5 Ways to Deal With Online Bullying
Tips on fighting back against body-shamers from a successful author and entrepreneur.
Social media has revolutionized the world. It has given a voice to the voiceless, a platform to the underrepresented and a community to the isolated. But there is a flipside to this magical world, and a major feature of it is body shaming. The all-inclusive and accessible nature of social media is its biggest draw, but in some instances, it is also its most gaping flaw. It allows users who usually hide beneath the cloak of anonymity the opportunity to persecute, harass, ridicule and bully people round the clock with body-shaming comments on their every post and update.
As someone who lives in the spotlight, I’ve had firsthand experience with just how intrusive and upsetting online bullying can be. In the eyes of some, you’ll always be too fat or too thin, or too tall or too short. Or they will criticize your skin color, the clothes you wear, your hairstyle, your make-up, the way you talk and the opinions you hold. In short, anything to undermine you and make you question yourself, which in turn can lead to severe repercussions, such as depression and eating disorders.
A few years ago, after the publication of my first novel, I experienced how scary it can be when a fan turns into a real-life stalker who not only writes about you, but obsessively follows you to public events. It was a terrible ordeal, but I learned from it, and it made me stronger.
For me, the real power of social media is about sharing a positive vibe and helping others. In keeping with that spirit, I’m happy to share some steps you can take to deal with body shaming and send the trolls back into their caves.
Know Your Enemy
Body-shaming isn’t always as blatant as someone calling you "fat" or "ugly.” It can be incredibly subtle, and it could be from a so-called friend, but I guarantee it will still get under your skin in a million and one different ways. For example, someone might say something along the lines of, “You’ll never get a boyfriend looking like that,” or, “Should you be eating that?” Such comments may not be intended to hurt, but trust me, they have one purpose and one purpose only: to make you feel bad about yourself. I’ve got zero-tolerance for body shaming and am of the school of thought that if someone can’t say something nice, they shouldn’t say anything at all. Curating your social media could be an excellent place to start. Cut out the people, even if they are close friends, who directly or indirectly support the poisonous culture of body shaming.
Don’t Feed the Trolls
No one likes being ignored, and often the best way to deal with body-shamers is to pretend they don’t exist. In other words, don’t feed the trolls. Bullies only bully to garner a response. It validates their deep-rooted negativity and proves that they have upset you in some shape or form. If you opt to treat them as something so inconsequential that they do not even deserve a reply, chances are they'll soon move on to their next target.
Have a Battle Plan
If ignoring body-shamers doesn’t work, it’s time to take action. In such scenarios, don’t lose your temper and act impulsively. It’s what they want. Take a cool, calculated and measured approach. Rehearse exactly what you want to say and why you want to say it. Never fight fire with fire or stoop to their level. It may be tempting to lash out when someone is being mean to you, but you’ll feel a lot better about yourself in the long run if you take the high road and walk it. Remember, your opinion of yourself shouldn’t be dependent on the views of others.
Be Proactive and Positive
Body shaming only works if those doing the shaming think you have negative hang-ups or are insecure about your body. Prove that you don’t. If someone criticizes your weight, then why not post another picture of yourself with the caption, "Happy in my own skin" or, ‘Living by my own rules"? It’s your body, so own it! Don’t let the trolls dictate the terms of your happiness.
Learn to Love Yourself
Finally, and most importantly, learn to love every aspect of yourself, flaws and all, if you’re to deal with the ugly face of body-shaming successfully. Every one of us is beautiful, and no one has the right to tell us otherwise. When someone body shames you, it says a lot more about them than it does about you. They are the ones with real hang-ups and insecurities, and they’re just trying to compensate by making you feel the same way. Don’t let them!
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