We are usually introduced to body shaming in childhood.
These feelings of body related inadequacy stay with us through adulthood. Body shaming leads to self-esteem problems and eating disorders. Body shaming is the cause of eating disorders in 1 out of every 10 boys. Body shaming is one of the biggest reasons I have a job in therapeutic photography. I try to help people undo the damage done to how they see their true self.
We have the fashion and advertising industries teaching us there is one acceptable body type to strive for. Models’ bodies have gotten so thin that even world renowned beauty Cindy Crawford would be deemed “curvy”.
There’s a dangerous “thinspiration” movement among young girls to try and change their bodies to match our current standard of beauty. I remember being a size 0-2 in high school but with wide hips I was teased for trying to be sexy. I was the farthest thing from sexy and I certainly wasn’t trying! “Thigh Gap” is a thing and we are told we should have it. Even when my legs were skinny and I was teased for having “chicken legs” I didn’t have a thigh gap.
What’s dangerous about these trends is that it has people striving for something that isn’t physiologically possible! And shame is the number one reason these ideas become popular.
Body shaming is prevalent in ads and on tv. From “embarrassing facial hair” to “unsightly love handles” we are bombarded with ads promising to make us “better” than we are on our own.
Then we have the obesity issue where overweight people are body shamed into weight loss or social solitude.
Having been 250 pounds at 5’6″ and having lost 95 pounds, I’ve seen and experienced a wide range of body shaming. I’ve had to respond to back handed compliments:
“But you carry the weight well.”
“Don’t worry, when you get sick of it you’ll lose the weight.”
And now that I’ve kept it off:
“Oh my god I can’t imagine you that big!”
There’s no way to win. Unless…
What of we didn’t care? What if you woke up tomorrow and you couldn’t care less about what other people said about your body? What if you didn’t listen to weight loss commercials on the radio? What if you turned the tv off during weight loss ads and went and played with your kids? What if you focused on what you need to do to love and take care of your body?
What if we didn’t trash talk each other? But more importantly what if you stopped trash talking TO YOURSELF?
If you’re thin and healthy, be proud. Still make choices to care for yourself in a healthy way. If you’re struggling to lose weight I want you to be damn proud that you’re trying. That’s the very best you can do. Every day is a new chance to try again. If you’ve lost weight, give yourself credit and don’t get complacent. Focus on ways to love your mind and body.
And by no means should you engage in body shaming someone else. I don’t care if you’re skinny – you’re beautiful. I don’t care if you’re curvy – you’re beautiful. I don’t care if you’re overweight – you’re beautiful. But me telling you isn’t going to solve anything. YOU have to tell YOURSELF and learn to believe it.
Help me end body shaming.
Start with yourself. Set a positive example for your children who see and hear every single time you criticize yourself. Then they internalize it and will have their own demons to fight.
I sound like a corny fool, but the Beatles were on to something. “All you need is love.”
You’ll find a lot more kindness for different shapes when you learn to embrace your own.
Iman Woods is an American artist who specializes in pin-up photography. Through a unique and therapeutic process, she’s spent over a decade in perfecting, Iman helps women undo the damage from a negative self-image and unrealistic beauty industry expectations. She helps women embrace their own style of beauty and see themselves in a new light. You can find her on her website, ImanWoods[dot]com.
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