“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” We’ve all heard that one. But what if you have something seemingly nice to say? What if you think what you’re saying is “not mean” so you go ahead and say it? Well that comment can cost a lot. And those types of comments can add up to some serious damage. Specifically, when we make comments on our bodies and physical appearance, as well as choosing to comment (negatively or even positively) on the bodies of others we are choosing to teach our children to be defined by their body and physical appearance.
“You have no butt. Like no butt at all.”
Ouch. I carry that comment with me even several years later. I’m a person who is intrinsically wired to analyze people’s actions (social-emotional intelligence over-achiever here!) and I know that the person who said that to me did not mean to upset me to that degree. Maybe they saw that as a compliment. Back in the day, having “no butt” was a good thing in the eyes of many women. Can I say that without going very deep into social race relations and oppression? That is a worthy topic, but this post is not about that. This post is about how one seeming harmless comment can affect a person.
Currently, it is on trend to have a bigger backside. I don’t want to be the girl who has “like no butt at all”. I work pretty hard on my leg days to try to enhance that area. It’s one of the few “curve” areas on my body that I can work hard and improve myself, without surgical help. If you know me, you know I have big issues with my “curves” or lack thereof. If you were to observe me you would notice that several times during my leg day workout I check in the mirror to see if I in fact, do have a butt. Isn’t that hilarious? Somewhere in my busy mind I’m asking “Do I have a butt at all now?” or “Is my backside in proportion with the rest of my body?”. I’m not saying that I behave this way because of that one comment. No, it’s way more complicated and in depth than that. It’s a combination of years and years of exposure to mass media, television, and movies along with social media influence, and well just my general self and the body image I’ve had since I was aware of having a body.
“It would be weird if you weren’t overweight”.
Yep, someone said that to me too. That was many years ago. It cut me down quickly. On the surface it doesn’t even seem so harsh. We can all agree that saying “You’re so fat! You’re disgusting.” or “Wow, you’ve gained a ton of weight, what’s wrong with you?” would be a terrible thing to say to a loved one, or anyone for that matter! Honestly, I can say that I can’t recall any instances where someone told me directly to my face a mean comment about my weight or size. I did that to myself a whole lot for many years, but no one I knew in real life told me that. Thank goodness! Yet even that less direct comment about being an overweight person was still hurtful and stayed with me for a long time.
Again, analyzing that person’s intentions, they probably were not trying to hurt my feelings or discourage me. More than likely they may have felt something along the lines of “I feel comfortable with you being an overweight person and bigger than me. If you change, I may have to redefine myself in terms of our relationship and that would make me uncomfortable”.
Have I been guilty of the same thing?
I don’t think I have ever said a knowingly hurtful comment to a friend or family member about their physical appearance. I know that I have likely told my friends the parts of themselves that I find attractive and wish I possessed as well. Maybe some attribute I commented on was a sore spot for them and they did not receive it as a compliment. If that is so, I’m sorry. I am currently trying to change the focus of my compliments and positive feedback to focus on more meaningful content such as work ethic, ability, sense of humor, kindness, etc.
Raising a daughter (and sons) with positive body image….
I’m just touching on this topic and intend to go more in depth in a future post, but here are a few ways I am actively trying to incorporate into my everyday interactions to ensure that I am giving my children the best chance at having a positive body image:
- No negative comments about my own body in front of my children.
- No weight loss or “diet” conversation in front the kids. (I see having fitness and nutritional goals as different than being on a “diet”.)
- Praising beyond physical attributes. Being mindful of noticing and complimenting their work, thought processes, creativity, and kindness above their appearance.
- Making healthy food and exercise “fun” and part of our everyday normal life.
What are your thoughts and experiences on this topic? I’d love to hear from you!
I am a runner and fitness fanatic who is dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle 80% of the time. I live in Texas and divide my time between raising 3 children, teaching, and living a fit life.