(TW: Fatphobia, ableism & I specifically mention gym statuses – so if you post them and you’re going to get upset with me disagreeing with them, I’m pre-warning you now.)
What does this have to do with mental health? Everything. Underlying or accompanying a lot of lack of feeling of self-worth is low self-esteem. It’s a vicious circle. We presume our low self-esteem is there because we suck and changing those things we don’t like about ourselves is the only way to move on.
Ever feel like you’re still not happy when you change those things? Like when you get more buff (presuming you can – that you’re able bodied) but you’re still miserable? Could it be there’s too much focus put on how you look rather than actually taking care of how you feel – your own sense of self?
I’m finally beginning to understand the things people say like ‘it wasn’t until I began to love myself that I lost weight because I was focusing on taking care of myself instead of crash dieting’. Although I’ll go on to say this is BS as the focus inevitably still comes back to weight and some of us can’t magic up self-love that quickly.
We’re taught to value ourselves by how we look, if we fit in and if we look like X aspirational person. As someone who dresses alternative, the alt scene is just as culpable for this – modelling clichés about skinniness or muscular types being more attractive – just like the mainstream.
What do we think this is doing to our mental health? Half of us will never looked like whichever airbrushed image we’re desperately aspiring to. Not only is it unrealistic, but it’s harmful. Perpetuating this bullshit that the beauty, health & gym industries shove down our throats is harmful. It often comes off as fat shaming and ableist.
For instance, it’s insensitive to post a picture of your workout/you at the gym when people viewing your feed may be too sick/disabled to make it to the gym. It’s backing up the idea that what you’re doing is virtuous and something to be congratulated, which therefore sends the message that not doing workouts or exercise should be shameful. Or that fat people should lose weight otherwise they’re bad in some way.
As well as being tactless, it comes off as fake body positivity. My guess is if most people were happy with their bodies, they wouldn’t need to share those posts. It’s to illicit a response (i.e. approval) from everyone else. People who have defended themselves by saying that they are keeping a track of their success and improvements in the gym – why haven’t you chosen ‘me only’ FB posts or kept it in a spreadsheet offline? Point is, to fat and/or disabled people who will never achieve those levels of fitness, it feels like those posts are designed to elevate yourself above us.
If you’re one of these people and you feel attacked right now, I urge you to have a think about why you do and the effects of it. I will obviously never tell anyone what to post on their social media accounts that is up to them. But I think a bit of self-awareness and reflection is no bad thing.
In terms of defending myself, I’ve unfollowed all social accounts that repeat offend. I do go the gym, yoga and this clubbing dance class. I go primarily because of my mental health, to make me feel better. Secondarily, I go to look after my physical health. However it’s my own personal journey I don’t want to share with others because of the reasons above – and because it’s a personal journey.
Finally I’ve been working really hard at looking outwards in the terms of why I hate my body. I watched an awesome webinar by The Body Is Not An Apology (which I have done so much reading on to help me) on radical self-love & fat acceptance. It talks about how we’ve been totally brain washed to hate ourselves so we buy products and surgery etc to come closer to this ideal. It shares the idea we can reject all of this by practising radical self-love. Which is a fuck you to a society that tells us we’re worth less if we’re fat, as well as a fuck you to capitalism.
In terms of radical self-love, I’m trying. It’s hard when you’ve had anxiety and depression for more than half of your life. It’s also hard when even your own feeds on social media are full of fat shaming shit like the above, or more obvious versions of it. I’m working on body and self-acceptance for now though.