Body criticism is something that a lot of us face. Whether it’s from strangers or people we know, it can be tough to deal with. But what’s even tougher is that the critical words are intended to tear us down and it needs to stop, especially when women are doing it to each other. We get enough hate from men. Why do it to each other? You see, there is nothing wrong with any of our bodies. The problem is the people who feel the need to criticize them. It’s time we work on changing our attitudes about ourselves and others.
Ever since I began my YouTube channel ten years ago, people have been making comments about my body. In the beginning, everyone said, I had the perfect body but as a whole person I was far from perfect. When I started my channel, I was really skinny because of the anxiety of my divorce. Now that I am doing better emotionally, I have put on healthy weight and the comments have become so brutal. They’ve told me I’m too fat to be a trainer, that my workouts must not work because my body isn’t getting any “better” or have asked why I am so fat if I am so healthy, just to name a few.
While I was going through my divorce and dealing with depression, those comments would have really gotten to me. Over time, I have learned to deal with it and use empathy and compassion and remove my ego from the equation. Although I’ve learned to deal with body criticism and view the comments differently, it still doesn’t mean it is OK for women to say these things to each other. So why do they?
Why do women put each other down when we should be cheering each other on?
First and foremost women are critical to one another because men, society and the media have taught us to be. (More on that one later.)
It reminds me of the crab mentality. If you put one crab in a bucket, it can claw its way out and be free. However, if you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket and one tries to escape, the rest will pull it back down. They keep each other from succeeding. That is what we do with our words when we put one another down. That is what body criticism can do if you let it.
The Bible says “the tongue has the power of life and death”. We can choose to encourage one another or we can be like a crab and tear one another down. When we are in a positive place mentally and emotionally, most of us choose to encourage instead of being a bottom-feeding crab. But when we aren’t feeling so good about ourselves, that is when the criticism kicks in. It’s a true fact that hurt people, hurt people, or at least they will try. Ultimately, you are in control of how those comments affect you by the feelings you choose.
Critical mindsets, for many of us, started in our early childhood years. The people meant to love and care for us were overly critical of us and we learned that was the normal way to interact with the world. For kids under seven, the brain isn’t developed enough to know the difference between criticism of an action or behavior and criticism of themselves as people. Being in an atmosphere of constant critique teaches kids that they are bad. They deal with this pain by turning it into self-criticism. Later in life, this turns into the criticism of others.
As adults and even teens, we usually critique people because we feel threatened. We sense that the actions or values of someone else go against our own which makes us feel those same sensations of shame and danger we felt as a kid. The difference is, now we are bigger and older and know how to fight back. Instead of allowing this person to make us feel bad about ourselves, we beat them to it by pulling out our meanest, nastiest critique. As women, we tend to attack each other’s most valuable and vulnerable possessions, our bodies.
Another root of our critical mindsets is the media and what is referred to as the male gaze. Basically, mainstream media, which is largely run by men, objectifies women. Media has taught us that a woman’s role is to be an erotic supporting object for men to watch, conquer or possess. We’ve learned that there is great danger in not fitting the stereotypical definition of beautiful and so we do everything possible to conform. We even compete with each other to reach the mythical “top”, clawing and trampling one another along the way because we so desperately want to be seen and accepted. This mindset damages our self-esteem, strains relationships with other women, discourages women empowerment and plays into the patriarchy that has already existed for far too long. Yet, it is so ingrained in our society and our minds that we often don’t even realize we are doing it.
This doesn’t mean that because you were criticized as a child and are under the male gaze you have permission to be cruel to others. The cool thing about the brain is that it is always changing and evolving. Using cognitive reframing and autosuggestion, you can teach your brain to think new thoughts. It all starts with recognizing why you feel the need to criticize and then choosing to replace it with a new thought. It is all about changing our attitudes and making a radical shift in how we interact with ourselves and others.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could treat each other the way these celebrities treated Anne Hathaway when she was feeling like her jeans were a bit too tight because she had gained some weight? I’d love to go to the gym knowing every woman I passed was going to cheer me on instead of judging me for how tight my spandex is or analyzing how my skin folds when I sit down.
Women have fought long and hard to show the world what amazing, strong, capable human beings we are. We shouldn’t have to waste our time and energy convincing each other of that truth.
It is in all of our nature to want to help one another and encouraging someone else is so much more rewarding than being a crab and pulling them back down into the bucket. Life isn’t about scarcity, friends, there is more than enough success to go around. Stop the negativity. Stop the body critiques. We have a world to conquer. Let’s do it together.
