individual feeling shame and embarrassment. Our sexuality is the way in which we express ourselves and reveal our bodies. Judging an individual based on the way with which they dress can create an overly conscience individual concerned about their appearance.

Judging someone based on issues with body image. If someone pressures an individual struggling with body issues to do the opposite, the person will only experience more intense issues.

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Placing too much emphasis on being thin can have a negative effect

Let us not forget that there are no absolutes when it comes to body image. The issues spans all weights and body types. It ranges from individuals struggling with being higher weight, underweight and at the right weight.

Do not confuse body shaming with expressing concern for our health. Some people genuinely concern themselves with our health and well-being, but they too can confuse the two. Some individuals may be shaming us through a veil of concern. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between genuine care and shaming.

Body shaming is not exclusively a female issue, rather it is everyone’s issue. Men also have issues with feeling and experiencing body shame. We seldom consider the fact that men struggle just like their counterparts. Body shaming knows no allies. It occurs in the gym, on the track, in the boardroom, in your home. The media is the greatest instigator of body shaming. The messages created by the media often employ attractive individuals posing with a product, but in reality, the attractive model may never even have tried this product.

Becoming whole

The Renfrew Centre Foundation for Eating Disorders has estimated that only 5% of North Americans have body types similar to those portrayed in the media. Are you trying to live up to the media’s hype of perfection? Are you going to continue to allow the media to define you?

Learning to unconditionally love, accept, and approve of yourself does not have to be a lifelong journey. Do not be dismayed if the journey has a few curves or obstacles in the road. You are capable of achieving a life beyond the shame. Body shaming informs us that we will never live up to, but the truth is, you can live beyond the hype. After all, you are a person worthy and capable of being the best you.

Also Read: Are you on medication? Don’t feel ashamed!

We need a global lesson on unconditional acceptance, approval and love. We must realize that we are so much more than this outer shell called our body. You are a person deserving of unconditional love, acceptance and approval. You must begin to recognizing and believe that you are deserving of the best. We must stop shaming and judging people based on their body type. If you are feeling overwhelmed with social media consider taking a break. Be mindful of the conversations you have with others and do not entertain conversations that are belittling or unbecoming. Do your best to avoid conversations or messages that are not uplifting of your personality. Body shaming occurs for many different reasons, but the greatest of these is our acceptance of the message. Without the acceptance, the shame has no leverage in our lives.

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