Body Shaming. We all have done it—and majority of us still do it on a regular basis—all of which can lead to a poor body image, eating disorders, and self-destructive tendencies. But this post isn’t going to be about our body issues and how to deal with them. This post is about the effect body shaming has on our daughters, nieces, granddaughters and the generation of young women to come. I think it is important that we realize our self-loathing doesn’t just have an effect on ourselves but it has an impact on how our young girls perceive themselves. As infants, our first sounds and gestures are all learned from imitation. As a young girl grows up, she learns how to communicate, act, and behave all by observing those around her.
Body Shaming Is Surprisingly Common
So, is it too much of a stretch to say that we learned body shaming from our mothers, grandmothers, female role models, etc. and we are passing down this horrible habit that chips away our self-esteem and confidence to the next generation of young girls? I am no way trying to blame anyone but what I am trying to say is that we need to start thinking about the implications our body shaming has on the young women around us.
It’s become common practice for women to receive a compliment and then disregard it by pointing out all the things wrong with their bodies. Once I started listening for it and testing it out, I realized how common body shaming is. I started to compliment the women around me and their friends—much to my dismay a quick “thank you but I still have about 5lbs to lose” or “thanks but have you seen these wrinkles? I look like a hag.”
The last thing I want is my niece growing up with a negative body image. And I’m sure that is the last thing you want for your daughters, nieces, granddaughters, etc. But I know one way to help the next generation of women to come is to banish body shaming and start promoting body positivity. I’m not saying body shaming will be an easy habit to break; after all, some of us have been doing it since we were very young but it is necessary if we want the generations to come to grow in confidence and strength instead of self hate and criticism. So, for the sake of your daughters, and theirs to come-I think it is crucial to end the cycle now—quit body shaming and start highlighting your body.
How can we end the body shaming cycle?
First we have to recognize the problem. As young girls, I don’t think we are encouraged to receive compliments instead we are encouraged to say a gracious “thank-you” but then mention all the horrible things about us that discount the compliment.
Emily: “You’re such a great mom”
Nancy: “Awww—But you should see my house–It’s a pig pen.”
Sasha: “Your hair looks amazing. I wish I had hair like yours…”
Lauren: “Ah, thank you! But trust me no you don’t, my hair is an oily mess.”
Hailey: “That was a great run, we knocked a minute off our time…”
Becca: “Awesome. But man I look like a sweaty hot mess—I mean come on, I look like a pig..”
Jen: “That dress looks gorgeous on you. I wish I could look like you!”
Nicole: “Thanks. But I wish I didn’t have this bulge of fat right here—It makes me look like I’m a camel with saddle-bags on my back. Ugh. So gross.”
You get the picture. After opening up my ears, I realized how often and frequent we do this. Instead of being proud of our achievements and accomplishments or just being genuinely happy about a compliment, we find some way to turn it into something that is no longer a positive but a negative. Sick, right?
How To Stop Body Shaming and Start Promoting Body Positivity
Stop Turning Positives Into Negatives
So one of the biggest things I think we need to stop doing is turning compliments into a way to body shame or speak negatively about ourselves.
Stop Criticizing Women’s Bodies
The second thing we need to do is to quit criticizing other women’s bodies; there isn’t one ideal body type, while social media and the entertainment business might demand there is, trust me, there isn’t. Promote body highlighting and a healthy lifestyle; healthy eating and regular exercise—don’t conform to society’s norms of beauty standards (Trust me, they tend to change. Don’t believe me, just look back at the mid-1800s or the age of the pinup girl, or go back even further. You’ll see that society tends to change its’ perception of “so-called” beauty).
You don’t have to like every body type out there, we are all attracted to different things (hence to why my sister and I have completely different taste in men) but don’t let your taste effect how you rate and treat other people. By saying one is better than the other, you segregate all the women who don’t fit in that category, alienating them and making them feel like they are beneath or their bodies are some how subpar.
Focus On The Positives
The third thing, which is something I feel like we all have heard a million times but it tends to come in one ear and out the other is—look for the positive not the negative. When you talk about yourself don’t focus on all the things you want to change but focus on the things you are proud of—promote yourself. Whether you are talking to yourself in the mirror or to a friend. It will make you feel better and guess what, the girls around you will see it, and I bet they’ll do the same! In order to be confident, you need to feel confident. What is the best way to do that? Give yourself the extra encouragement and brag about how awesome you really are.
Since I’m not an expert here’s a few additional resources & great articles about body shaming and body positivity:
What are some of the ways you think we can promote body positivity to our young girls? Do you have any suggestions on how we can end the cycle of body shaming? What have been some of your experiences with body shaming and body highlighting? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.