“Why don’t you put on a little weight? Take some supplements”; “ This dress would have looked great on you if you had lost some kilos”; “Your hair is too thin for any hairstyle, you should avoid trying different hairstyles next time”; “I think dark colour dresses don’t go with your complexion”.
We often come across these feedbacks in our daily lives and call them ‘opinion’, though unasked for. Making someone feel lesser and feeding them myths about ideal body images is not an opinion. It’s called body shaming. Moreover, we could be at either end, receiving unwanted feedbacks or giving them. Each one of us has encountered this, and might still be dealing with such experiences.
Interestingly, it could be any place where we might encounter individuals ready to find faults with our appearance. We meet them in schools, colleges, workplaces, families, social gatherings, parks, gyms and more. Gradually, such remarks start festering our mind and turn into a lasting perception we create about ourselves based on others’ views. Since childhood, we have seen that the most laughed at characters in cartoon magazines or sitcoms are usually portrayed as fat and jibes at these characters could be demeaning and scarring for an overweight person.
Sadly, most of the times body-shaming is done not only by an outsider but by parents, spouses, siblings and friends too. #TheySaid campaign, started by Sally Bergesen in 2017, has validated that, in most of the cases the body shaming is done by parents or grandparents. Expressing concerns towards the health of our closed ones is one aspect, but making them uncomfortable with their own bodies and the constant disparagement cannot be justified as a concern. Due to the continuous poking from sources around, regardless of what others opine about us, we start detesting our personality gradually. Today, the pressure of looking attractive is mounting so much on us that we forget that models or celebrities on magazine covers and in commercials are just bodies that fit the stereotypes of the fashion industry. They are not the real body types that we find around us. And most of the times these images are photoshopped to make them look ‘flawless’.
I have a few friends who are not ‘lean’ enough to get compliments and hence, people keep offering them doses of advice about their diet, lifestyle, workouts and more. By doing this, people attempt to harness the stigma attached to obese or lean body types; shame them and try to influence their lifestyle and behaviour, which is undoubtedly a poor idea. This constant yapping from ‘concerned individuals’ takes a toll on their mental and physical health and they end up with conditions like depression, anorexia, bulimia, insecurity; at times it may even end up with them taking wrong decisions – sometimes leading to substance abuse, in extreme cases.
We keep on blaming individuals for having a particular body type and bring an unsaid inferiority complex in them. In turn, they keep delving themselves into so-called ‘healthy eating habits’, which are actually taking them away from their original food habits. It’s high time we understand that aspiring for a flawless body is an impossibly high expectation we have for ourselves. We need to arm our present and coming generations, to become immune towards these mortifying comments, and help them understand that a healthy body should be one’s utmost priority instead of meeting the ephemeral beauty standards. Let’s help our girls and boys by creating a positive and safer environment for them, where they can reclaim their true-self and live comfortably in their skin. Efforts should be made to teach as well as learn to respect others and value their contributions to the society, instead of judging them on their appearance.
We have a diverse culture which expands our food options. Then, why should we deprive ourselves? We should only strive for good health accompanied by good food and a good sport to indulge ourselves. We should aim for a healthy body and not a perfect one. Fitness goals should be set to achieve a disease-free healthy life and not some unrealistic beauty standards. We must not fall for the ideal images that are sold to us.
One should focus on carving out their inner beauty instead and love their body unconditionally and profoundly. Also, remember not to use ‘body shaming’ as an excuse for being unhealthy, because a healthy body makes a person happier. It’s time to restrain ourselves from scrutinising our appearance every moment, just because we see perfectly carved bodies on the internet. Stop blindly following old and outdated beauty standards and start appreciating your uniqueness!
And most importantly, stop judging yourself through the eyes of others.