Did you know that most body shaming comes from those closest to us?
A new survey asked 1,000 men and women across the country about their experiences with body shaming and the people in their lives — from parents to significant others — are the ones who’ve left most people feeling worse about themselves. And according to those questioned, 90 percent of them admitted to having experienced body shaming at least once in their life.
The cycle is vicious. Those who had been body shamed were 32 percent more likely to shame others.
Men and women identified two parts of their own bodies they felt were often the most criticized: their bellies and their legs.
For women, the pressure to be toned can leave them “unhappy and unhealthy” as they pursue unrealistic and unattainable weight goals. Men may experience similar standards of what the “ideal” body looks like, which was the need for chiseled, well-defined abs and a thin waist. Other common body parts Americans identified they’d been shamed over included their breasts, butt, arms and face.
Body shaming can be more dangerous than just ruining self-esteem. It has been linked to dangerous eating disorders, unhealthy diet and exercise practices and even mental health concerns like depression or anxiety. In one survey, two out of five women and one out of five men admitted they were willing to consider plastic surgery in the future to permanently fix what they thought was wrong with their body.
Besides loved ones making comments, where exactly is most of this shaming coming from?
Overwhelmingly, both men and women identified feeling pressured by the media to obtain a certain body image. Research has shown looking at magazines for as little as one hour lowers the self-esteem of 80 percent of girls. Parents, friends, and society in general were other sources of shaming in many people’s lives.
Speaking of, nearly 63 percent of women said they’d been body shamed by their mothers, and close to 62 percent said they’d experienced similar stigmas focused on their image by friends. While men also reported high rates of body shaming from friends, they were more likely to endure shaming from classmates and co-workers than from parents. While parents may not realize the full impact of their words, one study found more than one in three kids admitted to feeling bullied by comments made by their parents that were geared toward their weight or appearance.
Nearly half of women and more than 23 percent of men said they’d experienced body shaming from their significant others. While not always deliberate, even passive comments to someone you’re in a relationship with about their body or image can become harmful and even controlling. Other sources of body shaming in the lives of Americans across the country came from grandparents, teachers, and employers.
One person asked admitted being told, “You’d be so cute if you lost weight” by their father when they were 14 years old, while another acknowledged feeling “constant ridicule about being too skinny” since age 13. Often referred to as “skinny shaming,” ridiculing a person for being thin can be just as harmful as body shaming geared toward men and women perceived as overweight.
The study found that promoting healthy standards of living rather than those based on an idealized body image could help millions of men and women across the country from feeling the negative emotions associated with body shaming.
Out of those asked, 432 of those participants were men and 578 were women.
Remember, you don't have to listen to what others' think is the ideal body for you. According to Psychology Today, there are daily steps we can take to learn to love our bodies.
- Watch what you read and absorb online and in the media. Choose body-positive nessages instead of the starving model.
- You can love your body as is. Give yourself permission to feel better and get out of your own way.
- Stop hiding under layers and tell people who body shame you that you love yourself as is.
- Tell yourself you've been wrong about your body. It's not ugly, it's amazing.
- Stop bullying yourself. Putting yourself down doesn’t serve you.
- Crate an inner cheerleader. "To create a strong inner-supportive self, you will have to create new language and repeat it, so that body positive, compassionate language eventually becomes automatic. Stand in front of the mirror and speak out loud what you want to believe about yourself."
- Finally, thank your body. It keeps you alive.
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