What is Body Shaming?
Body shaming is the act of intentionally or unintentionally criticizing or ridiculing someone on the basis of their body type. It manifests as fat shaming or skinny shaming or in a way of shaming someone on the basis of some aspect of their body- big thighs, fat belly, big breasts, small breasts, tall, short etc. Body shaming paves way to a lot of insecurities in the minds of the vulnerable. Instead of learning to embrace ones imperfections, people are compelled to hide or change things that are unique to them. Social media, has opened up multiple discourses about body shaming thanks to the manifold opportunities it offers to exchange opinions or images. We are taught to hate our own bodies and aspire for unattainable body goals.
Teaching kids to be healthy is one thing but allowing them to obsess over unhealthy body images is bad for their overall health and self esteem. It is equally harmful for kids/teens to engage in bullying others. Targeting ones body is always the easiest way to break someone’s confidence.
The issue of Body Shaming among teenagers
Jenna, a sixteen year old, just like any other girl is beautiful in her own way; was tormented by the comments she had to hear everyday in high school by her classmates. She was pestered for her body-type. With teary eyes, Jenna would come home trying to think of ways to get rid of the problem. In desperation, she succumbed to escape routes by crash dieting, taking pills and starving herself. Eventually, she started lashing out on everybody with a downfall in grades due to the build-up of self esteem issues. She changed. Her ever jovial nature took an overturn to the gloomy and dejected side.
Why? Just because she was overweight. Can’t we all just be accepted the way we are without hideous criticism? Have we become so shallow? This is just one incident that Jenna had to deal, with countless more happening with teenage girls and boys everywhere.
“He’s too fat”, “She’s too skinny”, “ I bet she probably starves herself”, “did you see what she’s wearing today”or “you should be on diet and a treadmill” — are a few demeaning statements passed by body shamers with so much ease, not thinking the grueling impact left on the minds of the victims. With the media constantly portraying women in a particular image and body shape, sweeps in unrealistic expectations to young girls, creating self-esteem issues along with a ferocious cycle of judgement and criticism. Apparently, it has become a norm to criticize people based on their body type-just to fit in.
Teenage years are a whirlpool of emotions fetching vulnerability and confusion. As difficult the phase is, teenagers require a strong understanding support system. That’s where you step in as a parent and a friend. Be a healthy role model. The best we can do for our teens is the realization of the fact that our appearance does not dictate who we are.
A lot of celebrities have come forward to support body positivity and against body shaming. However, there is a lot of criticism surrounding this aspect because in an attempt to promote the idea, they tend to post their well sculpted bodies on social media with body positivity hashtags, precariously hanging at the edge of being hypocritical.
How can you help your teen?
Always listen to your teen carefully and support him or her without throwing any immediate harsh reactions. According to a study based on self-esteem, it was noted that teenagers felt the need to improve the communication factor with their parents. Knowing you are there for your child, in his/her most difficult phase makes a vital difference in their behavior pattern and leaves a positive imprint about the subject.
Teach your teen to appreciate their body. Ensure to highlight the reality-we are more than our appearance with focus on what we have, rather than critiquing what we don’t have. Find an aspect that helps your teen be more involved in something they love which would help them celebrate themselves and life each day with optimism.
Navigation towards the right path is the key. External influencing factors shall always prevail but with the proper guidance and one on one talk, you can help your child be more confident about their body, saving them from the agonizing mental and emotional pain.
Fat-shaming and skinny-shaming are trending hashtags on social media such as Instagram, with more than 20,000 posts revealing the demeaning nature of body-shaming troubling men and women of all ages around the world. The only way we can bring a change in the body shaming act is by practicing healthy ideals and accepting everyone the way they are.
So let the change begin with you.
Read More: Rescuing your child from Cyber Bullying