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Mirror Mirror On The Wall, Why I Shouldn’t Care About You At All!

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By Tanuja Aundhe:

If you’ve been reading the news, you must have seen several pieces about how body image and loving yourself are important. If you’re like me, you may have dismissed it as some sort of hippy-dippy stuff — who on earth loves themselves exactly as they are? There are always details you want to change about yourself, little things you don’t like, like that tum you’ve got there, or that mole, that pimple, or that freckle. You may have issues with the colour of your hair, the size of your cheeks, your mismatched feet (guilty) or whatever. Obviously, each of us has a pet peeve. You simply say ‘different strokes for different folks’, brush it off, and move on.

body image Issues

But, you know, as it turns out, loving yourself isn’t as bad as it seems. It may actually be really good for you.

You’ve seen the advertisements and the videos — the Dove Self-Esteem Project is actually trying to drive that point into people. In a recent TED Talk, their Global Director, Meaghan Ramsey, provided some startling statistics:

1. Women who think they’re overweight, regardless of actual weight, have higher rates of absenteeism.

2. 17% of women would not show up to a job interview on a day when they weren’t feeling confident about the way they look.

3. People who give exams while thinking they don’t look good (specifically, thin) enough, score lower GPAs than those who are not concerned about this, regardless of actual weight. (findings consistent across Finland, US, China.)

4. 10,000 people every month Google ‘am I ugly’.

5. 6 out of 10 girls are now choosing to not do something because they don’t think they look good enough. ‘Something’ not being trivial activities, but are fundamental activities necessary for their development.

6. 31% of teenagers are withdrawing from classroom debate because they don’t want to draw attention to the way they look.

7. 1 in 5 (20%) is not showing up to class at all on days when they don’t feel good about it.

Additionally, as many as 10 million Americans are now struggling with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. Though no Indian statistics are available, a 2005 study conducted by the ICMR shows the prevalence of several significant psychosocial factors among Indian children and adolescents. A lot of these factors are triggers for future self-esteem problems and eating disorders.


Honestly, this is getting beyond ridiculous. Not looking good enough? Why on earth would you miss out because of that? But as these statistics illustrate, that is exactly what is happening. Let’s talk about why.

To begin with, “Self-Image”. I found this on Google:

self image

So, to say this again, the idea that you have of your traits, And I use ‘”traits” broadly — it can be your characteristics, your mannerisms, your habits — everything, including your looks – that’s where the trouble begins.

Because, when your self-image includes your looks, at some point of time, it may become exclusively about your looks. It may just be all about the way you look. And when you notice a blemish, or a fault, or a flaw, it seems more important than it actually is.

And that’s where the problem is! When you centre yourself on a flaw, you make yourself feel imperfect, you make your mind think that you’re an amalgamation of flaws with one or two nice bits. When, of course, it is the exact opposite. You have a few flaws — but who doesn’t have flaws? Who loves themselves for the way they are?

A Google search for ‘self-image’ reveals some utterly terrifying images. You can see some for yourself below:

google self image

See that girl there? Who’s looking in the mirror? You can just feel it. She’s terrified of what the mirror might show her.

And what are the slurs and comments thrown at women daily? They hear ugly/stupid/crazy/dumb/bitch — in short, not good enough. Try again next time. And why? Well, Meaghan gave us some reasons why.

She said that, in these times, during their teen years, admittedly the most vulnerable time of their lives, people start questioning their perception of themselves, whether they are pretty or ugly. But why?

She attributed it to the following reasons:

(a) Teenagers today are rarely alone. They are always available online, and this may be why they are over-connected, through posts, pictures, likes, comments, to people who are actually of no consequence.

(b) Obviously, this leads to no privacy for these teens and makes their life somewhat public. (Speaking of public lives, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, anyone?)

(c) It also makes them value or evaluate themselves based on the kind of feedback they receive from peers online, those oft-mentioned and oft-criticised posters, commenters, likers and viewers.

(d) This plethora of connectivity also means that for teenagers now, there is no separation between online and offline life.

(e) Thus, they cannot differentiate between what is real and virtual, authentic and digitally manipulated.

(f) They already have bad role models available online — trends such as thinspiration, pro-ana, bikini bridge — which are typically full of stereotyping and flagrant objectification of women.

(g) In an image-obsessed culture, we are training our kids to spend more time and mental effort on their appearance at the expense of all other aspects of their identities.

Some research suggests that it may start at even a younger age, when girls are given Barbie dolls to play with — Barbie as an ideal of a perfect young woman is seriously flawed. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex in 2006 concluded that thin dolls like Barbie do affect young girls’ body image over time, and indeed, “may damage girls’ body image, which would contribute to an increased risk of disordered eating and weight cycling.”

