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It is a very courageous act to start loving your own body when the people around you and their beauty standards keep mocking you constantly.
“Stop saying you’re fat, you’re actually pretty”
“It must be hard to find a man tall enough to date you”
“Did you lose some weight? You look SO much better!”
“You look like a toothpick!”
“Why do you need to workout? You’re skinny!”
“If you want to get married, you must lose weight.”
Has anyone told something like this to you? Did you think that you deserve to hear something so uncomfortable because you don’t have the so called ‘socially acceptable body’? Then welcome to the club!
Not many of us really love the way we look. We are used to finding flaws in ourselves since a very young age. I am not any different. I do it constantly too. It’s like, how could I be happy with the way I look when there is a whole industry out there that survives on my insecurities about looks?
It is a very courageous act to start loving your own body when the people around you and their beauty standards keep mocking you constantly. As a kid, I was often told by many people around me that I look ‘healthier’ than the other kids of my age and that I should focus on losing weight when I am still young because it would be difficult to do so as an adult.
I always assumed that there was something wrong with me. I’d look at myself in the mirror and see myself through everyone else’s eyes; all I’d see was a fat girl who will never be loved for the way she looked back then. I tried many ways to feel acceptable.
I’d starve myself for long hours just because I felt that my body already had the food it deserved and it deserved to be put through pain. I’d feel guilty to eat my favourite food too. It was like, even if no one was around me I’d feel so uncomfortable in my own skin.
I kept thinking that I needed to be fixed. I spent my whole teenage thinking that I needed to be fixed, in one way or the other. When I finally lost weight, I’d worry about the way my hair looked. I hated almost every aspect of my appearance. I would always seek approval from someone else, for I was never good enough for myself. The validation that I got from someone else used to make me happy.
I kept wondering how the other girls look the way they look, so effortlessly, while I had to do so much just to look basic. I thought I was just so flawed that everything natural about me needed to be fixed; my too thin hair, my bushy eyebrows, my never-ending acne, my skin colour, my too oily skin type, my waist, my un-manicured nails, my too long legs, my feet, everything! I kept telling myself that one day, I’ll be enough. But apparently, that day never came. The first thing that comes to my mind when I look at myself in mirror, even today is, ‘this is what needs to be fixed today!’
Our whole generation wants a perfectly radiant and tight skin, the perfect eyes, the perfect pouty lips, and the perfect butt so that they can look perfect for the social media. Everyone wants to look a certain way so that they feel acceptable. But does this pressure stop once you accomplish what you think you wanted to accomplish? No, it keeps building up.
It is important to realize the amount of pressure we, as a society, put on people to look the way we’d accept them. With the patriarchy deep-rooted in us, it is hard to recognize the same behavior in ourselves. For the longest time, even I did not realize that I said words that hurt people too. Not that I wanted to hurt them, but for some reason I felt the need to pass a comment about someone’s looks because that’s how people communicated around me and for a long time, I thought that it was normal.
In almost every social gathering, the first thing someone would say when they met people would be, ‘wow! You’ve lost so much weight. Are you starving yourself?’ or ‘You look a lot better now, the last time I saw you, you looked so malnourished’.
And this one time, I heard someone telling my sister who had just gone through labour and given birth to a baby a few months ago back then, ‘Oh! wow, so you’re back to normal now (with all the pregnancy weight gone)’. I was so shocked to see how people think that women’s bodies should look a certain way to be felt normal. The woman had procreated and that was the biggest miracle of all, and all people could think of is her weight!?
I thought that maybe people who meet the standards of the society love their bodies. But that doesn’t happen either.
According to a TheaCare survey on body image, 87% of women have felt scared at the prospect of becoming fat and only one-third of them have attributed the fear to health reasons.
The truth is that we work really hard and put our bodies through various unhealthy practices just to feel acceptable. We could be looking like goddesses (according to the beauty standards) but we wouldn’t accept that we are enough. Why are these insecurities so strongly rooted inside all of us? Why are we, even as kids, made feel wrong about being the way we are? Why do we constantly feel guilty about our eating habits?
It hurts when people make unnecessary comments on the way you look. But does that mean that your features and appearance are socially unacceptable or that you need fixing? No, it just means that you do not match up to their narrow perception of beauty.
Beauty isn’t something that you can define based on someone’s eye colour, skin colour, amazing curves, perfect height, toned calves, six-pack abs, hour-glass waist etc.
Beauty isn’t this narrow! Beauty is in every person. Beauty is in accepting yourself before you seek the acceptance of the society. Beauty is you and every person around you!
Author’s note: Today, as I write this article, I might not be fully ready to accept my appearance but I have begun this journey towards feeling good about myself and let all the insecurities fade away. This is going to be a long journey, but I have decided to bring about change in the way perceive ourselves, starting from me.
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: YouTube
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A twenty-something feminist, who has worked in the digital marketing industry for over 6
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