Amyleigh. Winchester, England.
An archaeologist & RE specialist with an abundance of love for makeup, nature & architecture photography, comics, taxidermy & a good cuppa.
Real Talk: Let's Stop Body Shaming
A couple of weeks ago I asked you guys over on Twitter which lifestyle/wellness post you would prefer to see and whilst my post on why you should date yourself won the vote (and got a great response - so thank you?!), a post all against body shaming came a close second and some of you guys asked for both so guess what? You get what you ask for!
So let's jump straight in. Body shaming is fucking disgusting. I'm going to be really opinionated on this topic in this post so if y'all don't want to deal with that, I urge you to not read any further, but I have thoughts on this topic and I damn well want them to be heard. The reason I feel so strongly about body shaming is because it's such a subjective thing that honestly should not happen but I'm not delusional - we'll never live in a world where body shaming isn't a thing and isn't happening. We need to try to move towards collectively, as a society, to preventing body shaming and making people realise just how harmful it can be. It's difficult to point the finger at individuals and say to them "hey you can't say that" when we're almost conditioned to think that way by the media. We're surrounded by judgemental headlines and photos of celebrities on the beach being chastised for wearing a bikini when they're "the size of a beached whale" and then they're celebrated when they inevitably release a weight-loss fitness DVD because they've felt the pressure to look a certain way in our society.
It's such a harming thing that seems to be more and more common as the years go by and in an odd way, don't we just accept it? Sure the majority of us will sit there and complain about it, we will say it shouldn't be happening but does anything really get done about it? It's difficult when its so prevalent in our day to day lives to know how to tackle it but there's definitely some things that I think can help:
1. Every body is a perfectly good and right body. Okay so this might seem pretty self-explanatory, but the best way to tackle body shaming is to accept that everyone's body is different and that is okay. So many times I see women and men tear each other down and say that someone is "too skinny" or "that's not curvy, that's just fat" without giving any thought as to how hurtful or damaging that can be someone. What if you're saying this to someone with an eating disorder? What if you're ridiculing someone with a weight-related illness that means they can't shed the pounds like other people? Body image is not something we can take at face value as it is always linked to the individual's mind inside that body. In an ideal world, we'd all be concerned with ourselves and ourselves only. One can only dream.
2. Support changes. So this next point again, is pretty easy to do, yet we don't seem to do it enough. How many times have you seen someone get ridiculed at the gym because they're a bigger guy or girl who is trying to make a change to benefit them? How many times have you seen someone make an insanely misjudged and outright rude comment about an individual who is sharing their success story of overcoming their inability to put on weight? It seems to happen frequently when during those times the one thing everyone should be doing is supporting that particular individual through their change. If your pal is going to Weight Watchers club and they're super excited to tell you how many pounds they've lost each week - root for them. If they "slip off the wagon" because you've gone to Pizza Hut and they've taken full advantage of the endless supply of ice cream and diet cokes - tell them it doesn't matter. They're allowed to enjoy life but be a support. Let them know how proud you are of what they're doing. Make them aware of the positive change you can see in them. If they're happier because they're going to the gym 6 times a week then be happy for them too. If they're ecstatic because they've finally worked out how to put on some weight then celebrate with them. Just think about how much it sends you positively reeling with ecstasy for that split second when someone compliments you and think about how that will feel to someone who needs encouragement and reassurance that they're doing great and their hard work is not going unnoticed. It will potentially make them feel a million dollars.
3. Don't mirror your beliefs onto others. A lot of the body shaming we see tends to be along the lines of
"I think you've put on weight"
"I think you looked nicer with blonde hair"
"In my opinion plastic surgery is disgusting"
Notice something? It's not about you. This seems to be something that has become more and more of an issue on the likes of Instagram and YouTube where people seem to think it is okay to parade around their beliefs without rhyme or reason. Don't get me wrong, often people on those platforms will put themselves in a position of which they've asked for opinions and are therefore being judged by potentially millions of people, but consider what you are saying. This is something that doesn't just happen on social media but in everyday friendships and conversations with family members too. How many of you have had a family member comment on your appearance? I've got both hands raised here. It can be the smallest comment but it can stay with a person and eat away at them. I'm not saying don't give your opinion when someone asks for it but be kind. Be constructive. If you can see that someone is unsure of a change they've made, think before you speak. You should be making that person feel safe, secure and confident in themselves not tearing them down or making them feel they have to fit a mould.
4. Body image isn't restricted to any gender, size, race, or style. When I think of body image, I think of everything you see on the outside - everything from the person's weight, to their gender (if they wish to show it), to the colour they choose to dye their hair. We get caught up in thinking about weight when "body image" is uttered and I think that's probably because it's what comes under fire the most but as I mentioned earlier, there's lots of things people do to their body to express themselves and to feel comfortable in their own skin and again, it's important we help build that up. I don't care if I'm wearing a lipstick that's "not right for my skin tone" because I want to wear it. I like it. I feel confident in it and I wouldn't like anyone to go out of their way to tell me any different. In our contemporary society, people should be free to identify how they want to both inside and out and feel safe that they can do that without any repercussions. For some people it might be something small - like me - of feeling free to have whatever hair colour they want and feel sort of okay about their acne, for others, it may be feeling safe to walk down the street wearing a dress if you identify as a male, wearing a hijab if you are British born white woman who used to be Christian... All of these outward signs we express are our own unique ways of saying "hey look! I'm me! The one and only!" and why that is not celebrated more I do not know - just *think* how wonderful our species is that we have that much diversity?!
5. Social media is never a true representation. So we might blame the media for our negativity towards diversity in body image and appearance but a major factor in the last 5 years in particular is without a doubt the growth of social media. Sites like Instagram for example have whole accounts dedicated to "fitness babes" or "IG baddies" and it's just full to the brim with beautiful, slim, athletic women which yeah, a lot of them look like that, but we all have to bear in mind the majority don't look like that at the same time. For example, that girl who looks like she's got a teeny tiny waist and a big butt? She has stood in such a way to emphasise that. That girl who's got flawless skin and lovely hair on her "just woke up lol" snap? You didn't see the 63 other photos she took where she didn't look quite so bangin' and you didn't see the 10 minutes she put in to editing the photo. I want to make it clear that I am absolutely not tearing these people down, but those who are comparing themselves to these people need to be aware that real life does not always correlate. The girls on IG that advertise the skinny teas and the hair vitamins etc. whilst actually working out a butt-tonne and actually wearing hair extensions should be honest and celebrate what they are actually (how many times can I say actually) doing to look the way they want. I'm all for modifying yourself to a point that you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin but y'all, be honest about it so it doesn't damage others. I'm looking at you, Kylie Jenner.
I'll be honest, I don't really know where I was going with this post, but I have such a strong feeling towards body image and body positivity that I feel I needed to try and get my thoughts down somewhere. Being body positive is a step that only an individual can make and work towards however think how much of a nicer place it would be if, along that journey, other individuals gave the occasional pat on the back, high five, twit-twoo to keep you going - to reach your goal and ultimate happiness. It's not too much to ask now is it?