It happens at the check out counter at your local supermarket at least three times in two minutes. You're told to change your appearance. You look up and see magazine headlines silently telling you that kale will help you lose weight instantly. That you need to shrink that belly before summer season. That in order to be better, you need to be slimmer.
These words are insidious killers for our self-esteem; pervasive in normalizing that our bodies physical appearance is tied to our self-worth. But that could be further than the truth. Just look at a watermelon -- the hard, bitter rind doesn't tell us much about the juicy sweetness that lies deep inside.
We're living in an era of body-shaming (criticizing yourself or others because of some aspect of physical appearance) which leads to a vicious cycle of judgment and criticism. And here's a few ways body-shaming weaves its way into your dialogue (whether your conscious of it or not.)
- Criticizing your own appearance, through a judgment or comparison to another person. (i.e.: “I’m so ugly compared to her.” “Look at how broad my shoulders are.”)
- Criticizing another’s appearance without their knowledge. (i.e.: “Did you see what she’s wearing today? Not flattering.” “At least you don’t look like her!”).
No matter how this manifests, it often leads to comparison and shame, and perpetuates the idea that people should be judged mainly for their physical features. But here's how we can stop it:
Find something (or things!) you LIKE about your body. We spend so much time witnessing advertisements about how to make our eyelashes millimeters longer and how to get whiter teeth that it’d be nice to counter some of that by celebrating what we do have. Maybe, despite your body image struggles, you love a new hairstyle you discovered. Maybe you’ve noticed how much stronger you feel with balanced eating. Find something physical or nonphysical that makes you YOU and celebrate it every day.
Identify who in your life is body-positive – or even body-neutral. Think of people who celebrate their body for what it can do, and people who refuse to comment on others’ physical appearances. Spending time with these people can be especially helpful while you are struggling with your own internalized body-shaming, and help you view yourself – and others – more positively.
Confront those who perpetuate body-shaming. Once you’ve become more aware of your own body-shaming behaviors, you may notice how often your friends, family or co-workers do it. Talk to them. Discuss why it bothers you and help them see how it may also be hurtful to them.