Comments about your body

I want to tell you that everything you have heard about comments about your body or ethnicity are probably false. And I’m going to share with you a boundary I’ve established with regards to comments about my body and it may in fact guide you in your decision on what to do when someone makes a comment about your body.

When a person makes a comment to you about your body it most likely has something to do with your ethnicity. The two are linked because one of the building blocks of ethnicity is bloodline which then makes up your body substance (physical features)1.

Comments about your body – excluding verbal violence (i.e. threats, bullying) – are usually subtle and disguised as being conversational. Whether that’s the intention or not, often comments like these don’t feel good to us.

“I don’t get as dark as you in the sun.”

“You’d be prettier if you had a different nose.”

“I thought you were vegetarian.”

Comments about food are about the body and in turn, are also about your ethnicity as one of the building blocks of ethnicity has to do with who we eat with1. Regardless, food is essentially is about the body because it goes into the body. Comments about what you eat are the same as comments about your physical features.

Let’s check your current boundary around comments about your body:

  • Is it okay for some people to make a comment about your body (i.e. family members) and not okay for others (i.e. acquaintances) to make a comment?
  • Do you make comments about other people’s body?
  • Do you only make comments if the other person comments about their own body first? (then giving you permission to make a comment)
  • Do you think it’s okay to make positive comments (how you perceive them as positive) and not ok to make negative comments about their body?
  • Is it okay to make comments about celebrities? about their hair? If they’ve gotten Botox, the diet that they’re currently on?

I used to make comments about celebrities, thinking it’s okay because they won’t hear them. I had a lot rules like these and what’s interesting in setting up a boundary like this is that is actually doesn’t help you feel better or even better about your body.

It seems the biggest falsehood was that having rules like the ones mentioned above were the biggest source of my misery. I decided I needed to have only one boundary – I don’t make comments on other people’s physical features. Period. No celebrities, not my best friend.

Now, it doesn’t mean I don’t tell someone they look fabulous or amazing. I do. But I don’t make a comment about their body or a physical feature like:

“You look fantastic, that dress suits your skin tone.”

It clears up my head. Knowing that there is no need to focus on anyone’s physical feature to complement them will free up a lot of the mind drama in your head.

So what does that mean when someone makes a comment about one of my physical features, like the three real life comments from above?

What does it mean to you is the exact question you need to ask yourself. What does a comment about your body mean to you? When these comments were said to me I made it mean a lot of things in my head. My mind would circle and circle with negativity chipping at my self-worth. How?

Well, someone saying that my skin is dark is only a negative thing until I decide it is. Which I had done so. I interpreted my physical features due to my ethnicity as negative – my dark skin, nose and the fact that I ate meat.

And then I needed to have a boundary around what I said to myself about my physical features regardless of what others said. I refused to think and believe that my physical features meant something negative. No matter what someone’s intention was I stopped attaching meaning to their words.

I took their words at face value, as they said them. So indeed my friend thought I was vegetarian. And it stops there. And indeed, my family member thought I would be prettier with a different nose. It stops there. I wasn’t going to add that that meant I was ugly. Because it didn’t.

And by allowing other’s to have their comments I could then see how I had my own negative comments about my physical features running inside my head. And that was where the real boundary needed to be. Not with what others said.

Today, can you make a comment about the food I’m eating. Absolutely. Can you make a comment about my thick, wavy hair? Absolutely. Can you make a comment about my skin tone? Absolutely.

There are now only two boundaries about comments: what I say to people (or rather what I don’t say) and how I interpret those comments to mean something about me.

I speak more about this in the podcast episode 13 Boundary: Ethnicity.

1Nash, Manning. The Cauldron of Ethnicity in the Modern World. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1989.