In the last decade, a new trend has come to light opposite the ideals of body positivity. Body shame, or body shaming, happens when someone makes critical comments or observations about a person’s body that can potentially be hurtful. Of course, the only person that can verify whether a comment was hurtful or not was the person on the receiving end. So, the fact that the very definition of “body shame” hinges on the feelings of one person’s perception of the comments leaves it open-ended, and the same person that identified those feelings is left to deal with the aftermath.
Body Shame And The Media
One of the great flaws of our current society is the accessibility of the media to the eyes and minds of the public. There is regulation over what is shared, however many media outlets are privately owned and operated. Of course, some popular media giants have done their best to combat false information. So, when a story like this one pops up in our news feeds, other independent media molds it into their own version and sends it out over their websites, pages, and streaming mediums. One story has turned into literally thousands of stories, and one comment has affected the feelings and thoughts of not only one person, but hundreds of thousands.
When I researched this story to cite inside this article, I used the search phrase “Jillian Michaels Body Shame Lizzo”. Over 111,000 results posted on my page within two seconds.
It is hard to think outside the pink box of body shame comments only affecting women, but it’s true, men are also the victim of comments such as these. In 2019, Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa, was a victim of comments regarding “body shame”, using phrases such as “dad bod”, “daddy belly”, and even urging him to start “lifting again”. Body dissatisfaction is on the rise, and it is starting to affect people’s lifestyle choices more than ever before.
Body Shame VS. Body Dissatisfaction
Body Dissatisfaction is defined as a negative subjective evaluation of the weight and shape of one’s own body and can lead to eating disorders as well as other mental health issues. Where does body dissatisfaction come from? It comes from comparing one’s own body type or shape or size to others, often in an unhealthy or unattainable fashion.
How does body shame compare to body dissatisfaction? Let’s face it. No one is 100% satisfied with their own body (and if you are, then I applaud you and you go on with your bad self). Body shame and body shaming can definitely contribute to body dissatisfaction, especially if one is already feeling the negative effects on their lifestyle. Perhaps you won’t wear a certain outfit because it highlights a part of your body you don’t like, or you don’t want to swim with your children this summer because you didn’t hit a personal fitness or body goal. If that wasn’t already bad enough, one body shame comment can make your personal body image issues seem exponentially worse.
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Body Shame: Shut It Down
What can be done about body shame? A whole lot, actually. If we are all going to live with each other on this planet for an extended period of time, we need to hold each other accountable. I don’t know if it’s because we’ve gotten soft, or we’ve mistaken softness for kindness, but there is one particular phrase that I think we can use some more in our day to day life: Mind your own business. If you overhear someone making comments about someone else’s body, shut it down. Tell them to mind their own business. Small matters matter to small minds, and they should expect more out of themselves.
If you hear your child make a negative comment or observation about someone else’s body, first you need to ask yourself where they heard that kind of talk (time for a good, hard look in the mirror), but then you need to address it immediately.
Use phrases that are firm and straight to the point, such as:
- We do not make comments about other people’s bodies.
- Mind your own business.
- If they heard you, how do you think that made them feel?
After you have let them know that comments about other people’s bodies in a negative way are unacceptable, encourage them to look for unique and beautiful qualities about the other person. (They are wearing boots. Do you think they work with horses? He was wearing a hat. Maybe he works on the beach!) Encouraging our children to learn empathy and put themselves in someone else’s shoes for a moment is putting nutrients into the soil of the future of our society. It is also a helpful reminder for each of us as we journey through our day-to-day.
Parents, we have to model the behavior we want our children to see and recreate. We can’t always be there to change the channel or take the mobile device out of their hands, but we are 100% in control over the things we do or say. Body shame will have no place in our lives if we don’t give it a place to thrive!
So parents, wear that bathing suit. Run and play at the beach this spring break. Eat the food at the cookout. Wear your fun outfits. Encourage your children to do the same. Don’t talk about your body as if it is something that didn’t create your precious children or that doesn’t carry you through your life each day. Our bodies house our incredible minds and hearts that are responsible for shaping this world, and we should treat them with the utmost respect!
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