Editor’s Note: This post is a part of What's A Man, a series exploring masculinity in India, in collaboration with Dr. Deepa Narayan. Join the conversation here!
TW: Suicidal thoughts
I have faced body shaming multiple times in my life, from my family members as well as outsiders. It has left an impact on my mental and physical health. I was thin as a paper since childhood. I ate a lot and only wasted food on my body. People often ridiculed me. I look horrible, they would say, and ask if my parents weren’t giving me food.
Whenever I’d go to family functions, my own relatives would body shame me. People would not give me much attention. Earlier, their taunts did not affect me much, but as I grew up, they started having an impact on my life. I wanted to talk and socialise, but the fear of getting body-shaming deterred me from doing so. I became introverted and low on confidence.
I remember one such incident. I was at an institute where I was learning how to speak English. I heard a girl talking to another girl, “Look at this boy, how thin is his waist,” and they started to laugh. I turned back and looked at them. I got furious. I wanted to give her a reply right in that moment, but I had no courage to confront her. I developed hatred against girls.
My friends used to tease me but I could not fight everyone; it was impossible to. I joined the gym and in the hope of building my body, I took a supplement that severely impacted my mental and physical health. I developed many digestion issues. My body became bulky for some time, but it got worse later. I became even thinner.
I went from doctor to doctor, but they weren’t able to cure my digestive issues. I became depressed and was unable to concentrate on my studies. I wanted to kill myself. But it was easier said than done. After suffering for three years, I took to earning money. I started doing yoga and eating more fruits. Within six months, there was an unexpected recovery in my health. I also started gaining a little weight. I started reading books again and gained back my lost confidence.
I just want to ask everyone never to body shame anyone. You say it jokingly and move on, but your causal words cause immense suffering to the ones they are directed at. They have to suffer mentally and physically. It takes a lot of time to develop enough maturity to not care about others’ opinions. Until then, they go through a lot, and a lot of their precious time is wasted.
Those who have not faced body shaming can never understand. I don’t want you to praise me. I don’t want you to give me extra attention; I want you to accept me as I am. No one wants to look ‘ugly’, everyone wants to look ‘beautiful’. But I feel we need to change the very definition of ‘beauty’. We need to see everyone as worthy, irrespective of their skin colour or body structure.
Today, even a four-year-old child can identify the difference between dark and fair skin as a classification of beauty. What the fuck are we teaching our kids?