This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Nishtha Relan. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Are You Comfortable In Your Own Skin?

More from Nishtha Relan

By Nishtha Relan:

The other day one of my cousins pointed out how my thighs had gained a layer of flab, and I told her I had just had a surgery, and the medications and motionless rest required after that had, maybe, resulted in weight-gain. She later made a snide remark on how I was ‘fitter’ when I used to diet. In hindsight, I realize that the little detail about an immaterial weight gain has sunk in so deep in my mind that I am trying to eat less. I am looking at myself through the glasses of stereotypes.


As it happens, what we often do before we upload a picture on Facebook or any other cyber social network is to ‘edit’ our pictures with the help of easily available editing software. It isn’t just the cool effects we add, but also the blemishes, pimples and flab that we carefully erase. And then we nod at the jokes comparing our pretty profile pictures and the horrendous images on the driving licenses. How have we turned habitual of self criticism and dissatisfaction, so much so that we are ready to alter how we look just to prove that we are acceptably good-looking? Why do we need to appear good anyway?

The general answers to these questions would be an inherent need to feel good about ourselves, that fitter is healthier, for our own benefit, and that it is easier to succeed in life when you have confidence, which aims to justify the ‘look good, feel good‘ factor. Not that any of it is wrong, or that I advocate shabbiness and careless gulping down of carbohydrates, but there happens to be a deeper understanding for why we are so hell bent on making our skin fairer with the best wrinkle cream and giving up awesome food to lose those kilos. We, without meaning to, conform to the established socio-gender stereotypes when we see and judge people, including ourselves, on the basis of height and weight measurements. The matrimonial section of newspapers blatantly tells all about the popular demand of fair, slim, beautiful, domesticated brides and the rich prospective husbands. Let us not turn into the very products of physical perfection and outward appearances which the modern society thus endorses. The mental capability to recognize talent and intelligence is important too.

Again, it is the freedom from certain set notions of body than a critique of physical well-being and maintenance which I advocate. The difference between ‘slim‘ and ‘fit’ should be kept in mind before we let it overtake our senses and leave us at a loss. When the bullies picked on us in school, we had no answers to give in defense of our bushy hair, plump waistlines and hairy legs. But now, surely, we have gathered that they matter only as long as we let them. We are, certainly, more than all the models of physical beauty that patriarchy has ingrained in our minds for hundreds of years. We have the mental capability to change the corrupt, stagnant world of injustice and fraudulent. We have the amazing qualities of friendship, success, the opportunity of living life with all its colours, flavours, and proportions. Why reduce it to how we look like to the people who hardly do anything for us, other than criticizing us at the smallest opportunity? The groups of friends are as diverse as humanity, why don’t we become a part of that too?

We could simply aim for an accomplished, satisfactory day rather than one pent acting puppets to the dictated rules. We could eat our fill and work it out, we could get tanned and live a little, we could tell an under-confident chap that he is awesome despite being lanky, and we could maybe accept ourselves enough to not become suicidal if we cannot match up to somebody else’s expectations. We can define our own selves. And then, wouldn’t our wit prove worthier than all the requirements of fairness, slimness, firmness and all the muscle?

You must be to comment.
  1. Neha Jha

    Awesome! I’m glad to see this. I’ve a lot of flab & every now & then somebody comes and lectures me about it, That’s something I don’t usually like, but, I’ve stopped caring. There’s nothing that can be done about it as people’s minds have been clogged with ‘Chikni chamelis’…

    1. Raj

      Wow even in this rather gender-neutral topic you found a way to blame patriarchy! What is it with people these days?
      You yourself wrote “The matrimonial section of newspapers blatantly tells all about the popular demand of fair, slim, beautiful, domesticated brides and the rich prospective husbands.” This is very offensive to both men and women. Here we see the man being dehumanized and objectified as a wallet and all that matter is how much he earns. How exactly is this patriarchy? Who is marrying these men? Other men?

      Now coming to the overall article I think people should be allowed to grow fat, if they choose to. But I also feel that other people have the right to discriminate against them if they wish to. The Government, however, should not. But people and private entities can and should discriminate if they wish to. What can you do about it? You can either grow fit and become more acceptable socially or choose to disregard social norms and weigh whatever you want…or stay somewhere in between.

      I do not think being fat is a good thing but I respect the other person’s lifestyle choices as long as they don’t harm me. Regarding people running after fit men and women, I think that is inherently genetic and nothing to do with “patriarchy”. Clear and taut skin, sharp features, muscles etc. are traits that signify health and youth which are very important while considering breeding potential. Of course this is not important in the modern society as we have evolved beyond mere existence for the sake of breeding.

    2. Raj

      @Neha : While some of them would be lecturing you to hurt you, I am pretty sure many of them mean well. I often lecture my friends about the ills of smoking, doing drugs, drinking and obesity even if their behaviors don’t harm me. Simply put, all these behaviors are unhealthy and I believe they should be avoided. But that’s as far as I can go, since it is ultimately up to them top choose how they live their lives.
      You should definitely get yourself checked out and see if you are overweight or obese. These are technical terms which objective criteria (and not something vague like “lot of flab”). Of course the other extreme behavior of becoming anorexic is undesirable too but today obesity is much more common among the urban population than is anorexia

More from Nishtha Relan

Similar Posts

By asmita K

By Ashi Gupta

By Rohit Kumar

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below