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How to defend yourself against body shaming

WOMAN LOOKING AT REFLECTION
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It starts with accepting that everyone's body is different.

Body shaming is nothing new, but it’s more common today than ever.

This tendency to make fun of other people’s bodies in public forums used to be focused more on celebrities — actors, athletes, etc. — when they began to gain weight, or were photographed by paparazzi in unflattering positions. Their photos were plastered all over tabloids, highlighting what critics considered their defects, with phrases like, “look how fat she’s getting,” “look at that cellulitis,” “he looks like a whale,” and even worse comments.

With the ubiquity of access to the internet and social networks, it’s extremely easy to criticize and make fun of the physical defects of others (most commonly, their weight and proportions), causing them psychological and emotional damage. Both men and women may be targeted as victims of bullying, teasing, and criticism if their weight, musculature, etc., doesn’t match the current standards of beauty or attractiveness. Making these comments “at a distance” through a keyboard tends to embolden people to be cruel without feeling the consequences.

One of the many possible results of the nasty hobby of body shaming is that it makes the targets of the criticism (and other people who realize we look just the same) ashamed of certain parts or aspects of our body that we don’t like, or that we even hate. The verbal bullying and teasing makes us feel insecure and unlovable, and unhappy with who we are.

Unrealistic ideals

The images used in publicity, as well as the pressure of fads and fashion, try to influence us and sell us the idea that our goal should be the pursuit of a perfect body, and that our value as a person depends on our physical appearance and not on who we are and how we act. On the contrary, our greatest value lies in our interior, and when we find our security in that, it allows us to be much less vulnerable to criticism of our body, and to our own possibly negative body image.

Having the goal of achieving a perfect body is an unrealizable ideal for most of us, and if we have unrealistic expectations, we are most likely going to be constantly frustrated and will end up with emotional problems. This is not to say that we cannot or should not take care of our bodies and try to live a healthy lifestyle. However, it does mean we should realize that every person’s body is different, and the way it develops is the result of myriad factors (genes, availability of nutrition, work and family duties and stresses, etc.). It is not up to others (except, perhaps, our physician) to judge our body, much less to publicly deride us. Worrying about living to other people’s aesthetic ideals is not the road to lasting happiness.

If, on the contrary, we accept that we all have our physical defects and our virtues — physical, psychological, and spiritual — we will be able to live at peace with ourselves. Accepting our body as it is, in the context of our daily efforts to be healthy and responsible, gives us a solid foundation for offering the best of ourselves to the people around us.

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