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Is It My Body?

How Objectification Destroys Confidence

By Cheryl LynnPublished 6 years ago 12 min read
Our makeup, clothes, hair and bodies are constantly scrutinized, even by ourselves. 

I am an introvert, keeping to myself and avoiding confrontation. Yet, no matter how hard I try to blend in with the crowd or fade into the background, others always have something to say about my appearance or personality. Men and women both objectify me. Perfect strangers are just as guilty as long time friends and close family members. The comments range from painfully obvious observations ("Hahaha, you're so short, LOL") to erroneous assumptions (Wow congratulations, how many months 'til you're due?). I'm judged for every aspect of my being, from my petite stature to my voluptuous curves, from my ethnicity to my bisexual identity, from my physical appearance to the way I spell my name. I try not to dwell on other people's opinions, especially when they don't even know the real me. However, the human brain has evolved over centuries to be social, to care about our reputations, to crave acceptance and unity.

When I reunite with certain friends and family after a long period of estrangement, they don't greet me with something nice like "How have you been?" or "I missed you so much!" They greet me with totally unsolicited opinions on my age, weight, height, and other factors that I have little to no control over. No wonder that we drifted apart in the first place. They don't give a damn about what I've been doing, or how I've been feeling. They only care about how I look. Funny thing is, many of my friends and family have similar body types to mine. Most people in my social circle are treated with respect, regardless of their appearance. But sometimes I feel like I’m singled out and mocked for things that I can’t even change.

"What have I got

That makes you want to love me?

Is it my body?

Someone I might be?

Something inside me?"

It's just as awkward when random strangers give their unsolicited opinion about other people's physical characteristics. Much like other private information, such as finances, health issues, or sex life, these subjects are highly inappropriate for polite conversation, much less as an icebreaker. It's not just making small talk or stating an opinion. It's extremely rude and disrespectful.

Making fun of someone's stature is just as inconsiderate as making fun of their weight. In fact, it's even worse. An overweight person can go on a diet. A thin person can buff up with exercise. Messy hair can be styled. Hell, even a flat chest can be augmented with plastic surgery. But there is literally NOTHING that I can do to change my height. Even if I wear high heels, I'll only look 5'5", which apparently is absurdly petite in our shallow society. But of course, I won't actually become 5'5". My own body is and always will be 5 feet tall, but I will simply have 5 inch stilettos strapped to myself. This isn't a physical alteration on my actual body, like a haircut, weight loss, muscle gain, or surgery. In fact, excessive use of high heels can cause long term health issues like back pain, hip pain, extended ankles, and joint problems.

If you're just a random passerby, then your opinions about others are completely rude, unnecessary, and uncalled for. If you're someone that I know, then you should probably know my body type by now, and you should also know me well enough to treat me with respect. Either way, I don't appreciate comments about my appearance. Even if they're true, it's still annoying. How would you like it if I greeted you with "Hey, you're really fat" or "Did you always have horrible acne?"

Even if my observations are accurate, your feelings could get hurt. I'm also not helping by telling you something you already know. Pointing out flaws and imperfections is just obnoxious.

The same people who insult others, take extreme offense when called out for their rudeness.

It's not your job to judge me.

Anybody who makes insensitive comments at the workplace, is unprofessional. I've had several incidents of workers making rude remarks while on the job. One girl laughed and made fun of my last name when I handed her my credit card and ID to buy something at her store. Unsurprisingly, the shop went out of business within months, probably because they didn't understand customer service or basic etiquette. I reached out to a lawyer for a very serious and sensitive issue, and the incompetent secretary made the same amateur mistake of laughing at my surname. I was already in a bad situation, and her misconduct literally added insult to injury. That firm lost out on hundreds of dollars due to her inconsiderate misbehavior. A convenience store clerk once assumed I was pregnant, and asked me how many months it had been. After I embarrassed him by loudly announcing that I was not expecting, he apologized over his clumsy faux pas. I wondered if it was the same clerk who had asked me if I had ever been to jail(!), so I complained to corporate about the inappropriate comments and questions. I may have a muffin top, but at least I've never been fired from a local gas station chain for being nosy, or bankrupted my own company by treating customers like crap.

Yet another idiot, hired as an elder caretaker for my grandfather, assumed that I was a teenager, and she made things worse by blurting "Don't worry, you'll get taller!" First off, the dumb broad was the exact same height as me. Second, I don't know many teens with bicep tattoos and double D breasts, so if this chick was judging me by looks, she should have taken those into consideration. Third, I'm in my late twenties, so I doubt I'll get a growth spurt any time soon. Finally, that's a monumentally stupid way to introduce yourself to the family who employs you. If another family hired her as a caretaker, would she tell one of the family members "Oh my god you're so fat! But don't worry, you'll get thinner?" Especially if she was just as fat as the family member in question? She was incredibly rude and unprofessional. Why would I waste my money on an incompetent employee who insults me?

