Teenage girls often involve themselves in body shaming and this behaviour can lead to serious psychological disturbances for themselves or for others. Body Shaming happens typically in the following ways:
- Self-Talk – Criticizing their appearance and mentally telling themselves that they are ugly, fat and how they hate their hair type, complexion or height etc.
- Gossiping & Humiliation – Enjoying conversations about and seeking pleasure in humiliating girls based on their physical characteristics and appearance. They may say things like, “What is Priya wearing?, she looks so huge in them!”
In order to cope with body shaming, some girls may:
- Convince themselves that the statements about their body is true
- Feel ashamed and embarrassed with the way they look
- They invest money in cosmetic surgery, make up and in salons to look desirable
- They start to worship “socially acceptable” people with perfect looks and body
- They reduce the quantity of their food and go on long fasts in-order to lose weight
- They often resort to alcohol and other substance in order to be accepted in popular peer groups. Some also use and abuse substance to deal with emotional pain and self-hatred.
- They can become victims of manipulation by the opposite gender as such girls need acknowledgement, acceptance and affection.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
People suffering from BDD are fixated on their bodily imperfections. These imperfections can be real or imaginary. People struggling with BDD become obsessed with their imperfections to the point that their imperfections are the only thing they see when they look in the mirror at themselves. BDD usually develops during adolescence. This is the time when teenagers are acutely sensitive about their appearance. People suffering from anxiety, depression or other mental disorders are more likely to develop BDD. Biological factors and childhood traumatic events are also contributing factors for BDD. Just like Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour (OCD), Obsessive and repetitive behaviors take center stage in BDD. This disorder constantly demands attention from the person and this becomes a major factor for poor academic performance, disturbed relationships, loneliness and hindrance to enjoying life for the victim.
Some people think that BDD is about being self-obsessed. This is incorrect. People with BDD are unhappy and ashamed of their appearance, while people who are self-obsessed are proud of their appearance. People with BDD have low self-esteem. People who are self-obsessed have high, often, over inflated self-image of themselves.
WHAT CAN A PERSON DO TO PREVENT SUCH CONDITIONS
- Learn to accept and love themselves the way they are
- Stop comparing self with others. Think of things you like about your body and remind yourself when in doubt.
- Use as little cosmetic products as possible
- Stop seeking approval from others
- Post unedited photos of self on social media.
- Realize that models and celebrities are paid to look the way they do. There is often heavy cosmetics, plastic surgery and editing tools to enhance their looks in films and in photographs
- Make their personality bigger than their appearance
- Celebrate being unique
- Learn to live in gratitude
- Discover hidden talents and learn new skills throughout life
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
- Set an example by not glorifying glamour at home
- Talk about the importance of self-respect and how it is not dependent on other peoples approval
- Talk about the strengths of your young adults. Speak with them like adults (not as kids). Reinforce the fact that they make you proud.
- Be mindful and aware of body shaming and disorders like BDD.
- Be observant of changes in your teen’s behaviour and engage them in conversation. Encourage them to talk to you about such issues.
- Seek timely help of a mental health professional. Let them assess, diagnose and treat the condition.
HOW CAN THE SOCIETY HELP?
- Stop glorifying glamour and physical appearances
- Learn to look at the positive attributes in people
- Become more accepting of others
- Stop criticizing and judging people by their appearance
- Be careful of the language being used. Stop using words like too skinny, too fat, white, black, tall, short to describe people.
- Glorify qualities like kindness, compassion, friendliness, mannerisms and not public stature, wealth, power and fame.
With inputs from Vihan Sanyal – A Psychotherapist and a Public Speaker