Body Shaming: Definition and Examples
Practicing self-love and seeking support are crucial!
For many, experiencing body shaming starts at an early age. When was the first time you were made to feel insecure about your own appearance? And why do others feel the need to comment on a person’s physical appearance?
While we’ve come a long way, many TV sitcoms and movies rely on body shaming as a source of humor, often making fun of overweight characters to get a laugh from viewers. The media also perpetuates an unrealistic standard of beauty – often photoshopping models and celebrities that are already tall and thin, or placing them on pedestals or on the covers of magazines.
This leads to a distorted idea of the perfect body image, an over-fixation on how to lose weight, low self esteem and a hyper fixation on our appearance – especially when it doesn’t measure up to the ideal standard of beauty.
In this article, we’ll explore what body shaming is, the negative mental health effects body shaming can have on a person, and how to overcome body shaming to embrace your body and practice self love in your everyday lives.
What is body shaming?
Body shaming is the act of commenting on another person’s appearance negatively – specifically as it pertains to their weight, height, or physical appearance. Fat shaming, which refers to negative comments made toward an overweight person, is commonly what comes to mind when we think of body shaming.
However, a person can be body shamed for being too thin as well. Accusing a thin person of having an eating disorder or telling them to eat something can be just as harmful as telling a person of a larger size that they need to lay off the sweets.
Examples of body and fat shaming
Body shaming happens to everyone – and celebrities are not exempt. Female celebrities like Kelly Clarkson, Rosie O’Donnell and even Kim Kardashian have experienced body shaming from others in a public manner due to their weight.
Women aren’t the only ones who experience body shaming. Actor Jonah Hill, whose weight has fluctuated over the past few years, recently made a public statement asking others not to comment on his size and appearance.
Body shaming goes beyond commenting on someone’s weight. Making comments about a person’s physical appearance, whether it’s being too tall or too short, or their body shape in general, are examples of body shaming that can be harmful to their self image.
Comments that insinuate a person needs to change their appearance to be loved or accepted also fall under body shaming. For example, saying, “You’ll never find someone who would want to date you looking like that,” or, “That outfit looks terrible on you,” are ways that people try to shame others.
Body shaming manifests when we criticize our appearance, specifically when we’re comparing our appearance against others. Social media has made it easier than ever to compare ourselves to other people who society deems better looking than we are, making self-body shaming easier to do when we see someone we feel we don’t compare to physically.
Why is a negative body image dangerous? Eating disorders & mental health
There’s an age-old saying, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” In the context of prolonged body shaming, however, this statement does not hold up. Research has found that body shaming can be a catalyst for eating disorders, and can certainly negatively affect a person’s mental health.
This can either lead to consuming too little to live up to unrealistic expectations of how thin others and society have made them feel they should be – or overeating to cope with the impact of bullying through body shaming, which results in gaining weight.
Body shaming can also cause low self esteem, anxiety, embarrassment, low self-image and low self-worth, which is why it’s important to know what to do when you find yourself being body shamed by others – or if you self-body shame.
How to deal with body shaming
Body shaming is primarily out of our control. It may be impossible to avoid body shaming, but there are things you can do to build a positive body image and cultivate self love so that you see your body in the best light.
Here are a few tips to overcome body shaming and love the body you’re in.
Take accountability for your body
The only person who must love your body is you. When reflecting on how you’ve been body shamed, take time to sit with how you feel about your body — not within the context of others on social media or in comparison to celebrities, but how you feel in your day-to-day life existing in your body.
Are there things you would want to change, not to influence your physical appearance, but to make you feel physically healthier? Self love and body positivity start with embracing all the things you love about your body and working toward the best methods of taking care of your body. That may mean committing to moving your body more throughout the day in a way that feels good or striking the right balance of healthy foods to feed your body – without taking exercise or dieting to the extreme.
Stop hiding your body
What activities would you partake in if you knew no one would judge your body? How would you dress your body if no one was there to body shame you?
Feeling good about yourself and loving your body means doing things that make you happy and bring you joy — even if society has told you that you’re too fat or thin to enjoy doing them. Have you always wanted to take a dance class? Seek out studios or instructors who promote body positivity within their classrooms and cater to people of all sizes.
Want to start lifting weights? Find a gym that has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and promotes an inclusive workout culture. Now more than ever, companies and facilities are catering to offer options for all body types. If there’s something you and your body want to do, now’s the time to make it happen.
Stop body shaming yourself
This can be easier said than done. It may be hard to turn off the negative self-talk in your mind about your physical appearance – especially if you’ve heard body shaming comments from others for most of your life. However, it’s possible to break the cycle over time.
The first step? Start to be aware of how often you body shame yourself.
Keep a list of the negative thoughts about your appearance, and notice when and how they come up for you. Is it while scrolling through social media? Watching a film? In a crowded room with your peers? When someone brags about their vegan diet? The more aware you are of how and when you shame yourself, the easier it will become to halt that way of thinking and focus your attention elsewhere.
Control your social media platforms
Social media has opened doors for virtual body shaming, which can deter your body positivity journey tremendously. It’s important to remember that your online presence is exactly that – your own.
If you find that certain social media followers continue to leave comments about your body that don’t make you feel good, block them. Access to your social media profile should be viewed as a privilege and should be revoked if you don’t feel respected.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to unfollow pages or accounts that make you feel inferior or insecure. Instead, seek out social media profiles and pages that promote body positivity, that make you feel inspired and secure about your body type.
How to confront body shaming from others
While you can’t control what other people say about your body, it’s within your right to respond in a way that indicates you won’t tolerate that type of behavior. Here are a few suggestions for how to respond to someone who is body shaming you.
Calmly state how their comment made you feel
While many people who body shame are doing so to inflict damage, sometimes the people in our lives who do so mean well and may not recognize how or why their behavior is harmful. Suppose this is the case, state how their comment made you feel to help them see it from your perspective. Ask them how they would feel if the tables were turned, and you made a comment about their body that could be taken negatively.
Thank them for their concern
If you feel that the person is either not open to hearing how this made you feel or want to stop future comments, start by thanking them for their concern, then let them know this type of comment is not appropriate for the future.
For example, “I appreciate you telling me you’re concerned about my body. I’m focused on loving and accepting my body right now, so I’d appreciate it if you could avoid comments like these in the future.”
A person’s physical appearance is a personal topic – one that should not be commented on freely. To stop body shaming, we need to be willing to accept others as they are and stop bullying others for having a particular body shape. Practicing self love and seeking support when needed are the best ways to combat body shaming, and move toward a better life.
Need a little pick-me-up? Check out these self esteem quotes.