Humor does not always conjure smiles. When used in a wrong manner, humor sometimes can be very twisted and affect someone’s life to the core. One such type of humor is body shaming, which is a corrosive trend that has become one of the most damaging forces in today’s world.
These days, people do not seem to find anything wrong in making fun of someone else’s body, and sure enough, it is the ‘fat’ guy who is the preferred target compared to the thin. Shockingly enough, some people think/believe that making a person feel ashamed of their bodies is a potent way of motivating them to transform themselves, and that they will work even harder to achieve this miracle. Even celebrities get targeted, for example, Ariana Grande received a comment saying “Curves are sexy sticks aren’t.” Because of comments like these, both men and women are seen to predominantly suffer from low self-esteem and insecurity.
Today’s generation does not see anything wrong in “expressing their opinions,” regardless of the fact that these very opinions can actually hurt someone. More than one-third of the young girls today are scared of becoming ‘fat,’ and therefore engage in crash dieting, or binge eating. It has also been seen that girls as young as 10 years old are worried about the way they look and their ‘size’! Those who clearly intend to hurt, will never stop targeting the body image with unsavory comments, but what we need to understand here is that nobody chooses the body they have, especially an unfit body.
If someone is unhealthy, tell them how to change that, show them how they can become fit, and encourage them to take that road, rather than just criticizing them, or even making fun of them. Discrimination, singling out, and shaming only causes stress and makes any person feel bad. If someone is already overweight, this stress can actually make them eat more and more, and consequently, gain even more weight.
The harmful effects of body shaming goes beyond just increase in weight. Here are some of the other major risks that body shaming presents:
- Depression: People who are target of body shaming due to weight are at higher risk of depression and other mental illnesses (no surprises there).
- Eating disorders: Body shaming is linked to an increased risk of eating disorders, such as Anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.
- Reduced self-esteem: People with weight issues who are soft targets for body shamers, end up with major self-esteem issues. With no one to defend them, and unable to defend themselves, such people may become recluses, avoiding any kind of social interaction, be it merely going out with friends.
So, what is this idea of a “perfect body”?
Answer – it is unrealistic. Yes, society and social media have contributed in creating this myth of the “perfect body” as epitomized by that hunk who has a six-pack abs, or the woman with the ‘enviable’ size-zero figure. But the real question to ask is, are these ‘role models’ for perfect physiques actually ‘fit’ in the true sense of the term?
Did you know that the models that you see in media (and social media) actually starve themselves for an entire day in order to get that one perfect shot for the camera??? And all this so that YOU can continue to believe that they are, well, “perfect”.
So the ‘perfect body’ is only a ruse propagated by a large group of apathetic individuals, either to fulfill the needs of their vanity, or to satisfy their vested (read: commercial) interests.
However, all that being said, Body Shaming is a culture of cruelty that is undeniably present in our world today. What we can do, is to learn how to avoid falling into this dreadful practice, and more importantly, educate ourselves and others in ways to deal with Body Shaming. Here are the some of the ways you can arm yourselves against this practice:
- Stand Up For Yourself
Next time when someone condemns your looks, or mocks you, don’t just withdraw into a shell. Speak out against it. Express what is going on inside your mind. Stand up against bullying. Remember, your motive isn’t to humiliate them, but to make them aware of the negativity of their attitude and the implications of their ‘shaming’ on those affected.
- DO NOT overreact in panic
Sometimes we just go into an overdrive with our feelings of embarrassment, terror, and panic, and even diet planning. Control your knee-jerk reactions. There is no need to feel terrified of those who lack even basic human sensitivity, for they are no better than beasts.
Take a step back, breathe, sit yourself down. Then, take a hard look at the situation realistically and sanely. Trust yourself more than the person commenting. You have only yourself to take support from in your journey ahead. Strengthen yourself inside, and then plan to strengthen yourself outside.
- Find the real issues
Sit down, and take time out to think about the real issues that are bothering you. Why are you in this situation? What do you want to change, and why are you afraid of changing it? Many a times, there may be factors beyond your control that are thwarting your efforts. Accept and admit the reality of the situation. If it’s something that is beyond your control, don’t stress on it, but move on in life. Times will change.
- Share it. Talk about it. Don’t bottle it up!
Express the emotion to move through it. Talking with someone you trust will help you tide over an unpleasant situation. Talking is nature’s antidote to stress. Keeping it inside you will only weaken you further, and destroy your inner motivation.
- Make yourself feel good
Most often, our inability to cope with a perceived failure or shame propels us into a ‘self-destruct’ mode, where we end up punishing ourselves rather than fighting back. Stop wallowing in self-pity! Engage in a coping mechanism that is not self-destructive. Controlling food, having better lifestyle and dietary habits, and regular exercise are better coping mechanisms that have helped people over decades to feel good, and ultimately bring the changes they wish to see in themselves. Always divert yourself to something more useful.
- Ignore the Negativity
Some comments should simply be ignored. If you have few of those callous ‘friends’ in your life who like to provoke you with their unpleasantness, and see you squirm with their comments, the best recourse is to stay away from such negative influences entirely. People like these usually thrive on your discomfort and misery. Trying to correct them or make them see your point is futile.
Plus, not everyone in this world understands your journey. Neither do they need to. The most important thing is for you to understand your own journey, and be your own well-wisher and guide.
Body shaming is an deplorable practice that must be avoided at all costs. No one is perfect, and if we remember our own imperfections, we will learn motivate, support, and encourage each other. Body shaming is an issue that will not be solved unless everyone learns to accept their own bodies, and until the myth of the ‘perfect body’ ceases to be.
Author Credits – Dr. Aniket Jadhav