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Body Shaming: Meaning, Causes, Consequences and Examples

silhouette of various woman body types and a message that all bodies are beautiful and stop body shaming
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | September 25, 2021 (Last update: September 25, 2021)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website:

Body-Shaming, by simple definition, is an act of mocking an individual for their physical appearance. People of all ages and genders have to deal with body shaming. It may not seem a big issue if you are the one laughing at someone but it can be very disturbing for a person who is the target of the deriding comments about their physical appearance. Body Shaming may result in serious issues like emotional trauma, decreased confidence, self-hate, and many more mental health issues. So, it is an important issue to talk about.

How Common is Body-Shaming?

One of the reasons that make body-shaming a hot topic for discussion is its frequency. Body-Shaming is much more common than we tend to believe. Many times the shaming message is so subtle that we hardly notice it. But, the uncountable repetition of such subtle messages ingrains it in our brain and we unknowingly get involved in body-shaming. This may manifest in different forms for different individuals.

  • We may start laughing at someone else’s physical appearance without noticing that we are also body-shaming someone. For example, laughing at jokes of stand-up comedians targeting fat people.
  • We may form a negative self-image without realizing that we are body shaming ourselves. For example, becoming obsessed with a skin color that we naturally don’t have.

If you try to assess the frequency of body-shaming messages we consume on daily basis, you’ll be shocked. We are consuming body-shaming messages through movies, web series, social media posts coming from influencers in the fashion industry, product advertisements, people around us, and even strangers on social media channels who don’t know a bit about us.

Consequences of Body Shaming

Body-shaming may result in devastating consequences, including but not limited to, self-harming tendencies, unhealthy behavior, stress, depression, and full-fledged disorders like eating disorders. Individuals with a history of depression, trauma, or borderline personality disorder may face more serious consequences.

  • Social Anxiety – When someone is ridiculed for their appearance, it is natural for them to avoid meeting people. In such cases, people develop social anxiety. This may even lead to depression and isolation. People of all ages are affected by social anxiety due to body-shaming.
  • Self-Harming Behavior – When people internalize body shaming, they become self-critical. It does not only lead to lower self-esteem but a person may even indulge in self-harming behavior (including an attempt to suicide).
  • Eating Disorders – A survey done by an eating disorder charity in the UK, revealed that roughly around 65% of people accepted that bullying and body shaming pushed them towards eating disorders. For many, it turns out into a vicious cycle of being bullied for their weight, stressful eating, gaining more weight, and being more body-shamed.

Probable Reasons Behind Body-Shaming

In order to deal with an issue, first we need to know and understand the reasons behind it. Let us see some of the probable reasons that provoke a person to body-shame someone else.

1. The need to sell

Product advertisers are perhaps the biggest culprits of body-shaming. They have, in fact, built their entire empire through body-shaming. One of the biggest lessons taught to advertising professionals is to find a pain point (or to create it) and then offer a solution. This is the reason advertisers create pain points by making us believe that we are not worthy enough if we are not of a certain skin tone, certain weight, certain height, or certain body type (depending on the product they intend to sell).

This is just a trick to manipulate people into buying something. And, this trend may end if we, as a consumer stands against it. We have recently seen a very good example in India. A fairness cream ‘fair and lovely’ had to change its name and advertising style because ‘consumers’, the kings, stood up against the ill practice of shaming girls for darker skin tones.

2. Lack of expression for our real feelings

When an individual mocks or humiliates another individual, it may be because they don’t know how to express their true feelings. Take an example of a child who is upset or frustrated with the behavior of one of her classmates or a teacher. It is tougher for the child to express what she feels emotionally and she finds it easier to say something that will hurt the other person. As a human, it feels good. The child is often not told that instead of saying someone else is ugly she can simply say that she is feeling hurt due to someone’s behavior. The child then gets into her adolescence and grows into an adult without ever learning to express her true feelings. It is this kind of people who when confronted logically on any topic will get their satisfaction by saying something humiliating to the other person. You can see many examples in comment sections of any social media channel.

Even if we didn’t learn it as a child, we should try to learn expressing our true feelings as an adult. So, next time you feel the urge of suggesting someone to f*** off with their ‘disgusting face’, hold for a second and try to understand your real feeling. And, please don’t forget to teach this to your kids as soon as possible.

3. Lack of acceptance of differences

Another big reason for body-shaming is that we have not learned to accept differences. The moment we someone who looks different from the majority, we get the urge to point it to that. And, because we don’t respect the differences, we tend to point out the difference in a humiliating tone. This is the reason people are not only mocked for being fat but also for being skinny. People with short height are humiliated and so are the very long ones. Persons with disabilities are often the target of bullying just for this reason. Most of the people don’t know how to accept and respect differences.

Just like the previous point, this thing needs to be taught at an early age. But, it’s never late to learn a good thing. Even if you were not taught it as a child, you can learn it now and see the world turn into a better place.

What should we do about Body Shaming?

First, you need to accept that you cannot change the entire world but yourself. Obviously, you should not make a negative comment about anyone in any way. But, you should also be very careful about how you are taking the body-shaming messages. Don’t compare yourself with models, influencers, or even with a person around you. Stop seeing yourself (and others) with a hyper-conscious lens. We are all made differently and those differences make this world more beautiful. Be thankful for whatever your body does for you. When you become conscious about how you take body-shaming messages for yourself, you will surely start seeing it from other people’s perspectives. It’s okay if you cannot confront someone for body-shaming others (don’t feel bad about it), you can always refrain from joining in.

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One response to “Body Shaming: Meaning, Causes, Consequences and Examples”

  1. Avatar AUDREY RUFARO GONDO says:

    I was once a body shaming victim and I can relate to all that’s been said. At the same time am guilty of body shaming others but I only realised it after remembering how fat I once was, the critics I got and the impact it made on me. We ought to be attentive to how we talk to others and ourselves about our appearances else we will continue hurting ourselves without even realising it. This is such a great article…

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