Social media and the rise of body-shaming

Earlier this week, this particular news article kept popping up in my newsfeed. After reading it I decided I’d share it with my Facebook tribe. The next morning I awoke to a particularly heated private message from a woman, who isn’t a follower or a friend for that matter, disgraced at what I’d shared.

The week before, I posted the image below to accompany a social media post. This girl’s picture was virtually ripped to shreds by women poking fun at her facial expression, the mood they assumed she was in and challenged her ‘so-called beauty’, as one put it.


 

image source - unkown

Image via Pinterest (source unknown)


My first reaction was to fire straight back, the Sagittarian in me tends to jump the gun. Lucky for me, I sat it out and watched as the war of  women, tucked safely behind their wireless connections, ran rampant in the social media playground fuelled by insecurities.

Insecurity which we all have, by the way. I’m not resistant to it, and neither are you. Somewhere down there in the murky depths there’s stuff that we keep covered up. Insecurities that feed on our ingrained yet oh-so-easy to fall back on beliefs. Insecurities that stem from an intense dissatisfaction with shadow parts of ourselves. Insecurities that give our fears backbone enough for us to project them out onto someone else.

Instead of jumping into the fire pit, I allowed these women to GIVE me inspiration to write.

So firstly, to those women, thank you.

And secondly, to you. If you have been bruised by superficial insults or body-shaming I want you to know this, actually I want you to write it down and repeat it to yourself until it sticks like mud:

As a young girl, I suffered both mental and physical abuse at the hands of my then step-mother. A woman who,now completely out of my life, was and still is struggling with her weight, insecurities and self-worth. A woman who thought that being the loudest and most intimidating person in an argument meant you won. That preying on other people’s vulnerabilities before ripping them apart was intelligent. That summoning up a shit storm before hurling it in someone’s path showed strength.

It took a lot of sheer courage, side-stepping comfort zones and cozying up to the uncomfortable for me to rebuild my self-confidence. And let it be said, there are many of those thoughts and pit-of-my-stomach feelings of anxiety that creep up behind me and tap me on the shoulder still today. You too? Let me tell you this: before you spend one moment of your precious energy on ‘fixing’ something about yourself, make sure that it is actually yours to fix in the first place. Spending energy barrelling back at my step-mother would not have helped me grow, it would have kept me small and stuck.

Small and stuck is exactly where low vibrating people want you to be. It’s easier to fling shit at a target that doesn’t move. The passion that fuelled my reasons for applauding Rebecca Judd for choosing to ignore spiteful comments has nothing to do with her being Rebecca Judd, her media status or her body shape. Here is a woman, no less than you or I, who uploaded a photo of herself before heading off to a friend’s wedding. No biggie.

The massacre of denigrating comments that followed was enough to make my head spin.

In my post, I likened her decision not to respond to the hate to this clip of Austalian plus-sized model Robyn Lawley, another public figure who has been on the receiving end of body-shaming, chatting about loving herself and her body.

There are women out there screaming from their smartphones that other women, who in their personal opinion, are  too: thin, skinny,  small, bony, need a burger, disgusting or skeletal are a bad role model for young girls. Specifically, their girls.


bath

Image via Refinery 29

 


Let’s get really real for a minute. So many of us desperately need to wake up to the fact that other women, celebrities and public figures alike, are not role models for your children. You are. That’s your job.

To those tapping away, sending mean-spirited words to other women from behind the safety of their screens – listen up:

You are giving away your power. Stop it.

It is a privilege to be the role model for your own child. And if what they see and hear is you tearing shreds off another based on an uninformed opinion or whatever emotional response that person elicits for you then guess what?

That’s exactly what they’re going to learn from you , how to use your fears to pull apart another person.

This is the kind of messed up behaviour that gives rise to another generation of young women who think that openly judging a woman’s physical appearance is ok. All the while we sit back and wonder where that behaviour came from.

It doesn’t come from the media, it comes from you. Your leadership, your values and your relationship with yourself.

I can hear the shouts of ‘Men do it too! It’s not all women’ and I totally hear you. I’m talking about women, because in this instance and in my own experiences of being body-shamed it’s been at the hands of other women. Both in my home and friendship circles.

Let’s be clear on this – everything starts and ends with you. EVERYTHING. There will always be moments that drag up stuff we’ve long since pushed away. There will be times where we feel less than beautiful and my god there WILL be times when other people will just say or do something that pisses us the fuck right off.

