December 16, 2021

Body shaming: a common bullying technique

Body shaming is known as the tendency of people to criticize others or even themselves based solely on their appearance. It has always been a thing, but in modern times, especially through the extensive use of social media and the subsequent provided anonymity, this phenomenon is in a bigger outbreak and that’s why it’s a need to raise awareness.

Actually, it’s a form of bullying that has no gender and doesn’t discriminate, because all body types can be negatively criticized by bullies. It takes several forms, it’s possible, for example, for someone to criticize their own image excessively, to talk negatively about themselves and beat themselves up. Even more, they might criticize someone else’s appearance, in their presence or absence, and attack them with direct or indirect malicious comments about their clothes, their appearance, their weight. This brings forward several consequences on people’s psyche, since it leads to a negative internalized image of the body, and it provokes feelings of insufficiency, shame, and dysphoria. It could even bring about emotional trauma in young people, and it’s usually connected with eating and mental disorders.

But how is it shaped and why do people resort to it? Basically, body shaming is based on dysfunctional and aggressive social stances and representations against some physical characteristics.

Social stances describe the categorization of an object or stimulus alongside an assessment axis. Simultaneously, social representations are composed of many of these stances, and that’s how a collective, a common sense, is built. In fact, our brain’s function is programmed so that when we see a stimulus, we try to categorise it on an assessment scale, where one post holds the “good-beautiful” and the other the “bad-hideous.” So, this automatic reaction and tendency of our brain to categorize stimuli, but also people’s adaptability to a common logic shaped daily by our contact with our social environment, lead them to assessing others’ characteristics, maintaining discrimination that resulted in dysphoria.

This phenomenon is obviously intensified due to society’s unrealistic beauty standards. More specifically, various flawless models are dominating over time in every age, seen as the ideal image, and society pushes people to follow them. In effect, they are trying to look like something inexistent. Especially in current times, the domination of social media and influencers is influencing people’s self-image greatly. Filters and edited photos create an illusion of perfection, succeed at first blush. There's constant encouragement to change elements in ourselves, to intervene in order to beautify our image.

Of course, the guilt surrounding femininity and sexuality also plays a great role in maintaining body shaming. Internalized sexism, patriarchal notions, and the incrimination of the naked body drives some people to criticizing and attacking others about their appearance. Besides, a pillar of body shaming is slut shaming, i.e., the tendency to criticize people because of the way they dress, their sexuality, their appearance, and their aesthetic.

Another factor that compounds this phenomenon are our personal characteristics, our experiences and our past, that make us bully others because of their physical appearance, or even receive this type of discrimination. Usually, behind anger and aggression lurk people’s fears, some unattended and incomplete parts of themselves, as well as emotional gaps, that they project on others aggressively.

Confronting body shaming is about informing, raising awareness, and empowering. Recognizing this phenomenon and its serious impact on people is an unbeatable need. We should also ask for help when we face this kind of bullying and try to avoid strict and negative comments on others, as well as on ourselves. The key to fighting against this phenomenon is cultivating empathy, empowerment, and confidence. Accepting ourselves, our bodies, and our imperfections is a constant and hard process. We would definitely benefit from avoiding comparisons, strict self-criticism, and excessive social media exposure. Getting rid of fashion and society’s barriers and requirements can be freeing. What’s more, exposing ourselves to healthy and realistic body standards, and connecting with people who love and accept their bodies is extremely helpful. What we should always remember is that our goal isn’t what’s perfect and flawless, but to become the best version of ourselves, whatever that is!

Translated by Kiriaki Arnaouti, Reviewed by Panagiota Katsaveli

Photography by Simeon Maniatis & Sotiris Stamatiou

Athina Douma

Psychologist in the making, collects moments, consumed in internal pursuits, and loves photos that evoke emotions. She walks a tightrope between spontaneity and introversion, simplicity and complexity. She speaks a little, but writes a lot. She hopes to bring out her own perspective through writing.

Kiriaki Arnaouti (she/they)

Born a Drama queen, both literally and figuratively. Her mind is constantly switching back and forth between Greek, English and Spanish but her heart is set on two things only; iced coffee and books. Her Sagittarius nature convinces her that she’s the funniest person alive, but that’s for you to discover!

Panagiota Katsaveli (she/her)

Born and raised in Kilkis, but her imagination has convinced her that she has lived in many countries around the world. Spends most of her free time watching TV shows, while adopting the personality and behavior of her favorite characters. The combination of perfectionism and laziness that characterize her will eventually be her destruction. Chocolate, wine, coffee and pizza is what she is made of.

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