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What I Wish Everyone Knew About Body Shaming

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What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see how beautiful you are, or are those love handles too outrageous for you to focus on anything else? Ever daydreamed about switching your body with someone else’s? Why?

Body shaming has been part of our culture for decades now, yet over time we have forgotten that beauty was never meant to be standardised. We stare at the mirror for hours with disdainful looks, angry and disappointed at the tiniest of moles, wistful that they’d go away, imagining ourselves in a false light of misguided hope. What would happen if we stopped? If, just for once, when we assess ourselves in the looking glass, we could do so with optimism. Here’s why we should get rid of this unhealthy habit now for good:

False Perceptions

The biggest mistake that we have become accustomed to making is comparing ourselves to the models in magazines, or our celebrity crushes. Not only is this unhealthy but totally unnecessary. The magazines we look towards for inspiration slowly become a growing pit of unrealistic goals, and failure to reach those goals only brews more self-hatred. Every person has days where they are not their best-kept selves, but that does not make us ugly or unlikeable, and the sooner we let go of these false perceptions the sooner we can stop underestimating our own potential.

Lower Self-Confidence

When you hate yourself or the way your body looks, it does nothing good to your self-confidence. Self-confidence is like an accessory to our personalities and it is the only ornament we really, truly need. But doubting yourself over and over again, looking out at only the flaws in your body is a sure way to brutally injure your self-esteem. The question we must answer is whether this is truly required. Was it not better to be at peace with your own self in a world of chaos? We have so many obstacles to face in the outside world, but to be able to do that with confidence requires not just a level head but also the ability to be sure of our own image in the society, and we can only do that when we stop doubting ourselves.

Uniqueness

Every person is different. Some have blue eyes; some have stretch marks; some are tall; some are short; some people are on the heavier side of the weighing scale; some are lean; but everyone, every single last one of us is beautiful. It is this belief, that we are different from the person sitting next to us, that makes us unique. So instead of shaming yourself or doubting yourself, what would happen if you were to repeat the mantra, “I’m unique” to yourself every single day? Would the mirror still hide the rosiness of a happy face? It’s time for us to own to our quirks and wear them proudly because these quirks are the very essence of who we are. And when we start loving these quirks, we start to emerge as a unique person with a standing of our own in this world.

Unhealthy Eating Habits

Body shaming by others is enough to push a healthy person off the wagon. Imagine the damage it does when a person does it to themselves. It is nothing but a breeding ground for eating disorders. So what if you’re a little overweight? Does it warrant starving yourself for days at end? Or if you’re a little lean, does it mean you must only eat proteins to gain muscle? Food is a necessity for human body, and true, “we are what we eat”, but that does not mean that we must not enjoy the meal before us and dissect its nutrients all the time. It is okay to binge once in a while, and we must stop throwing ourselves into a spiral every time we fail to keep up with a diet.

Stress And Panic Situations

Looking down upon oneself does nothing but create unnecessary stress in a person, and it benefits no one. We are so busy looking for faults with our own bodies that we do not realise the stressful environment we unintentionally create for ourselves. How can anyone reach their full potential in such an environment? What we don’t understand is how this impacts all the other  of our lives as well. Good body image is a necessity not only for good mental health but to have a functional social life as well. So we should endeavor to get out of this self-created panic so that we can lead a happier, peaceful lifestyle.

Self-Love

How can we expect someone else to love us when we can’t love ourselves? Fishing for compliments from other people might boost our self-esteem for a little while, but it helps us get nowhere in the long run. We must first try to accept our own body the way it is before trying to satisfy someone else’s expectations. Therefore, self-love is the most important key to having a healthy body image. It is only when we can start loving ourselves that we can truly be confident in who we are.

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, so maybe it’s time to change our perspective of how our bodies should be, and start loving our bodies the way they already are.

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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.

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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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.

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