A YouTube Video also shows how exactly Barbie affects body image. This video also talks about another bit of research, done in 2014, which shows how preschool girls want to be ‘thin’ so that they can look like Barbie. Come on, you’re in preschool!

And it isn’t just dolls and dudes — mothers, too, may play a more important role than they think. Research suggests that a same-sex parent is the most important role model for a child. So, when the kid comes home, and sees momma (or daddy, depends) working out like crazy, abstaining from eating certain foods, going through complicated beauty rituals or painful procedures just so that they look better, it is obvious that they’ll feel inadequate themselves.

In fact, one of the lead designers for Barbie has said that Moms are affecting the children’s body image issues more than their dolls (The whole interview can be found here). Things aren’t helped by people such as the Mom who put her 7-year-old on a diet, then wrote an article in Vogue about it.

And why is a positive self-image important? Obviously, the above statistics show how it matters, but also, it makes you confident, it makes your self-esteem go up, it gives your overall happiness a massive boost. As one HuffPost writer has pointed out, it gives you a glow and a special style of your own.

Well, okay then. We’ve established that people today are pretty screwed up about what they think about themselves — now what can we do about it?

Meaghan offers a range of solutions, grouped under the following heads:

A. Educate for body confidence

Help teens develop strategies to overcome image-related pressures and build their self-esteem. Ensure that programs which are trying to do this have both a positive impact as well as a lasting impact on kids. The best programs address six key areas:

(a) Family, friends and relationships
(b) Teasing and bullying
(c) Talking about appearance
(d) Media and celebrity culture
(e) Competing and comparing looks
(f) Respecting and looking after yourself

B. Be better role models

Challenge the status quo of how women are seen and talked about in our own circles. Start judging people on what they do and not on what they look like. Take responsibility for the types of pictures and comments that we post online. Compliment people based on their effort and actions, and not on appearance.

C. Work together

Communities, families, and governments should all get together to try and combat this problem.

The talk was mainly towards a group of older women, however. What can we do? Follow the above steps. Educate yourself. Be nicer to your younger siblings, to your peers, to your friends. Don’t make catty comments (this isn’t Mean Girls, you know) or unnecessary comparisons. Don’t draw ridiculous comparisons, period. It isn’t really helping either of you all that much. Eat well and eat all that you want. Rujuta Diwekar supports me on that.

And if you feel yourself having a problem, going down a spiral, or even if it’s just a bad hair day, talk. Open up to people. Give it a try. Seek help if you feel that you may be having an eating disorder or a weight issue. Nutritionists and therapists are not that hard to find, you know. A Google search is all it takes.


And you know those Barbies? Want to know how they’ll look like in reality? She’d be a crazy tall, crazy thin woman who’d be forced to walk on all fours and won’t be able to lift her neck.

Try the concept of Wabi-Sabi. It is a Japanese philosophy which believes in embracing your faults, taking in your flaws and accepting yourself just the way you are.

You must be to comment.
  1. Babar

    Until the early 1960s, women did not have body image issues at large, because women used to cover their bodies. Women reserved their bodies for their husbands only. Now, with feminists trying to link revealing attire with liberation, more and more women are opting for spandex pants, short shorts, tight jeans, miniskirts, skimpy tops, backless dresses, etc, and this is creating a generation of body conscious women.

    1. just a human with no gender,no religion and no nationality

      Even in ancient India, statues of men were muscular with more than 6 pack. And during a marriage how handsome and strong the boy LOOKS and even his wealth was the first priority. Even in western countries, they were told to be tough and strong because that makes the so called PERFECT BOY.
      Even in ancient India, statues of women showed their body parts much more than what u say now girls reveal. And during a marriage, how the girl LOOKS and what she cooks was the one and only priority. Even in western countries women and girls were told to wear gowns with corset to show off their curves because that makes the so called PERFECT GIRL.

      Now, we the 21st century girls and boys are the one to change this. It is us who are to show that looks has nothing to do with a human being. But instead many of us are madly in love with fair and lovely and fair and handsome etc. we must get out of the perception of beauty our ancestors taught and practiced. we must know that one’s beauty lies in his or her chest slightly tilted to the left.
      And 3 cheers for Tanuja Aundhe.

    2. akshita

      What is “reserve their bodies for their husbands” supposed to mean? Is that it? Women are required only for their bodies? And feminists don’t associate reveling attires with liberation, all they demand for is the liberty to wear what one pleases.
      Seems like you have got the whole idea of feminism wrong, and anyhow, whats wrong with wearing miniskirts or backless or even a bikini if one pleases to do so?

    3. Babar

      What is “reserve their bodies for their husbands” supposed to mean?

