Last month, I had my first experience of body shaming. As someone who exercises frequently and eats reasonably well, I thought I was somewhat exempt from people making me feel ashamed of my appearance (how naive and ignorant, I know). As a flurry of girls looked me up and down and seemed to judge me by eating habits, I realised that wasn't the case.
I won't go into detail about where I was or the situation I found myself in, as I met a bunch of amazing people that night. But what I will say is that due to the event, I was one of the slimmest people there - and I was being sized up because of it (pun not intended). As I joked about how excited I was about all the food we were yet to eat, a woman brushed her eyes over my body and I felt immediate shame and intimidation. Others instead chose to make passive comments about commonplace 'skinny girls who look like everyone else,' which worked again to make me feel uncomfortable about my appearance (I felt the need to say 'not saying I'm skinny' then, which seems somewhat irrelevant to the point I'm trying to make).
It made me realise what so many women have to go through on a regular basis because their shapes don't match up with society's standards. But considering many of the women I was with that evening spoke openly about the bullying and name-calling they faced on a regular basis, it seemed even more shocking they'd anyone else feel a similar way.
I don't have to defend myself, but I guess I look after my body in a healthy way. I generally eat what I want within reason but I exercise almost every day, and I know my limits. I want to look after my body so I can live a long life and staying fit makes me feel so much more able. We have such incredible bodies that are capable of amazing things, so why wouldn't I make the most of its capabilities?
Having said that, I'm certainly not judging anyone else for their life choices or their bodies. We're in control of how we choose to treat them and if you don't want to go to the gym five times a week, that's your call.
The funny thing was that these women were talking about how they had been able to let go of any body woes they previously had and were now completely content with how they looked like - but if that was the case, why did they feel the need to judge anyone else?
It goes without saying that women still face some impossible body ideals to live up to. If you've seen Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner on the runway this season, you'll know exactly what I mean. Even Kim Kardashian or Kylie Jenner's impossible body shapes are completely unattainable, unless you turn to plastic surgery to help you along - which is on the same level as not eating, if you ask me. So if I'm not incredibly curvy or stick thin, where does that leave me?
There are so many body types knocking around that there shouldn't just be a couple we see regularly. There are more and more women like Lena Dunham who embrace a 'normal' body (whatever that is), but they're not portrayed as glamorous or celebrated in the same way as these other women by the media. Perhaps they don't want to be.
I think we have a long way to go when it comes to body norms. I had to write about my experience because it just showed to me that nobody is exempt from feelings of shame or perhaps jealousy when it comes to bodies today and that makes me sad. After all, there's so much more to life than what we look like.