The term body shaming is quite self explanatory (body and shame). It indicates an attitude of derision, humiliation and offense towards someone’s physical appearance.
One can perform body shaming both on themselves, if compared with others, and on other people, criticizing their physical appearance.
Western societies typically overvalue physical beauty and external appearance. These cultures, consider physically attractive individuals competent, healthy and intelligent. This way people live in constant confrontation, judgment and fear of not being accepted.
Mass media and social networks contributed to propagate a distorted, but culturally accepted, idea of how the ideal body should be. This can lead anyone who does not conform to this image, to be ashamed of their body, to have wrong expectations about how they should appear and to suffer derision.
Body shaming has important psychological consequences, especially for adolescents. Adolescents are in transition from childhood to adulthood, characterized by important physical, mental and sexual changes. However, people of any sex and age can be victims.
The socio-cultural standards teach individuals, and especially women, to self-objectify. This means to adopt a vision of themselves as objects whose value is based on external appearance. So your worth depends on how well your appearance is able to meet the prevailing aesthetic standards.
Being evaluated on the basis of rigid and aesthetic canons can lead individuals to experience emotions such as shame, anxiety and anger, related to the fear of being rejected and low self-esteem or depression.
During adolescence, by the way, depression rates are high especially for girls, who at the age of 15 are twice as depressed as their male peers.
How to prevent and fight it
So body shaming is a real thing. What to do then to prevent it?
Well, first of all, we need collective actions to counter the propagation of these models through a change of perspective that does not aim at aesthetic conformity but at the acceptance and sharing of diversity.
Individual and group preventive interventions would serve to make adolescents aware of the concepts of social conformity and socially accepted canons of beauty, favoring instead differences and peculiarities.
On an individual level, we need to open up. By talking to a therapist, one can avoid the aggravation of these conditions that might lead to mental disorders.
Through scientific techniques, the therapist helps through interventions in the here and now, investigating and making the person act on the thoughts, emotions and dysfunctional behaviors that live in the present.
In short, if you are a victim of body shaming, you need to:
- Commit yourself in your own small way to fight the further spread of this problem, by explaining to future generations what it is, how to deal with it, why it is wrong and teach them how important it is to accept and respect diversity.
- Talk to someone to deal with the problem and overcome it for good!
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