      Reserve their bodies for their husbands to look at.

      And feminists don’t associate reveling attires with liberation, all they demand for is the liberty to wear what one pleases.

      The very fact that miniskirts come with the labels of ‘liberation’ and ‘freedom’ and the burqa with tags of ‘regression’ and ‘oppression’ show that liberation is not wearing what one pleases, but in showing one’s body in public. Women fight with their families for their right to wear the burqa all over the world, but that is not seen as a choice. And during the burqa ban in France, women risked fines and jail sentences but did not take it off.

    4. Tanuja Aundhe

      I completely agree with you. Why should I reserve my body for my prospective husband when he isn’t doing the same for me? Every guy has taken off his shirt with impunity, or worn a pair of shorts to a wedding, or done any of a million things I could mention here. Even if I feel hot, I can’t put on a pair of shorts? This comment struck me as extremely hypocritical. And NO, women haven’t gotten body-conscious because of feminists. In fact, feminists urge women to look beyond their bodies for their inner beauty and inherent talent.

    5. Babar

      Every guy has taken off his shirt with impunity, or worn a pair of shorts to a wedding…

      Lying is your only option left now – no one ever goes to a wedding in shorts. And with perhaps very few exceptions, no one takes his shirt off in public. Neither do men show their thighs in miniskirts, nor cleavages in low-neck tops and dresses. And It isn’t men who wear tight jeans and spandex pants to highlight their butt.

      NO, women haven’t gotten body-conscious because of feminists.

      Another lie. It is feminists who are promoting lewdness by promoting skimpy clothing, which they call ‘liberating’. And it is because of body exposure that girls are now suffering from low self-esteem because their body has to look slim in revealing attire, and they need to reveal their bodies to ‘fit in’.

      n fact, feminists urge women to look beyond their bodies for their inner beauty…

      Apparently women show a lot of inner beauty in short shorts, backless dresses, cleavage revealing tops and miniskirts.

    6. Tanuja Aundhe

      Uh, are you sure? I’ve at least seen dozens of youngish guys wandering around in your so-called ‘Bermuda’ shorts at weddings. And, as for your accusations that I lie, I accept wholeheartedly. I was totally lying. Obviously. I mean, I’m a mere woman, what would I know about what other women say and do and think? How would I know about the feminist movement? I’m pretty sure my typing is also just me trying to play-act and be like Papa, who works so hard and provides for my family and what do I do? Engage in arguments online with a strange man! Oh, the horror!

    7. Babar

      You are beating around the bush trying to avoid my questions. How does men’s knee-length shorts compare with millions of girls in short shorts, miniskirts, tight jeans, backless dresses, sarees with skimpy blouses, skin tight clothing, spandex pants, tight leggings, cleavage revealing tops, etc? Why are miniskirts promoted and women covering their bodies looked down upon? Why are revealing attire commended and the burqa stagmitized, if it is really about choice?

    8. Anonymous

      @ Babar I will try to avoid ad hominem attacks and attempts at character assassination but I do want to address the unjustified ENTITLEMENT among males with your beliefs.

      | “How does men’s knee-length shorts compare with millions of girls in short shorts, miniskirts, tight jeans, backless dresses, sarees with skimpy blouses, skin tight clothing, spandex pants, tight leggings, cleavage revealing tops, etc?”

      You can compare it because it reveals skin as well? Maybe in varying degrees but that’s what comparison is for.

      | “Why are miniskirts promoted and women covering their bodies looked down upon?”

      No one is looking down upon women who cover their bodies. A lot of fashion trends even today involve covering yourself up not with one but multiple layers of clothing.
      | “Why are revealing attire commended and the burqa stagmitized, if it is really about choice?”
      Again, no one is STIGMATIZING the Burqa as an article of clothing. What we are and morally and ethically should be stigmatizing is the connotation behind the Burqa. The fact that it has been forced upon women in certain places for decades or more with the purpose of ‘only revealing their bodies to their husbands’ and to ‘protect themselves from feasting eyes’ as the Quran says, is what we should look down upon.
      People should be free to wear what they choose to, unless it harms the society in a genuine way (and no, women wearing short shorts or skinny jeans is neither harming our society nor is it the cause of poor body image).

      For example: Here’s a situation wherein I disagree with wearing a Burqa – A young girl, living in a religious family in which it is told to her by people close to her that a Burqa must be worn as a symbol of virtue and to attain the gift of heaven.

      And here’s a situation wherein I disagree with not being able to wear a Burqa – France, when it banned Burqas in public places for apparent safety purposes. If the woman freely chooses and wants the right to wear a Burqa, neither should it be looked down upon nor should it be denied unless extremely impractical (Airport security and such).
      The fact that you keep saying ‘feminists promote lewdness by wearing skimpy clothes’, clearly demonstrates the fact that not only have you failed to comprehend this article but also other statements by people you perceive to be feminists.


