You may have heard of a recent incident of body shaming involving Dani Mathers, a former Playboy bunny, taking a photo of a naked woman at her gym and sharing it on Snapchat. The story has caused outrage amongst the general public, and rightly so. Body shaming is so common in our society. The big culprits are glossy magazines who glamorise celebrities one minute, and the next are sharing photos of them without make up or after they’ve put on a few pounds. They’re body shaming them without us even realising they’re doing it. It’s dangerous and leads to unhealthy expectations and this is why body shaming has to stop.

If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either

Unfortunately, a lot of body shaming occurs amongst women. The media conditioning has made a lot of us think that a woman should look a certain way, and that manifests itself in some cases by people tearing others down in order to make themselves feel better. This is exactly what Dani Mathers did. In her apology, she stated that it was meant to be a private photo shared in a private conversation with a friend – ignoring that even if it was kept secret, she was still body shaming a complete stranger who hasn’t done a thing to deserve it; nobody deserves it. And what’s more, she committed a sex crime. Technically she should be charged.

Every body is different
Every body is different

Victim of body shaming

I have personal experience of body shaming. Growing up, I allowed boyfriends to dictate what colour my hair should be, what clothes I should wear, whether I should eat more or less, how high my heels could be. I let them decide who I should be to please them, as though they were doing me a favour by going out with me in the first place. Anguishing over my body and hair and style, I worried that they weren’t ‘right’. I was terrified my boyfriends would go off me and I was so besotted that I had no idea they were body shaming me. My dad drilled into me when I was young that I needed to stay skinny and pretty, otherwise men wouldn’t like me or would cheat on me (totally messed up, right?). Luckily, I am my own person now and am confident about who I am; I don’t even recognise that version of me.

They asked me to jump and I asked "How high?"
They asked me to jump and I asked “How high?”

Body shaming bully

However, I have also committed acts of body shaming. I’m not proud of it, but I’m willing to admit it. I’ve made comments about body size and shape, hair colour, make up and dress sense – not just about other women, but also men. Who the hell am I to decide what is right for a stranger I know nothing about? You may think it’s only thin, good looking people who can make these sorts of comments. But you’re wrong; we’re all capable of body shaming or receiving criticism ourselves, regardless of body type or gender. We can make snap, reckless judgements about each other which can cause real damage.

Body shaming destroys confidence; you can feel lost and alone
Body shaming destroys confidence; you can feel lost and alone

How to stop body shaming

  • Focus on the positives: many companies are wising up to the “real woman” such as the Dove Choose Beautiful campaign, empowering women to love who they are and what they are.
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all: the next time you feel like pointing out a stranger’s weight, facial features, etc. in a negative way, stop yourself. Imagine how you would feel if it was the other way round. Don’t tear somebody down to make yourself feel better.
  • Ignore the negativity: if somebody is negative towards you, take a deep breath and list five things you like about yourself. You’re beautiful and wonderful in a million ways.
  • Nobody’s perfect: models in magazines and actors in films may look beautiful and perfect, but remember that their images are airbrushed. They have designers and personal dieticians on hand to help them keep trim and look good. But – they’re still real people, just like you and me. They may have cellulite or hate their nose; everyone has their own hang ups.
  • Pull your friends up on it: if you’re out with somebody and they make a negative comment about somebody’s appearance – even if that person can’t hear them – let them know it’s not okay.

And most importantly:

  • Learn to love yourself – feeling confident about who you are will allow to walk down the street with your head held high. It may be a slog to get there, but keep going – there’s really no feeling like it.

If you liked this post, read when did clean eating become a competition?

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