Body shaming is basically criticizing or humiliating someone for their weight, size or appearance. Most people think that body shaming happens only to fat people but that is not the case. It happens to extremely skinny people, transgenders and people with physical deformities. Negative effects of Body shaming can be seen on all victims alike.
Many people indulge into body shaming deliberately. But there are many others who don’t realize that they are doing the act. In today’s time when physical appearance is everything, a correctly proportioned and flawless body is considered to be a perfect body. We see it on TV, in magazines, ads, commercials, and on social media. Perfectly lean body is a big industry and its promotion is the lifeline for clothes and accessories brands, cosmetic companies and the health industry.
All this hype about the perfect figure has increased body shaming. It begins right from childhood and continues for the lifetime. The people who body shame others think that it’s only a one-time thing and that they are not doing any harm. But the truth is totally different. Body shaming has a deep impact on a person’s mental and physical health. Negative effects of body shaming are not temporary. They can cause long-term or permanent damage.
I was also a victim of body shaming. This is not only my story but of many others like me
I was never a lean kid. Since childhood, I was overweight and had to face a lot of body shaming. And trust me when I say this- coming from a small town where everybody thinks that it’s their business to guide you; being an overweight kid can be hell. As a kid, I was fat but was very cute. I was loved by all my teachers at school and my family. But it was difficult for me to make friends, as kids of my age never wanted to play with me because of my appearance.
As I was good in my studies and a well- behaved child, I was popular with my teachers. But after a certain point in time, I was not selected for school gatherings and other school stuff because of my appearance. This left a deep impact on me and it hindered my self-confidence. I felt hurt every time I was not selected. And it’s not that I did not try. Imagine a middle school kid making conscious efforts to lose weight. Does this even sound natural??
As I entered college, I decided to work on my social skills. It did me some good but not much. I was very fond of acting and even good at it. So I was selected for the college drama group. But again because of my physique, I was always given side roles, even though my teacher and I both knew that I was a better actor than many of the club members.
After completing my education and getting a job, I had to work harder as compared to my colleagues. It took my superiors time to realize that I was an efficient employee because they were judging me by my looks.
I try really hard but the reasons have changed
Luckily I have great friends, and amazing family and most importantly a perfect husband, but still at every step, even today I have to face the negative effects of body shaming.Especially with all the awareness regarding health and healthy lifestyle, I am often construed as not being serious about my health and my life. Because of my appearance, people think that I am not dedicated and I eat junk all the time and follow an unhealthy lifestyle. Which is of course not true.
But what the shamers never see is that I try really hard. During the time when these so-called normal people were relaxing and chilling, I was fretting about my weight. I tried numerous workouts and many diets. There was always too much stress and it became very difficult for me to lose weight. Even though I wanted to lose weight, but the reasons were all wrong. It was all about looking good and not the health factor at all. I felt very insecure and afraid all the time. In spite of many failed attempts, I never stopped trying. I still try to work out, go on hikes, swim, eat healthily but the reasons have changed. Now I do all these things to become healthy and not to look good.
These are just a few things that happen when you are being body shamed. But there are many negative effects of body shaming that leave a permanent mark and it’s not always good. It’s a known fact that for people who are body shamed, losing or gaining weight becomes all the more difficult. Because of the constant stress levels, they develop metabolic disorders, blood pressure problems. Even the eating habits tend to get ugly for people who are shamed constantly.
Here are some Negative Effects of Body Shaming which cause Long-term or Permanent Damage
1. You become either stubborn or extremely submissive
Every person has his own coping mechanism. The constant criticism and humiliation about being fat or being too thin can either make you stubborn or extremely submissive. If a person becomes too stubborn then he/she stops listening to anybody at all. In this case, you will not listen and do even those things which are good for you. ON the other hand, if you belong to the too submissive category, you will always blame yourself for the bad things that happen to you. You will never stand up for yourself. People will always dominate you. I am extremely submissive and to date, it sometimes becomes very difficult for me to stand up for myself, even if I am suffering.
2. You alienate yourself from others
Because you have been treated badly by others for so long, you start to alienate yourself from the society. Over a period of time, it becomes hard for such people to converse with others and make friends. They start to cherish loneliness and before they know it, they are already suffering from depression. As mentioned earlier, I have some amazing people around me to keep me on track, but that is not the case with everybody.
3. You stop expressing yourself
How would somebody feel, when nobody has taken them seriously, or ever considered their problems?? Under such circumstances, people start feeling that there is nobody out there to listen to them and they start keeping their problems to themselves. They stop sharing their feelings. They are likely to break down faster as compared to people who share their problems and feelings. I always had this preconceived notion that no one will understand me. I hardly shared anything with anybody. It was only after meeting the love of my life, I realized, I had someone who would hear me out.
4. You lose self-confidence
Self-confidence is the biggest motivator for anybody to keep going. But if a person is always told that he is good for nothing, he starts feeling the same way about himself. And when faith in oneself and self-confidence is lost, it becomes difficult for any person to do anything in life. I struggle with self-confidence even today. My family and friends believe that I can do a thing and it takes me ages to believe that I can do the same. It’s a long struggle to be able to fully believe in myself but it’s worth everything.
5. You become extremely cautious about your appearance
After years of being told to dress like this and not like that; people can become very cautious of their appearances. They wear only those clothes that others want them to wear. When you are body shamed for too long, you stop experimenting with your looks or going bold on them. Before my marriage, I rarely wore jeans and dresses, even though I wanted too. It took me a husband and a move abroad to freely experiment with my looks. But even today I cannot bring myself up to wearing a bikini even in an all women pool.
Why do these Negative Effects of Body Shaming cause Permanent Damage
The aforementioned negative effects of Body shaming impact very silently. There might not be any definitive signs so it is often too late by the time a person realizes these negative effects of body shaming. People who have been or are victims of body shaming often go into self-denial mode unconsciously. It hurts when they think about themselves, so they stop thinking at all. When you don’t ponder on your life and actions, it’s hard to find out where are you, how are you doing; and these effects of body shaming easily lurk in.
I did not realize so much damage had been done until the time I left my job, left my country and moved abroad. I really struggled with making a life for myself, in a totally foreign land, out of my comfort zones. Months would go by before I talked to people in person. I had to overcome my extremely shy and introvert nature to get acquainted with people, make a social circle, interact with strangers. I got this golden opportunity. But not many people get it. It took me around 8-9 months to adjust to my new lifestyle, to start making friends. Again I could not do it on my own, I had a constant encouragement in the form of my husband.
How to fight these Negative Effects of Body Shaming
The first and foremost step towards fighting these effects is not being alone. Body shaming victims must always seek the company of their family members and friends who are genuinely concerned. They should share all their fears and problems with their loved ones. The love and encouragement of people who care is a big support in gaining self-confidence and feeling good about oneself.
Another important thing is using selective focus. People should be able to focus only on good things. Body shaming victims are very vulnerable and it is imperative for them to focus on all the goods things that have happened to them and the good qualities that they have. When they are very negative about themselves, these victims should try to avoid all those things and people which can make them more miserable.
The focus should be shifted to other productive things like education, career, and livelihood. Actions speak greater than words. If you are good at what you do, sooner than later people will start valuing you for your skills and not for your appearances. This is a very good motivator and can boost one’s confidence to a great extent.
Every person has a different coping mechanism. The most important thing is that a person should be willing to fight these negative effects of body shaming. Once a person acknowledges that fact that these negative effects of body shaming are causing damage half the battle is already won.
Once you start loving yourself for who we are and don’t get deterred by what others say, nobody can make you feel miserable about your appearance.