Combatting Body Shaming as a Fashion Model￼
No Comments • Uncategorized • By Melissa
You’ve likely heard of body shaming – negative comments made about one’s appearance that can impact your self-esteem and confidence.
It’s far more difficult to escape negativity than it once was, and – perhaps because of this – body shaming is on the increase. Add to that the constant assault of images we are subjected to on social media featuring the ‘ideal’ body, and it’s no wonder we suffer from poor mental health, particularly concerning our own perceptions of what we look like.
Let’s take a look at body shaming in more detail, and how it could affect your career as a fashion model.
Impact of Body Shaming
Constant body shaming from our peers, or even from strangers online, can have a huge impact on our self-worth and confidence over time. Hearing criticism about our appearance can leave you feeling anxious, embarrassed and self-conscious. On the more severe side of the scale, victims may even feel depressed or that life is not worth living. Body shaming can lead to eating disorders, social anxiety disorders and a host of other mental health issues that can really impact a person’s day-to-day life.
So what exactly is body shaming? It’s when a person criticizes another person’s appearance. It’s often about weight but can also include height, dimensions and proportions. This can be done in person but often takes place online, particularly on social media.
Social Media and Body Shaming
Social media has given people the ability to critique others without being recognised and targeted themselves. It’s much easier to insult someone when you are out of reach – and even easier when using a ‘burner’ account (a fake account where no one knows the real you).
Because social media is incessant, it gives bullies the chance to continuously target and harass individuals with next to no respite. Nowhere feels safe when there is no way to avoid the comments. That’s why one of the first recommendations to protect yourself from body shaming is to limit your time on social media, and to block accounts you get regular negative comments from.
Causes of Body Shaming
Body shaming is often done as an attempt to hurt the target, from jealousy., or from being judgemental about things people often have no knowledge about. Even supermodels – the most recognised beautiful people on the planet – suffer from being body shamed, both by the public and by the media. The media may say they are too skinny or skeletal, regardless of whether they have the medical knowledge to do so.
Body shaming isn’t new; in the 90s it was prevalent in magazines and in pop culture. It has recently come to light only because of the way social media has exacerbated it.
Body Shaming in Teens
Teenagers are experiencing a difficult life transition, and as you can expect body shaming is a big problem in the teen community. Teens will likely experience bullying about physical attributes and this can easily lead to low self-esteem and even depression. It’s hard enough for teens to feel comfortable in their own skin; body shaming adds another element that can make teen years feel insufferable to some.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
Body shaming can lead to further mental complications such as BDD. BDD is a mental disorder that causes people to have distorted views of how they look. This can be very distressing and often leads to extreme attempts to change their body. BDD needs diagnosing by a doctor and requires counselling and sometimes medication to recover from.
How to Protect Yourself From Body Shaming
Everyone feels bad about some aspect of their body at some time or another; it’s perfectly natural. What isn’t natural is obsessing over certain areas, or feeling the need to go to extreme lengths to change an element about yourself just to fit in. There is no such thing as the perfect body and you shouldn’t try to achieve it; it doesn’t exist, it isn’t possible. But you experience constant remarks from others about the way you look, there are some things you can to do limit your exposure to this and to protect yourself from the remarks you to receive.
It may help you to remember that every celebrity in the world will have experienced some form of body shaming at one point or another – even your favourite celebrity. Celebrities are considered to be some of the most good-looking people in the world; they have the money and access to the best diets, workouts, clothing and cosmetic procedures… and even they still get negative remarks about how they look!
How to Avoid Being Body-Shamed
The best way to avoid the negative feelings associated with being body shamed is to avoid being body shamed altogether. That might mean reassessing the people you hang out with, or limiting your time on social media.
It’s also a good idea to sit back and reflect on whether you yourself have body-shamed anyone. Have you ever made comments about a person’s appearance that are negative or hurtful, even accidentally? It’s always good to assess your own behaviour.
Turning Body-Shaming Into Body Positivity
So you’re avoiding body shaming as best you can, but you’re still noticing the odd comment here and there. There are several things you can do to protect and strengthen your mental health so you don’t suffer from lasting damage due to body shaming.
- Be body positive.
Accepting yourself can be really tricky, but it’s something worth working on. It can be difficult to love our entire body, but it’s important to at least try. This exercise is important to help you learn how to appreciate and accept parts that you usually critique yourself; learn how to appreciate how mobile your body is, and how healthy you are. Someone else probably has it worse and would kill for your figure! Wobbly bits, stretch marks, spots and scars – they’re all human and completely normal.
- Take inspiration from others.
Some celebrities and many influencers have started fighting back against body shaming. Kylie Jenner has always been very open about the scar on her leg, showing the beauty in it rather than trying to hide it. Plus-size models like Iskra Lawrence show you can look stunningly beautiful without having to be a size 8 if you know how to dress well.
- Know how to take care of your health.
Knowing how to eat well and exercise is a crucial part of our lives, but often isn’t talked in enough detail at school. We all have different body types; some of us will be naturally smaller than others, while others will be able to build muscle more quickly. Our bodies are capable of doing different things; some people find yoga easy, while others find running a breeze. Find out what your body is best at, and do it often; work with your body, rather than against it. Always be open to trying new things – you never know when you may discover a physical activity you enjoy enough that it could become part of your routine.
- Don’t compare your progress to others.
Leading on from the above, we are all built differently; there is no point in comparing yourself to your neighbour! Your biggest competition is you; don’t try to compete with people who have a completely different physical build to you.
- Be mindful.
Being mindful is about catching yourself when you think negative comments. Think about why you are so harsh with yourself; is it from habit? Are you perhaps unhappy in other areas of life and projecting? We should always try to be kind to ourselves and this requires vigilance and practice.
- Find communities that share your thoughts.
Try to avoid hanging around people who constantly criticise themselves or others. Instead, try to find like-minded people who are positive and always striving to be better.
- Cultivate self-love.
Self-love can be tricky, but it’s always good to start by making a list of all the things you like about yourself. Focus on these things and remind yourself of them when you notice negative thoughts start to creep back in. Self-care days are also a great way to cultivate self-love; spend a day doing all the things you enjoy and taking care of yourself. You’d do it for a friend; why not do it for yourself?
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you are really struggling with your feelings because of body shaming, it’s time to ask for help. This can be talking to a relative or close friend, a teacher, or even your doctor. You don’t have to suffer alone; there are things people can do to help.
How to Help a Loved One With Body Shaming
If a close friend or relative is the victim of body shaming, firstly it’s important to truly appreciate how difficult it often is to ask for help – so feel good about the fact they trust you enough to turn to you. Next, try to listen without interrupting as much as you can. Ask if they want advice, or just to vent; sometimes people give unsolicited advice without checking. Research some places with good resources and information that you can share with the person. And don’t be afraid to encourage them to ask for more official help. Offer to attend a discussion with their doctor if you think it will help.
Most importantly, be there for them and try to be a role model for self-acceptance and love.
What to Do If Your Child Has Been Body-Shamed
If your child is the victim of body shaming, it’s important to talk to them first to discover what is happening and how they are feeling. Give them all the support and love they deserve, and try some of the many tips above to help improve their self-confidence. If they’re feeling really low, talk to your doctor.