Too fat. Too skinny. Flat-chested. Hot piece of a–. These are remarks that girls have received for far too long, yet so many people choose to ignore the body shaming that is and has always been present in our lives.
It’s all around us. When we walk to the supermarket to pick up milk, when we go to a best friend’s house, when we sit down in a classroom and try to listen to the teacher’s lecture. The judgement never ends, and we can’t press pause on this cycle because we are wearing the product being judged. It is on us, and we can never take it off.
The most irritating thing is that we all do it. We see a person who looks different from our personal idea of “the perfect body” and think about what features could be different. And it’s disgusting. It’s harassment. But it’s not punished, because everyone takes part in it.
Body shaming is haunting. Judgement is the ghost that follows you around and lurks in the shadows, waiting until your most vulnerable moment to pop out and attack you. Our bodies are always on our minds, in a dark corner with jealousy and self-hatred. Every single person in this world would like to change their body, despite how well they pretend to be content with it. This lack of self-love is rooted in the scars in our hearts from decades of hearing how others perceive our bodies, and it can have devastating consequences.
It may be hard to see the struggles that affect people when they are in their kitchens and bathrooms, but eating disorders are an enormous issue in our society, since they are often a gateway to depression, self-harm, and other more fatal mental illnesses. In the United States, 20 million women experience eating disorders some time in their life, (NEDA). These people can’t see food as just fruits and vegetables and proteins and grains. Their images of their bodies are deformed. Mirrors trouble them, and scales are their worst nightmare. Once you enter the realm of disliking your body, the darkness follows you everywhere.
I grew up a dancer, which put me in an environment where our bodies were constantly judged. We wore tight, exposing clothes and looked at ourselves in large mirrors for hours each day. When we idolized ballerinas whose figures were like beautifully carved mannequins, it was easy to feel inferior.
Along with our self-judgement, our confidence would also be attacked by instructors and teachers as they commented on our weight. When the time came for us to undergo puberty, I along with many of my friends began to gain weight and grow breasts. I was fortunate to never gain a significant amount of weight, but some of my friends did become larger than the instructors would have liked. They were constantly told to lose weight, to stop eating so much food. I wasn’t aware when I was younger that our dance studios were actually a breeding ground for eating disorders. The instructors thought they were helping us to look good on stage, but they were taking part in vicious body shaming.
I discovered that two of my closest friends in middle school had cut their wrists because the negativity surrounding their bodies had taken over their lives, and I knew many others who ate only one meal a day to lose weight. I will never forget the time a friend ran up to me in the studio, excited to tell me that she lost five pounds by eating nothing but an apple and green tea a day for a few weeks, and she was so proud.
After a few years in this situation, I inevitably began to struggle bulimia myself. I was stuck in a toxic cycle, and I didn’t know how to get out. My mind distorted itself into seeing a girl in the mirror who wasn’t me. My brain became polluted with a dark haze, and nothing felt the same.
I’m sure many of you have a similar story to mine or one of my friends’, or maybe you’re one of the lucky ones and never felt trapped in your own skin. Regardless of who you are, please remember that your words have the power to damage someone for the rest of their life, so be cautious about what you say.