Why you have no right to be ashamed of your body

Love yourself: with all your flaws, quirks, and perceived inadequacies.

 |  6-minute read |   21-05-2016
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Before you read any further, I would like you to spend a moment and think of someone who is unconditionally and entirely in love with his or her physical self. Tough? It's not surprising at all - almost everyone we know closely has some gripe or the other with the way they look. It could be the height, weight, complexion, texture of the hair, shape of the feet or some random part of them that they could just wish away or change. Why is it so difficult for us to be loving and accepting of our bodies?

The reasons are many, the foremost being the stereotypical ideal of beauty, which by and large is a cultural construct, but is propagated fiercely by the media and the glamour industry. And we're not even getting started on Photoshop here, which is an entirely different debate in itself.

1454228898391_052116091435.jpg Why is it so difficult for us to be loving and accepting of our bodies?

When a society begins to define beauty in such narrow terms (tall, slim, fair for women, and tall, muscular, tanned for men), anybody who falls outside of that bracket is automatically marginalized. Then of course, you have seemingly well meaning people reminding you all the time that you are too dark/short/plump/scanty-haired to be any good.

Now, chew on this - there's an entire industry feeding off your insecurity, and spending millions and millions of rupees only to convince you that you are NOT OKAY. That you need to tweak and camouflage and hide and alter your physical appearance in order to be accepted and admired, what with fashion gurus dishing out tricks on how to make straight hair bouncier, curly hair smoother, square face rounder and slim face fuller.

How a certain neckline will draw attention away from your big breast and how yet another will make your tiny breasts look more voluptuous.

How thin lips will look plumper with glossy lipstick and how you can "fix" fleshy lips with matte.

How vertical stripes will make you look taller and if you have a curvy butt, don't even touch the peplums!

Do you see what's wrong here? And then we wonder why such an astounding number of young peoplehave body image issues. After all how are impressionable young minds expected to cultivate self-love and self-confidence when the world around is constantly telling them that they are not good enough the way they are!

Body shaming is a form of abuse that is rampant, yet rarely talked about. From in-your-face ridicule to seemingly innocuous remarks, people don't realize how their words or behavior might be destroying another person's self-confidence and self-worth.

While body shaming is usually peddled as a feminist issue, it is far from it. It affects men in equal measure but the most unfortunate victims of it are children and teens, who at a very tender age, come to loath their physicality for reasons beyond their control.

We are all too aware of bulimia, anorexia and body dismorphic disorders that are becoming so common among young people. There have been cases of teenage girls saving up money for cosmetic procedures. Is this the kind of environment we want our children to grow up in?

Learning to love yourself for who you are

It is sad that we have to look for reasons to love ourselves, but that's also one of the reasons why I chose a plus sized protagonist for my second book, I am Big. So What!?. I wanted to tell the story of a woman who wears her size on her sleeve but does not let it define who she is. She holds her own even when the world around her is constantly trying to push her off the edge.

Isn't that true for most of us?

1. There are some aspects of your body that you can't transform - your bone structure, your skin color, the color of your eyes, your height and everything else that your genetic makeup has bestowed upon you. It makes more sense to not fret over things that are out of your control.

2. Tell you what - people don't really care how you look. No seriously, they don't! It may seem like they do but people are way too self-obsessed to bother about other people's shortcomings, unless they are looking for ways to pull you down, in which case you shouldn't be giving a fuck anyway.

3. Why obsess over pretty when you can be talented, well-read, compassionate, intelligent, driven, ambitious, hardworking, creative, kind, witty, funny, helpful, and a whole lot of other amazing things? Also, is a droopy bum the absolute worst problem you have?

4. Think of that one person you adore the most - your child? Parents? A friend? A lover? Would you love them any less if they looked different? Your answer is most likely a 'no'. If you can love someone like they were the most precious thing in the world, why wouldn't you do that for yourself?

5. Comparing yourself to others is natural but it doesn't help - neither your body image, nor your health. It is crippling. It makes you feel inadequate and strips you off your self-worth without you even realizing it. You feel less than, and ultimately find yourself in a rat race that has no finishing line. At best, you turn to comfort food and at the worst, you begin abusing your body with crash diets and fraud products, spend a buttload of money on cosmetic procedures, only to realize that you cant be like anyone else - you can only be the best version of yourself.

And that you must be - by all means. Nourish yourself with a balanced, healthy diet but don't deprive yourself of the things you love, exercise well - dance, play, swim - but do all of that for yourself and your own well being, not to fit into someone else's bizarre standards of beauty.  

6. Take a moment to consider all the amazing science-y things your body does for you. If you are healthy and able-bodied, you have tonnes to be grateful for. Thank your body for what it does rather than criticize it for what it looks like.

That body of yours - yes, that thing that you've had forever and will spend the remainder of your life in - love it, respect it and care for it all you can. And no, not the conditional kind of love that says "I'll love myself when…" Love yourself now. In this very moment - with all your flaws, quirks, and perceived inadequacies. Because you know what's sexier than flat abs? Confidence!

Writer

Shuchi Singh Kalra Shuchi Singh Kalra @shuchikalra

Author of two romantic comedies - Done With Men (Feb 2014), and I'm Big. So What?! (Feb 2016). She freelances as a writer, editor and blogger, and runs a writing firm called the Pixie Dust Writing Studio. When she's not writing, Shuchi likes to travel, read and bake awesome cakes.

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