No more shaming

Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images

Today is my 38th birthday.  Most people would agree that after you turn 21, birthdays are not significant and downplay the day.  On a day dedicated to celebrating another year of life, it is easy to take jabs at yourself about what you have failed to do by this time of your life; listing things you have not accomplished by this birthday, i.e. shaming yourself.

It is easy to shame yourself by comparing your life to another person’s life achievements.  This year, a 24-year old rookie won the Indianapolis 500.  Julia Roberts was in Pretty Woman at the age of 23.  By age 31, Michael Phelps had won 22 Olympic gold medals.  It is ridiculous to make these comparisons but we still do them and it makes us feel small, defeated and unimportant.

This weekend, my 15-year old niece taught me a new concept – body shaming.  My mom made comments about her clothes that no longer fit.  My niece told my mom, “no body shaming”.  Wow!  That statement was powerful and self-explanatory.  Then I thought of all the times in my life that I could have and should have said that to myself and to other people who criticize their weight or presumed body flaws.

The next day, I came upon information about a proposed bill titled “2016 Truth in Advertising Act”. The bill directs the Federal Trade Commission to report to Congress with their assessment of images that have been altered to materially change the appearance and physical characteristics of the faces and bodies of the individual in the image.  One of the bill supporters is online retailer ModCloth, who pledged in 2014 they would not materially photoshop their images.  There is also the Dove Self-Esteem Project that addresses body confidence issues in women and self-identifies as “the largest provider of self-esteem education in the world”. 

I spent this past year body shaming myself because of my weight.  For the past 12+months, my engagement ring was too tight to wear.  I mentally told myself that I should be able to lose weight and should not resize my ring.  Yesterday, I picked up my newly sized ring and I love wearing it.  I made the decision to resize my ring before I learned about body shaming, but it was the first thing that came to my mind when I heard the phrase "no body shaming".  If I catch you doing it - I am going to call you out (in the nicest way possible).

Every day, including your birthday, is an opportunity to stop the shame game.  Encourage other people to stop shaming themselves – “no body shaming”, “no career shaming”, “no mom shaming”.  And don't forget about your children - shaming starts early in life and kids will shame themselves unless they are taught to stop.  There are strong efforts happening nationwide to address self-esteem and confidence, but the biggest change will happen when each of us make each other accountable to stop the shame.