I’ve always heard that love is unselfish, unconditional, non-discriminatory, and yet, I find it difficult to believe in all of these wonderful characteristics of love. It is a universal emotion, but not everyone is fortunate enough to fully experience it. Being the overweight one in the family made me feel unloved in comparison to the slender ones.
Body shaming is a type of bullying in which people are judged solely based on their appearance. People are so distracted by society’s ideals of ‘skinny and beautiful‘ in today’s times that they judge and belittle people who weigh more.
What hurts the most is when family is the source of judgment and criticism. My mother body shamed me for the first time when I was a child, and I still remember it. When I reached puberty, my body began to undergo hormonal changes, and I began to gain weight. Since then, my mother has told me that I should lose weight to be beautiful, worthy, and desirable.
The irony is that when I was a kid, I was so skinny that I couldn’t fit into any clothes, which worried my mother. Now that I’ve gained weight, she is concerned as well. This made me feel terrible and helpless about myself. I was constantly compared to other skinny girls in my family to the point where I even hated my cousins and friends.
When other girls of my age were exploring and discovering themselves, building careers, enjoying their lives, I was still fighting to cope with this “social trauma” (i.e., body shaming). I believe that this criticism has obstructed my personal growth and denied me the affection and love that I so well deserve.
This event has affected me so severely that I am always haunted by self-doubt. Even when something major occurs in my life or I am at my happiest, a strange feeling of emptiness, a reminder of my flaws, persists in the backdrop of my thoughts, which is quite painful.
Why are our social standards so skewed in their beauty criterion and in accepting the body in all shapes, sizes, and skin tones even in today’s day and age? We already have to cope with other socially created challenges in this patriarchal environment, and body shaming is one of the most horrible and painful realities we have to face because it is perpetrated by family members and loved ones.
Genetics, family history, stress, emotional factors, health issues, and medications are the most common causes of weight increase in most people. Furthermore, losing weight is difficult when you have hormonal diseases such as PCOD ( polycystic ovarian disorder). PCOD is a hereditary disorder that is made worse by obesity and a slowed metabolism.
This medical problem was never my choice, but rather a major health concern that many others face. Dealing with weight loss can be extremely debilitating, causing both physical and mental distress. My mother took me to a gynecologist and we discussed my health concerns, but she is the one who doesn’t understand the basic emotions that I am experiencing.
Our discussions revolve around the idea that I should lose weight and have a ‘great figure‘ like everyone else. I’ve been physically tortured by these things many times. Completing workouts, and frequent thoughts of being socially unfit have made me feel more terrible and pressured.
According to my mother, the primary motivation for reducing weight is to appear slimmer rather than to improve my health. Since I am ‘overweight’, I sometimes feel quite lonely, which leads me to believe that my sentiments, emotions, need to be understood, and want for mental support are all unimportant.
Is it true that all we need to be liked and desired by our family members is to have a flawless body figure? If this is the case, this is the root of the depression that overweight people experience, rather than their other health problems. I have been dealing with depression since I didn’t even know what the word meant.
I am told that if I don’t have a perfect body, I will be less desirable for marriage, and no one will find me adorable enough to propose to me. I’d like to know if marriages are solely based on having a slim and perfect physical figure. Is it enough to have a great body to live a healthy and prosperous married life? And is it all just about getting married? It is not enough to have a generous attitude, honesty, inventiveness, or educational skills to survive? Why am I obligated to waste my efforts on society’s expectations when I could be more socially acceptable by concentrating on my strengths and other pursuits?
Many more girls like me are subjected to body-shaming, bullying, and are trapped in situations where our families and communities are unable to see past the insignificant limitations they have constructed for us to all the brilliance that lies beneath. Families should be the first ones to stop this mental abuse and support their children irrespective of their size, shape and colour.
When one nasty comment may send you back days, weeks, or even months from all the hard work you’ve put in, it’s a rough path to self-acceptance and self-love. I feel like it is high time we stop tolerating this trauma. Writing this seems like a bold declaration that even if I become furious, I refuse to be bullied or shamed for simply existing.
It is our collective responsibility to encourage one another in areas where our families fall short. Being a desirable marriage prospect should not be the ultimate goal because we have degrees, we have careers, we have a growing social existence, self-worth, and we will surely go out and live meaningful lives.
Saba Eram is a postgraduate in Women’s Studies from Aligarh Muslim University. She enjoys reading, writing and painting. She wants to make a change in the inhumane world and believes that she can smash patriarchy through her writings. She may be found on Instagram
Featured Illustration: Ritika Banerjee for Feminism In India