I have lived in a world where unwelcome comments have shaped, formed and hammered me into some kind of distorted version of myself that often feels like the true I that I am is looking down a tunnel, trapped and screaming at who I have become outside. Sometimes I remember who I really am and try and squeeze myself back.
Anyway I learned about a term called thin-shaming yesterday. A friend of mine received critical and unwelcome comments from family members and I realised that it’s something I have had over the years too. I thought I had eating disorders in my teens because I kept being told I was too skinny etc. I thought I did because after a while if people keep telling you have something or are something you can end up becoming that. Except I didn’t. Now I am older and have learned about nutrition and my ASD I realise that I had major food intolerances which were the reasons I found eating certain things very hard on my digestion (pain, bloating, discomfort and feeling completely out of sorts – my food aversions were actually very sensible given what I know now even if they irritated other people who perceived me as a ‘faddy eater’). I had UTIs, ear infections and eczema quite frequently as a child; nowadays someone medical would have picked up that dairy didn’t agree with me at that time (I ended up giving up cow dairy in my early twenties and used self learned protocols that helped me to reset my system).
Anyway, thin-shaming is interesting. People make comments that you are too thin and also make judgements on what you are or are not eating or about how you live. What is said seems to build up in a peer situation (so if one person says it others will join in which is pretty typical for human behaviour). Also what is said on the surface has deeper meaning underneath. The implication could be that the people saying these things suspect you have something wrong with you, perhaps a mental health issue e.g. disordered eating or that you must work very hard to maintain being the shape that you are which is somehow wrong too. What about the thought that the person who eats well and works out is in fact considerate about their health and wellbeing and also ENJOYS what they do and it is in fact not obsessive nor disordered? Also maybe they have learned to eat in a particular way because that is when they feel at their best. Also if the comments are meant to compliment the person, then maybe choosing something as simple as “You look glowing and healthy” would work. Maybe the commentating person is curious in which case something along the lines of “Hmm I hope you don’t mind but you are inspiring me. What works for you please? I would like to know so that I can make some different choices myself…”
But that fantasy aside, the only person you can change is yourself as I have been told so many, many times (unless you are a skilled practitioner of NLP/hypnosis which I am not). So are there are any tactics that can be used?
Here is a tactic I learned. When they, the party that makes the comments, say the stuff notice what sensory aspect you have it strongest. So is it hearing it or feeling it somewhere? Then you can play with it – so if it is an audio sensory hit then play with the volume dial or add a funny image to them (imagine them as wearing a silly hat for example). It is a technique I learned from some coaching with cognitive behavioural therapy which I had briefly some years back. I have found it useful with my clients although I cannot crack it with my own family who flood me with negative comments the whole time (apparently in their bid to improve me from the outside – may as well hit me with a brick on a regular basis because that is how the barrage feels). After living for 15 years away from my family it made life a lot easier to be my very own self but right now I am back living with them so I need to work on this tactic myself.