I’ve always had a low self esteem, especially when it comes to my body. I grew up in a culture that placed undue emphasis on looks and complexion. As a teenager I was scrawny and dark and didn’t have enough “meat” on my bones. Even at 22 years old and at 5’2″ I weighed 45Kgs. In a society obsessed with fair skin, my dusky complexion never stood a chance.
At an age where all my friends were experimenting with hair cuts, hair removal, and makeup – I was still going to school in oiled hair with 2 plaits. I wanted to curl up in a corner and die. From the time I remember, there were always comparisons about how someone else was always fairer, prettier, and how they looked good in clothes they wore. My own mother sadly was, and to this day remains a staunch proponent of physical beauty.
Weighed under the stream of constant criticism, I never felt beautiful. I never learnt to love my body for what it was. And in the pursuit of that ideal of physical beauty, I missed out appreciating my worth as a person. I thought if my complexion cleans up and I put on some weight, I would be more appealing to everyone. And I was in that phase for a while, but as soon as my weight crossed 55kgs, I was assaulted with the accusations of being fat! Since then it has been a whole new spectrum of body shaming.
I admit I didn’t have a very healthy lifestyle, I depended on my metabolism to tide me over quite a bit, and I did put on weight that I could have avoided. Then the IVF happened and over a course of 2.5 years I put on 18 kgs. And my self confidence dropped exponentially. I felt ugly in everything I wore, and everything I didn’t. I went to the gym and struggled to lose even a few kgs without starving myself. I emotional eat – I can’t help it. It’s a vicious cycle – you get emotional because you feel unloved and insecure and you eat because you are emotional and put on more weight that contributes to your insecurities.
I’ve had people tell me very vocally that I am fat – and they are supposed to be my friends and family. They are apparently doing so in a misguided attempt to shame me in to fixing this and getting back in shape. But after a lifetime of criticism, I am no good at dealing with negative feedback. I block it out, or worse I rebel. I wish more people understood that support is much better than shame. But that’s the world we live in I guess. To those folks who think telling me I’m fat is going to make me lose weight I ask, “what are you going to do to support me”? It’s easy to tell people to be a certain way, it’s much harder to invest in their well being. If you are my friend, you will invest in me, just as I invest in you. Otherwise, I have no space for negativity in my life anymore.
All around me I see glowing examples of women who are so comfortable in their own skin. They don’t care if they are thin or fat or dark – they slay either way. I wish I could be more like them. I wish I didn’t spend hours agonizing over which dress to wear and what would hide my curves the best. I wish I was confident enough to step out without makeup and to hell with the flawed skin. But I’m not – and it’s a handicap I deal with every day. I cancel my plans because I just don’t feel good enough to be seen in public. I refuse intimacy because I worry that what people see might put them off. I rarely like pictures of me. In a word I’m a MESS.
I don’t want to pass of my laziness as an excuse for body positivity. I WANT to be healthy and I do what I can for it. But at the same time, I want to be comfortable in my skin – whatever shape it is in. It’s a battle I fight every day and rarely, very rarely, in moments of defiance I win. I’ve come to accept my skin tone, I like being brown and I’m comfortable with it now. I am yet to come to terms with my weight – and the wrinkles that are starting to show, and the hair that is greying steadily. And it takes an immense amount of will to defy the shamers and say I am ok as I am. But inside I cringe and cry and wonder when will I be an acceptable size again.
As I write this I resolve again – I am through with this now. I will never let anyone may me feel low for not looking a certain way. If I’m fat, I’m still going to be fabulous.
Maybe this valentine’s day I’ll gift myself some self love.
I’m sure we’ve all got stories of being body shamed. Tell your story and share the load.