Have you ever seen Flight of the Concords? There is a song from the show titled, “The Most Beautiful Girl (in the room)”. Here is a link to the video.
Funny and all that, right?… But, for real, this is a REAL problem with society.
I am talking about body comparisons and shaming. I got thinking about this while reading ‘Intuitive Eating’. This book is phenomenal. I am learning a ton about myself and what has gone into years of disordered eating and negative body image. You are going to be hearing about this topic more and more, if you haven’t caught on. [But, I highly recommend reading this book -- it's for anyone who wants a healthy relationship with food and better self-esteem.]
But, let’s start here with this — I see it every where I go. A lot of that is because I was doing it. And I am here to challenge myself and you to stop this awful habit.
So, what am I referring to as body comparison and shaming?
I'll give you a couple scenarios that I've often found myself in. Tell me if you've had similar thoughts.
- I see an old friend and am happy that they've gained weight. That now I am the "skinny" one.
- At a party, I would scan the room to see where I placed in size among the women. Who is the competition?
- While shopping, I made judgements about strangers' weights. Immediately assuming someone is fit, someone is lazy, someone is anorexic, someone is my size, someone is smaller/bigger.
- I skipped desserts because the other "thin" girls were skipping them. Or got a salad because they were. Or I'd judge the "will-power" of those who participated in eating "unhealthy".
- Even among coworkers, siblings, close friends, I'd rank myself on a beauty scale. Constantly beating myself up as I moved up or down the scale.
Let me tell you why this is SO bad.
It fosters competition between individuals with different genes, lifestyles, emotional troubles, religion, upbringing, and the list goes on. Comparing apples to oranges. There is no winning. It shames people based on appearance and doesn’t take into consideration anything else. ANYTHING ELSE. How do you know that person? Do you follow them around all day taking notes on their life and habits? In return, it contributes to bad self esteem, dieting, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, jealousy, bullying, excluding people, beating yourself up, etc, etc. The list goes on. It perpetuates this constant cycle of making others feel bad to make you feel better and making yourself feel bad to motivate yourself — not good. There are so many other ways to get where you want to be.
What can you do about it?
Stop doing it. I wish it were that easy -- but I've been practicing this for a couple weeks now and it's easier said than done. So, here are some of the things I’ve been trying and found success with:
- Look at faces, not bodies. This is a win-win suggestion. First, if you stop looking at people’s bodies, then you won’t be comparing yourself to them or shaming. But, then you get this added benefit of being more personable, a better listener and friend.
- Turn inward. When I catch myself making a quick judgement, I remind myself to stop worrying about everyone else. You have no insight into their life and you aren’t living it. So why in the hell does it matter? So just worry about what you can do to help yourself be happy. Notice I didn’t say thin. Let’s talk happy or unhappy — size does not equal happiness.
- Go into a room with a new initiative. If you can plan — for example, going out with friends or to a party — go to the situation with the initiative to get to know people’s personalities and situations in life, rather than what they look like. Take away the importance of what people look like by putting the emphasis on getting to know who they are inside.
- Give everyone the better of the doubt. Just assume that everyone has struggles and is working to better themselves. And that they are at their best self that day. Take away the person to person competition and realize we are all in this life together to support and help, rather than to be better than one another. Rally with them, rather than pick them apart.
- Stop and listen to yourself. I’ve caught myself thinking a judgement. Then said it again to myself in the viewpoint of a eavesdropper into my mind — what a bitch! That quickly changes my thoughts to something positive. On the other side, a downer thought has worked the same way — it makes me sound crazy. And I am working on a more sound and balanced life. No time for that kind of crazy. (Although, sometimes this process is making crazy in other ways. My mom used to say you need to make a bigger mess to really deep clean. It's getting messy in this head, but it's on the way out to a much cleaner place.)
Now let me tell you how already my life has improved from making an effort to stop body comparison and shaming...
I can make decisions that truly fit for me. I am finding more self-confidence in those decisions, even when they stray from the norm. I feel more comfortable in my skin. And I don't feel examined or judged by everyone else that continues to do this. The fact that I've stopped, stops me from thinking everyone is making judgements about me. It's so freeing.
So what do you say? You committed to the challenge?