I have been feeling suffocated and uneasy by the mere reflection of myself lately. In fact, I have always felt that way – uncomfortable! Uncomfortable with my small nose, thin and frizzy hair, with my cellulite which is my best friend since it has been always there since the time I started discovering my own body.
My life has been a constant struggle to “look pretty”. So much so that I remember telling my friends during casual conversations that my life would have been “perfect”, had I been the “normal” weight and had silky, straight, abundant hair and prettier features. My life would have been sorted! Now I wonder – is that all that life is made for? Look pretty to be accepted as a beautiful person or perhaps just as a person!
I wonder – as a child where did I get these notions of “perfect” body image and a constant beauty standard that I was being coerced to adhere to? Now that I look back and analyse, I can exactly list down and pinpoint all the factors that led me into believing that I was UGLY (well, let’s put it brutally)!
Firstly, we all are aware as to how popular culture shapes our sense of being and sets a benchmark for beauty that women are constantly expected to abide by. Anything that fails to meet those set standards is frowned upon and women feel the need to “fix” something in order to look a certain way.
My life has been a constant struggle to “look pretty”.
I grew up watching Jennifer Lopez, Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Britney Spears (all exemplars of “perfect” privileged white bodies) and as a teenager, I always felt ashamed of my huge, rounded breasts and my thunder thighs.
Although this would have definitely not been the case had my family not reinforced similar views. Even as a teenager, I was instilled with the idea that only “slim” bodies should be visible or probably could be visible (the underlying notion being that they were the only bodies to be considered beautiful), whereas fat bodies were always supposed to be hidden with “decent” clothing.
It did not make sense to me at all back then. I mean why would such hypocrisy exist in the first place? “Bigger” breasts should be hidden and so did “bigger” butt and “bigger” tummy. The very idea that one should be visible and the other should not, stems from privileging one kind of body over the other. This kind of privileging is only legitimised and normalised by our society, family and culture.
Learning to deal with constant body and fat-shaming did scar me and I have always had low self-esteem and poor confidence, despite doing really well for myself academically and also in various extra curricular activities.
I have tried overcoming these feelings but my efforts have only yielded temporary results. It was only when I saw body positivity models like Ashley Graham, Liza Golden Bhojwani (to name a few) that made me realise how beauty is also such a constructed concept where just one “type” of body “fits” true to that standard.
Even though I find categorising differently shaped women highly problematic since it just reinforces the idea that they are not just models but merely “plus” size and hence distinct from the other models.
I have struggled to lose weight but never been able to maintain it for a very long time. Even though I love exercising, I became so conscious of the food that I was eating that I developed bulimia nervosa when I was merely an eighteen year old girl. It was difficult to overcome it.
I am going to turn 26, still, there are times, after binge eating – my first instinct is to throw up. My body weight is an issue that really pulls my confidence and makes me sceptical of interacting with a lot of people, maybe because I am afraid they would be silently judging me for being fat and who does not want to avoid all of that?
popular culture shapes our sense of being and sets a benchmark for beauty that women are constantly expected to abide by.
It is because of my weight issues that I have always felt that I am not worthy of love, affection and also that it would be difficult for me to find companionship in future. Funny, isn’t it? Is being overweight the worst thing one could be? I wonder in amusement!
Women constantly face the pressure of fitting into the “perfect” societal standard of beauty. I can recall how once I was on a weight losing spree and after losing all my extra weight and being really healthy and fit, my family and friends used to keep asking me not to reduce any more weight because that would make me look “ugly”.
So the idea is neither to be “too skinny” nor “too fat”- just to mould you in the exact “right” shape and size. Now that I am a professional, I see women at my workplace being obsessed with the way they look – from their skin colour to how much weight they have lost!
I sincerely hope that one would exercise and eat healthy because it is actually good for your own body and not consider aspects of physical appearance. Since when does our self worth and self-esteem come from our body parts? I wonder!
Featured Image Credit: Los Angeles Loyolan