Want to know something I’m completely done with? People who feel the need to one-up each other about how much they don’t like their bodies. Here’s an example. The other day, I overheard a conversation in which three women with thin, socially-acceptable bodies took turns trying to convince each other that no, their body was the worst. One woman would say something negative about her belly, and the others would say, “I wish I looked like you!” and then name parts they hated on their own bodies. I’m sure you’ve overheard or been a part of conversations just like this.
Are you familiar with the term “social currency”? It’s the idea of sharing things socially in order to bond or get people to like us. Here’s part of the definition from Wikipedia: “Social currency […] is about increasing one’s sense of community, granting access to information and knowledge, helping to form one’s identity, and providing status and recognition.” Sounds okay, right? Well, consider that disparaging our bodies is a major way that we spend our social currency. Talking about how much you hate your body is a way of helping to form your identity, a way of increasing your sense of community, a way of gaining status and recognition. How sad it that? And yet so many of us do it, so much of the time.
Engaging in negative body talk with others is so pervasive – so accepted – that we actually look askance at people who don’t do it. Read any article online about a fat person who likes themselves, who isn’t actively (and constantly) trying to change the shape of their body, and the comments will be full of infuriated folks ready to put that person in their place, reminding that person that they aren’t allowed to like their body until it is the size and shape it “should” be.
Here’s what you can do to help put an end to this ridiculousness. First, you can personally stop talking negatively about your body to others. You can refuse to play the one-up game. If you don’t have the spoons to talk to people about how unnecessary and damaging this kind of talk is, just walk away. I didn’t engage in the conversation I overheard. I wanted to, but I was too tired and too frustrated, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to say what I needed to without getting angry. So instead, I wrote this note to y’all.
If you’re with me, spread the word. If you need to one-up someone, one-up them about the good things you’ve done today, the people you’ve helped, the love you’ve spread. That’s social currency we can all get rich from.