These are only a few examples of morons who sabotaged their own careers and livelihoods through sheer stupidity and bad manners. There are many more out there. If you value your job, then a little bit of common sense and common courtesy will go a long way.

Don't bring it up unless there's something you can do to help.

Practice what you preach.

I also notice that little old ladies are the ones who most often comment on my height and how old they think I look. Oh, the irony. The generation with the most hang-ups about manners and etiquette also happen to say the rudest things. They even coined a catch phrase about the impropriety of asking people their age: "A gentleman doesn't ask and a lady doesn't tell." They would act outraged if someone mentioned how old they look. Yet they feel entitled to blurt out their irrelevant opinions about everyone else's age and appearance.

"You better tell me.

Tell me.

It's really up to you.

Have you got the time to find out

Who I really am?"

Several years ago, a well meaning but misguided old woman asked me my age in public. I only answered her stupid question, in the hopes that it would get her to shut the hell up and leave me alone. But instead, she had to dig a deeper hole:

Stranger: "Oh my goodness! You look too young to be here! How old are you anyway?"

Me: "Uhh... 21....?"

Stranger: "You don't look like you're in your twenties! You look like you're in your teens!"

Me: "Umm Ok. Thanks, I guess?"

Stranger: "You'll be grateful when you're older."

Me: "Yeah, maybe, if I live that long."

*uncomfortable silence.*

Stranger: "You will..."

There is no polite way to respond to an impolite remark about your personal life. It's an awkward, embarrassing, and uncomfortable situation for all parties involved. Apparently, this old lady thought she was psychic, because in a single cringeworthy conversation, she guessed both my age and my lifespan without knowing the first thing about me. Hell, she didn't even bother to ask my name. When my responses were just as tactless as her questions, she was visibly ashamed and sheepish. I was already suicidally depressed at the time, and hearing random strangers judging my appearance, only damaged my self esteem even further. When I snapped at the old bat that I probably wouldn't live as long as her, I was simultaneously referencing my suicidal tendencies, acknowledging the fact that people get sick and die, and making the elderly woman feel self conscious about her own age. If it's ok for her to make comments about my age and appearance, then it's ok for me to return the "favor." If my answers were inappropriate, then so were her nosy questions. No double standards. If you think you're entitled to tell people what you think of them, then everyone else is equally entitled to give you a piece of their mind.

After all, when someone says "I forgot how tiny you are!" They don't seem to appreciate my response: "I forgot how huge you are!" Or when someone tells me I look like a teenager, they act mortified when I tell them they look like a fossil. They think that it's innocent curiosity when they ask about my age, and don't realize how obnoxious the question is, until I ask it back.

Many of the people who make jokes at my expense are social justice warriors, forever on a soapbox, preaching about tolerance and acceptance. This is not only ironic, but hypocritical. I’ve also noticed that some of the people who are most vocal about my appearance, are themselves petite, overweight, middle aged, or have other reasons to be self conscious. It’s fairly obvious that many of them have to shame others’ bodies to feel better about their own. Me, I’m not shallow. I don’t care about how people look. If I did, I would envy those that I perceived as more attractive than myself, and I would degrade those that I perceived as less attractive. Either way, I would hate everyone. But instead of judging people by their looks, I judge them by their personalities, or lack thereof.

A Taste of Their Own Medicine

How do you honestly expect someone to react when you give them an unwanted opinion about their looks? Do you truly think that they'll crack a self deprecating joke to make you feel better, and make themselves feel worse? Do you think they'll take it as a compliment and return the favor? If you tell me: "Wow Cheryl, you're really short, your boobs are too big, and your skin is scarred," I probably won't reply: "Gee thanks, I love your hair!" No, obviously I will feel insulted and resentful, and my response will reflect my annoyance. When you act offensively, others will react defensively.

Some of my favorite clapbacks:

1. Them: "You look like a little girl!"

Me: "You look like you're about to get wrecked by a 'little girl.'"

2. Them: "You look so strange!"

Me: "At least I don't look like you."

3. Them: "I forgot how short you are!"

Me: "Nice to see you too. I wonder why we haven't spoken for such a long time."

4. Them: "Why are you so tiny?"

Me: "Gee, I dunno, it's almost like my body type was determined by DNA and genetics that I can't control. Why do you ask, anyway?"

A few good all-purpose clapbacks:

5. "Thanks, captain obvious. "

6. "No shit, Sherlock. "

7. *clutching my own heart, and eyes widened with exaggerated shock* "OHMYGOD REALLY? I never noticed that before until you told me! Thank you for your brilliant observations, friend."

