Fat-Shaming sucks. Addiction-Shaming sucks. Bald-Shaming sucks. Shaming-Shaming sucks. There’s no way around that. It’s just plain true. There is too much shaming going on all around.
My question is: As good as it is to call the world out on their shaming behaviors, would we maybe be better off working on ourselves and, if we are health care professionals, working with our patients, to focus on the ways they shame themselves? AND OTHERS? At least simultaneously to trying to put an end to “Other-Shaming.”
The purpose of this post is twofold:
1. To have each reader assess themselves in regard to their own shaming-ness, and
2. To suggest we help individuals stop shaming themselves while we simultaneously encourage the masses to stop.
There are Tweets and Posts galore inviting us, inciting us, and urging us to help stop the Fat-Shaming done by society! I agree these are worthwhile efforts and must be done.
What I don’t see very often on Social Media are statements encouraging people to get help to stop shaming, bullying, and beating up on themselves. We want an end to shaming, an end to bullying and an end to domestic violence. Check it out! All of that occurs within many an individual’s head!
Here are some recent posts from social media, along with my posted responses:
My response: “Yes, please! Also work to stop #SelfShaming and #SelfBias. Sign up for therapy in your
“Why We Need to Ban the F Word: Fat-Shaming”
My response: “If you believe people deserve to be treated well (and I do), please start by treating yourself well
in your thoughts, words and actions.”
My response: “I hate that people dismiss those with obesity. I hate even more how those with obesity often
dismiss themselves in so many ways.”
“I believe that the morbidly #obese population is stigmatized, abused, neglected and mistreated by most facets of
My response: “I hate it, but those suffering from morbid #obesity also abuse, neglect, and mistreat themselves
through negative self-talk, self abuse.”
“Don't blame the person, rather treat the disease.”
My response: “Don't blame patient for factors related to obesity they can't influence. Hold them accountable for
those they can.”
Please be clear about the message I am sending. I do hate the very real fact that society shames people who suffer from obesity. I hate that many people, including doctors and other health care providers, solely blame individuals for being obese. It’s horrible that a person is dismissed because they carry extra weight. No doubt.
I know from both my personal and professional work, as well as from life experience, that I can influence my own behavior a lot more quickly than I can influence the masses.
Typically, a person has an emotional connection to an issue if they are working to right some wrong related to that issue. Not all, but many people fighting to end societal Fat-Shaming, have “some skin in the game,” as they say. I am one of those people. Much of my work is done in a bariatric center where we aim to help those suffering from obesity, both physically and emotionally. Many health care providers, people who are personally struggling with their weight, along with family members and friends, all work together to try to end fat-shaming. Keep on keeping on with those efforts because they are worthwhile!
In the meantime, are you, regardless of your size, weight, color, or religion, looking within yourself in an attempt to “clean your own side of the street?” Do you have biases about other groups of people being stigmatized? And more importantly, are you aware of, and working on, the ways you stigmatize, dismiss and shame yourself?
Calling a person who suffers from obesity an ugly name, overlooking them for a job, dismissing their opinion or making a critical comment to or about them is wrong. It is equally despicable that people say things like, “I wouldn’t date a bald man,” or “He wouldn’t be right for the job. He’s bald.” My husband is bald and he struggles emotionally because of it. Have you (to include anyone suffering from obesity, alcoholism, drug addiction or any other ridiculed member of society) made ugly comments about bald people?
It is disturbing that subjectively unattractive people are considered less intelligent, are helped less frequently by the public if they have a flat tire, and are hired secondarily to “beautiful” people. Have you (to include anyone suffering from obesity, alcoholism, drug addiction or any other ridiculed member of society) made ugly comments about unattractive people?
How dismissive it must be to be a person who is part of an ethnic minority to have people call you a hateful name, to overlook you for a job you are very qualified for, or assume negative things about you. Have you (to include anyone suffering from obesity, alcoholism, drug addiction or any other ridiculed member of society) made disparaging comments to or about minorities?
Religions are always good fodder for shaming, dismissing and bashing. Have you partaken?
“You don’t look like one of them,” said my doctor to me when I shared that I am a recovering alcoholic and addict. One of them.
A patient in a therapy group of people suffering from obesity said, “I cannot, for the life of me, understand why an alcoholic doesn’t just stay away from the bar.” To which I responded, “What is it like for you when someone asks why you can’t just push away from the table?”
Wrong is wrong and it is wrong when any of us engage in dismissive or shaming conversation or behavior. Check yourself. You’re human and that means you have your own prejudices. You’ve likely engaged in your own dismissive comments about groups other than the one(s) you’re most closely aligned with. Relax, I’m not shaming you! I’m asking you to look at your own side of the street. Does it need sweeping? We all need to keep a broom nearby because we are all guilty of judging others at times.
In my work, it is a priority to help people stop shaming themselves. Negative self-talk is a powerful way in which we shame ourselves. Yes, you do it, too! “I’m such an idiot!” “How could I have done such a stupid thing?” “What is wrong with me?” “I don’t know why I even bother. I never follow through anyway.” The list of examples illustrating negative self-talk, or stinkin’ thinkin’ is endless. Every single negative statement you make about yourself is dismissing the value of the person you are.
Ironically, the shaming statements people make about themselves are representative of their own internal shame. The negative self-talk says, “There’s something wrong with me.” “I don’t feel ok about myself.”
Isn’t it odd that we run around making a fuss about stopping the masses from shaming people when we spend some much time shaming ourselves? I’m thinking we would all be better off if we “swept our own side of the street” first. When we treat ourselves more tolerantly and we are accepting of others who we tend to dismiss, then it’ll make more sense to focus on what the masses are doing wrong.