Now, I’d love to end this post here but unfortunately, body criticism is a part of life for all of us. Instead of just asking for it to end, I want to also equip you to deal with body criticism in a way that forces the person making the critical comments to reflect on their words and (hopefully) choose a different response in the future.
When someone makes a negative comment about your body, it is normal to want to react. I’ll be honest, even though I’ve been through this a lot of times in the past ten years, I still have the urge to throw up my middle finger at those crabby women and then walk away. After all, negative bottom feeders don’t deserve my time, energy, or mental space. I use cognitive reframing to remind myself that they can choose to live in the low level vibes and I can choose to stay on my higher level vibes of thinking.
At the same time, it takes all of us working together to make this world a better place. So instead of giving them the satisfaction of knowing that their hurtful words bothered me, I prefer to kindly put them in their place. Here’s my five-step trick:
The first step is to love your body as it is. Often we are our own worst body critics. It’s time to put an end to that negative story running through your head. Here is a new story for you:
You are a sexy, powerful woman with a perfectly designed body. You don’t work out to change who you are or how you look, you exercise to be healthy. You work out to care for yourself and give your body the love it deserves. My goal as your holistic fitness trainer is to help you have a healthy body, soul, and mind.
When bottom-feeding crabs show up in your life and make critical comments to try and tear you down, the last thing you want to do is let them succeed in making you feel just as miserable as they do, instead you move on to the next steps.
The person who made the hurtful comment is. In fact, there is nothing wrong with you at all. She made the comment because she feels threatened by, or is jealous of, you. I always remind myself that hurt people want to hurt people. That reality helps me feel compassion and empathy towards the haters.
It’s OK to feel upset when someone criticizes your body. Give yourself time to calm down before doing anything else. This might take a few seconds or even a few days but it is important to be in a state of mental calm before trying to interact with the source of the negative comments. Coming back with a compassionate response always works for me. We never know what battle other people may be fighting and you may just be the one to receive their toxic energy. Give them compassion in return. Both of you will be better off in the end.
As long as you are feeling calm, address the person who criticized your beautiful body. Recently, when a fan left me a body critical comment on social media, I messaged her asking if she was OK. I reminded her that hurt people tend to look for ways to hurt others and wanted to see if she needed help with anything. People feel that because I am an online fitness expert that I am supposed to be perfect but that’s not true. I have life events that happen to me too and throw me off my ideal weight. Yes, I workout everyday but I also tend to be an emotional eater. I am not perfect. I am human, and just like you, I struggle with real life problems.
This one ticks them off because it shows that their words meant to hurt you did not affect your self-confidence one bit. Now, I don’t mean you should say, “Yes, you’re right. I am fat.” (Because you are not). I mean agree by acknowledging that no, your body isn’t perfect because perfection doesn’t exist. We’ve all looked at one too many airbrushed images and compared ourselves to celebrities, and even fitness trainers, who’ve had work done to try and keep up with the media’s lies. I am a real human and I’m proud of my body, imperfections and all.
The reality is, liposuction and steroid use are very common in the fitness community. They just don’t want you to know about it. We all have stubborn areas of fat that won’t go away. No matter how much you workout, your genetics, age and nutrition play a huge part, making it impossible to spot train those areas away. Although I’ve considered getting lipo myself, I’ve never done it. If I ever do, it won’t be because the haters have made me feel bad about myself. It will be because I chose to do it for me. And I will be sure to let you know every detail.
You shouldn’t let anyone make you feel bad about your body but you are allowed to make your own choices about how to care for and love your body. In the end, we are all human and our bodies are with us for life. We want to feel confident about what we see in the mirror and there are many different ways to get there. The most important part is to make healthy choices instead of damaging your precious human body to reach some unrealistic stereotype of perfection. For now, I am working with a nutritionist and doing everything I can to take care of myself and be the healthiest version of me I possibly can.
In my conversation on social media, I reminded her that I am not superwoman and I feel really good about my efforts, because I am doing the best I can. She ended the conversation with a heartfelt apology.
Ladies, we are all at different places in life. We all have struggles and successes. Each of us have insecurities and rough days. You never know where someone is in life. Just because they post a smiling, happy face on social media, doesn’t mean life is all good. You never know how your words will make someone else feel. So, every time words come out of your mouth, or your keypad, make sure they are building others up. Keep in mind that whatever goes around comes around. Body criticism is keeping us all in the bucket. It’s time for body criticism to end. We deserve to be free.
Change more than just your body