Beauty is not singularly defined; it comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Contrary to this, social media continues to define beauty through the number of likes an individual gets on their posts. Magazines, music videos, advertisements, and images on TV have been propagating false standards for decades. Despite these demands eliminating the diversity in beauty, anyone who does not meet the set criteria is deemed ‘unattractive.’
Body shaming is the practice of humiliating an individual based on their appearance, body shape, or size. Women are often on the receiving end, though men and children are included as well. Early this year, a statehouse official was on the receiving end from “keyboard warriors” for not having “an appealing look” after her maternity break. Recently, a local male musician was mocked by online citizens described him to as having a “monkey-like” appearance, and the Kenyan president has had his fair share of body shaming from online critics. Closer to home, we have “aunties” who make weight related comments to their “nieces” in the sham of “helping find a husband.” These are a few well-known situations.
Besides the unwarranted remarks that have popped up on several social media platforms by pseudo account holders or bold individuals using their real identity, critiquing can also be done through direct verbal comments from those around you or by yourself. Unsolicited advice on what diet to follow, exercises to do, gym to join, and dress code to consider also contribute to body shaming. Unbeknownst to the perpetrators of this demeaning act is the effect it has on the victim.
This unethical behavior has painful long-term consequences such as depression, suicidal attempts and suicide, social isolation, and unhealthy eating habits. Additionally, it leads to comparison, body hate and perpetuates the idea that people are merely judged based on their physical features and nothing more. Before making an unruly comment, be cautious of what the results could be.
Let us be kind to ourselves and others. We have to learn to protect our space for the sake of our mental and social well-being. Below are a few tactics for dealing with body shaming:
- Continually affirm yourself that you are beautiful
- Speak up for yourself mainly around those critiquing you directly. If you are happy about your appearance and body size, let them know
- Believe you can love your body as it is
- Come out of hiding by dressing your body with pride. You will be surprised by the level of confidence you gain when you dress right
- Practice thanking your body for carrying you every day and protecting you
- If uncomfortable with your body size, work towards improving it by engaging in a healthy lifestyle
- Choose to lead by example around your child. Avoid taking restrictive diets and instead, teach them about healthy eating. You can also assure them that they are beautiful regardless of societal standards
- Spend time with people who genuinely love and appreciate you
- Understand that body positivity is a time-consuming process. It may be a slow process for people to change their perspective on body image
- Choose what messages you subscribe to on social media
To victims of body shaming, remember how amazing you are despite society judging you by their shallow definitions of beauty. Do you, be you, and love you!