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The Truth About Body Shaming

Jonathan Riley

“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change” – Brené Brown

According to Jantz (2017), body-shaming is the act of deriding or mocking a person’s physical appearance. The scope of body shaming is wide, and can include, although is not limited to fat-shaming, shaming for thinness, height-shaming, shaming of one’s body shape, one’s muscularity (or lack thereof), shaming of looks (facial features), and in its broadest sense may even include shaming of tattoos and piercings.

The truth is that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and that all bodies are valuable no matter what they look like or how healthy they are. According to Tschinkel (2018), a healthy body image means you feel comfortable with your body and the way you look. This includes what you think and feel about your appearance and how you judge your own self-worth. It means recognising the individual qualities and strengths that make you feel good about yourself beyond weight, shape or appearance and resisting the pressure to strive for the myth of the “perfect” body that we see on social media.

In addition to the societal challenges we face, your family history may be another barrier to overcome. Our values and beliefs are passed down through generations. Many children were told directly to change their appearance because they were too fat, too thin, or otherwise not right. In other families, parents were careful not to criticise their child’s body, but they criticised their own bodies and modelled behaviours like constant dieting, which sent the message that their body type was not good enough.

Symptoms of unhealthy or negative body image are:

  • Disordered eating & dieting
  • Excessive exercise
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating
  • Makeup (too much makeup, too little makeup)
  • Excessive plastic surgery
  • Feeling like you are not pretty or muscular enough.
  • Believe your value as a person is determined by your looks.
  • Fixated on trying to change your body shape.
  • Obsessive self-scrutiny in mirrors.
  • Frequently comparing your body to others and feeling that your body is flawed in comparison to others.
  • Struggling with feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and/or disordered eating due to body dissatisfaction

People who are ashamed of their bodies can transpose an innocent comment from a friend into a deposition about their appearance. Many people beat themselves up—sometimes literally—every time they gain weight, go on a crash diet, then cheat on that diet, throwing their body into a seesaw of malnutrition, binge eating, and more.

Extensive levels of body-shaming whether from others or from yourself can have negative emotional effects, including a reduction in self-esteem and other issues such as eating disorders, anxiety, body dysmorphia and depression (Matheson, 2017). Also, body shaming can lead to severe emotional distress, especially when people feel their body does not meet social criteria. It is important to combat negative body image because it can lead to depression, shyness, social anxiety and self-consciousness in intimate relationships.

Body image and self-esteem directly influence our feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. Self-esteem is how you value and respect yourself as a person—it is the opinion that you have of yourself inside and out. Self-esteem is about the whole person, not just the body. If you don’t like your body (or a part of your body), it’s hard to feel good about your whole self. The reverse is also true: if you don’t value yourself, it’s hard to notice the good things and give your body the respect it deserves.

In conclusion, understanding why we feel the way we do about our bodies and ourselves helps us work on getting to a better place. Once we identify our triggers and are honest about our thoughts, eating habits, and fitness regimen, we can begin to work on them. Making progress in areas we know are important to us is one of the best ways to boost our self-esteem. And when we boost our self-esteem, our body image almost certainly will follow.


Canadian Mental Health Association. (n.d). Body Image, Self-Esteem, and Mental Health. Retrieved from

Cantor, C. (2017, July 05). How to Overcome Body Shame. Retrieved from

Jantz, G. (2017, May 07). 4 Ways to Improve Your Body Image and Self Esteem. Retrieved from

Matheson, M. (2017). Women’s Body Image in the Media: An Analytical Study of … Retrieved from

Tschinkel, A. (2018, July 23). 12 things you don’t think are forms of body shaming, but actually are. Retrieved from