A follow-up to the discussion on how others make ME feel when they comment on MY body. Turns out others have strong feelings about unwarranted body critiques as well.
As a follow-up to the post I published earlier this week, An Open Letter To People Who Comment On My Body (please go read that first if you haven’t already!), I wanted to continue the discussion on body shaming and body commenting in general.
Obviously, you all know I have my own thoughts and feelings on people making remarks about my own body, but I was curious to see if other people felt similarly or differently from me. I reached out to my own community, friends, family members, acquaintances online, and gathered a number of responses based on the following questions:
How do you respond when someone comments on your body without being asked to? Whether it’s positive or negative feedback, how does it make you feel?
Today, I am sharing those responses with you. Some people have chosen to remain anonymous (which I 100% will honor) while others have chosen to attribute their name (and blog in some cases) to their response. There are men and women within this group. People of all ages, all ethnicities, all sizes, and all body types. I hope you’ll find these perspectives as interesting as I did reading thru them. And maybe, just maybe, some of you out there will thing twice before you comment on someone else’s body in the future.
As someone who is naturally slender but lost additional weight due to celiac disease, I have received (and still receive) my share of body comments. I particularly remember one fellow college student saying, “I wish I had celiac disease so I could be skinny like you!” Whenever people comment on my appearance – positive or negative – I can’t help but feel extra self-conscious and a little defensive. I’ve gotten better at simply saying, “Thank you” when I’m complimented, but comments like the example above are harder to deal with. I try to respond by educating others if needed (for instance, explaining that not everyone with celiac disease is skinny and that celiac disease affects way more than just my appearance). When in doubt, change the subject and move on with your life! | Casey
I’m petite, so I get a lot of “you’re so tiny!” And “I’ll bet you can eat whatever you want!” I’m actually a recovered anorexic, so this makes me extremely uncomfortable. Or I get the “I wish I looked like you.” If I’m in a good mood, I’ll Half-smile and change the subject, eg, deflect like this is a little kid being bad. If I’m in a bad mood, I’ll start talking in great detail about my fitness routine (running, CrossFit) and eating habits (no animal fats and minimal artificial sugar). That usually gets the subject changed. | Christine
Makes me feel uncomfortable. Always being the girl who’s “too skinny” or looks “anorexic” has made me feel worried about the muscle I’m gaining as a rower. Even though I am more physically fit now, I feel like I have to look the way I always have instead of striving to be the best athlete I can be. I also feel scared about being heavy weight instead of light weight, feels like that’s somehow not me. | Willow
Comments on one’s body can be used as a very powerful motivator to either get healthy or continue living a healthy lifestyle that will potentially inspire others. Obviously those who are a bit more sensitive will take all comments directed towards their body and appearance far more personally but after careful consideration one can use such comments as fuel to ignite their desire to either get healthier or continue living their healthier lifestyle, as I said. While I have never struggled with being overweight… I have struggled with the opposite spectrum… And I have had a multitude of people disclosed to me that they thought I look “disgusting” and “sick” one of which was my mother. While initially I took it very personally and I remember crying profusely… I now look in the mirror and see my healthy self and silently thank my mother and all those who told me I looked disgusting back in the day! | Gigi
Since I’ve lost so much weight, I get a lot of comments on how I look. Some are pleasant, and I just say something like thank you, I’ve been working hard. Some people comments seem unnecessary and not positive, so I tend to give them the cold shoulder. It makes me uncomfortable when people say things like”I’m glad you lost weight, you really needed to.” Obviously I needed to, but I realized it myself, I don’t need you confirming it after the fact. | Drew
Comments about my body have always made me uncomfortable, even when it is meant complimentary. Sometimes people don’t realize the things they are pointing out to you (whether good or bad) are your biggest insecurity. For me I have had people point out how broad my shoulders are or how my large my calves make me a “beast” but those comments make me feel unfeminine. | Sarah
My older and wiser self would now respond in an entirely different way than back in the day. I think it’s important not to agree with the said opinion and turn it on the person. Eg: So, now that you have given me your unsolicited opinion/advice, I presume that I have the go ahead to return the favor? In addition, I would add, thank you so much, but surely you realize that since this is MY body that y are speaking of, you must know that I am well aware of every inch of it as I’m sure you are of yours. Then I might tell them to fuck off. | Julie
When I was younger , I had just random people comment on my body and give me “ advice” on how to lose weight. I wish I had the courage to shut it down before. I know better now. If I didn’t ask you, don’t comment. | Jasmik
I wish we weren’t ever socially constructed to value one’s outward appearance. Nothing good comes from it, in my opinion. Value what’s on the inside and so many disorders would never exist.
