I love my body and I’m confident in my own appearance, as I have been for many years, but that doesn’t mean my self-confidence hasn’t faltered every now and again. I’ve always been naturally very thin, or “petite” as I prefer to say. I have a preference in how I describe my size because I think thin can be a word of razor blades depending on who says it and who hears it. We all know that skinny has been a fashion trend for decades, and those who don’t fit that ideal can face criticism from others which leads to criticism of one’s own body. Being of below average size and weight, it so happens that most people around me are bigger than I am. That’s not to say they’re unhealthy or “big” or “fat”, I’m just very small. Popular YouTube star Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella) has addressed this issue before. She mentioned it recently in this video, and this blog post in 2011. Sugg discussed a similar situation to my own and something many others have experienced, ““Are you anorexic”, “you need to put some weight on”, “You are a bag of bones”, “why are you so boney”, “why are you so skinny”, “get some meat on your bones”, “are you okay?”.
Through my teenage years I observed sensitivity surrounding body image, which was often my peers describing how they wished to be smaller or lose weight, or become more toned. Don’t get me wrong, what an individual wants to change about their own body is their business, unless it puts them at risk. But I’ve found myself on multiple occasions, in the middle of a group conversation where people compliment each other but critique their own size or physical appearance. I specifically remember the first time this occurred, I was about 13, and a group of my friends were expressing their dissatisfaction for their pubescent bodies. I felt the need to diminish these critiques, my friends were beautiful in my eyes, and I said to one “you’re fine, there’s nothing wrong with you” to which she responded “yeah well you’ve got nothing to worry about, you’re like anorexic” followed by a short huff. Conversations like these taught me to shut my mouth. My feelings and thoughts were invalid. I couldn’t reassure my friends of their beauty because my appearance was simply rubbing it in their face. But I could never figure out what that comment meant, I was aware that anorexia was a serious illness. Was she jealous of my size? Did she want to be anorexic? I didn’t. And I wasn’t. But a label had been placed on me by a close friend, and it made me incredibly uncomfortable.
Five years later and I’ve experienced many similar situations. Every comment I’ve received has been from someone I’m close to, saying things like “eat up, you’ve got to get some meat on those bones”, “she’s skinny as a rake”, “how do you survive? You must be like 10kg” or “you must eat like a sparrow”.
Most of these comments are not malicious, my loved ones are just looking out for me, noticing my below average size and wanting to help me be “normal”. But it can make one feel ashamed of their own appearance because it can’t be changed. This is skinny shaming.
I know I’m not exposed to criticism from mainstream media like “bigger” women and men are, but there’s a tendency in society to overlook how comments like these can be insulting or uncomfortable. The amount of times people have commented on how I look unhealthy or “anorexic” alone proves that thinner people also face criticism and hate from others. To others in my shoes, let your friends and family know that their comments make you uncomfortable, and it’s not fair on you to have to laugh it off. Your feelings are valid. If you’ve read comments you’ve made to others in this article, make the decision to actively stop yourself in the future. We can’t hope for a body positive society if it’s not inclusive.