      Now, I would like to respond to: “Reserve their bodies for their husbands to look at.”

      Where do you get off saying stuff equivalent to ‘Only I/your husband reserve the right to look at your body?’

      Not only does this portray an immense sense of undeserved entitlement but also a lack of respect for the woman’s desire. If any female wishes to wear a miniskirt or a GD onesie, it is her choice to show off whatever part of her body she wishes to. Implying that doing so causes negative body image is an argument out of ignorance on the grounds that you eliminate other factors such as genetic predisposition to psychiatric conditions, bullying, abusive past etc. A negative body image is also said to be caused largely by impact of popular media. Although claiming without any evidence that it is ‘nudity/revealing outfits’ rather than the fact that most of entertainment media largely employs people based on their physical appearance is intellectually dishonest.

    9. akshita

      Why should women be “reserving their bodies for their husbands to look at”, is this statement supposed to make sense? Its just absurd and pathetic in a million ways.

    10. Babar

      It is not pathetic, unless you are suggesting that women turn themselves into objects who put their bodies on display for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to look at.

  2. Gaurav

    it was such a long article… padte padte maine apna sir table pe aundhe moon maara aur so gayaa…. on a serious note, yes there are many issues, but it would be better if you collect more statistics for indians and suggest more appropriate ways to fix issues that indians are facing. best of luck

    1. Tanuja Aundhe

      I personally don’t think there’s any ‘Indian’ or ‘Non-Indian’ when talking about this issue. I agree that statistics are mostly about Americans, but the problem is that the relevant data is simply not available for our country. (Sorry about that, I suppose?)

      However, this problem is much more individual or personal than nationality. You may agree or disagree, but that is my point of view.

  3. akshita

    What i am trying, and now desperately trying to say is that, is why should a woman being reserving her body for anybody!? And if a girl walks down a street in , say, a pair of tiny shorts , with a tank top, does that mean she is putting her body on display for somebody? Why can’t it just be that she is wearing something she is comfortable in, and also likes wearing! And you said they should be reserving their bodies for their husbands, thus they shouldn’t wear anything revealing, so can i also assume you are saying that women should be virgins on the day of their wedding?
    And what if she is not? She is a slut? A whore? But if a man does the same thing, nobody objects. We have different rules for men and women, and feminists try to fight that. And i do know that men and women are different physically , mentally and psychologically, but feminists try to fight the social difference. For example, a girls virginity is of great importance , but if i boy isn’t one nobody cares!

    1. Babar

      Why can’t it just be that she is wearing something she is comfortable in, and also likes wearing!

      Many women are comfortable in just their underwear, which they wear at home all day. However, comfort alone does not determine what you wear in public. When you are outside, due to a sense of decency, you have to put some clothes on. Just as you would for office. And just as you would expect your daughters to do for school. (Even in western countries, in many schools and colleges and offices, skimpy clothing for girls is banned).

      so can i also assume you are saying that women should be virgins on the day of their wedding?

      Virginity is something to be prized. I believe both men and women should be virgins on the day of their marriage.

      But if a man does the same thing, nobody objects.

      That is not true. It is what the media feeds you, because the media gets attention and people sympathize with women’s causes. In general, everyone from the law to parents to the general public to teachers in school and universities – are more strict with men.

    2. akshita

      Well for starters, i would obviously be concerned about my daughter’s safety and well-being, but since i strongly believe it is not related to clothes, i would let her wear whatever she pleases to. And also i would encourage her to break the stigma of rapes being associated with clothing. And shorts and a tank top are clothes enough.
      Well, the Indian society is a patriarchal society, and it favors men more. It’s not about what the media says, it’s about what we experience each day.

    3. Anonymous

      How can you say it’s what the media feeds us when it is so obvious that if a man is shirtless on the street, there will be a much different reaction as to when a woman is shirtless. Denying the double standard in society is again, intellectually dishonest.

    4. Babar

      If a woman is topless, it amounts to nudity all over the world because women have something known as breasts, which are sex organs. A woman being topless is a criminal offence, even in the west.

    5. Anonymous

      |because women have something known as breasts

      Wait what? Did you just argue that males lack breast tissue?

      |A woman being topless is a criminal offence, even in the west

      It’s called an argument out of popularity. Just because a majority of people share the opinion does not make it morally right.

      And what’s this inferiortity complex among Indians where if the west isn’t progressive enough yet, then we shouldn’t even try to further our own country. Not only is that incredibly pessimistic but it’s staggering how you do not realise how insulting that is.

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