“It’s not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.” Warsan Shire
Has anyone ever said anything negative to you about your body? Have they called you fat, that you have a big forehead and they make fun of your receding hairline? Or perhaps they said something about your teeth coz they are brown or that you may not require toothpicks coz of the wide gaps in between? Maybe they said something about your eyes or that you are skinny, lacking in model like features.
Well, that is body shaming. According to the Oxford dictionary, body shaming is defined as “the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size“. We have experts in every area of our lives. Guess what? There are experts in body shaming too. Their work? To spew hurtful and careless words to other human beings about their bodies. I believe we need to keep talking about body shaming because there are people out there who do not realize the power of their words and the effect that this has on other people.
As I have stated earlier in my article Hip Mama, Slam in the Ham!, I have been on the other side of the ‘ideal’ bracket of a body size. I felt embarrassed for a part of my life because I did not meet the conventional body size. It didn’t help when people would make fun of me or focus too much on these body parts. Baggy t-shirts were my preferred wear. I managed to have thick skin, rhetorically speaking, reaching a point where I had to love myself. I have had a couple of interactions with some people recently, from different backgrounds, at work, family members, who have made comments that I have chosen to ignore. You are hippy yet you do not have a bust. Be careful; you might break that seat. I am just amazed looking at you coz we don’t have such big people in our family.
What happens to those people who cannot ignore the comments? Where should they bury their heads? No wonder we have so many diet fads that are splashed in our day to day living. And many people, largely women, are trying out different diets with the aim of losing that extra flesh on the hips, thighs, tummy, or arms just to fit in. Some succeed but others don’t. The pressure is real people. Look around and see the exercise fads as well. Almost every part of the body needs to meet a certain standard. And the world convinces women in particular that one’s worth is pegged on how they look.
Social media has managed to bring this pressure to a whole new level. Images of ‘perfect bodies’ cause many to drool over and only wish they had such bodies. A good number of body shamers are found online. I guess it is easier bullying people when one is behind a gadget. I have noted that some of the body shamers speak of what they wish they had. Possibly they have issues with how others have confidence in themselves or they are just purely mean.
Well, body shaming does not happen to women only. Men too are affected. You’ve heard people saying that they cannot date a particular man because he is short or stout. Other matters that get talked about are baldness and foot size. Children too are not spared. Many get insulted in school because of how they look. Worse still, their parents make comments that leave them wounded and with a low self esteem. You too can be a body shamer if you keep criticizing your own looks whenever you look at yourself. This is largely due to comparisons with others.
You need to take care of yourself because no one else will. But you have to do it from a point of loving yourself. Give yourself a break from all the madness that is around you. Skinny, overweight, black, upper heavy, small bottom, too tall, short, all these are considered problematic depending on where you come from. You need to present yourself positively to those around you.
I would like to state that my intention is not to underplay key issues that arise from one’s unhealthy lifestyle. There are definitely consequences of a bad lifestyle. My desire is for you who has been body shamed to realize and appreciate your worth. You are unique. You are special. We carry our bodies everywhere we go. Therefore, love you and be comfortable with yourself. For those who find pleasure in criticizing people’s bodies, I urge you to stop and consider how your words may affect someone. Avoid referring people by their physical characteristics. If you are a parent and note that your child has challenges with their image or body, please practice kindness and help your child in living healthy. Teach them as well how not to body shame other children.
I found this poem by Abdullah Shoaib online and thought it was quite powerful.
I’m very ugly
So don’t try to convince me that
I am a very beautiful person
Because at the end of the day
I hate myself in every single way
And I’m not going to lie to myself by saying
There is beauty inside of me that matters
So rest assured I will remind myself
That I am a worthless, terrible person
And nothing you say will make me believe
I still deserve love
Because no matter what
I am not good enough to be loved
And I am in no position to believe that
Beauty does exist within me
Because whenever I look in the mirror I always think
Am I as ugly as people say?
(Now read the same words, but bottom up.)
For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16.7