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01st Feb 2022

Opinion: We need to think before commenting on other people’s bodies, even if it’s positive

Nicola Coughlan is right.

We all know how it feels to be on the receiving end of a negative comment about our appearance.

In fact, we’ve all probably done it too.

And while we can all agree that making nasty comments about people’s bodies is a downright disgusting thing to do – body talk can be complicated.

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember the impact a simple statement can have on a person, even if we mean well.

This is because even well-intended compliments tend to emphasise the idea that our worth as humans is inherently linked to our physical appearance – an idea with the potential to be incredibly harmful.

On Monday, Derry Girls star Nicola Coughlan took to social media to politely request that fans refrain from making comments about her body.

“If you have an opinion about my body please, please don’t share it with me,” the 35-year-old wrote on Instagram.

“Most people are being nice and not trying to be offensive but I am just one real life human being and it’s really hard to take the weight of thousands of opinions on how you look being sent directly to you every day.

“So just a thing – If you have an opinion about me that’s ok, I understand I’m on TV and that people will have things to think and say, but I beg you not to send it to me directly.”

Nicola’s not the first celebrity to make such a plea with fans.

In 2021, actor Jonah Hill, who has had his body publicly ridiculed for years, issued a statement to the public saying:

“I know you mean well but I kindly ask that you not comment on my body. Good or bad I want to politely let you know it’s not helpful and doesn’t feel good. Much respect.”

Previosuly, Jonah’s name made headlines for a series of paparazzi shots depicting him shirtless, to which he responded:

“I don’t think I ever took my shirt off in a pool until I was in my mid 30s, even in front of family and friends.

“Probably would have happened sooner if my childhood insecurities weren’t exacerbated by years of public mockery about my body.”

Adele also recently spoke out about feeling “disappointed” by the constant conversations about her weight loss, adding that she wasn’t surprised due to how much her body had been objectified throughout her career.

All of these celebrities highlight just how much words can hurt.

With the growth of social media, appearance-based scrutiny is at an all-time-high for those in the public eye and millions of people around the world can relate.

As Nicola says, opinions are inevitable, but it’s not too much to ask for people to have boundaries and keep their words to themselves. It’s a reasonable request. Because no one should have to deal with unsolicited comments about how they look.

How many more will have to point this out before we as a society take note?

In a world that is image-obsessed, it’s worth taking the time to reconsider if a statement is really necessary. Let’s face it, we can never really anticipate how deep our words may cut someone.

Next time you feel the urge to tell your friend they look good in a particular outfit, why not tell them you love their energy, resilience, creativity, authenticity… (the list goes on).

Sure, aesthetic compliments can give us a temporary confidence boost, but a compliment that doesn’t focus on exterior appearance just hits different, doesn’t it?