Last Updated: February 2021
As much as we like to think it doesn’t matter how others feel about us, the truth is that what others say and think can be very impactful on our mental health – especially for teenagers.
More than other age groups, teens are often inclined to believe what other people think about them.
Combined with unrealistic cultural norms, fashion trends and social media feeds, the body-shaming that many teens endure can lead to severe emotional trauma and even cause depression and other serious mental health disorders.
Learn more about body-shaming, how body-shaming harms teenagers, and what you can do if your teen is experiencing body-shaming.
What Is Body-Shaming?
Body-shaming occurs when one is making fun of, or mocking, someone’s physical appearance. It can also take place when one is criticizing their own appearance.
It’s more than just pictures or words. It is commonplace and harmful to many teenagers.
Whether it is done in-person or online, body-shaming can take place through photos and videos or spoken words. When body-shaming is done online, it is called cyberbullying, and given the 24-hour access that most teens have to the internet, it can be especially harmful.
The Harmful Effects of Teen Body-Shaming
Body-shaming can propagate low self-esteem which can lead to a myriad of mental health issues in teens. Low self-esteem has been linked to:
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Other eating disorders
- Social isolation
As well as many other conditions that can be incredibly dangerous to your child’s mental and physical health and require medical or therapeutic intervention.
How to Stop Body-Shaming in Teenagers
If you are concerned about your child or a teen in your life who is being body-shamed, consider these four steps that you can take to combat its harmful effects:
1. Be a truth-teller.
Don’t be hesitant to tell your child what you love about them. Focus on their character and personality more than their looks to help them overcome low self-esteem.
2. Differentiate “fit” from “fiction.”
There’s no doubt your teen is being bombarded with photoshopped images telling them what beautiful is. In your home, beauty is determined by you. Focus on fitness and nutrition and healthy habits over superficial looks. It’s a good reminder to the whole family that looks are fading but being healthy has lasting benefits.
3. Lead by example.
If you think your child is being body-shamed, evaluate your own attitude towards your body. Try to stay away from words like “diet” and “skinny.” Focus on health and good nutrition, instead of skipping meals and being self-critical – especially in front of your teen.
4. Recognize the consequences of body drama.
The first step in fighting body-shaming is recognizing its existence and the power it may hold over your teen. One in ten adult women feels good about their body. It’s time to speak out for the sake of our children and address the unrealistic ideals of our culture.
How Teens Can Heal From Body-Shaming
The good news is that your teen can heal from body-shaming. Finding treatment for depression, eating disorders and self-esteem issues can help restore them mentally and physically. There are therapeutic protocols and programs to help them take their life back. They can learn to accept themselves exactly as they are and learn not to compare themselves to unrealistic ideals.
If you are a witness to body-shaming in-person or online, say something. If on a social media platform, report it as “inappropriate content.” You can help make a difference in your child’s or other people’s lives, by raising awareness of what body shaming is and how harmful it can be.
There is always hope. Your teen can overcome this and it’s time they know it.
Body shaming is devastating but you can find healing for your child. Learn more by contacting Embark Behavioral Health for support today.