I recently found a journal from my teenage years and, while glancing through it, I noticed how much of my writing time had been taken up with identifying and lamenting every physical flaw. In my most formative years, the continual barrage of media messages showing what the ideal body, hair, face, and smile looked like, I was soaking this up and, as a result, building up deeply unrealistic views and such a negative self-image. This was before the Internet and social media had even had a chance to impact the world I lived in.
It goes without saying that the Internet and media world can be cruel. Human beings hidden behind a screen and keyboard can become nasty, spiteful and judgemental. Fuelled by media portrayals of ‘ideal body’ and beauty, the prevalence of body shaming in the online world is rife.
Body shaming is an example of the destructiveness of a few simple yet cruel words.
However, in the beautiful way that the Internet does, with every body shaming comment or post comes a reactionary wave of body positivity.
Most recently the ‘Thigh Reading’ hashtag has created a wave of photographs of thighs – showing the range of body shapes that exist in the world. Thighs that are small, large, stretch-marked, dimpled, scarred, and smooth. Each person who posts their photo is encouraged to write a little about their ‘thigh-story’. These stories are each beautiful in their own way, telling tales of lives lived, experiences had, and overcoming the body shaming voices that not only live on the Internet but exist in our own heads. My #thighreading post…
Every day we stand in front of mirrors and list what we perceive to be our flaws. “My hair is too thick.” “My arms are too big.” “My teeth are too crooked.” “My tummy sticks out too much.” Yet we don’t ever list how incredible our bodies are. We don’t recognise how those arms are used to support those you love with hugs and care. We don’t acknowledge that under the sticky out tummy is the incredible ability to protect a baby for 9 months. We don’t love our amazing, real, strong, healthy bodies for what they are and where they take us in life!