“I wish my skin was as fair as yours”/ “I would kill for your figure — especially for your narrow hips”/“I want my eyes to be as blue as yours”/“Your are so pretty, why can’t I be like you…?!?”
Being a European woman in India, these are the compliments I hear from you ladies on a daily basis. A lot of people might perceive them as very comforting and self-confidence building. Personally, I perceive them as utterly scary and deeply insane. Why would you like to be someone else other than your beautiful self?
You are beautiful in your own way!
Having travelled to more than 30 countries on 4 different continents, I have seen women of all colours and shapes – from plump African mothers with two children at each limb, to twiggy Japanese schoolgirls. The curves that make the beauty of one would not suit the other and vice versa. And yet, we try so hard to become someone we are not. In Europe, we worship tanned bodies, whereas in India, you consider fairness as the most beautiful and desirable. We both spend insane amounts of money on tanning/fairness creams and other costly procedures whose sole purpose is to make us look different from who we are, and thus a little bit more comfortable with our bodies. Let me ask you, how can you be different from who you are and at the same time be more comfortable with our own body? I hope I am not the only one who sees the thundering nonsense!
Don’t deliberately give away your liberty!
We live in wonderful times when we don’t have to artificially shape our bodies by wearing uncomfortable corsets/small footwear and other torture instruments just to be socially accepted. And yet, we continuously internalize the pressure that media and society project on us and voluntarily torture our bodies by over-exercising, food deprivation leading to anorexia and bulimia, and uncomfortably tight clothes supposed to make our bodies look “as perfect as the girl from the advertisement”.
What’s wrong with me?
You might think that I am so critical just because I’m jealous, because I could not make it. Maybe I should try harder, spend more money just to have those lovely curves, that pretty, flawless skin, that perfectly shaped body. But I confess, I tried really hard. I have undergone three laser surgeries to remove acne from my face and one surgery to remove freckles from my body. I spent every second day in the fitness centre for more than a year trying to get the perfect tummy, hips and buttock I see on the covers of fashion journals. But even though (or maybe because?) I have undergone this all, I didn’t become more comfortable with who I was. There was still an endless list of changes I wanted to make to my body before I would even think of accepting it.
And honestly, I am fed up of this insane competition with an artificially photoshopped shadow of a woman. I am tired of pretending I am someone who I am not. I am sick of betraying my own intelligence, my own body, my own sex. Therefore I quit, here and now.
Go beyond the body!
Looking back at those times when I have tried so hard to become a model/princess/goddess/the embodiment of perfection, I have to sincerely laugh at myself and believe me, it’s a very liberating laugh. Such a waste of time, money, energy and potential on something that will grow old in 20 years from now on anyway!
My face is (despite the chirurgical interventions) still covered with pimples, my body is still full of freckles and my figure is definitely not size zero. And yet, I feel so great about who I am as I have never felt before. After I wake up every morning, I smile to my reflection in the mirror, I thank my body for being here for me and allowing me to have such an interesting, fulfilling life, and I start to do something instead of trying to be someone.
Do something instead of being someone!
Because if we want to change something in this world, if we want to make a contribution and build a more equal society, a mere being definitely won’t be enough — we will have to do something about it all.
Indian ladies, if I could give you one advice – love and own who you are! Not only would you feel wonderful and beautiful by loving your bodies, but you will also have much more time to actually do something with your lives and thus, more time to change the society which you live in.