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Body Shaming: The End Of Shame Begins With A Better Perception Of The Self

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In Hindu mythology, there is a story: once a sage who had disabilities was going on a walking path when a mischievous boy cracked crooked jokes about his body. The sage got angry and cursed the boy with his next life as a reptile. How is this relevant to current times?

Although I cannot curse others into reptile-hood in their next birth, I remember the faces who have discouraged me at my weak point. I can not remember all the names, the count is still ongoing.

Let’s start from the beginning. In my childhood, I was a lean girl and I still am. At that little fairy age, I was not aware of body shaming. But when I look back, I realise I have been a victim of body shaming at an early age. From my family to my friends, all my dear ones advised me to gain weight; they should have tried getting their own life instead. I did not take any comments seriously because I never felt rejected.  I was my favorite.

For the last two to three years, I have taken these remarks to heart. Somewhere in the corner of my heart, I hear these remarks out despite my devil may care attitude. It hurts when I face rejection because of my body. The interesting part about human nature is that one only feels hurt when one realises that what one is experiencing is something bad.

Earlier, when I was not aware that there was such a thing as body shaming, I would not feel hurt. But when I got to know about this social taboo, shaming became hurtful. I started worrying about it. I started feeling conscious about my body. When meeting new people, I started thinking about what they’d think about my body, and that they won’t like me anymore; that there are a lot of prejudices about me and against me. The worst part is that I rejected myself before getting rejected by anyone else.

At that little fairy age, I was not aware of body shaming.

The feeling of inferiority was born out of nowhere. The feeling that one is a loser is not just an emotion. It gets replicated in every aspect of one’s life. It hurt me the most when I rejected myself as a partner to my longtime boyfriend. I tried to change myself, my habits and my body. I used to go to the gym, maintain a diet, but I gave up after some time. The only defeat I am proud of. From the bottom of my heart, I did not want to do all this stuff to satisfy anybody. I couldn’t please anybody. The interesting part is when I would to go to the gym, people there would also make fun of me. They would ask me, “Why are you going to the gym? What do you want to achieve?”

It is rightly said, “time is a skilled teacher.” With time, I digested the fact that no matter what you do, you can not satisfy everybody. I stopped myself. I made myself understand that I am not my body, not my hair, not my eyes, neither my nose nor my name. I am more than all these bodily objects. I’ll always be myself, I am a human being and a human being can not be defined only by its body, hair, eyes or anything else. I have a personality to hold. I am more than everything and it matters to me more than anything.

Even till now, I have not overcome it completely, this is not my success story yet. It is still a struggle story, but somehow, I am managing my story. The only thing I want from my life is to be healthy, cheerful, happy and in peace. The reason I don’t want people to be close to me is that I don’t want them to comment on me or my life.

It’s not others’ fault all the time; sometimes, I also play the role of ‘other people’ in other’s lives. Despite my intentions, sometimes I have also commented on people, their skin color, body shape or size. I have played a similar role that people have played in my life. It is rightly said, “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

To conclude, shape, size, hair texture, color and skin can define no one. Zebras are recognized by their skin color pattern, we are not zebras. Owls are known for their eyes, we are not owls. Dogs are known for their fur, we are not dogs.

Bodily configuration must not define us. I am a deep person who loves life, who talks about life, and my body is only a tool for myself nothing more than that. So, I treat my body as a tool to survive till death by making it healthy and beautiful in my eyes. This brings a tremendous amount of confidence to my life. When I think that I am looking beautiful, that’s all there is to it. Game over.

Because after all, to shame one’s body, one must have to shame oneself.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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