Shoutout to those who like to leave nasty comments on the selfies of people just trying to embrace self-love, because this one’s for you!
“I’m all for body positivity and loving yourself, but don’t you think this is too far? With that little/that much body fat you can’t possibly be healthy and that puts you at a risk for [rattle off long laundry list of diseases here]… I’m just saying, self-love means being healthy, not accepting poor health!”
Actually, self-love doesn’t mean ‘health’ exclusively. In fact, the whole point of self-love is that it’s not conditional. When we place these conditions on it, we fall into traps – because if we deny ourselves love when we’re ill or unhealthy or going through trauma etc, it makes it near impossible for us to use self-love as a healing tool. And we know that compassion towards ourselves is invaluable. Furthermore, the assumption that one can fully read the health of an individual of another over the internet based on a photo is sketchy at best.
“Look, I’m just looking out for the person! You can’t just tell them to love themselves and everything will be ok. It’s not healthy to be like this!”
How do you know that they’re healthy or not? What assumptions are you basing this on? And just to reassure you, self-love isn’t a justification for poor health. In fact, it’s about nourishing your own individual needs (physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually…) and approaching everything you do from a place of compassion and acceptance, rather than self-loathing.
“Ok… but even so, you can clearly see they’re not healthy by the way that their [insert visual attribute] looks. You can just tell their diet is too high/too low in [list of nutrients]. If they’re not careful, within X years they’re going to [risk factors listed here]. Someone needs to tell them!”
Let’s clear up a couple of points:
- EVEN looking at a photo, a doctor cannot fully diagnose someone. They need blood work, mental history, stool samples, genetic history, lifestyle factors… none of which you can read based on a photo of someone on Instagram.
- Let’s just say that they’re not healthy… what are the potential impacts of your comment? Yeah, maybe you alerting them to their body might give them the “wake up call” that you think they need… but it could also send them in a downwards spiral if they’re already insecure or self-loathing. If you’re a concern troll and seek to make others feel bad, that’s probably the reaction that you want and in which case, I recommend you do some self-reflection to establish why you thrive on the misery of others. BUT, if you’re seeking to actually help them, this is a good time to stop and ask yourself whether you’re a part of the problem or the solution. IF they are in fact unhealthy, do you think that they’re acutely unaware of this?
“Yeah, ok… but if they’re unhealthy and they know it they should do the right thing and become healthy, not choose not to be.”
How do you know from a photo that someone is CHOOSING to be unhealthy? Let’s say they are unhealthy and their doctors have told them that… what if there are factors limiting their ability to become healthy (like medical insurance costs, genetic factors, environmental stresses, mental illness or even good old fashioned fear of change? What if they WANT to become healthy, but they just don’t know how? What if they’re ALREADY on the path to being healthy and you just can’t tell their progress/story from their photo?
“Ok, those people don’t count. They’re fine. That’s not what I’m talking about – I’m talking about the people who CHOOSE to stay [insert physical condition], have the capability to change that and do nothing on purpose?”
Those people exist, I’m sure. But even so, why is it the business of you – a stranger – to inform them that you disapprove of their choices… why does your opinion count so much about their life? Why do you feel that you need to ‘save’ them, why is that your responsibility?
“Because someone has to tell it like it is! We’re too PC nowadays… if they actively choose to stay the way they are then they’re just glorifying obesity/eating disorders!”
Sorry, but I call bogus on the whole glorification argument. Someone merely existing in their body and choosing to take a photo isn’t glorifying anything, unless they actively accompany that depiction of themselves with explicit messages of, “I AM THE IDEAL AND EVERYONE SHOULD ASPIRE TO HAVE MY BODY.”
The same as a fat person existing doesn’t glorify obesity, a thin person existing doesn’t glorify anorexia. Ask yourself, if you had a diabetic friend who had to limit their sugar intake, and they posted a photo of themselves holding a very sugary donut… would you call them out for glorifying diabetes?
“No, that’s silly. That’s not the same….”
Okay, now answer the same question but pretend that friend is overweight. Does your answer change?
“Well that’s a bit different because they’re knowingly doing it to themselves….”
Incorrect. Now, what if you have an overweight friend who skips lunch every day to try and lose weight. Is that fine?
“Yeah that’s probably fine.”
Now what if you have a friend with anorexia who does the same thing…. is that okay, too?
“Of course not. That’s not healthy.”
Could you argue that the behaviour in itself isn’t adviseable but your perspective of it changes when you assign your own moral lens to the individual partaking in it, based on whether or not they fit YOUR definition of healthy?
And as we’ve established, we can’t judge someone’s health from a picture alone. So with that in mind, can you start to see that your spectrum of health is far less rooted in actual medical outcomes and far more heavily driven by personal aesthetic preferences as guided by sexuality, the media and advertising?
“Yeah… but we still can’t just tell EVERYONE that they should have self-love because the fact is that some people legitimately CHOOSE to mistreat themselves, and that’s not sustainable or healthy!”
You’re right, that’s not a sustainable life choice. BUT, is the solution to hit them with more material to fuel their self-hatred? Should they sit around and hide themselves forever? Can we not look at them through a lens of compassion and see that if they’re actively choosing their own demise, there must be deeper issues under the surface that make them feel as though they deserve punishment and are unworthy of good things?
If someone is so committed to their own self-destruction, clearly self-hatred hasn’t gotten them very far. So what if instead, we invite them to self-love. What if instead, we tell them that they’re worthy and deserving and enough, and encourage them to view themselves with kindness, with the hope that their self-acceptance will flourish and guide them to make choices that enrich their quality of life….
So tell me again, why are only the ‘healthy enough’ deserving of self-love?
— mic drop —