On November 11, Selena Gomez sat down with friend and host of the Giving Back Generation podcast Raquelle Stevens to talk about life, work, and social media — specifically, body-shaming via Instagram. Gomez said after she was put on a new medication to treat her lupus, she gained weight and experienced social media body-shaming firsthand.
"I experienced [body-shaming] with my weight fluctuation for the first time," Gomez told Stevens, per Entertainment Tonight. "I have lupus and deal with kidney issues and high blood pressure, so I deal with a lot of health issues, and for me that’s when I really started noticing more of the body image stuff."
Like many of us who may or may not be on a medication that affects our weight, Gomez said her feelings about her body image shift fairly frequently. “It’s the medication I have to take for the rest of my life — it depends on even the month, to be honest,” she told Stevens, regarding her weight. “So for me, I really noticed when people started attacking me for that. In reality, that’s just my truth. I fluctuate. It depends [on] what’s happening in my life."
Gomez was dealing with more than just damaged self-confidence when she was body-shamed. She was also trying to get her physical health back on track, and the negative feedback wasn’t helping. She said the hateful comments about her weight "got to me big time," and "really messed me up for a bit."
Gomez certainly isn’t the only one who has been “messed up” by body-shamers on social media. Seemingly anyone with a presence on social media can be a target. According to bullying prevention expert Ross Ellis, who is also the Founder and CEO of STOMP Out Bullying, body-shaming can be incredibly damaging to a person’s overall mental well-being — not just their self-image.
“If body-shaming is frequent...it may also lead to anxiety, depression, and social isolation,” Ellis tells O.school. And if a victim of body-shaming has a preexisting mental health diagnosis, the shaming can hit even harder. “People with anxiety tend to overthink everything, and when it comes to remarks about their bodies, it is no different,” she adds. “Constant negative remarks may make people anxious to the extent that they suffer from panic attacks and depression phases.”
And when a physical illness is added to the equation, it can incite mental health issues that weren’t present prior to a person receiving negative comments. “While it’s worrisome enough to struggle with an illness, the added pressure of being shamed for the illness, or shamed for weight gain, can play a big part in their overall mental health,” says Ellis.
Since gaining a better understanding of the negative sides of social media, Gomez told Stevens that she decided to take a step back to protect herself. She said that she’s now “very happy with living my life,” rather than constantly sharing it with the public.
“I don’t care to expose myself to everyone and hear what they have to say about it," Gomez explained. And when she does face unwarranted criticism for her looks, Gomez has learned to forgive rather than fight back. “The biggest lesson [was] how to learn, [when it comes to] the people that have hurt me the most, to forgive them,” she said. “And to continue to understand and have compassion for people."
Of course, the best way to combat body-shaming is by tackling it as a systemic issue and spreading awareness about its negative impacts. Learning to be the bigger person and forgive, as Gomez has learned, can also be a good way to fight back. And if body-shaming really starts “messing you up,” it may be time to take a break from Instagram. Social media should be enjoyable to use, so if and when it becomes the opposite, take a breather and, like Gomez, live your life instead of sharing it.