Body shaming is cruel and hurtful. If it’s happened to your teen, you’ll know only too well the pain it can cause…
Not built enough.
Not curvy enough.
Insults and derogatory comments made about your teen’s body, their face or the way they dress, cut deep and can cause serious damage to your teen’s self-esteem and mental health. We all know how hurtful negative comments about our appearance can be, especially during the sensitive teenage years. While we can’t protect our teens from experiencing body shaming and negative comments, both online or in real life, we can be there to support them and do everything we can to boost their own body image.
WHAT IS BODY SHAMING?
Body shaming is anything that’s said or done to make an individual feel upset or uncomfortable about their body. Sometimes body shaming happens unintentionally – a throwaway comment from someone may not have been intended to cause offence but can be just as harmful as a deliberate remark.
WHY IT’S DAMAGING
Most people will have been body-shamed at some point in their life. Chances are, you still remember an occasion from your youth when someone was horrible about your appearance. That’s a clear indicator of just how damaging a negative comment can really be and how long a horrible memory can fester and affect an individual’s self-esteem.
Nowadays, a lot of body shaming takes place online and on social media. You only have to look at the comments under a celebrity’s Instagram post to see this first-hand. Comment sections are rife with trolls and negative people who believe they can say anything they want, no matter how damaging, because they are safe and hidden behind a keyboard. It’s a sad sign of our times, but there are many movements and campaigns happening to try and beat out body shaming online.
Our teens are at a very vulnerable age and social media makes them more open to body shaming than ever before. Negative comments from their peers or complete strangers on their posted selfies can cause serious damage to their confidence and how they perceive their own bodies. Teens who experience low self-esteem are more at risk of developing depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
HOW TO HELP
There are lots of ways you can help to boost your child’s body image, from being vocally positive about your own body to praising their talents and the things that make them unique. Find out more ways to help your teen improve their body image here.
The best thing you can do is to be a good listener. Listen to your teen when they talk about their own body and help them to appreciate all the amazing things that makes them special. Focus on their personality, humour and talents, and all the things they do have, rather than the things they don’t have.
It’s also really important to be aware of how you comment or talk to your teen about their body. We may be unconsciously body shaming at times without even realising it. Saying things like, “That’s a bit revealing…” or “Your hoodie is a bit baggy, is it not?’ in response to their outfit can be taken in the wrong way. It suggests that there is something wrong with their body or their style choices. Instead, try complimenting their style and how much you enjoy seeing them express themselves. Build them up and watch their confidence begin to grow!
GETTING FURTHER HELP
If you’re worried that your teen is being badly affected by body shaming and it’s affecting their mental health, seek help. Whether they have issues with their mood, self-esteem, anxiety or eating, your GP will be able to assess your teen and make a recommendation for treatment.