The way you react to things is your choice. If you choose to act in low vibrating, retaliating ways, then by the power of what you do and say you are essentially putting this out to the universe:

‘Bring people and experiences into my life that make myself and others around me feel like shit about ourselves so we can deflect that onto others and perpetuate a circle of darkness and funk. Please + thank you.’

You attract more of that time wasting, soul destroying crap into your orbit. By jumping on the bandwagon, you perpetuate it. You feed it. You fan it’s flames. You, by the very nature of thinking and speaking in those shades of judgement and criticism, bring more of it about.

Let’s stop this now.

I don’t care if you feel invincible in the presence of a wi-fi signal. If you’ve overcome your own weight struggle, good on you! Full respect, but please, if you feel called to give an opinion, step down from your soapbox and use your experiences and knowledge for the greater good. If you get carried away by the notion of safety in numbers in the online world, remind yourself that you’re the only ONE with hands on your keyboard.

We’re in this together. We’re made of the same stuff whether you choose to see it or not. Best of all, we have the potential to create huge waves of positive change.

Insecurity breeds insecurity and fear begets fear.

I dream of a world where women of all shapes, sizes, colours faiths and cultures live happily and comfortably in their own skin and extend the same love and support to each other.

Self-love & body confidence for the win.

With every speck of my being I hope you’re with me on this, if you’re not then let me say this: taste your words before you spit them out.

As always, I’d love and appreciate your input on this topic.

Share your thoughts in the comments and of course if you feel moved to, share the post with anybody you think it might just resonate with.

Be good.

C.x

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12 Comments

  • Reply Kylie Anderson August 22, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Absolutely amazing hun!!!! I have shared this with my readers as it is beautifully written and more of this needs to be said.
    People are strong and out spoken behind a screen but we all need to remember, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

    Incredible post!! xx

    • Reply Cynthia October 30, 2015 at 9:14 am

      Thank you beautiful, and thank you for sharing! Couldn’t agree more; don’t like someone/something? Move right along.xx

  • Reply Jo August 22, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Fricken well said Cynthia!!!!!!!!!!! Being in the early stages of pregnancy I have observed the subliminal ( and sometimes not so subliminal) messages I have been receiving around me regarding my body. Things like you’re going get huge, fat… the word whale has been thrown out there…When is it ok to liken a pregnant woman to a whale? Women are superheroes, they grow human beings from scratch. Luckily I have the most incredible husband who keeps reminding me that my body is going to do what its going to do and I should be so proud of myself.

    One of the most confronting things is remembering that what you are judging in others is what you are judging in yourself and I completely agree that people vibrating low want to keep you there too.

    Why can’t we accept where we’re at and celebrate each other… not compare and tear each other down? And above all remember that we are so much more than our physical bodies.

    Well done babe for writing this much needed smack down.
    Big love
    xxx

    • Reply Cynthia October 30, 2015 at 9:14 am

      Women ARE superheroes of all shapes, sizes and colours. Here’s to happy vibes.xx

  • Reply Sarah August 21, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    Wow. Powerful post Cynthia. The line that grabbed me and punched me in the face (in the best possible way EVER) is: “make sure that it is actually yours to fix in the first place”. I know I’ve spent time trying to “fix” things about myself in the past and realised after loads of time and tears that it wasn’t my junk in the first place. I think a lot of people are in the same boat. Thank you for sharing this incredible post. xx

  • Reply Sharon August 21, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Loved your post. Fell in loved with your words.

    “Other words are a pure reflection of how they feel about themselves. Don’t pick that shit up. It’s not your baggage to carry.”

    Body shaming is disgraceful. We need more supporting and encouraging to allow and empower the wellness of all.

    x

  • Reply Erin August 20, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Great post. I too dream of a world without body shaming – both of others and our own bodies. I say yes to self-love & body confidence, and hopefully the more this message is spread the more people will start to follow suit.

    • Reply Cynthia August 21, 2014 at 8:45 am

      Totally agree….body shaming ourselves is another great point. Thank you Erin.xx

    • Reply Cynthia October 30, 2015 at 9:11 am

      Yes! Let’s beam more of that good body-loving energy out.xx

  • Reply Shelley Cohen August 20, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Totally in love with this article for SO, so many reasons, Cynthia! Nice job. xx

    • Reply Cynthia August 21, 2014 at 8:42 am

      Thank you Shelley!xx

  • Reply Lauren August 20, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Wonderful words! Body shaming is never the right decision. In my office, I work with a lot of women who need to gain weight, which is hard to begin with, but they’ve been used to receiving so many compliments about being thin/tiny/skinny. It always leads to a great conversation about weight, self-worth, and compliments.

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