But, since it does exist, I have to say that I cringe anytime anyone mentions anything about my appearance. I am very thin and am self-conscious as is. Whether saying I look ok or too thin, it makes me fixate on my body for way too long of a time, leading to more and more disabled thoughts and actions. If they praise me for how good I look, it makes me want to work harder to look even better! For me, it becomes an unhealthy addiction to always “be better”.
If they criticize me, then I become more self-conscious and fixate on every aspect of diet and exercise. That isn’t healthy either. For me, it’s a downward spiral either way.
Even worse, though, is when people talk about it behind your back. That’s a big no-no.
When people look at others and make comments, they are simply comparing themselves. That takes away from their happiness as well. Our focus needs to shift. | Paige
I guess I’m in the minority, but when someone tells me I look great I appreciate it. I work hard, but I’m not skinny and I never will be. When things are good I’m fit, and when things are bad sometimes I carry a few extra pounds in my stomach, and I hate that so much. So being told I look great or I look strong makes me feel good. | Kaitlyn
I always act weird. Usually everyone is nice and complimentary which is still odd. I’ve gotten your too thin from running and it’s not healthy. My thought is that you don’t know what is going on or even what I’m doing. It’s hard to judge a situation based on one brief glimpse. I understand everyone’s situations are different, but this is my experience. | Jim
People tell me I look great “for my age,” but they may add, awkwardly, “well, for any age.” Or, “I hope I can look like you when I’m 64.” I’m often not sure how to take these comments, but I know they are never meant to be malicious or judgmental. So much of how one looks is about how one feels inside. A certain inner beauty can radiate outward, and no matter what their body looks like, the person glows and is beautiful. | Kate
Being negative I would laugh it off and call them crazy because I look great, if it was positive I would say thank you for noticing and probably brighten my day a little, either way I’m lucky it took my entire life but I’m very comfortable in my body for the most part at this point. | Sean
I try very hard to give compliments that are not about appearance. After struggling with an ED for a long time, I am now in a place where I recognize that I am so much more than my body, and even positive compliments seem like just another way of saying “society expects you to fulfill this appearance, and you are adhering to it so therefore you are a worthy individual”. If you are going to comment on my body, I would much more appreciate “wow, look how fast you ran that mile!” or “wow, you must have spent a lot of time on those cool designs you did on your toenails”. If I was genuinely working towards a body goal (which I try not to), then I’d rather my work be recognized rather than the results, if that makes sense. | Jenna
Of course you feel good when you get positive feedback and defensive when you hear something that says you don’t fit a certain standard. You will have to learn not to let negative comments run your life. Feeling good in your own skin takes a lot of time and self-love. | Sheila
I feel uncomfortable when people say things like, “you’re so tiny!” I’m only 5’0” and small-statured but definitely not skinny. I don’t really know what to say back, especially when I’m feeling fluffy. It also makes me self-conscious.
I do appreciate when people say I look good or they like my hair, clothes, nails. One coworker told me that I was glowing one day. (Not pregnant) but that made me feel confident. | Niki
I try to keep a healthy perspective on the importance of my physical appearance in the grand scheme of my work and personal life. When someone comments on my physical appearance, whether positive or negative, I tend to respond as if it is an afterthought to me, because even if I put effort into getting ready, I stop thinking about it when I leave the house, and it is more for me than anyone else.
There are the occasional comments on my physical appearance that acknowledge the effort I put in “wow your winged eyeliner is so symmetrical” (don’t think anyone has ever said that to me but a girl can dream) “oh I like your braid how do you do that style?”, and to those I will enthusiastically engage because it is more about what I did than how I look. | Emily
For me, it totally depends on the context of the remark.
If I’m in the gym working out and it’s a positive comment, I usually smile bashfully and thank the person. If I’m in the gym and it’s negative, I’d probably give a look and go back to what I’m doing (and then beat myself up later for not calling them out on their rude behavior). However, a negative remark in the gym has never happened because I think most people know that everyone is there working to improve themselves.
If it’s out in public and a stranger and a positive comment, again I’m bashful but appreciative. One time when I was walking through the airport with my 3-month-old daughter (my first), a guy said, “Daaaamn, you look so fine.” I didn’t mind that comment at all. I laughed and asked if he was talking to me and when he said yes I thanked him.
Now, when it’s someone I know that comments on my body, I’m a bit more prickly. My mom has commented on me becoming “beefy” before. There was also one time that my husband told me I looked “fatter” about six months after our second daughter was born (I’ll link to that blog post for you…) I try to remind myself that these comments are not coming from a malicious place (most of the time) and that a lot of folks have poor word choice. That doesn’t excuse hurtful words and I do address those times when it happens. But I do understand that word vomit is a thing. | Andrea
How do YOU feel when others comment on your body?
Can you relate to any of these responses?
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