Monday, June 24, 2024
Editorial

Choosing not to participate

Body shaming still plagues today’s society and involves every body type and gender. Distorted sense of body-image, especially among the youth, is primarily caused by unrealistic standards of ‘beauty’ propagated by mainstream media and social media platforms. These standards create an idealised body image that is often unattainable and promote the notion that one’s worth is closely tied to their appearance. Growing up with social media in this day and age could be detrimental to one’s self esteem and view of their own body, especially for teens and young adults. There are thousands and thousands of influencers who are praised for having the ‘perfect body’ when chances are it’s completely edited and airbrushed. This also gives off the impression that you can’t feel comfortable in your skin without using the numerous apps that fine-tune your body and your face to unrealistic levels. Beyond that ~ for those who are blind to the amount of editing being done ~ the impression presented is that if you are not “perfectly” skinny or your stomach is not toned and flat, then you are not beautiful. Not only that, teenagers are body-shamed at school or by their families, which can impact their relationship with their bodies. According to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, family members were most likely to body-shame. Between 76% and 88% of the people surveyed had experienced body-shaming from a parent, sibling or other family member, mostly during childhood and adolescence. Classmates came in second on the body-shaming ladder, with 72% to 81% of the survey participants saying they had been teased or bullied in school. Between 54% and 62% of those who responded to the survey said co-workers had fat-shamed or body-shamed them in the workplace. Finally, even friends were quite likely to be critical about the body ~ between 49% and 66% had experienced negative comments from friends. Teens are frequently influenced by their peers and family members and they tend to adopt their views on what constitutes an acceptable body image. As a result, many teenagers struggle with negative body image and engage in body-shaming behaviours towards themselves and others. A person’s physical and emotional health can suffer as a result of a negative or distorted body image. It can lead to a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, OCD and eating disorders. A poor self-image can lead to frequent mood swings, social isolation and dysfunctional relationships. Fear of rejection and non-acceptance due to a person’s physical appearance can leave deep emotional scars and drive an individual to self-harm and even suicide. Most teens struggle with body confidence and low self-esteem. An important thing to understand about body-shaming is that there are other examples beyond skinny- and fat-shaming. Body-shaming can include shaming amputees, shaming people with tattoos or even shaming a person for their height. To combat this issue, it is essential to promote body positivity and self-acceptance. This involves challenging the narrow ‘beauty standards’ and promoting a more inclusive representation of diverse body types and sizes in the media. Parents, educators and other adults in the lives of teenagers can also play a crucial role in promoting healthy body image by modelling positive self-talk and encouraging a focus on overall well-being rather than appearance. It is also important to teach teenagers critical thinking skills to help them recognise and reject the unrealistic and harmful messages that are propagated by mainstream media and social media platforms. Encouraging healthy lifestyle choices such as regular exercise and balanced nutrition can also help to promote a positive body image. Overall, addressing the issue of distorted self-image and body-shaming among teens requires a comprehensive approach that involves promoting positive body image, encouraging healthy lifestyle choices and challenging the unrealistic beauty standards propagated by the media. A positive self-image leads to healthy lifestyle choices as well as positive thoughts and behaviours. While it may seem impossible to escape body-shaming, it is possible to not participate in it.

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