Thought Catalog
November 10, 2015

The Most Damaging Body Shamer Is Not Who You Think It Is

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My name is Stacey. I’m the woman in the picture. Yep, that’s me, unclothed and completely unedited.

A few years ago, I would not have shown that picture privately, and I certainly would not have posted it on the internet for the world to see. But I’m different now. I posed for that picture. And although it was not intended for public consumption, I’m proud of it. It was a 40+ year journey to get here, but now I have arrived.

I do not have a skinny past. At nearly 10 lbs. at birth, I was my mother’s largest baby, and I was always bigger than my sisters.

I was never heavy because of poor eating habits, in fact my most consistent craving is salad. I am not an emotional eater and I do not go on binges.

I gained 11 lbs. while carrying my one and only child, so the fullness in my stomach is not post-baby weight either. I exercise and I do not believe in diets. Yes, I am one of those women who is fat by design.

But I was not always proud of this body.

It was hard growing up in a house with a bodacious mother, curvy older sister, and petite baby sister. I was the fluffy middle of my sister sandwich.

Most boys did not find me attractive, and yes, I was teased. I learned to use my words as a sword to slay the kids who made fun of me. Of course the tide turned and guys began to think I was “cute.” But by the time that happened body shame had become a habit.

During the first decade of my sex life I would not remove my shirt. And if I did, the room had to be pitch black. I could not bring myself to believe that a man would want to have sex with me if he saw everything. What would he think of my round middle and chunky arms?

I had convinced myself that my oversized clothes disguised my buxom figure. When in truth my bulky outfits made me look bigger.

Who was I hiding from anyway?

I have never told myself that I was fat or ugly. I have never shied away from looking in the mirror. In fact I enjoy my own reflection. And I was always completely perplexed about why other people did not feel the same way.

The shame that I developed around my body was not mine. I was not born thinking that something was wrong with me, that I needed to change, or that I was not good enough. Thoughts that I should be smaller or look different did not originate in my own head.

These seeds were planted. Every time I was told that I “had a pretty face,” but I should lose weight, those seeds grew. All the times I was made to feel that my weight was a problem that needed to be solved, those seeds sprouted.

Yeah, fat girl shame was not my idea.

Giving birth to my daughter changed my life. And while I would love to say that I empowered her to be proud of her body from the beginning, that is not what happened. The truth is I did not want my daughter to look like me. I never wanted her to struggle with weight or feel unattractive because she did not “fit” in.

I projected my own insecurities on my daughter, by hiding and covering up, and they stuck like crazy glue.

While I have finally arrived at the place where I love my entire body. That includes every blemish, lump, roll, and wrinkle. My daughter is young and she still struggles to see her own beauty. She does not see her own reflection in the media, the women do not look like her. She is full-figured, like her mother, and that makes her sad sometimes.

The good news is, she now has an example of what it looks like to love your form. She sees her 40-something mom walking around naked and feeling good in her skin. She has a real life model for healthy self-esteem, confidence, and unapologetic authenticity.

But body shame is a problem, a big one.

Women from all walks of life are affected by the body shame epidemic. And the internet has cultivated a new breed of vultures. The kind that troll the web looking for unsuspecting victims to prey on. The kind that leaves snarky comments belittling others. The kind that spew venomous hate on people they do not even know.

And nobody is immune. Celebrities are attacked daily. Teenagers are assaulted for being fat, skinny, and transgendered. Grown women are pummeled for having cellulite, back rolls, and full faces. Mothers give birth and are made to feel unattractive for the voluptuousness of their bellies.

Body shame is a problem.

The epidemic is spreading, rapidly. But the most harmful assailant does not live online or outside of your home. The most damaging body shamer of all is YOU. The constant picking yourself apart for being human, is toxic.

Every time you look in the mirror and compare yourself to the person you were ten years ago, that’s body shame. Whenever you suck in your stomach or stuff yourself into a pair of spanx, that’s body shame. Chronic dieting, selfie edits, nipping and tucking, that’s body shaming.

We have become a culture of body shamers, and its eating us alive.

People that body shame others body shame themselves. And there is only one way to get this pandemic under control. Before we can stop the trolls on the internet and the whispers on the streets, you must stop the personal body shame campaign that is happening in your own home. You must stop destroying the person that is staring back at you in the mirror.

The change must begin with you.

You can start by showing your least favorite body part some love. Love all up on your skinny arms or your juicy thighs. Show some gratitude for the parts of your body that you may not think are beautiful. Be grateful for the dimples in your cheeks, your knobby knees, and small breasts. You can share your “internet friendly” pic on your favorite social media site using the #ThisIsSOMEBody hashtag.

It is only through accepting ourselves as we are, that we can meet others where they are. It is only by loving ourselves that we can truly offer love to another. Real change begins within.

Are you ready to make shift happen? TC mark