Sometimes, whether through ignorance or sheer habit, we are unknowingly supporting negative body image ideals. Through no fault of our own, some things become second nature and we are led down the rocky path of body shaming without even knowing it – but you can change this. Through actively minding how you speak and behave with relation to body image, you can make a difference to the standards that have, so far, been set out for us. So take a look at my tips on how you can become an ally to positive body image ideals.
Avoid comments putting someone down.
We have so many messages in society that judge us and tell us that we’re not good enough, and everyone is somewhat vulnerable to these. I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t have body image issues on one level or another – if you endorse these messages, then you are further encouraging body shame. Sometimes we might say something in jest to our friends about their new haircut or something they’re wearing, we might joke about these things but we don’t know which painful nerves we might be touching – so just take a moment to think before you speak.
If you see or hear something offensive, speak up!
Many of us would rather bite off our left thumb than have to face any kind of confrontation, but this is how body shamers get away with it. Living in ignorant bliss must be incredibly satisfactory, but as soon as someone speaks up and challenges the preconceptions held against body image ideals, shamers and bullies might just take a second to think about what they’re doing. Most bullies see only a person’s size, or the things they are wearing, or how they present themselves – they forget to acknowledge that this is a real person with real feelings and sometimes they need reminding of that.
Avoid toxic diet culture talk.
The relationship that someone has with food is subjective and you cannot tell just from looking at someone, the trials and tribulations they’ve had to overcome, are overcoming, or are in the throes of. Diet culture is everywhere we look – magazines, TV programmes, foodie blogs and diets, we can’t take a step forwards without being thrown 100 steps back by someone throwing our eating habits in our faces. So whether you’re moaning about what that Twix will do to your hips, or suggesting that someone shouldn’t reach for that second bag of crisps, maybe it should be considered that they might be recovering, learning about themselves and how they relate to food or struggling to find a happy medium.
Don’t comment on someone’s shape or size.
It should go without saying that if a body doesn’t belong to you, then you have no moral right to comment on it. If someone is larger than you, smaller than you, curvier than you, has bigger boobs or a smaller waist, smaller boobs or a bigger waist, a big bum or a flat bum, thick thighs or a thigh gap, three chins or one, bingo wings or toned arms, lumps and bumps, or sleek and smooth curves, it it not your concern to comment on their body or how they choose to present themselves. It’s simple, not your body – not your choice.
Stop idolising body types as they are presented in the media.
Most bodies that we see in the media, whether male or female, are shaped to fit the mould that society has labelled ‘ideal’. When we are idolising the body types that the media presents, we are not led to appreciate raw, true and honest body images, instead we are led to put false representations of beauty on a pedestal. Many of the media bods that we are privy to are sculpted, cinched and altered, drawn on and pumped up versions of true body images – these are the elite ideals that are presented to us and contribute to a collapse of self confidence among so many people. Steer clear, instead try to idolise yourself.
Don’t judge others for how they perceive their bodies.
Once again, it’s back to that ‘not your body, not your choice’ tidbit. If someone wants to wear the bare minimum, this doesn’t make them a slut and you have no right to shame them as such. If someone doesn’t fit into your idea of what a healthy body should look like, you have no right to comment on their health choices. If someone is fat, it doesn’t mean that they can’t love themselves and if someone is slim, it doesn’t mean that they have to. The list goes on, but the main premise is this: do not judge someone for how they present themselves or the ways in which they speak about their body.
Stop defining beauty as a look, rather than a state of mind.
Beauty is so much more than the aesthetic value of a person. Someone’s value doesn’t decrease as a phenomenal, astounding human being because they don’t fit into the media’s idea of what defines beauty – there is so much more that people need to acknowledge as worthy and of value.