The effects of body shaming especially on victims are very much understated.
I am not a very tall woman. I am about 155cm and while some might think it’s quite average; wasn’t always of average height.
Growing up, I was always the shortest in my class and usually the tiniest.
To be fair, there was the aspect of me being enrolled into school quite too early and being much younger than my mates…
But I never really considered that each time I was bullied or experienced body shaming because of my height.
Forward to becoming an adult and becoming more of average height than short;
I still always felt super short and conscious when paired with people who were taller than me.
Why am I dredging up this insecurity that I am still struggling to outgrow?
I recently read a post on the internet about a Nigerian lawyer, Chelsea, who has shared, on Twitter;
her experience living with a squint eye and how people teased her about her eye and it made her suicidal.
Of course, she had the courage to share the story as she had just successfully carried out a corrective surgery.
Her eyes were now the world’s standard of “normal”.
This was her post:
“I remember every other day before February 22nd 2016 and I’m super happy cause God showed out for me. The Chelsea that everyone referred to as Anya 4:30.
A lot of people called me that. Even family and each time they did, it ate a tiny piece of my heart out.
It wasn’t easy and nobody could even tell because I was one of the happiest and jovial people you would ever meet. But I mostly cried myself to sleep every night because It was hard.
Nobody! I mean nobody ever knew how hard it was for me. I was beginning to hate myself and question God
‘‘But as a normal human being I had reached my breaking point …I was willing to take my life. While I was in 200 level someone jokingly called me that.
I stomped out of class and walked straight to my mum’s office and I broke down. I couldn’t hold it in all the anger, sadness and depression I’d been penting up for years. My mother got to see it in one day.
It broke her heart and she literally started crying with me. It even made me cry more. She called the driver. We got to my hostel and headed straight home for a family meeting
‘‘When I got home, I unpacked and I started telling my dad everything and how I was always bullied and shamed.
My dad isn’t even one to show so much emotions. But I could read his expression and it made me cry all over again. He was sad.
He asked me what I wanted to do
‘‘And I told him that I wanted get surgery.
That I’ve been reading about it and all. He asked me to go back to school and finish the semester that we would travel in summer and know if we can find other solutions or better alternatives.
Summer call me and I went with my dad.
‘‘Got there and realized that surgery was my only resort. So, he came back to Nigeria and I stayed back and fixed all the doctor’s appointments and got it done. I had to even defer my admission in uni for one year. I was even willing to do it for seven years or more.- I didn’t care
‘‘The family I had abroad was so helpful especially my big sister and it wouldn’t have been possible without her. I came back better, stronger and my confidence level got so boosted eh.
I didn’t even realize it was that low. Guys, this is my story. I’m so thankful to God for every!
‘‘The friends I had pre-surgery were so supportive but nobody really knew how I felt. I couldn’t even speak up about it because I felt no one would understand.
I saw a tweet about not calling someone with Down syndrome an imbecile and it triggered me.
‘‘We should really try even though I know it can be hard to always put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Most people that called me those names didn’t even know the effect it had on me.
It’s not easy but pls let’s try not to body shame or any kind of shaming at all.”
Clearly, her post was aimed at advising people to be more empathetic about the struggles of others. In other words, it was about not body shaming them for it and I sincerely applaud her for it.
We live in a world where everyone is overly conscious of their body; and how they look because of the stigma society has put on us.
Humans are fragile. It is very easy to hurt someone with a couple of words; especially when those words can be seen by the entire world online.
Despite how much we say “all body shapes and sizes are perfect and beautiful,” we still have morons who leave insulting comments on social media about one’s body; encouraging insecurity and self-hate.
Just a few days ago on Twitter as well; there were some Mercy Eke fans trolling and shaming Denola Grey for being a feminine male; alluding to the fact that he was therefore gay and had “leaky anus”. INSANE!
What can we do about this body shaming or body-hate phenomenon?
Sure, finding a way to stop these bullies might help. But it probably won’t happen anytime soon. How about we change our perspective of our bodies?
How about we accept differences in size the way we do other features in our friends?
We tend to spend so much time analysing and judging how we behave; or their appearance in comparison to the norm but comparatively so little time appreciating abilities.
I can’t help but think what a different society we would live in if all the appearance-based words;
like fat, cross-eye, K-leg were replaced with ability-based words like strong, sharp-sighted, fast.
Maybe we would have a society that values our amazing bodies for all that they allow us to do.
If we can stop worrying about things you can’t change; we can free ourselves from this burden and discourage others from body shaming us;
as well as people who have “abnormal features” too.
In summation, it really takes courage to make the decision to stop participating in body shaming. By doing so, we forge a better future for all of us.