By: Zara Maqbool
In my work as a counselor I have come across quite a few clients who were body shamed as children and in teenage years, mostly by their mothers. Body shaming means, “the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size.” Always skinny and gaining weight never being an issue, this concept was alien to me. My eldest daughter has taken her father’s genes where eating mindlessly does make her gain weight faster than me. Always stressing on healthy eating, I realized I am guilty of making comments such as, “Mehreen don’t have water with food as it makes your tummy bloat.” Or “ Stop having so many sweets as it’s giving you a double chin.” Till I started studying counseling I never realized how damaging these innocent casual remarks were and can affect her self-image and may haunt her for years to come. Hopefully I stopped in time!
The act of shaming for body shape or extra weight grossly affects girls and boys both. Our parents, favorite uncle and aunts, grand parents while defending their comments as “tumhari behteri ke liye” have a picnic making insensitive comments all the time. First of all, other than parents worrying about the children’s health, I don’t understand why anyone else has to remark on how other people’s children look like. And when it comes to parents being concerned about health is one thing but making jokes about the child’s physical looks is nothing short of being callous and insensitive.
A friend told me, “ When I got divorced a friend of mine who is a fitness freak said to me that maybe your husband left you because you are fat.”
Our favorite remark is ‘Allah maaf kare’ and then we start off thrashing people for things that are not even in their control. Women face the brunt of this more because their looks play a critical role in their getting married. That’s why their mother prosecutes them more in the name of “acha rishta kaisay mile ga.”
We have so many excuses to defend our lack of acceptance for others that it’s mind-boggling. Does anyone even realize what it does for a person to wake up every morning and look at him or herself in the mirror? Knowing that each day will bring its own basket of snide thoughtless comments that people will make and move on whereas they stay with the person who is body shamed. It reduces self-esteem significantly and lowers the person’s confidence. You realize that your acceptance and worth is conditional on how you look.
I have so many times heard my family and friends making comments on their own kids ad casually say ‘oh this one looks like the father’ and believe me its not a compliment when they say that.
Turn on the TV and you see body shaming. Our media, advertisements, society, everywhere there are covert messages that body shame you all the time. It can lead to eating disorders, depression and affects the physical and emotional health of people. Social anxiety very often results from this, which we very innocently call shyness.
In my client work I saw how the early years of body shaming lead to men and women having lack of self love and compassion that prevents them from realizing their actualizing tendencies and becoming fully functioning.
Beyond just reading blogs and being aware, we must actively try to internalize these realities and change how we think and act. To shame and make fun of a person to motivate him to lead a healthier life will in most cases backfire and cause more weight gain than before. It’s like telling the person it’s either ‘this’ or ‘that’ and that because it’s his fault he should be chastened for not trying harder. I have often heard people saying ‘weight loss is not a disease and should be controlled by the person,” The ‘should’ in itself is shaming the person!
Lets start practicing acceptance more than just using the words and not define any person’s worth on how ‘good’ he or she looks!