7 Things To Remember If You're Shamed For Your Body Online
Progression is a wonderful thing, and I'm constantly reminded of how far the body positive movement has come whenever I see photos of plus size people baring their bodies proudly and shamelessly online. Yet no matter how far society has progressed, fat people generally continue to deal with online body shaming. And it's not always easy to cope with.
Although the world may be slowly changing, it still isn't a fully "safe space." Not at all. Whenever any of us fats put ourselves out there (in person or online), we're often hit hard with the bullies and the concern trolls, constantly battling for our right to equality, confidence, and self love. No matter how strong or confident you may be, it's not unusual to take a personal hit from it all.
I've been posting plus size lingerie selfies and photos of myself in my underwear and bathing suits for many years now, and even though my skin is as thick as my thighs, I still deal with online trolling and body shaming on a regular basis. I often get asked about my own personal confidence, and how I keep living proudly, fearlessly, and with such conviction in my body positive principles. The truth is, I remind myself of a few things whenever I'm faced with such trials. These are the things I keep in mind if ever I am shamed for my body online.
1. You Are In The Right
The first thing I always think whenever someone says something negative about my body is, "You're wrong." It's a natural response by now. I often remind myself that although a lot of us are educated when it comes to body positivity, not everyone is. So whenever anyone tries to tell you that you shouldn't love yourself because you are fat, remember that there is no validity to that statement. It's a statement of hate, not of logic.
Although some of us often engage in debates over our bodies, every single person in this world is entitled to self-worth. You are right to feel confident. You are right in your feelings of pride. Much like the school bully was wrong to make fun of your body when you were all playing in the sandbox as children, the bully is still wrong now. And I don't know about you guys, but I love being right.
2. You Are Entitled To Your Confidence
Whenever a fat person shows the world that they are confident, it shakes some people up. These are generally folks who have been taught, like most of us, that "fat" is something we should be ashamed of. When they see a proud fat person online, it alters their version of the world, and some may choose to take their own confusion and frustration out on us.
This can manifest in many forms, but one of the most common things people say about me when they see my photos is that I'm "deluded" or "delusional" because I love (or am proud of) my body. This is when I'm reminded of the wise words of Jonathan Swift, "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."
Confidence and self love aren't shallow. They come from deeper places than our outer shell. Every human being has the right to feel good in the body they have. Confidence is not something that's handed out only to the traditionally beautiful. It's up for grabs.
So grab it, take it, hold it, and remember that it's rightfully yours. You've earned it, and you deserve it.
3. "Health" Is An Outdated Excuse
Whenever a fat person decides not to hide their body and to embrace themselves as they are, we are almost guaranteed to hear the same old excuse from people who shame us for our bodies: health. It's been the scapegoat for fat shaming for years now, but it's old, tired, and no longer a valid excuse for intolerance.
First off, you cannot decipher someone's level of health by looking at their body (not to mention, we are all at different levels of health throughout our lives, as both physical and mental health shift and change constantly). Additionally, how healthy a person is does not determine their worth, beauty, value, or right to respect. And lastly, the size of your body is not synonymous with anything beyond size alone. If ever someone chooses to shame you for their perceived interpretation of your health, try to dismiss it from your mind, immediately. You don't need to make time for concern trolling.
4. Words Can Sometimes Be Empty
Most of us have heard the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones," but the reality is that words can sometimes hurt us, especially when they are used with harmful, hateful, or negative intent. The trick here is to remember that when shaming words are directed at you, you are ultimately the one who gives them their power.
Whenever I post a photo of myself online that particularly shows off my fat body (wearing lingerie, for example), I share it expecting that certain people will comment negatively. And they always do. Some make jokes, some laugh, some remark on how "wrong" my body is, some use profanity, and some leave a simple poop emoji.
It doesn't matter what combination of words people fuse together to insult me. The intent and the connotation always mean the same thing: Someone is attempting to negatively influence me. But because I don't agree with any of these attempts (much like I would disagree with someone trying to tell me that "women are inferior to men," for example), words end up being simply that: words.
Empty of real meaning and completely powerless, I know that I am the one who gets the final say. You, too, can choose to be influenced by the positive words, and reject the ones said with hate alone.
5. Beauty Exists At All Sizes
Through personal life experience, I learned that your self worth doesn't come from what your body looks like, what your state of health is, or how attractive people tell you that you are to the opposite sex. It comes from who you are.
Beauty exists in all forms, and having differences from one another is what makes us all original. Being a part of the body positive movement only helped confirm that fact for me, as people from all around the world who have suffered similar experiences and the same struggles have come together and decided that enough is enough.
Remember that much like your TV show preferences might be different to your best friend's, so too are your perceptions of beauty. This means that no one person will ever be able to define the B-word.
6. There Is No Reason To Hide
When I was a young, impressionable fat girl growing up, I was taught to feel shame over my body — whether at home, at school, on TV, in the movies, at the mall, or anywhere else in the world at large. Whenever other kids would bully me, it was always understood that the act of them "being mean" to me may have been wrong, but their reasons for making fun of me were justified.
I hid myself under baggy clothing — the equivalent of throwing a blanket over a mess you don't want anyone to see. Nothing could ever truly "hide" the fact that I was fat, so I tried to dress in a way that showed others that I knew I was fat, but that I was also a "good fatty." I dressed in a way that hid my "disgusting" body as best I could. It was a defense mechanism; something that could shield me from all the criticism directed at me for living in the body I was given.
Fortunately, much like a child's understanding of the world evolves as they age, so did my understanding of my body. I had been through diets, over-exercising, and eating disorders all in the desperate attempt of changing my "shameful" form into an acceptable one. After all the struggles, I finally started listening to my intuition — and it turns out she had a lot to say.
I've spent a lot more time celebrating my body since then. If you've been through similar situations, but come out of them feeling truly in love with yourself, that celebration should never be hidden again.
7. What You're Doing Has Powerful, Positive Influence
The struggle for body equality is real. We may have come a long way compared to 10 years ago, but the fight isn't over yet. However, it's because of the brave, passionate humans in this world who have stood up against society and become the change they wanted to see that we've experienced the progression we've had.
Whenever someone tries to body shame you online, take it as a badge of honor. Know that for every time someone says something negative to you, hundreds more are likely looking at you and feeling liberated. What you're doing matters. What you stand for matters. It matters to you, it matters to others, and it matters to our society. No cause worth fighting for hasn't faced it's share of resistance. But spreading self love is a powerful thing: One that can catch on like wildfire.
It's always difficult not to take hateful words personally on the internet, especially when it's directed at you and your body. Trust that I know these situations can be hurtful and draining at times. However, what can be initially used to harm you can easily be flipped and turned into fuel for empowerment. So whenever someone attempts to snuff you out, just shine your light even brighter. Be the love, be the strength, and be the you in all your fat, beautiful glory. Above all, be proud.
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Images: Courtney Mina