Body Shaming: It's Just Not OK
Written by: Jenny
I've always been tall and thin. And, my entire life people have commented on it. To many, those words sound 'good' together -- our society has encouraged that. But, you may be surprised about a few things.
A tall, thin girl hears things like 'too thin' and 'skinny' and doesn't feel like a supermodel. She immediately feels self-conscious and wonders if she looks sickly. She wonders quietly, 'is there something wrong with me?'.
Especially when there actually IS something wrong. #currentsituation
I've been in and out of the hospital over the past couple of months for a mistake made during a routine surgery. You can read about it here. But the long story short is that a routine surgery went wrong, I now have a temporary colostomy and recently had a small bowel obstruction as yet another complication. I have lived for days at a time off a bag of nutrition through an IV. I had a tube shoved down my nose, throat and into my stomach to help repair the situation. All of it was horrible, painful and ugly.
On the outside, I am doing my best to hide my scars and the colostomy bag under cute outfits. Long sleeves cover the bruises from being poked by a zillion needles. Make-up helps hide the dark circles under my eyes. People see 'me'.
But, underneath, I'm hurting. Physically, some days and emotionally nearly all of the time. Going through such an experience scars a person. Post traumatic stress is real.
I attended my daughter's school musical this morning. It was a BIG DEAL for me to be there because I was so terribly afraid that another emergency situation would send me back to the hospital (which, sadly feels like my second home these days) and I would miss it. I had already missed chaperoning her field trip a few weeks ago. That hurt. I didn't want to miss anything else.
After the show, one of my near and dear friends who I hadn't seen since my last round in the hospital came up to me for a hello and a hug. The first words out of her mouth were something to the effect of, 'my gosh, you need to put on some weight, girl'! Now, KNOW that this friend is one of my favorite women in Kansas City. She has the most sweet spirit and kind heart of anyone I know. But, man, that STUNG. In fact, it stung so deeply I started to tear up. I was about to go into a full-on ugly cry sesh... but, I was at school. My daughter was right there. I had to pull it together. Until I got into my car.
I use that example not to make my friend feel badly (I know she did not mean to upset me), but just to show that even the most well-meaning people can say things that hurt. She's not the only person to have commented on my weight. I do not believe she (or anyone else) was intentionally 'body shaming' -- but unfortunately, it had the same effect.
I always think of the opposite scenario. What if I had put on an extra 50 lbs. Would anyone dare say anything to me about that? I'm betting not. To my face, anyway. I think a lot of people think commenting on someone's underweight appearance feels OK to them because again -- it's what our society has created. And it's not OK.
Granted, recently I've had health issues which yeah, has caused a little weight loss. Believe me, I've been eating as much as my body will allow to try to gain it back. Behind closed doors, only my husband knows how hard I've been trying and how difficult it's been for my mental state. But, I was body shamed even before it happened. My whole life.
Some say, 'oh, others are just jealous'. Some say, 'well, look at her complaining about being too thin... what a problem to have (cue eye roll)'. That hurts because it means my point is being missed.
And, the point is -- body shaming has to stop. On all levels.
Especially as women. We need to love, cheer and support each other. We need to accept ourselves as we are and others as they are. None of us is better than anyone else. It truly is what's inside that matters most anyway.