Confidence is very often taken for granted when it is one of the most important qualities anyone can have. When I was in the sixth grade, I was diagnosed with scoliosis and had to wear a back brace for a year and a half. I was bullied because clothes didn’t fit me the right way. Nobody noticed me for anything besides my imperfections. All of my clothes were XL or XXL. After having the surgery, people finally recognized me. When I returned to school, everybody commented on how skinny I was. I was happy that people were noticing me. When I got to high school, it was all about how good your butt looked in yoga pants. I wondered, "how come one girl is praised for their body but the next girl is considered fat?" Finally, when college rolled around, there was the trend of being "thick." I learn the difference between someone looking "phat" or fat.
Now, being skinny is bad for society and being thick is hot, but is there a line between thick and fat? Why should it matter? Ever since elementary school, there has always been some type of body shaming. Skinny people would shame those who weren’t a size zero and those who weren't a zero would shame those who were. Then the perfectly nice people who just happened to be petite would fight back because they were just born that way and can’t help it — just like anybody else with curves or any other body type. Why can’t we just coexist and love ourselves without being shamed?
What is body shaming?
"To me, body shaming means not feeling comfortable in one's own skin and not wanting to look in the mirror because you don't like the reflection. Body shaming means finding flaws in one's body and not being happy with the body they possess." – Deanna L, University of Delaware '18
“[Body shaming is] shaming other girls for their bodies such as not having big breasts, a big butt, and not having a flat stomach.” – Annie O, SUNY Cobleskill '17
“The words ‘body shaming’ are so harmful and such an act of cruelty. To me the term ‘body shaming’ is a terrible act to hurt someone just to make themselves feel better.” – Alexis A, Nassau Community College '19
"Body shaming means that people make others feel ashamed of their body figure and size. This can be done through words or through one's facial expression/gestures towards another person." – Danielle L, University of Delaware '17
Body shaming is serious — it is a form of bullying. Body shaming is extremely harmful to one’s self-esteem. Body shaming is a horrific act and quite often times we will do it to ourselves, and I was guilty of this for a long time along with many others. It comes in all different forms — not just simply calling someone fat or skinny or thinking you need to lose weight. It can go a lot deeper.
Have you ever been a victim to body shaming or witnessed someone else being body shamed?
“Body shaming is something that I’ve witnessed a lot of as a woman. I remember being in elementary school and watching my friends pick skim milk instead of chocolate, not for health or because they preferred it, but because someone commented on their weight. Little things like that have continued since. In middle school, it evolved to being more centered on how fast or slow girls’ bodies were developing. In high school, it was often body shaming that involved what someone was wearing. I saw most body shaming focused on girls, but it was also always coming from girls. I think that was the worst part of it, it was girls making other girls feel bad about themselves.” – Emily B, University of Nebraska '20
“When I was younger I used to always get called fat or chubby and I also got compared ‘body sized’ to my sister a lot.” – Victoria A, Nassau Community College '19
“During my junior year I was my heaviest at around 165 pounds, which to me, isn't fat, and I was technically at a healthy BMI but people always told me I should lose weight because that was the reason why I didn't have as many friends, or wasn't very popular, or why I didn't have a boyfriend. Due to medication I was on, I ended up losing almost sixty pounds. Once people noticed that I lost weight, everyone kept telling me that I looked so much better, that I was finally attractive, that I should have lost weight years ago.” – Nadia R, Ithaca College '20
“ I have been body shamed by my parents, mom and dad telling me what I can wear out of the house versus not wear due to my over weight size.” – Vanessa W, Molloy College '19
“ I’ve been body shamed throughout my life for being overweight and it used to get to me a lot. Now whenever I am called fat I laugh at them. It’s like stating the obvious, like the sky is blue.” – Brittney E, Queensborough Community College '19
Body shaming is not just a phase of one specific age group. One day my 11 year old sister came home and told me she was getting called a humpback whale because of her scoliosis. These are fifth and sixth graders I am talking about. I have been body shamed all through school. It gave me flashbacks to all of the bullying I experienced. Many of my friends have too. Many have witnessed instances of body shaming all over. The thought of not being good enough at some point got burned into my mind. Although you may think you are alone, I assure you — you are not. When I went to college and grew more mature, I realized that I wasn't alone. It is terrible that all of these people grew up thinking they weren't good enough.
Why do people body shame?
“People body shame because society has an ideal portrayed image of what girls and boys should look like so people find it absurd to see someone wearing something too revealing for their size." – Vanessa W, Molloy College '19
“People body shame to boost up their own self confidence and their ego.” – Victoria A, Nassau Community College '19
“I think people body shame because they compare themselves to the skinny models on social media networks like Instagram and don't realize that person is photoshopped and don’t even look like that herself. They are reaching for an unachievable body because of this [and] will never be satisfied with the body they have. This will cause an onset of body shaming and insecurities for as long as it takes them to realizes the body they want doesn’t even exist in reality.” – Deanna L, University of Delaware '19
People body shame for all different types of reasons. Some people body shame because they are getting revenge on those who shamed them. Some people just shame others because they are cruel. Others shame people to boost their own self esteem. No matter what the reason, there is no excuse. Saying that you are treating people a certain way because they treated you like that does not make you sound any better. As a matter of fact, it makes you sound a lot worse because you know how it feels and you are intentionally trying to make others feel that way. If we all acted like this, our lives would be an endless loop of terror.
What can we do to stop body shaming?
“I do not think you can stop negative people. We want everyone to get along and everyone to like each other, but that will most likely never happen. As long as you are confident and love yourself, be one less to shame others” – Brittney E, Queensborough Community College '19
“It's important to realize that there is no perfect body and important for other women to know this. Aerie promotes self body image by saying every body is beautiful and selling their clothing to all shapes and sizes.” – Annie O, SUNY Cobleskill '17
“I think we can put an end to body shaming by accepting one’s body. Everyone has flaws and one of the main reasons people have insecurities about their body is because of the unrealistic photoshopped bodies they see in magazine stands everyday. We need to put a stop to editing everyone’s body on the computer and embrace all different kinds of body types. I think there should be more emphasis and advertisements on loving your body.” – Deanna L, University of Delaware '18
“I think we can put an end to body shaming by promoting acceptance of all body types. Although there has been a movement supporting positive body image with those who are curvier, and this is amazing, I think there’s now pressure for those of us who have slimmer bodies to get curvier. I think we should also give equal amount of attention to men as well. There’s been pressure for them to have these perfectly chiseled bodies.” – Amelia V, Queens College '17
The media is a major contributor. If there was no ideal, individuals would not be able to shame. There has been so much damage already done on our society so it may seem impossible to undo. If no one makes an effort, it will never end. If you agree that this is an issue and want to make a change, making the decision not to shame yourself and others can make a huge difference alone. That is one less bully in the world. These ten women and I have all taken an oath to not shame and you should, too!
Lead Image Credit: Rachel Aslan