Sometimes the best response is not sarcasm, but a sincere and frank statement:

8. "Your remarks are hurtful and I don't want to talk to you anymore."

9. "That's not very polite/professional."

10. "I'm not going to dignify such an inappropriate question with a response."

11. "Please stop bothering me and mind your own business."

12. "Who are you and why do you care?"

If you are confident in your appearance, others perceive you as shallow and vain. If you care more about social issues than outer beauty, then others will judge you for being self-righteous.

Perfect Strangers

If you really must remark on someone else's looks, at least make it a genuine compliment. Backhanded compliments are just thinly veiled insults. For example, if I say you look more mature than you used to, then I'm implying that you look old, while also insinuating that you looked or acted immature in the past. Double whammy. Also, if someone is constantly scrutinized and mocked for every single aspect of themselves, from their name to their body to their personality, they will start to feel insecure. People deal with insecurity by projecting it onto everyone else, or overcompensating with an inflated ego. They will put others down to feel better about themselves, and he vicious cycle of shallow beauty standards is perpetuated.

"What does it take

To get inside of your mind?

Give me a break,

And take a chance for the very first time."

People have an unhealthy obsession with each other's physical appearance, yet they don't even recognize each other. People who I've known for years or even decades act like they don't know me. When I go to a party or concert, I can feel them staring at me when I drive up, park, and get out of my car. After all these years, they treat me like a guest. They even admit to me "Yeah, we were watching you, but only because we were wondering who it was." Fair enough. I sometimes have trouble remembering faces and names. But how could you be acquainted with anyone for a decade or longer, without recognizing their car, their clothes, or their face? Even if you didn't recognize me, that does not justify gawking at me like a sideshow freak, and whispering about me as if I can’t see and hear you. If you think I'm acting strange, it's probably because I know I'm being watched, and it makes me uncomfortable as hell.

If you profile and stereotype somebody as looking suspicious, so you decide to spy on them...Then you are the creepy one, not the person who you're stalking. I could be surrounded with cholos and metalheads, people dressed in black and covered with tattoos and piercings, and they'll still treat me like I'm the sketchy one. I fucking hate it.

Yes, I know I'm petite, my hair is frizzy, and my skin is scarred. It is MY body after all. If you've known me for a while, you should probably know what I look like by now. What's next, are you going to act shocked when you "discover" that my name is Cheryl? There is no reason to point out other people's features. At best, you're just announcing the obvious, which is annoying in and of itself. But at worst, you're making someone else feel insecure about their very existence, embarrassed about fundamental aspects of their being, and ashamed just for being who they are.

Small talk is already awkward as it is. Don’t make it worse by bringing up sensitive subjects, like scars and blemishes. I am already self conscious about my scars as it is. Every time someone makes a rude comment about them, my embarrassment and shame is exponentially compounded by remembering the physical pain that the wounds caused in the past.

It hurts to know that EVERYBODY judges each other. Both naive young children and senile old timers, both male and female, close friends and total strangers. They all think that it's socially acceptable to blurt out any insipid thought that pops into their brains, no matter how inconsiderate or pointless it might be. Their crude jokes might seem harmless at first. But are those 5 minutes of laughter worth the days worth of sleepless nights and tearstained mornings that I will face in private? People may only feel awkward for a few moments when called out, but their thoughtless remarks can haunt me for weeks after the fact.

I only act mean, mad, or tired when I hear the same old insults day after day.

Resting Bitch Face

People do this to each other all the time without even realizing it. A common observation is "she looks mad" or "what's HER problem?" I hear this all the time about women who are simply not smiling. Meanwhile, men can go about their day without always pretending to be happy. Women, on the other hand, are obligated to act charming and bubbly 24/7. That's just like a stewardess or waitress, who always has to smile and act polite and professional, no matter how rude their customers act. The collective subconscious of society associates womanhood with servitude, and servitude with submissive fawning and flattery. Women are little more than eye candy, and they should be grateful for the opportunity to be so (hence the expectation of eternal smiles, much like a mannequin or Barbie doll.)

When a woman doesn't smile, we say she has "resting bitch face." But when a man doesn't smile, we call it what it is: a neutral facial expression. Just because I'm not making a spectacle of grinning ear to ear, doesn't mean I am unhappy. It simply means that I'm going about my day without projecting my own emotions for a whole world of strangers to see. It means I'm just minding my own business. You should try it sometime.

The whole world may be shallow and materialistic, but hard rock and heavy metal give me the confidence I need to be myself, even if it means rebelling against the norm.


About the Creator

Cheryl Lynn

I am a blogger and freelance journalist, specializing in music reviews, band interviews, and other entertainment related articles. I have also published poetry, fiction, and creative writing.

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    Cheryl LynnWritten by Cheryl Lynn

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