Recently a YouTube personality created a video called, “Dear Fat People” where she said fat shaming doesn’t exist and then proceeded to shame others. In the midst of the backlash she claimed her video was being “helpful” and she was using “comedy”. This video went viral and made a lot of people angry. She also developed some new fans.
I have a friend who has lost 60 pounds. I didn’t know her 60 pounds ago, but I can assume that she was beautiful either way. This friend upon visiting her parents will hear comments like, “you are looking good, but still have a ways to go in your legs.”
Two weeks ago, a member of my extended family shared her personal feelings about other people’s appearance over lunch. She stated that is really bothered her when people let themselves go physically and are overweight.
Fat shaming, body shaming, or simply judging others based on their appearance is very prevalent in our society. Most of us have participated in it with our own negative self-talk and/or pointed the finger at someone else.
Brené Brown is a research professor who has studied shame and shares many of her findings in the book, “Daring Greatly”. In over 10 years of studying shame and vulnerability, Dr. Brown found that women feel the most shame about not being thin, beautiful, or young enough. Our mothering skills are a close second.
According to Dr. Brown, “We judge people in areas where we are vulnerable to shame, especially picking those who are doing worse than we are doing. If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearances. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived shaming deficiency.”
When people feel the need to comment on my weight or yours, what they are really telling us less to do with us and more to do with their own insecurities. They have inadvertently shown us more about themselves than they ever intended.
Shame researchers have found that a lot of people believe shame usage helps to keep other people in line. Just like the YouTube artist saying that she was helping others to lose weight. The truth is that using shame to get others to change doesn’t work. This also includes shaming ourselves with negative self-talk. Shaming doesn’t help people change negative behavior to positive, it does the opposite. Shame is associated with addiction, eating disorders, violence, depression, and bullying. When we experience shame our typical response is to internalize it and hurt ourselves or to fight back and hurt others. I can see in my own personal experiences that I have done both of those things. Nothing good is coming out of this situation.
The only way to combat shame is to learn how to roll with it. We can’t avoid it, only attempt to deal with it. The best way to cope with shame is to recognize what it is and figure out what triggered it. We need to be aware of our feelings and how we got there. The second half of it is to reach out and connect to others by sharing our stories and talking about our feelings of shame. One of the worst things we can do is to keep our shame hidden from others deep inside of us. When it starts to come out and we are willing to be open about our insecurities, we can stop the shame cycle of negativity.
The bad news is that despite the body acceptance movement, judging others on their appearance is not going to go away anytime soon. We can choose to recognize and be aware of what is happening around us and within our own hearts and minds instead of blindly lashing out at others or reacting with destructive behavior towards our own bodies.
For more information on this subject, check out “Daring Greatly”.
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