Body Image & When It Is Okay To Comment On It

body image; black woman; monochrome photography of woman wearing swimsuit
Photo by Jennifer Enujiugha on

The best time to comment on someone’s body image is umm … NEVER.

That’s it. That’s the time. However, we live in a society where people feel a little entitled to be able to do so. In fact, it’s so common for people to comment on the body image of others that it can either be blatantly out in the open or under the guise of concern from family members, doctors, strangers, and Lord knows who else.

If you’re the person who does this …. STOP IT! Especially if you’re feigning care.

Moving along.

Black Folks Have Poor Eating & Body Image Too!

Addressing the overall topic of mental health is still very taboo in Black communities. And, much like having conversations about one’s overall mental health is still pretty fresh in our communities, having conversations about the impact that body image concerns & disordered relationships with food have on the soul are pretty non-existent as well. In fact, many people still believe that these are White folks problems, when in fact Black women and men have eating disorders and body image concerns as well.

Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones But Words Are Sure To Hurt Me (If You’re Not Careful)

Black folks are notorious for using humor in ALL the situations, appropriate or not. I’m even guilty of using humor in the most inappropriate ways at times myself. Humor has been one of our most important saving graces, developed from years of turmoil experienced in this USofA. I ain’t mad at it. As I’ve gotten older, & since working with women who have significant body image issues, I have learned, however, that there is value of being mindful of the words being used to offer compliments or criticism to others. Be it now or later, hearing someone make disparaging comments about your body, in humor or in an effort to “show you they care”, can have long term effects.

Prime example. I have always been in a body crazy, curvy, wavy, not so itty bitty waisted body. One day, while in middle school, a guy walked by & mentioned how my bra was too big for my boobs in front of the whole class. Talk about somebody was SHAME. I’m almost 2 decades removed from middle school and can still remember what was said and how I felt. Now the emotions definitely aren’t the same now, and my confidence has grown significantly over time. It goes to show true what the late great Dr. Maya Angelou once said about people may not remember exactly what you said but they damn sure will remember how you make them feel.

And words, helpful or harmful, definitely lead to feels.

Maybe It’s More Than Meets the Eye

Lastly, we never truly know what people are going through that may be contributing to any change they experience, including with their bodies. Maybe its an underlying health condition, or a long history of body image struggles that may perpetuate other maladaptive behaviors; or, God thought to wrap them in different gift paper than you. YOU DON’T KNOW.

So, in the essence of truly learning to MYOB – MIND YOUR OWN BODY – let’s normalize not making comments on bodies that don’t belong to us. HMMMK!

so covid-19 has you with yourself. now what?

the value of embracing yourself in the midst of vulnerable and uncertain times

2020 has been one heck of a year. From the death of the G.O.A.T, Kobe Bryant and his daughter, to the whole world being shut down due to the coronavirus, and the US seeing the highest unemployment rates it has ever witnessed in the history of America. Four months in, and 2020 has been on one.

We all had plans to do great things in 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to abruptly stop life and all plans that we may have had. No travel. No visiting that old friend. No Sunday Service. This pandemic has snatched everybody’s wigs, lashes, and toupees if you will, forcing us all to embrace our un-manicured natural, meanwhile providing Mother Earth with space to heal, breathe, and manifest her natural self in all her glorious wonder. We have learned many lessons in such a short amount of time from this pandemic including that consumerism is an addiction, and that mothers really can work from home. And, we’ve been forced to actually be social via social media platforms in order to feed our natural desires to stay in touch with our people.

At the start, 2020 had many people ready to see with clearer vision. Unfortunately for us, COVID 19 overheard our conversations about “perfect vision”, and said “BET!”. It came in like a revered ancestor, sitting us all down, forcing us to think about the choices we’ve been making with our lives, revealing that many of us were not as prepared for this part of life as we thought. It has us sitting in our rooms, literally, alone with the parts of ourselves we often use the hustle and bustle of every day life to hide from.

This pandemic has left us exposed and vulnerable – two things that many of us avoid due to the discomfort that comes along with those emotional experiences. Fact of the matter is, however, these emotional experiences are inevitable. COVID 19 simply, without warning, and without our permission, removed the smoke and mirrors, leaving each of us with our own painful thoughts, memories, and experiences.

When dealing with emotional experiences that we deem wrong or painful, such as feeling vulnerable and exposed, we often cope by engaging in behaviors such as being self-critical, using alcohol and drugs, engaging in unhealthy distractions such as staying on social media longer than we plan to, or by engaging in other behaviors that may take us further away from the feelings we don’t want to experience. The urge to avoid things that hurt or feel uncomfortable is a knee-jerk reaction for many of us, and being in uncertain times, like now, has exacerbated the need to avoid, deflect, and distract to get through.

In staying true to 2020, however, now is also as good a time as any to continue to strive for that clear vision. To work on becoming your own boss. To go through that clutter to make room for the things that actually matter to you in the present. As uncomfortable, disappointing, and painful as life has been in the past, or even right now, it is still your life to decide how it shall proceed. It is still your responsibility to heal from those painful things to ensure that you have the quality of life that you desire to have.

When this pandemic began, I too found myself recalling painful memories, experiencing increased anxiety, and struggling with maintaining some type of normalcy in my life. One thing I have learned,however, is there is so much power in exploring these moments without judgment. It opens up new lessons about life. It helps you to identify new areas of growth and resilience within yourself. And it frees up mental space so that you can better focus on what matters in the here and now.

Embracing and exploring your vulnerable side, especially now, creates the opportunity for you to have a freedom you may not have the chance to be intentional about creating once we all go back to the hustle and bustle as we knew it. So during this time, when those painful thoughts begin to rear their ugly little heads, be kind to yourself. Show yourself some grace and compassion, and explore these moments with curiousity. Follow Mother Nature’s lead, and allow this moment of uncertainty and vulnerability to refresh, restore, and renew you to higher heights. The vision doesn’t have to stop with the pandemic. Embrace the uncertainty and let the now be the fresh start you’ve been praying, wishing, and hoping for.