Body shaming and how to counter it

Body shaming is a serious social problem in Bengaluru, as it is elsewhere. A lean woman complained to the Basavangudi police earlier this week, saying her husband constantly shamed her by calling her a skeleton. It is a form of bullying with short- and long-term psychological implications.

The concept of ‘the perfect body’ encourages individuals to become critical of their own bodies and succumb to the pressure of matching up to unrealistic standards.

This post was part of a social media campaign against body shaming: “No. I don’t wear a size 0. But that’s only because I have a body of a woman, not the body of a 12-year-old,”

Metrolife spoke to psychologists and victims of body shaming to understand the scene in Bengaluru. “Perfect body is a myth. Body does not define us, the mind does,” says Dr Rizwana, director of Aviva Psychological Clinic.

She says body shaming is extremely pervasive in our culture. “It results in the crushing of self-worth due to non-acceptance. I’ve seen people spend decades fixing themselves,” says Shaily Bindra Bir, founder at Swayambhav, an organisation dedicated to conscious parenting and emotional health.

Parents, grandparents, sports coaches, pediatricians, teachers, friends---everyone can be guilty of body shaming. One of the most potent ways we can break the shaming pattern of generations is to begin by making our children aware of its dangers, she says.

Victims of body shaming
Kiran Bir, a victim, thanks her mother for support. “I was a victim as a kid. I was picked on relentlessly for being fat. Luckily my mom stood by me. I hit the gym and worked on my body unlike other friends who took to alcohol to relieve their stress,” she says.

Men suffer too
Body shaming is not associated just with girls. Men are also victims of body shaming. Masculinity is mostly defined by a man’s physical appearance. In young men, shame can lead to destructive behaviour and violence. Shame not only hurts, but it’s destructive. Chronic shame has been linked to depression and addiction.

Effects of body shaming
- Poor overall health Social anxiety Headaches

“About 75 per cent of cases we get are related to body shaming. Irrespective of age, it affects everyone, from every walk of life. In fact, adolescents are intelligent enough to handle body shaming, but 21-35 is the group that is most affected,” says Dr Rizwana Begum, psychologist.

"Being short did not bother me, but people never stopped passing comments. Since I was a psychology student, I could cope with the damage to my self-esteem. I got rid of negative people in my life, " says Surya Nair, student.

How to cope
- Check negative thoughts
-Accept everybody is unique
- Love yourself abundantly
- Remember beauty is not one size fit all
- Perfect body is not defined
- Feel grateful for a healthy body

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Body shaming and how to counter it

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