Body Comments – How “You’ve lost weight” can be just as bad as “Does this make my ass look big?”

Posted on October 5, 2010


We all know that asking “Do these jeans make my ass look big?” is a conversational no-no.  It’s a no-brainer. It’s just asking for trouble. However, many of us may not realize that many things we say to each other, intending them to be compliments or just looking to relate, can hurt the self esteem of those around us.
I often hear some negative self-talk in my beginning burlesque classes. When people first come to the classes, they are often feeling insecure, wondering if they should have signed up for a class that is all about being sexy when they don’t necessarily feel sexy. Different parts of the Bump and Grind warmup emphasize different body parts, and women will often bring up their insecurities when asked to do moves that emphasize body parts that they don’t like on their own bodies. I am ready with responses that help smooth the insecurities and get the women to focus on their own enthusiasm and sexiness rather than individual body parts. I have developed these responses to help smooth the insecurities of the individuals who are coming out with negative self-talk as well as the women in the room who are hearing it, because negative talk can spread insecurity like wildfire. If a woman says something negative about her big ass or small boobs or whatever, every woman in the room who feels insecure about that body part suddenly feels ugly.
The problem is, the woman is often saying the negative comment in an attempt to get reassurance or to relate to the other women, not even thinking that it might hurt the other women in the room. She might not even realize how often she does this. Negative talk makes everyone feel worse about their bodies, even women who you may think have “perfect” bodies. We all have body issues, so I think it is worth learning how to talk about our bodies in ways that won’t trigger problems in others.
I came across a few great articles about this recently. This one and this one are actually advice about how to talk to tween/teen daughters to avoid negatively affecting her self-esteem, but I think the advice is equally applicable for talking to any woman.
Sometimes even a compliment can backfire. This article talks about how “You’ve lost weight” is often not a positive remark, and this article talks about how any comment on someone’s body can be negative and what to do in the face of unwanted body commentary.
Please feel free to comment with your thoughts on this. How do comments on your weight, whether intended as compliments or not, make you feel?  How does it make you feel when other people criticize their own bodies? How do you handle this?

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