This is an awkward subject for me to broach, because most people I know do I this. I have even done it. So I wave all rights of non-hypocrisy in an attempt to open a discussion about a really important issue facing our culture: body-shaming.
Body-shaming is pretty self-explanatory, but here is a quick definition: when somebody says negative things about their body. Only negative consequences result from this act; calling yourself fat does not motivate you to eat healthier, smoke less, or go for a walk. It simply makes you feel bad about yourself. Negative self-talk and body shaming lead to a downward spiral of self-esteem, which can encourage depression and even disordered eating.
Self-esteem is so important. When we value ourselves, we believe in ourselves. When we believe in ourselves, we know we can accomplish anything we set our minds and our hearts to. We apply for the job that kind of scares us; we make ourselves work harder because we know we can and it will pay off in the end. We eat better because we know there is so much left for us to accomplish, and we need to be around for many, many years to achieve everything we want to. Think about the affect self-esteem has on the work-place alone, then think about the 23% wage gap between men and women in 2011 (http://www.iwpr.org/initiatives/pay-equity-and-discrimination). I’m not saying self-esteem is going to solve wage disparity, but I am absolutely, whole-heartedly advocating for raising the next generation of girls to believe in themselves. If we can do that, we can raise a tenacious, don’t-take-no-for-an-answer workforce of young women who will kick that wage gap’s ass by continuing to demand equal pay for equal work. The old-fashioned image of a demure young lady who takes her lumps bores me and saddens me.
This brings us right into the most important aspect of this issue: girls. If you have a daughter, or you work with young girls, STOP shaming yourself RIGHT NOW. You are the adult; you have no excuse to speak about yourself in a hateful manner, and it is damaging to the children in your life. Your daughter, or the girls you work with, look up to you. They idolize you. When you beat yourself up, they internalize that. They accept it as normal behavior and part of their cultural education that it’s normal for women to speak about themselves like that so they continue the behavior. Body-shaming is one hundred percent a learned behavior, so stop teaching it.
I really hope we can all take a pledge to stop this behavior. There is no reason to let Hollywood, the media, and advertising agencies define beauty for us, and there is no reason to harm ourselves and our daughters in the pursuit of a false ideal. You are beautiful how you are. Live your life fully and raise your daughters to feel beautiful, smart, powerful, and capable.
Disclaimer: this post is written very much from a woman’s viewpoint. I’m not sure how much body-shaming occurs amongst men, but I do value the self-esteem of men and boys as well. Please raise your boys to value themselves also.