We hear and see this all the time, people lamenting themselves for gaining weight or having cellulite or even a spot on their nose. For many they have grown up in an environment where this was normal and then been surrounded by peers who are obsessed with this self depreciation. In that scenario it’s not easy to stop. Like body positivity more generally, it’s a journey but one that is essential for everyone’s well being and happiness. Most people don’t realise that little comments they make about themselves have further reaching consequences than just reinforcing their own low self esteem.
Here are some reasons why body shaming has to stop – not just for our own sake’s but for everyone else around us:
1. The biggest and probably most important reason is that we are all constantly learning from our environment and we can’t help but absorb the information presented to us. For example when you berate yourself and your body because you’ve gained 10 lbs and you treat this increase in size like the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, you are reinforcing to everyone around you that being larger is a terrible thing [which it is not]. Someone I follow on Twitter @KimTRILLY recently tweeted about the fact that so many of us are fueling our friends’ eating disorders and this is how it’s happening. Within the UK alone 1.6 million people are suffering from Eating Disorders and that number is estimated to be less that half of the true total as it is only based on those who seek help. You will almost certainly know someone who has suffered with an eating disorder or issues with body image at some point in their lives. For their sake and your own negative self talk has to go.
We also must bear in mind how important it is that our body image issues, forced upon us by older generations and popular culture, are not passed on to the next generation. Currently 1 in 4 seven year old girls have tried to lose weight at least once and between a third and half of young girls “fear becoming fat” which is heartbreaking. Every time you put yourself down in a public place or try an outfit on in a shop and announce that you are “too fat to wear it” children are watching and listening and forming their own views on themselves and the world.
2. Not only is this negativity towards yourself damaging to others it’s also damaging to your own future physical and mental wellbeing. Every time you put yourself down you are conditioning yourself to view your body in a negative light leading to low self esteem which in turn can lead to more serious issues. Over time it gets harder and harder to break this cycle of negativity so the sooner you start working on it the better.
If you are worried about the impact your low self esteem is having on your well-being or you feel unable to improve it on your own Mind.org.uk is a great resource.
3. Self depreciation is not cute! And it benefits no one. When you put yourself down because you don’t think you’re attractive enough it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Equally when someone compliments you and you reply with “oh but…” it’s not modest it’s just keeping your self esteem down. Take a compliment when it’s offered. It might even put a spring in your step.
4. Hating your body will not make your life better but loving your body definitely will. All hating your body does is limits your choices. That could be on the most basic level of limiting what you eat because you’re constantly on diets or limiting what clothes you wear because you don’t think you can pull them off, right through to missing out on experiences with loved ones because you’re avoiding having your picture taken. When you think about it, nothing good will ever come from putting yourself down.
5. Letting go of the pressure to be perfect is so empowering. It is impossible to be truly happy with yourself when you’re trying to be perfect and live up to an ideal that doesn’t exist. As soon as you accept that the “perfect body”, as portrayed by mass media, is a myth you can stop shaming yourself for not living up to it.
I speak to young women who have questions about body positivity and they think that they can’t embrace it because they are losing weight to feel better about themselves and the reality is that if you can’t love your body now, you won’t love it when you lose the weight because low self esteem is not about your appearance. It’s a mindset, and when you reach your goal you will always find something else that’s wrong with yourself. Body positivity is not against people getting fitter and eating healthily if that’s genuinely what they want to do. It’s about not feeling like you have to do those things in order to be attractive/a good person/successful and lots of other ridiculous adjectives people attach to being slim.
I hope the next time you go to put yourself down you’ll give it a second thought.
Statistics on Eating Disorder Sufferers within the UK were taken from here: http://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/about/statistics
Statistics on Children’s & Young People’s Body Image can be found here: http://www.lookpositive.co.uk/statistics/ It makes stark reading