“You’re too fat!”
“You’re too skinny.”
“Your arms are big!”
“You’re too short!”
I remember when I was young when we were living in the US, my mom took me around the Hong Kong office of her company whenever we were in town and I begrudgingly had to greet all the staff there who were all uncles and aunties. At that time in my life, I was really into playing soccer. I played a lot at school so I was developing a more muscular lower body. I particularly remembered this uncle commenting “Don’t play so much soccer. You’ll have big calves and that won’t look nice on a girl.” I don’t even remember who this uncle is, his first or last name, or what he did at the company but that comment he made around 30 years ago is still very much in my subconscious mind, especially when I’m thinking about wearing pants or long boots. I ignored him and kept playing for a while longer but he wasn’t wrong. I did develop more muscular calves that made shopping for boots a lot harder and of course, couldn’t help feeling self-conscious about them. He didn’t know that his casual comment/involuntary advice could carry so much weight and could impact a child like so. It was a different time back then when comments like so were common, along with the fact that making comments about someone’s appearance was a cultural standard (think Crazy Rich Asians). But the other thing is, his words wouldn’t have mattered if I hadn’t experienced body shaming already from other occasions which is why I felt particularly sensitive about it.
Body shaming – we all know it’s hurtful and demeaning but many do it anyway. Why not when you see it every day – an overweight person or skinny person is usually a subject of jokes in TV shows or movies. It’s not just only about weight but around any atypical physical appearance. Remember how much Chandler from Friends was teased because of his third nipple? The many times Monica was referred to as “faaaaat” because she was overweight in high school? Or when Monica had her out-of-control hair condition while she was in the Bahamas because of high humidity?
Social media reels where you see an overweight person tumbling down with thousands of laughing reactions. Any skinny person can get told, “Are you sick? Eat something.” Or if you are short, anyone can easily give you a pat on the head without them realizing it’s rude or demeaning.
And anyone can be guilty of body shaming directly or indirectly. For example, if laugh or criticize someone’s physical appearance, usually due to their weight, height, shape, and even age. Of for laughing at those jokes when someone makes them. And even though the world has become more mindful of these things, and some major brands have climbed onto the bandwagon by campaigning for all-inclusive bodies or making dying your hair grey a trend, etc. there always seems to be something new to body shame against. Some people can be body shamed for getting older. For not being able to do things younger people can, for growing wrinkles, or white hair. Some cultures appreciate fair skin. Some appreciate skinny bodies. Yet some LOVE voluptuous, big bodies. It’s like you can’t win and you can’t be accepted across all cultures because everyone and every culture have its own set of standards. And part of our life challenge (if these matters take issue with you) is to accept that we are literally individually different and accepting ourselves eventually comes with learning to be okay with all the external noise and naturally tuning it out because it matters less.
Body shamers do it for their own short-lived entertainment without any thought of how it can have a significant negative impact on a person’s emotional and mental health. It sucks that their thoughtless words can hurt so deeply.
Several issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are all too common due to body shaming. When you experience body shaming, it can affect how you view yourself and make you feel very self-conscious. It’s 100% normal to feel shame and growing feelings of shame around yourself and your own body and wanting to compare yourself to what society deems as “normal”. It may worsen into body dysmorphic disorder, in which you develop an obsession with a perceived physical flaw.
When someone is body-shamed they can experience a blow to their self-esteem. They feel ugly and unwanted so their self-worth is diminished. Somehow they feel that when they present themselves they feel that their weight or their height is all that other people are going to see.
At times the bad guy can even be your own self. Yes. You might body shame yourself and feel embarrassed. You might hold on to that negative perception of yourself, even practice a whole lot of negative self-talk without realizing it, making yourself feel worse and questioning your own self-worth. Soon enough you start to avoid socializing or participating in activities, leading to isolation.
It can only get worse when you live with the people who body shame you – your parents, siblings, or worse your spouse. It can lead not only to low self-esteem but also resentment, anger, and insecurity.
Depression and Anxiety
All the self-pity and shame can eventually lead to depression and anxiety. The negative comments about your appearance echo in your memory and you feel sad, hopeless, and worthless. You feel like you have nothing to show. You can’t feel joy anymore and lose interest in activities you used to love.
You are anxious about going to social gatherings because you fear someone is gonna drop a comment about your looks and embarrass you in front of everyone. More than just criticizing appearances, some people are also quick to judge that overweight people are lazy and without self-discipline.
The anxiety can quickly build up with all the bad things you are hearing about yourself, and it won’t even matter if it’s true. Words have the power to break anyone. Sadly, not everyone chooses to be kind.
Some even resort to name-calling when they body-shame. And in this day and age body shaming can happen not only face to face, with friends, family, or colleagues. Other people who do not know you can easily just say anything when you become visible online.
Wanting to do a drastic change you resort to starving yourself or you binge eat and force yourself to throw it up. Anorexia and bulimia come as a result. You want to get back at those people who body-shamed you and want to do it fast by losing weight quickly.
You become obsessive and may even start counting calories from everything you put in your mouth. The negative comments on your body size or shape always playing in your head lead to unhealthy relationships with food, unhealthy weight loss behaviors, and even malnutrition.
I myself had bulimia when I was in high school and spent many years unlearning the behaviors tied to yo-yo dieting after realizing how terribly unhealthy it has been and how horribly disconnected I was from my body after many years of unknowingly practicing self-sabotage. I mean, why would your body even bother listening to you if you haven’t treated it with an ounce of respect? It’s still something I’m working on healing as I continue embracing body positivity as a whole.
To the extreme, you can experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a world where you are told to embrace yourself but not really, things can get ugly. You post a recent picture on your social media and almost immediately there can be someone who will say, “Oh you got fat!”
When you fight against body shamers you can even be told to be too sensitive or something that drowns out any cry for help. Body shaming at its worst can cause not only emotional damage but a spiritual wound that is hard to heal. Such is PTSD. And this may even lead to another manner of self-harm other than developing an eating disorder.
Healing From Body Shaming and How Reiki Healing Techniques Can Help
Popular energy healing techniques like Reiki look into holistic approaches such as providing stress relief, relaxation, and creating a greater sense of harmony and balance throughout the body. Reiki supports healing around low self-esteem, anxiety, sadness, and even eating disorders that result from body shaming, which can have detrimental impacts on both mental health and emotional health.
By offering a secure and encouraging environment in which to let go of unfavorable feelings and limiting beliefs about one’s appearance, Reiki can assist people in overcoming body shaming. Reiki can assist people in changing how they view themselves and developing a better relationship with their body by harmonizing their mind, body, emotions, and energy, all while fostering self-awareness, and encouraging self-love.
All of these aside from the ability of Reiki to help with the physical signs of body shaming such as tension, discomfort, and chronic inflammation. Reiki can enhance the body’s natural healing processes and make people feel more at ease in their own skin by lowering tension and encouraging relaxation.
Reiki calms the spirit and while it helps you let go of negativity, you are able to better look ahead with hope, plan better, and heal your relationship with yourself, your body, and even with food. And also have the power to accept things that cannot be changed and still love that part of you. To learn more about what Reiki is and isn’t, read more about that here.
Overall, Reiki can be a useful technique for people seeking to overcome body shaming and enhance their general well-being. Although it is not a replacement for seeking medical attention it is a safe, alternative, and complementary form of therapy suitable for anyone at any age. It has been a particularly helpful form of therapy for teenagers and young adults experiencing early onset eating disorders especially as they don’t want to talk much about it, but also wouldn’t mind feeling supported and more at ease from the benefits of Reiki. Reiki can be experienced in person or remotely via distance Reiki healing sessions which you can learn more about here too.