The “body shame game” is a behavior many of us are familiar with. The game can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, consist of any number of players, and take place anywhere and everywhere. The only thing that’s consistent about it is that absolutely no one walks away from this game as a winner. Everyone loses. It’s the worst game ever.
So what is it?
The game usually starts with a group of girls catching up. Things are cordial for a while. Banter and jokes are flying around, people are smiling and laughing, the night is looking pretty good…and then someone decides to make the first move. She looks at one of her friends and goes:
“Oh my god…you look so great! Have you been working out? Ugh, I have no time for it anymore, I’ve gotten so fat.”
The table will get silent for a second. The friend, not sure what to say at this double edged sword of a compliment will think for a second and quip something along the lines of, “Oh no, I’m actually so out of shape at the moment. I mean…that’s why I’m wearing pants right now, my thighs are like cottage cheese!”
Anxious to get involved, another woman quickly thinks to herself and goes, “You have great legs! I mean, I would kill for your legs. Mine are super short…I look like a penguin.”
And thus the game begins. When it’s your turn to speak, you have two choices:
Say something positive about someone ELSE
Say something negative about yourself
This game is quite frankly…pretty gross. And like I said…no one wins, no matter how many cards you have to play. This game is what causes so many of us to look at our bodies every day and see it as a combination of problems to be fixed. This game is what causes us to take a healthy, functioning human body and view it like this:
I mean…seriously…what the f*ck.
We need to quit this game, and we need to quit it now. Your body is not a problem…it is the one thing you are guaranteed to have until the day you actually freaking die, so it’s time to start honoring it, and all it does for you.
Now look…We all have that little voice that speaks to us every time we look in the mirror or see a photograph of ourselves. That’s where the “body shame game” starts: at home…in our own heads.
This voice sneaks up behind us and says: “Hey…you’re not actually happy with what you’re seeing here, right?” It points out our thighs, the texture of our skin, our rolls of body fat. It does this so often, that when it’s time for us to actually talk about our bodies, those are the only things we have to say. We define our bodies by what is wrong with them…so I think it’s time we start re-defining what we view as problems:
Yes…I have them. They are a result of a dark shameful period in my life where I put A LOT of weight in a short amount of time. The doctors called it puberty. I called it hell.
And that’s all stretch marks are… signs of growth and change. They show us how adaptable our bodies are.
Did you have a baby? Did having the baby leave you with stretch marks? Now you don’t want to wear a bathing suit because you don’t want people to notice them? I completely get that…but…i’m sorry…I may have trouble noticing them because I’m busy being in complete awe that you GREW A HUMAN in your body. Where there was NO human…you made one…and now it’s here… walking around and talking and stuff. That’s amazing! And your stretch marks…they are a badge of honor that show everyone that you loved someone else more than you loved yourself.
Did you lose a lot of weight? Now you don’t want to wear a bathing suit because of your stretch marks? I completely get that but…no. No wait, I don’t get that. You freaking FOUGHT for your new body. Blood, sweat, and tears for this new body. Those stretch marks are your battle scars for winning a war most people never even have the balls to start.
Yes, I have it. I also have the luxury of eating food everyday. I have the luxury of not having to walk miles for my food. I have the luxury of never knowing what it’s like to have to be hungry. And If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you’re like me.
We don’t know what it’s like to have to be hungry…so why do so many of us spend our time time trying to starve ourselves? Why do we try to convince ourselves that body fat is something we are supposed to eradicate?
Bringing up body fat is ultimately the Ace of Spades in the Body Shame Game. Girls and women love to bring up the fact that they need to lose weight. Please don’t play that card. And if someone you know needs a way to feel good about their body fat, please remind them that their fat rolls are the only thing that will help them survive the next famine. Seriously.
Thick thighs and thick arms:
Instead of trying to make these body parts smaller, can we please just try to make them stronger? Get off the elliptical and get onto a pull-up bar. Stop with the crash diets, and go and get to know the squat rack.
And if you don’t want to do that, at least acknowledge and thank your body for giving you arms and legs that work. None of us have any…freaking…reason to ever shame the body parts that allow us to get from point A to point B and allow us to pick up and hold people and things that we love. None of us.
My face…I used to hate how it looked when I smiled. Im assuming a lot of women feel this way (would explain duck face). I would hide my face when I smiled or laughed. It was a cool time in my life.
But then I found that a lot of people in my life made me smile and made me laugh, and I didn’t want to shield myself from those experiences by putting a hand up or turning away. We all need to live life by putting our best face forward. And your face…well…it’s your best face. And it’s wonderfully your own.
So, the body shame game. Needless to say, I don’t play it anymore. When I look in the mirror, that little voice that used to dominate every view I had on my body has no choice but to say, “sure…I guess you look good.” It’s not easy at times, sometimes, after a hard day or experience, that voice still has a lot to say. But just like a drunk friend at a bar, I let it talk at me, but not to me. I let it ramble and rant until it has nothing left to say, and then I get on with it.
I don’t play this game when my girlfriends bring it up either. I don’t even try to re-assure them about their bodies anymore, because by doing that, all I’m doing is validating that “voice” in their head that is speaking for them. And I don’t want to talk to it.
I don’t shame my body anymore. And because of that, when I look in the mirror, I’m able to see a true reflection of who and what I am on the inside…someone who is happy and healthy and loving life.
So ladies…honor your bodies. You would not let someone else call you fat or ugly or thick…so why are you letting yourself talk to yourself that way? If you don’t like something about the amazing vehicle you have been given, you have two choices: accept it or change it. Don’t shame it.
And ladies, gentlemen, who ever is reading this still. I want you to stop talking to “that voice” in your head. Stop giving it power over you. You are valuable. We all are. And no matter what that voice is saying, whether it’s telling you that you’re not good enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough… whatever it says, please just know one thing…
Disclaimer (read if anything slightly upset you in this post):
I KNOW body fat is a huge issue for so many people. We all need to honor our bodies by keeping them healthy, and some people do NEED to lose body fat to be healthier versions of themselves. Im not talking about that type of body fat. I’m talking about the “shame game” version of body fat where we agonize over things like having a slight muffin top when we don skinny jeans.
Also…this is not a “woe is me” post. I’m aware that I have no reason to feel bad about my body. But then honestly, neither do you. We ALL struggle with these issues. No matter how we look to other people, it’s ultimately how we view ourselves that define us.
And for over a decade, I didn’t see what a lot of people may see when they look at me…I saw a girl with gangly wrists, a fat tummy, and oddly placed knees. The purpose of this post is to show you that for a long long time…I did struggle with body issues. It wasn’t easy for me, and realistically… it should’ve been. It should be easier for all of us.