How to solve the problem when the problem is your face
In a world filled with Instagram models, internet beauty challenges, contour-mania (where people contour literally everything, down to their feet and toes) – it’s impossible to keep up with what the new standard of beauty is.
Why is that?
Because there isn’t a set one, and regrettably I do not mean that in a good way like you are all beautiful no matter what.That is not what the internet is telling us. What I mean to say is, your ass will always be too big, your boobs too small, your hair will never be quite as ‘on fleek’.
In this life, I have faced many issues regarding my body image.These can be summarised into three main issues namely: the darkness, skinniness, and nastiness.
The darkness issue was something from the older generation and the things they used to say, about how if I stayed out in the sun I’d never get a husband. Regrettably, this narrative continued in a different way at the school where I was told I was too dark to be Indian, this was received by every race. At that point, I had not realised that they then were on the path of self-loathing based on the colour of their skin. Although it is important to note that this was in the mid ’90s to early ’00s at a public school and although we had already achieved democracy, it would be foolish to think that the thought process of the past was not embedded in the form of institutionalised racism suffered at the school I had gone to.
Soon the darkness was less of an issue, for the most part anyway, as it was something I was learning to embrace. I had read an article in a magazine about a DJ who was also ridiculed for being dark when she was at school, and the torment she went through was far worse than mine and she was successful and living her best life. So I got over it (to an extent), and in general people’s perceptions of being dark were changing.
We were seeing black models on screens and beautiful dark skinned people on TV, it made being dark a little more acceptable.
This was great, except I still had the skinny and the ugly to face. The skinny issue became an increasing problem at university. At this point, my mum had already put me on supplements recommended by doctors to help me gain weight, which never worked and finding clothes was a headache.
So having random strangers tell me I’d look pretty if I’d just eat something, or that no one likes someone without meat on their bones was an increasingly frustrating dilemma. Worst still, people assumed I had an eating disorder, and random people would approach me and tell me I’m anorexic and needed help. This dialogue and exchange, regrettably, made me an awful and hard person in turn. I figured if people were going to shame me for my body then I, by virtue of being shamed, was allowed to shame others. I became a tremendously vocal, judgmental person. I would later learnt that this was the wrong way to deal with this adversity, the hard way.
The lesson had come when I had been approached by a modelling agency and a friend and I were trying to convince a mutual friend to join me in creating a portfolio. Although my friend meant well in trying to boost the confidence of the mutual friend, she said the worst about me. Why? Because I put on a hard exterior about not caring what others thought about me because I had openly shamed other people in front of her that led to me welcoming the thin shaming. And she was right to do it, I had to be able to get as good as I gave, and she had confirmed my worst fears in one sentence about no one wanting to see a pile of bones as this was not attractive.
This broke me, and it took me a while to realise the lesson of shaming someone else to make yourself feel better, is not the route to go. At the end of the day, you’re still confronted with all the insecurities you faced prior to that. It doesn’t go away just because you found one flaw with someone else. To say that the comment on my body does not haunt me at times when I’m feeling good about myself would be a lie, it’s hard to get over something said when it’s said by a close friend.
I continued to meet comments, generally by other people, and my stubborn rebellion ways had me convinced that I didn’t care about what other people who weren’t in my life said about me. However, there’s always at least one incident to make you feel like shit all over again.
Most recently this occurred at work, and on this day I was feeling particularly good about myself, I was wearing makeup, a dress and had bothered to straighten my hair (these three things next to never happened simultaneously), and I was sitting in the office with a few other people when one of the ladies had come in, looked at me and then looked to the only other girl in the office and said to her that “they’re asking for the pretty Indian girl”.
It was not as if she didn’t know our names, she just chose to say it this way in front of other people, and I felt like this was an attack on me. What hurt most was the fact that I cared what this chick thought! It’s not like she outright said I was ugly, but I felt like it was implied in her statement, and why did I care for this and why couldn’t I just be happy for the other girl? Ninety percent of the time I didn’t care what I looked like, so why did I care what she thought what I looked like?
Every time I would feel good about myself, my mind would go over these situations where people had said things that made me feel like I fell off the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to overcome this, if I’d ever allow myself to feel good again.
Then one day, I was talking to a friend who was going through a rough time and was feeling down about himself (not in relation to body issues). So I suggested that he make a list, a list of everything he is proud to have accomplished, it didn’t have to be astounding events like winning a Nobel prize or anything , it just has to be things that make him smile. He could always refer to this list whenever he felt uncertain about himself. In a bid to show my support, I decided to do a list too in order to show him, full of random things that made me smile when I thought about it. Whether it was high marks in an exam, helping a friend out, good news, surviving certain situations that at the time you never thought you would, or becoming a different person to who you were. This list, although made in support of a friend, helped me. It helped me realise that while I am far from perfect, I have a lot to be proud of.
I care more about the person I am than what I look like, but I need to be thankful for this body for getting me through the hard and being with me, and not giving up on me when I gave up on my body.
What I want people to take from this article is first, hate only creates more hate. It’s far easier to judge someone than to compliment them but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Try to bring a smile to someone’s face you never know how much they may need it even if they themselves don’t think they need it.
Secondly, if it makes you happy that’s all that matters. People will try to bring you down, but the truth is everyone is fighting their own battles, and while it is easy to get caught up in the bad, reminding yourself of where you came from, where you are and where you are going helps. In the grand scheme of things, are you really going to let what someone said to you two years, two weeks or two minutes ago affect your path? What people perceive of you doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you perceive yourself. So love yourself, love your body for it has been through this all with you. Someone is going to love you, and first and foremost, that someone should be you. You deserve to love the skin you’re in, the body that encompasses your soul lets you do all the things you set out to do, the least you could do for your body, is appreciate it.