Body shaming and why it needs to stop
In a world obsessed with looks, body shaming (where someone is humiliated by criticising and mocking their appearance), has taken an ugly turn. While it is not a new phenomenon, the rise of social media and the comfort of hiding behind the internet has made it more convenient for bullies to let out their stings. This act can cause serious damages to the victim psychologically, emotionally as well as physically.
The unrealistic picture
When a photo of 50 year old supermodel Cindy Crawford had emerged, people were quick to comment as to how old she looked and had wrinkles around her eyes (even though it is perfectly natural to have them at her age). Aishwarya Rai and so many other celebrities who had put on weight during their pregnancies were ridiculed in the media as to how ‘fat’ they had become. Once again, as anyone who has been pregnant or seen a pregnant woman knows, one does gain weight during that period.
Body shaming projects an unrealistic picture where a woman is not supposed to put on weight, get too skinny or age at all for that matter. It in turn pressurises one with unrealistic expectations. It boils down to the notion that an individual is as good as her looks and has nothing more to offer.
Media is largely responsible for body shaming as we are constantly reminded that we need to look our best. In magazines and websites, celebrities miraculously look the same no matter what they go through. The truth of the matter remains that every individual has a different metabolic rate, genes, shape and size and simply cannot be compared with someone else. Also, a normal person does not have access to the kind of experts that celebrities do, nor do they have the time and money to focus on their looks in that manner.
Body shaming can cause serious damages to the victim psychologically, emotionally as well as physically. Over a period of time, it can lead to self body shaming, comparison, self criticism and several other issues such as low confidence, low self esteem and even depression. Individuals might prefer to avoid social occasions altogether and retreat into a shell. Also, they might start developing a serious eating disorder. For instance, in 1996 when Donald Trump named Miss Universe contestant Alicia Machado ‘Miss Piggy’ as she had gained weight after the pageant, the remarks lead her to have a severe eating disorder.
Due to the pressure of remaining thin, pregnant women can land up neglecting their health as well as that of the baby. This could lead to several complications such as miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and delayed fetal growth, thus putting both at risk. It is very important that we let nature take it’s course and not stress ourselves over a cookie cutter image.
Why they Body Shame?
There are several reasons as to why somebody would want to body shame others:
This is when an individual projects his/her own insecurities on to some one else. It is the brain’s way of coping up what they subconsciously feel are one’s own shortcomings. Here the true emotions are completely denied in oneself and attributed to the other person. For instance, they are unhappy about the way they look but would rather take a jab at someone than admit it to themselves.
This is when an aggressive impulse is redirected onto a substitute that is powerless. For instance, a person who is angry at his/her boss for yelling goes home and lashes out at someone else. Since there is little that one can do over social media, these people become the perfect targets.
Lack of empathy
It also stems from lack of empathy and sensitivity. Instead of looking at others as humans with emotions, they are objectified and made ridicule of.
It is high school bullying taken to the next level. When the soon-to-be president of the powerhouse America himself retorts to body shaming, it is indeed a sad state of affairs.
If you are a victim of it…
Body shaming is never a pleasant experience. If you are a victim, do keep these things in mind…
Shift your focus
Find your purpose in life beyond physical appearance and focus on the positive attributes that you have such a sharp mind, good heart, etc. Avoid getting your sense of worth from looks and direct your energy towards achieving your life goals and realising your dreams.
Look up to healthy role models
It would help if you look up to healthy role models. Think of somebody who rejoices in her body for what it can achieve and not the way it looks.
Maintain a healthy state of mind
Instead of changing the way you appear, change the way you feel about it. Find acceptance and peace with who you are. If your basis for happiness stems from you achieving your ideal notion of physical self, then you will forever be in a state of chasing happiness rather than feeling it.
Seek therapy from a professional
Therapy can be very helpful in bringing about a positive mindset and changing the way you look at yourself. It will assist in decluttering your thoughts, overcoming complexes, addressing the root cause and dealing with the issues that you are facing.
The good news is that there is a wave of retaliation where women are supporting each other and fighting back. In the end, what really matters is our character and well-being.