Lifestyle

How to Respond to Online Body Shamers

I think most people can relate to feeling pressured to meet some kind of societal standard of beauty. Social media, with its positive aspects, often magnifies that drive to compare our lives (and bodies) to other people. And unfortunately, it’s sometimes fueled by the way the Internet enables strangers to throw stones from behind a keyboard.

I run public accounts on several social media platforms, sharing about food, fitness and my own life. I have insecurities like anyone and when I started blogging, I questioned whether or not I wanted to leave myself open to Internet trolls by sharing my personal fitness journey. For the most part, I’ve had a pretty positive, hater-free experience. Until one day last year.

I was a couple years into my bodybuilding journey and just starting to incorporate personal progress pictures into my Instagram feed. For months, I’d specifically focused on building upper body definition and slowly but steadily noticed improvements in my arms and shoulders. So I decided to post a transformation picture. A few hours later, a nasty comment appeared.

The infamous picture showing my arm progress from Feb. 2016 and Feb. 2017.

The commenter told me how “muscles on women look gross” and that I should stop before I “ruined my body” and started “looking like a man”. I remember feeling stunned. Partly because I’d thought looked good and partly because someone had intentionally gone out of their way to make me feel ugly. For a moment, a lifetime of insecurities came flooding back. I even considered deleting the picture.

Then a realization hit me. I didn’t agree with a word they’d written. I looked at the picture again. It was solid progress that aligned with my goals. I worked hard for those arms and was pleased with them. And it suddenly struck me that I didn’t have to care if they liked my arms or not.

And then you know what I did? Deleted the comment, blocked their negative butt from my account and headed to the gym.

It honestly took a while to recognize my fairly big moment of personal growth. At a different point in time, that comment might have devastated me. But two things had somehow clicked in my mind at that moment: 1) that no matter what I looked like, someone wouldn’t like my appearance and 2) that it wasn’t my job to please them in the first place.

The big problem with trying to please the world with your appearance is that it’s impossible; a person who fits one particular standard beauty simultaneously won’t fit several others. That notion used to depress me. Like no matter what I did, someone wasn’t going to like the way I looked and I was a failure somehow when that happened.

But the reason I felt that way was because I’d been looking at it wrong; as if it was somehow my job to please other people’s perception of beauty. But it wasn’t. And if it wasn’t my job, it also didn’t have to be my concern when someone left a nasty comment about my arms. Like, who cares?

Imagine someone trying to make you feel bad for choosing a chocolate fudge cake with sprinkles for your birthday. Seriously. If they tried to argue with you that your favorite kind of cake was the “wrong kind” of cake and you needed to change everything around their favorite cake. You’d probably tell them they were nuts (especially since they weren’t even invited to your party in the first place) then go on with everything as planned without a second thought.

Heck, you might even fill a bathtub with chocolate fudge cake, pour a bucket of sprinkles over your head and send them a video of yourself rolling around in it. Because that’s how much you’d care if someone didn’t like your birthday goals or favorite kind of cake.

As silly as that sounds, that’s what we’re doing when we allow others to dictate our appearance. You wouldn’t let some crazy person dictate your birthday or let it ruin your party, right? Because that would be ridiculous. So why would you let someone do it with your body or let it ruin your self-esteem?

Your body was not created for earning other people’s approval. It’s not your job. But do you know what is? Learning how to peaceably live with and take care of yourself. If you’re caring for your body so you can lead a long, happy, healthy life, who cares if someone doesn’t like your arms, your hair or your nose? You definitely shouldn’t. Because it’s not your job.

There’s no magical cure for personal insecurities or comparison. That’s a part of life we have to learn to navigate. But when you start learning to accept that people-pleasing isn’t your responsibility, it bothers you less when you don’t fit someone else’s “ideal beauty”. Your body isn’t for them.

People will criticize your appearance for any crazy reason. You can try to please them or start learning to recognize them for what they are: ridiculous and ignorable. Since then, I’ve received a few similar comments about my body becoming “too muscular”. I just thank them for noticing my gains while I pump a dumbbell in one hand and hold my protein shake in the other. Cause this ain’t their cake or their party. And ladies… If anyone tries to tell you women shouldn’t have muscles, just tell them to kiss your big, beefy, beautiful biceps.


All writing copyright © 2018 Rachel Elise Weems Woods

33 thoughts on “How to Respond to Online Body Shamers”

  1. What a great post! You handle the negativity so well, and you look great! Great advice for anyone that is put into a similar situation such as yours in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! And you are so right to move on and react the way you did. Nasty comments are enough to put people off. You handled it well AND look amazing

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s crazy how critical some people are! You are so right, you can’t please the whole world, and that shouldn’t be our goal. Keep going to the gym girl, and don’t let the negativity get you down! P.S. I’m one of those with “man arms” and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It helps me with work (ranching), with being a mom and carrying two toddlers all the time, and it makes me feel as though I can handle whatever needs to be done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! Growing into a stronger version of yourself as a woman also means a more independent one! I used to struggle to get heavy groceries into my car at the store or lift a heavy suitcase into an overhead compartment when I was flying. No more!

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  4. I love your positive and resilient attitude, Reese! I would also tell those attackers that they should stop being so negative, superficial, and condescending, because I believe they are not only criticizing who you are, but also your Creator as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, part of me wanted to give him a piece of my mind! But I find it’s rarely a constructive exchange with someone who only commented for the sake of stirring up trouble. They usually are looking for attention, so I choose not to give it to them!

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  5. I think you responded perfectly! I always remind myself that these comments are a mirror to how they are struggling with themselves, it is better to just delete and move on.

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    1. Opinions are like bellybuttons: everyone has one, but that doesn’t mean I want/need to see yours, haha. Some people just need to learn how to keep it to themselves!

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    1. I think that’s very true with anything related to health or fitness. If we see someone striving towards their goals, it can make up feel insecure on some level about reaching out own goals (and some people’s reaction is to lash out).

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  6. I looove this post! I love that it just clicked for you that you don’t have to care about that dumb internet troll. That is amazing and you’re amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Once I was called fat and very casually as if I would fall for that comment. They thought it would provoke a message from me but I ignored. They define the meaning of Ugly to me. Any person who cant accept the difference is shallow in my opinion. What you want to do with your body or how you feel about your body is completely up to and your control. It shouldn’t be altered by anyone’s opinion on something. All power to you xoxo

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