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Why I Refuse To Body Shame My Child – And You Shouldn’t Too

Posted: April 13, 2017

People will comment on you child’s being fat or thin, colour, and much else. As a parent, you teach them to handle it with grace and not let it bother them!

“Baby, doesn’t your mother feed you? You are looking so weak!”

This distasteful statement made by an aunt to my then one month old infant instantly triggered so many unpleasant memories which I had thought that I had left far behind.

My parents tried desperately for about 25 years to literally fatten me up, to no avail. Mealtimes were stressful events when I was forced and compelled to eat. I was dragged to doctors to be examined and analysed all in the quest to find an answer to that all important puzzling question: “Why doesn’t she put on weight?” This despite the fact that most doctors said that I fell within the normal range.

The first question that many people asked me upon seeing me after some time would be – and actually still is – “Why have you lost so much weight?” If that was indeed true then I should have vanished into thin air by now!

Growing up I always felt compared unfavourably to chubbier children and ended up internalizing these messages. There seems to be a widespread misconception in our society that chubby kids are healthier and more beautiful than their leaner counterparts. “You look like a scarecrow”, “this dress doesn’t suit you because you are too thin”, “you look like a TB patient”, “the sari won’t stay on you because you have no curves” – I got so used to hearing all these repeatedly.

It has taken me nearly 30 years to actually look into the mirror and truly believe that I am beautiful. In fact I remember back in college when someone said I looked pretty, I was so surprised and found it hard to believe – because I had such a negative body image about myself. Even today when I head over to the gym, a lot of people ask, “Why are you at the gym? You don’t need to work out!” Newsflash – everyone needs to work out to stay fit and healthy. Working out is not just for weight loss, there is so much more to it. Improving your stamina, building your strength, toning your muscles, increasing your energy levels, improving sleep, eating right for your body, a brighter state of mind due to the release of positive hormones – the list of benefits to exercising is endless.

It’s taken me a really long time to accept my body and to become comfortable with it. God forbid that my child grows up thinking that she is anything but beautiful. Of course I know that beauty is but an illusion, a mirage if you may; something which is as fleeting as time and whose definition varies greatly from era to era and person to person.

Yet, trust me, growing up thinking that you are not good enough is a sure shot way to damage your self-esteem. A negative sense of self-worth often results in lifelong low confidence, self-consciousness and the habit of doubting one’s capabilities. You can bet that I’m not going to let that happen to my daughter. My daughter has always been a slow weight gainer, perhaps it is in her genes. But I am not going to let history repeat.

I will not pass any sort of negative remarks about her natural colour or weight or any such physical characteristics. To me, she is beautiful beyond description. Not a day goes by without me admiring her dimpled smile, her curly locks, her bright shiny eyes, her toddler talk, all the little actions that she does… I couldn’t ask for anything more – not a few extra pounds on her petite frame nor an inch longer on her unruly hair. All I care about is if she is healthy, happy and safe.

And if anyone does remark on how slim she is, as I’m quite sure many will – as many do already – I will teach her to smile and handle it with grace. Because you see, you don’t need someone else’s approval to be beautiful.

Image source: shutterstock

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Anne John plays with words for a living and would probably do the same even

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  1. Hanisha Kapoor

    Hi, I could totally relate to your post Anne. I have witnessed body shaming as I am too thin for some. I still face it at times. I understand how their comments could hamper somebody’s confidence. But we have got to believe in ourselves. We know we are healthy and fit. Body weight numbers are just numbers. Hope they realize it soon and stop wasting their time body shaming others.

    • Yes! Today I have the confidence to choose to just smile and ignore or even to snub whoever is commenting. I would have loved to have this same confidence when I was younger though. Thanks for stopping by!

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