Why You Should Stop Body Shaming, Starting With Your Own

loveyourbody
(Photo: iStock) 

Whether regretting that extra slice of cake or comparing ourselves to someone who appears to be flawless on the cover of a magazine, we all have days where we’re disappointed by the appearance of our bodies.

Dove reports a devastatingly low four percent of women worldwide consider themselves beautiful. Eighty percent agree every woman is beautiful, but can’t see their own beauty.

In an action that many commended last summer, designer and former reality star Lauren Conrad announced she would ban all body shaming terms on her website and reserve the word "skinny" strictly for jeans. As Conrad put it, “Everybody is created differently — and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.”

Body shaming is becoming more insidious, especially with self-shaming through wordless taunts and criticisms. While this type of conditioning might seem innocent at first, it makes us internalize such judgements as factual when they are anything but.  It does a lot more harm than we might think to our mental and emotional well-being. It’s important to be kinder to ourselves.

Mental Health

With society’s persistent focus on what is desirable, we are creating an endless cycle of confusing and ever-changing standards that create a “Wonder Woman” who fits an accepted "perfect" appearance, diets and exercises every day. News flash — she’s not real. This ideal not only affects our emotional well-being, but our mental health too. When we don’t reach certain goals, we create negative opinions about ourselves. Moreover, studies have found calling young girls “fat” or “skinny” leads to lower life satisfaction and physical health as it increases their chances of depression later in life.

Whether conveyed with negative intent or not, external opinions on our appearances can have enough impact to influence the formation of eating disorders like anorexia, which has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness in the world. When we accept these describing words, we internalize them and develop unrealistic ideals of negative self-image. Don’t ever doubt yourself and your body. If you feel like you are caught in a self-shaming cycle and the words tend to eat away at you, don’t be afraid to ask for help

Physical Health

We all know about the emotional and mental pain body shaming can cause, but researchers have discovered it could also harm you physically. Bucknell University suggests women who feel shame about their bodies might actually feel bad about their bodily functions like menstruating, sweating and eating, causing them to be less responsive to their health. In addition to reporting cases of health issues, like yeast infections, the study found women would use deodorant on parts of their body not recommended or keep tampons in longer than necessary.

If a person is overweight, someone with limited knowledge of the subject may argue body-shaming terms can act as a sort of reverse psychology to motivate a healthy body weight. That couldn't be further from the truth. Psychologists have discovered this form of bullying can actually lead to more weight gain. In a study from the College of Medicine at Florida State University, researchers discovered overweight people who faced weight discrimination were three times more likely to become obese by year’s end, also increasing depression and anxiety.

Harmful Social Habits

How we view others and ourselves is key to our integrity. We need to move past labels society has created because they’re meaningless. From the names we call ourselves to thoughts we keep hidden, labels restrict you from reaching your full potential and never honor the person you can become. It’s time we move past shame and create a more compassionate dialogue.