My daughter was body shamed.
She is 4 years old.
She was body-shamed by none other than her “friends”.
While she was with them in the play area.
There. I said it. My dear darling doe, who is barely 4, was body-shamed right in front of me- in front of the person who she is supposed to feel the safest with. Now, my daughter is well within the right weight parameters for her age, except for a little extra baby fat around her tummy. Her friends called her fat and started poking her belly. She was at a loss. It all happened so suddenly that she didn’t know how to react and why being a certain way was suddenly so bad.
It all lasted for a couple of minutes before I intervened and asked the kids to not bully my child.
The after effect? You would think that she would have forgotten everything in a few minutes and went on about her day. But that wasn’t the case. She was glum the entire evening and refused to play. Let alone play with those particular kids. Later, she confided in her father, who was equally astonished and surprised as to how kids this age can be this aware of “fat” and “thin”.
It was beyond agonizing to see the confused look in her eyes when we tried explaining to her that what happened to her wasn’t her fault. Or she was any less precious. At the same time, I kept thinking how had it come to this?
That is when it occurred to me that we, as mothers, sacrifice so much in bringing the new life that we forget about nurturing our own bodies. And when we finally get a chance to look at ourselves we use labels like ” fat”, “disgusting” and other heavy words not realizing the young minds around us. Their brains are like sponges- soaking every single detail we utter and filing it away in a corner.
To be honest, that entire evening I was worried about how I would explain to her the various intricacies of life such as puberty, where hormones wreak havoc on skin and body. When you grow up in a culture that places physical appearance over anything else. The magazines and other social media platforms are filled with instances that set unrealistic standards and expectations of beauty.
Surprisingly, some people believe that making a person more “aware” about their ill appearance is a way of motivation in order to transform themselves.
The generation today sees “expressing themselves” as a way of life; regardless of the fact that the person towards whom this was directed might not be able to take this easily. More and more girls are afraid of becoming “fat” and have asserted to a lifestyle of diets. But in reality, people who are clearly intent on hurting you will not stop targeting the weak point with distasteful opinions. We need to realize and make our children understand that discrimination causes stress and negative effects on people. The harmful effects of body shaming can lead to disastrous outcomes such as eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression.
Fat shaming is not just targeted at heavy individuals. Shamers have an
opinion if you are skinny, heavy, short, tall. It is a vicious cycle of judgment and criticism. It manifests in many ways like criticizing your own appearance ( especially in front of young geniuses with susceptible minds), criticizing others’ appearances in their absence. It perpetuates the idea that an individual is only supposed to be liked based on their physical appearances.
How they make you feel or how patient or talented they are, become secondary.
How do we deal with this? Especially with the kids?
- We can stop talking about our bodies ( grudges and achievements, alike) in front of our young ones.
- We can stop talking about others in the same manner when children are around.
- We can start adopting a healthier lifestyle not to become “thinner” or more “magazine-like” but to keep our health in check.
- We try to teach our children to appreciate a person based on how they treat you. As well as others. If they make you feel safe and happy instead of making you self doubt.
- When we feel that it’s time for self-assertion, I use lines from the movie “The Help” (also a wonderful novel by Katheryn Stockett) “You is kind. you is smart. You is important” with certain variations. Emphasizing on the fact that it’s utterly important to be kind and brave.
While I am trying to bring them up in a manner where they don’t hurt feelings, I also pray to the Almighty that my children’s feelings and innocence stay unhurt. The light of love that emanates from them for us, stays the same for others.
After all, you don’t encourage people to take care of their body by telling them to hate it.