The Effect Of Body Shaming On Mental Health

‘She might want to work on those bulges,’ ‘he has a daddy-belly,’ ‘she needs to start eating up before she turns invisible,’ ‘he is as thin as a stick,’ ‘you look like a skeleton,’ ‘I guess you’ll need both the seats,’ ‘she looks like an elephant,’ ‘I felt like it was an earthquake, did you just fall?’ Most of us have been a part of such ill-humour or have been at the receiving end. This is not funny or humorous in any way or form as these statements are derogatory in nature.

These derogatory comments come under the umbrella of ‘Body-shaming’ which is experienced by almost everyone today but it did exist even before the term was coined and to prove that you can look at the Anti-fat movement which started in the 1960s and much later body-positivity movement also started. The success of these movements has been extensive, but does that mean it has stopped? Certainly not. 

Though the form of shame is evolving from derogatory comments to subtle sarcasm, it only becomes wider and more problematic. Why are we talking about it now in detail? It is because enough has been said about it but not enough to erase it from the core; because it’s affecting people’ mental health, and because people need to be more empathetic about such issues. Such problematic behaviour should be talked about and people need to be sensitised about the harm it’s causing.

How did it all start?

From the day an images of the ‘ideal body’ was carefully chosen and appraised, anything less or more than that was criticised. That is exactly the day when it all started. For people individually, it starts from when the child progresses to teenage and s/he is asked to follow a certain diet, look a certain way and behave in the manner created by the society. The pressure comes suddenly on the child who is already going through a big transformation both physically and mentally. This pressure keeps increasing with age and that’s where the problem begins.

Why is body shaming an issue?

In recent times, cases of people killing themselves due to body-image issues has had an upsurge due to which it becomes a concerning factor for the masses. Not only does it take the lives of people of all ages, sexes, races, and varied economic backgrounds, but also scars them for the rest of their lives. Victims of body-shaming start assuming that they are the ones to be blamed for it all, they start hating their bodies and indulge in destructive treatments to make it look like the so-called ‘ideal-type.’ 

Prior to writing this blog, we spoke to a bunch of individuals who have been body-shamed, and the accounts were heart-wrenching to say the least. This makes us wonder how many unheard stories are there. Some might repress it and try to move on; others might not even get the opportunity to speak up. There have been several researches which have shown how people who have been extensively shamed and harassed for their bodies slide into depression. 

Never-ending abuse also leads to suicidal thoughts. Reckless diet and eating patterns also lead to many eating disorders and make way to illnesses. Due to the continuous bullying, people start covering the parts that are not considered attractive by the society, like one woman recounted how she would wear skin-hugging clothes so that she wasn’t marked out for being too skinny. Another told us about how she stopped wearing shorts and skirts because she thought her legs were heavy which might lead to her getting noticed or eyed. Accounts of these kind are endless.

The new beauty trends which make it difficult for people to keep up with the trend and add to the ideal-type which is destructive in the long term. Recently, there were memes on flat-nose which garnered a lot of attention and led to insecurities amongst people with different features. The notion of tall people being perfect is also demeaning and leads to issues as a society. 

People who are body-shamed by their own family members display low levels of self-confidence and trust, this is because as an individual the most transparency that we expect is from our own family and if the family is not supportive it gets tough.

If you’ve been Body-shamed, this is for you:

You are not alone and you’ll never walk alone. After conducting many surveys across platforms, we’ve realized that almost all of us have been body-shamed. Some of us might have taken it in a light air. Even if someone doesn’t mean to hurt another person but still uses derogatory remarks in the form of harmless jokes, they are leading to a systemic damage and are a part of the problem.

Another woman recalls being a healthy kid and everyday she would come home from school with a different story of being bullied because of her weight and there were times when it were her teachers and close friends who would bully her. Gradually, this constant shame made her conscious about her body and she started skipping from one diet to another. Eventually, as time passed, she realized with the support of her family, that she needs to embrace and love her body the way it is. Also, she needs to put her own mental health above everything else.

What can you do to keep your mental health intact?

  • Mirror is not a devil: There might have been days when you hated the mirror and didn’t want to look yourself, but stop right now. Go and look at yourself in the mirror everyday and think of 3 things you love about yourself and your body. As cliché as it gets, it does help and it will lead to positivity.
  • Walk away from small-talks that shame other people: You need to take charge of your own mental health first but you also have a responsibility of taking care of other’s mental health as well. So whenever you stuck in a place where people are talking trash about anybody in general, either stop them right there and then or simply remove yourself from that situation.
  • Don’t avoid social gatherings: We can’t stress on this enough, ‘confidence is the cheapest yet everlasting make-up that you need.’ Instead of avoiding social gathering because of the thousand eyes that you are afraid of, face it with confidence.
  • Stop reckless diets: Your body is a gift. You need to embrace it rather than indulging in diets that destroy your body slowly. Over-exerting your body by exercise is also damaging. Eating healthy is the way forward and not eating leads to a dead-end.
  • Stop concealing, start embracing: If you have been overly concious about your flaws, know that no one is perfect. We are all as perfect as our imperfections. Start wearing things you love and embrace yourself for who you are instead of what the society dictates you should be like. Like Bruno Mars said, “you’re amazing just the way you are.”
  • Therapy is always a good choice: If you think you are not able to cope with the constant body-shaming and are having early signs of any mental discomfort, then seek the help of a therapist. Initially you might not be up for it and might think of the issue as a trivial one, but therapy can do wonders if you let a professional help you.
  • End toxic relationships: If you are healthy yet are being pressurized to lose or gain weight or to look a certain way and it’s definitely going to take a toll on your mental health. Firstly, let them know that the constant instigation is bothering you and if they don’t stop even after that, then end that relationship or cut them off. Your mental health and peace should be your priority.
  • Body positivity movement: You are a part of a bigger movement. You are special. Talk about body positivity across your social media platforms, spread awareness. Your voice has the capability to bring about a change and matters to a million other people who have not yet started talking about it. Your story can help them open up.

You have been blessed with the best of everything that is why you are here. Embrace it. Carry your confidence high and yourself higher.

Find a BUDDY to share all your problems with (even anonymously, if you want) on the FeelJoy Mobile App available for all Android users.


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