Perfectly imperfect: what is body shaming?


“My great hope for us as young women is to start being kinder to ourselves so that we can be kinder to each other. To stop shaming ourselves and other people. I am too fat, too skinny, and we’re all not enough. This is life. Our bodies change. Our minds change. Our hearts change,”- Emma Stone.

Have you ever wished you had a particular eye colour, waist size, or maybe long curly hair? We all do once in a while. Sometimes you wish you had that perfect picture you create in your mind. I see no problem with that. But hold on a second, did you brush the thought off after some time and moved on, or did you progress by talking negatively about your body? Do you often ask yourself why you are not pretty as your next door neighbour? Maybe you like to ask yourself why you have flat buttocks or the most popular ‘K Legs’.

Well if you have, and you still do, then my lovely friend, you are body shaming yourself. Most of the time, people have no idea the harm body shaming can cause. Understand the fact that body shaming either on yourself or on another individual comes with its effects.

Body shaming defined

Oxford Dictionary defines body shaming as the practice of making negative comments about a person’s body, shape or size. I love the definition Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives to body shaming. It simply puts it: to criticise or mock someone’s supposed bodily faults or imperfections.

I decided to talk about body shaming because I was once a victim of it at a very young age. Well, I accepted it and it made me feel not good enough. Growing up, I always thought I deserved the worst because I do not have what society thought I should have. Body shaming can be about skin colour, hair, body size, attractiveness, legs, and many others. Some mental health issues like low self-esteem, depression, among others, in some ways are caused by body shaming.

Types of body shaming

Have you ever called someone fat? Or maybe you asked your friend if the ‘lady in black’ eats at all because she is so skinny? Well if you have, then you have body-shamed that individual by weight. Have you ever told a woman to shave their body hair or underarm to be ‘ladylike’? If you have, then you have body-shamed that individual by body hair.

To my ladies, do you put on a wig because you decided to, or you do not like the texture of your hair because society views your kinky hair texture as difficult to manage and less attractive? Have you ever told a friend to relax her natural hair because you think it’s ‘hard’? If you have done that, guess what, you have done what is called texture shaming.

Effects of body shaming

Whether you believe it or not, body shaming can bring about suicidal thoughts in the victim. It can as well lead to low self-esteem and lack of confidence. Body shaming can also lead to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) – a mental condition where an individual spends a lot of time worrying about appearance and flaws – although oftentimes, it is unnoticeable to others.

How to end body shaming

Body shaming may never end but it can decrease. In order to achieve this, we must learn to motivate people rather than condemn them. We must stop talking about the body of others. If it’s a compliment, just give it and move on.

We must also learn to respect people’s bodies and accept them as they are. Individually, we must stop talking negatively about our bodies and learn to love ourselves. Last but not least, let’s us learn to respect our body as we were created in the image of God.

>>>the writer is a student of Journalism at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ). Email [email protected]

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