What is Body Shaming?
Body shaming is the action or practice of humiliating, mocking and/or making critical comments about an individual’s body shape or size.
While anyone of any age can be body shamed, the long-term impact of body shaming teenagers can affect their futures as well as ideas about their body. With the influence of many different factors within a teenager’s life, they have a clear perception of “the perfect body,” as body-shaming is unfortunately common within the younger generations.
The role of social media
While scrolling on social media, it can be hard for teenagers to not compare themselves with the variety of models they encounter, who have features of the “ideal body.” This constant routine of comparing can lead to insecurities, even though most teenagers are still growing, so achieving the “perfect body may be unrealistic while they are still growing.
The role of Bullying
Body shaming is a form of bullying, and should therefore not be tolerated. Yet, with many teenagers facing bullying frequently, the long-term effects of body shaming can be very damaging. Body shaming at a young age can have a toll both mentally and physically, causing low self-esteem, changes in eating habits, and development of eating disorders.
Facts and Figures
- 65% of people aged below 18 and 45% of people aged above 18 focus on getting an “ideal body”.
- 94% of teenage girls in America have been shamed because of the way they look
- 57% of UK adolescents said they had considered going on a diet.
- Nearly 65% of teenage boys reported being body shamed
- A survey in India concludes that 69% of women have suffered from body image issues at some point in their lives and 55% women have received uncomfortable remarks on their bodies and physical attributes at some point.
- 40% of teenagers said images on social media caused them to worry about their body image
- Survey of UK adolescents by Be Real found that 36% agreed they would do ‘whatever it took to look good”
- Among secondary school boys, 10% said they would consider taking steroids to achieve their goals
It’s not just a “girl thing”
Body shaming for teenage boys can occur frequently as many worries about getting changed in the locker rooms in fear of judgement. Less developed bodies are laughed at as there is also an “ideal body” that puts pressure upon males too. Celebrities such as Christopher Eccelston, Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton and Zayn Malik have come forward about their struggles with anorexia, as Russell Brand, John Prescott and Elton John have all had bulimia. This shows that body shaming and eating disorder can affect men too, so stopping “locker room talk” and preventing it haunting males for the rest of their lives is crucial, as it must be treated just as seriously as female body shaming.
The role of Schools
In order to combat body shaming schools can play an important role in creating a positive environment that can support teenagers and teach them how to have a healthy body image and relationship with food. In training school staff to be able to spot the warning signs that a student may be struggling with body dissatisfaction, they can direct them to the necessary support. As well as this information to parents and caretakers could be provided, about how they can, from a very early age, positively influence their children’s feelings about their bodies.
If you are struggling with body shaming
Be kind to yourself. Try not to compare your body to those that you see online, which are often digitally changed.
Talk to someone you trust. It could be your parents or wider family members, like older cousins, aunts or uncles. It could also be people from outside your family: a teacher, a neighbour, a close family friend or someone from a club you attend.
Focus on the things you like about yourself, and the parts of your body that you like.
Spend time with people who make you feel positive about yourself. You could write down the nice things people say to you, and not just about how you look.
Remember: Your body is beautiful, no matter how it looks, your opinion on how it looks, or the mainstream media’s ideas of how it should look.