Most of you reading this right now have been body-shamed at some point in your life. It was likely a relative who first made you feel like shit about your body. The first person who body-shamed me was my father. At age 14, standing 5′-7″ tall and weighing 145 pounds, he thought I needed to go on a diet. And it hurt like hell.
I don’t think most of our family members intend to hurt us with their opinions, but it stings like a motherfucker anyway. And unless you have the unusually high self-esteem of say, Donald Trump, it’s likely to leave an impression on you. In my case, the impression was felt for the better part of 20 years.
Up until the last few years, any comments about my weight from my family cut me deeply. I didn’t understand why my body needed policing, regardless of whether it was thin or fat. I just wanted to be left alone — to just be in my body without having to account for my worth based on its size.
We wrongly believe that pointing out so-called imperfections and flaws in others will somehow distract from our own shortcomings. But that’s a lie. The only thing it does is magnify our assholeness.
Today, I am mostly free from the abuse of body-shaming from my family. But it took learning some lessons before I could stand up for myself and realize that I had a lot more control over the situation than I realized. Here are three ways that I’ve found helpful to get through the pain of body-shaming from relatives and friends:
I know it seems counter intuitive, but having compassion for your body-shamer is very healing. It’s not about you. It’s about them. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the damn truth. After having observed the way my parents had fat-shamed me and others over the years, it occurred to me that they had their own set of insecurities which plagued them. Their insults were just a reflexive response to hating some part about themselves. We’ve all read stories about how a bully was once the object of a bullier. Well, same idea here.
We are exposed to so much pain and judgement in this world. None of us are free from it. We wrongly believe that pointing out so-called imperfections and flaws in others will somehow distract from our own shortcomings. But that’s a lie. The only thing it does is magnify our assholeness. Yes, I just invented that word. You’re welcome.
When we realize that negative comments are really reflections of how others feel about themselves, it easier to forgive and let go. Don’t get me wrong. It takes a lot of practice. But it does work.
*Side note: they do still fat shame other people, but I call it out when they do it every time!
Please stop expecting other people to change. You can’t. You can only change yourself. Once I decided that I was done with dieting and that I was comfortable with the way I looked, the comments completely stopped. I literally stood with my head held high. I wore what wanted and ate whatever I wanted in front of whoever was there. I am still in awe of how powerful self-love is. When we stop giving away our power, life is so much better.
12-Step programs and therapy were instrumental in helping me to get to this point. For so long I hoped my parents would change their tune and simply stop commenting on my body. But this misguided hope was the very definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Probably not gonna happen in this lifetime. So stop. Right now! Stop it!!!
Instead, I want you to focus on finding ways to love your body more. If you’re reading this, chances are you are on social media and have access to a myriad of resources that DO celebrate your body. Just search for hashtags like #iamenough, #bodypositive, and #effyourbeautystandards, to fill your feed with inspiring images. It really does work!
Be willing to create boundaries. You have the right to choose not to be around people who make you feel bad about yourself. And you also don’t need to explain your decision. Self-care and self-preservation are your God(ess) given right. So claim it!
You can still love your family and choose not to be around them. They might not understand. They might get angry. But would you rather be angry, or let them be angry? I know what I would do. And if they do confront you about your absence, it’s okay to tell the truth. Again, they may not get it. In fact, they may get defensive (my family certainly does) Simply go back to tips #1 and #2: have compassion and don’t expect them to behave differently.
And then get the hell out! LOL
Look, I don’t have all the answers. All I can do is share what has worked for me. I hope these tips are useful and that you find more ways to release yourself from the grip of the body-shamers in your life. Until then, I wish you self-love and light!