I was just finishing up a run and slowed down to a jog on the way to my car when a woman, who was running in the opposite direction, screamed at me: “You’re ALREADY skinny!!”
When I was 15, I was told “you’re so pale, you look like a corpse” by a bunch of not-so-pale girls at school.
Just around the same time, when eating became my favorite comfort-giving activity, a well-meaning-but-not-so-tactful relative asked me: “Why are you so fat?”
Fifteen years later, once I started to get my emotional eating under control, I overheard a colleague ask my boss: “Why on earth is your deputy editor shrinking so much?”
That deputy editor was me.
“Someone needs to work ouuut,” commented a colleague casually a couple of weeks ago as she wrapped her hands around my bloated, post-burger-and-fries belly as I sat, hunched over in the car.
I’ve been skinny, overweight and in-between sizes, and no matter what I’ve looked like, someone has always had an opinion about my body.
Over the years, I’ve come to accept that they always will, and that having to live with body shaming (whether subtle or outright, intentional or not), no matter what you look like, is an unfortunately side effect of being a part of the human race.
How we respond to it when we’re on the receiving end of it however, changes everything.
If like me, you’ve been the target of not-so-pleasant comments about your body, here are five things that will help you walk away with confidence the next time one comes your way:
1. What someone else thinks of your body has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.
Specifically, their insecurities, hang-ups, misinformed perceptions and fears about how they look or should look.
In other words, their opinions about the shape of your body, color of your skin or hair, makeup or what clothes you wear is entirely their business, not yours.
What’s your business? To take care of YOU and do everything in your power to make yourself happier, healthier and better than you were yesterday.
2. Perfect (read: zero cellulite, fat rolls, bloat and stretch marks) doesn’t exist.
... and it shouldn’t exist unless you’re a heavily-manipulated photo on the cover of InStyle magazine or in a box with the word “Barbie” stamped on it.
Every living, breathing, square inch of your body is meant to take you through life’s ups and downs and, in the process, bear all the beautiful signs that you’ve lived (and survived) through it all.
3. When you’re faced with snide, hurtful comments with no provocation, often the best response is to not respond at all.
I’m no psychiatrist and I’m not saying that what they’re doing is right, but I do know from experience that when someone intentionally says (and does) things to hurt others, it’s often a tell-tale sign that they’re struggling with and holding on to a lot of emotional pain.
Responding to the verbal knife they’ve thrown your way with defensiveness and anger will only feed their ego (which is the only way they know how to make themselves feel better).
Your best bet in situations like this? I know that it’s going to be hard and may sound crazy, but it’s this: Simply smile and walk away.
4. Realize there’s no shame in feeling like you’re struggling.
Everyone feels off-course, lost, out of shape and unmotivated at some point and often repeatedly, throughout their lives.
I’ve been there more times than I can count.
It’s called trying to do the best you can: at work; to raise a family; to have happy, fulfilling relationships; AND to get and stay healthy, all while trying to navigate the curveballs life continuously throws your way.
It’s also called being human.
When this is the place you find yourself in but want to rise out of it, the sanest and kindest place to start is wherever you are right now with no shame, mapping out a plan that you can see yourself sticking with, and putting one foot in front of the other, every single day.
5. You can’t heal your mind with your body, but you can heal your body with your mind.
These words from Byron Katie mean a lot to me for many reasons, but the most significant one is this: We often let our thoughts control us, allowing them to wreak havoc on almost every aspect of our lives.
The result? Turning to food for comfort, constant self-sabotage, chronic health and weight issues, and deep unhappiness.
So if healing your relationship with food and getting to a weight where you feel good at is your goal, start with first healing your thoughts... about you.
Once you do, everything else will start falling into place.
Want to start taking better care of yourself but aren’t quite sure where or how to start? I show you how with my FREE Daily Self-Care Ritual Workbook.
This article originally appeared on michelelian.com
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.