Body shame is causing women more than emotional pain

Aug 6, 2015 at 11:05 a.m. ET
Image: Tuomas Marttila/Getty Images

Women who feel intense shame about their bodies may not only be harming themselves emotionally. They might also be hurting themselves physically, according to a new, terrifying study. Ladies, we have to stop this madness.

The study out of Bucknell University suggests that women who feel shame about their bodies might actually physically manifest that concern by doing harmful things to block normal bodily functions (or ignoring them). These things could include using deodorant on the body in places it doesn't belong or keeping tampons inserted longer than recommended or any other number of things (like smoking) that women do in reaction to body shame.

The study found that those women who feel the most body shame also reported the most cases of bronchitis and yeast infections and other illnesses that could be related to how well they take care of themselves. It's so depressing when you think about it.

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As the mother of two little girls, it breaks my heart to picture them not caring for themselves well or, worse, doing deliberately self-destructive things in order to mask how they feel about their bodies. We all owe it to ourselves to practice good self-care no matter how we feel about the way our bodies look. So let's do it. Let's stop all the nonsense and protect ourselves.

Menstruation is natural. Sweating is, too. We all want to be a little thinner, but smoking is bad for us. We know this. There is so much shame and secrecy involved with our bodily functions to the point where some women will refuse to tell doctors what is really happening to them for fear of appearing less than ladylike. It's insane.

We must agree as women to end all this nonsense and allow ourselves the space to be women and to menstruate and sweat and be female. We should celebrate all that we are regardless of our physical appearance at any given moment.

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To do less than that is to harm our future daughters and all the girls and women who come after us. We have to start now in modeling good self-care and a lack of shame in our humanity. This is something we can actively change. So let's do it.

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