The original article was featured in Feminism In India (https://goo.gl/tUdpA5) on July 27, 2016.
There will be times that hit you in the gut till your soul starts to bleed profusely with self hate and self-doubt, times of adversity and insurmountable agony that will come in your life unwelcome, when you will be unprepared, and so vulnerable that you’d go ahead and do the unthinkable. Unthinkable for those who are not going through the same, but for you, the ‘unthinkable’ will be the only thing that’ll be on your mind all the time…
Rewinding, I would like to tell that I was considered a cute baby. The kind of baby that gets attention from friends in get-togethers and from random people in the billing queues at the grocery store and from pretty much everyone in the neighbourhood. When I was growing up, it was expected that I’ll grow up into a beautiful girl; the kind of ‘beautiful’, society finds fit for girls. Then came the phase of adolescence, which proved to be a game changer. By the time I was 15, I had surrendered to the hormonal changes, eating profusely, irrespective of being 15 kgs overweight.
This, I must tell you, was a long time back but it is still a fresh memory in my mind because of the stares, behind-the-back giggles and ugly comments that were thrown at me. Also, despite all this fat shaming, I didn’t manage to get thin. I am still fat. Or fatter, I should say. So yes, it’s still there. All these memories still show up and catch me off guard in my happy moments, ruining them completely and I end up spending my days cribbing about my weight. But, that is not the only thing; it is only one thorn from the bunch.
For a teenager who is in such a vulnerable situation, love can be (and mostly is) dangerous. If you are 17 and crushing over a beautiful boy who just wants to “stay friends” with you because he thinks you are cool but you are not his “type”, it leaves you in a state of confusion and more self-hatred. You will be so confused and horrified that you will endlessly be looking for answers to the only “whys” in your mind. And because of how you’re told that you are someone who is undesirable, more so, because of how you look. I was conditioned to believe that the society’s acceptance and desirability for me is equal to my self-worth and believing this, I completely left the job of deciding my worth to others, including that guy. Yes, I have done that. And most certainly, it’s one of the things that I want to go back in time and change.
As I write this, I am 24. Almost, 25. When I was a teen, I had a boyfriend. Almost, had a boyfriend. I have a happy family. Almost, a happy family. There are and always been a lot of ‘almosts’ because of the kind of fat shaming and bullying I faced as a teenager. It took a lot courage for me to tell myself that nothing that happened or didn’t happen was because of me not being worthy enough. It was because we, as a society, still fail to look beyond the set norms of beauty and define people’s worth on that basis.
Let me tell you something, and this is the part which is the most important. No matter what society tells you, life is not to be wasted in blaming yourself for not being pretty, smart, or wanted enough. It’s completely okay and it’s completely fabulous to look exactly how you look. Self love is the most important thing to master, yet one of the most difficult, in a society such as this. I still get caught in bouts of sadness, but now I am aware at all times that my body is MINE. This is exactly why I took charge of my happiness, started working out, eating healthy and trying every day to stay happy. This time, not for anybody else, but for myself.
It’s very important to know that the decision about how you look, what you should wear, which career you should choose, who you should date, is just your own. You are beautiful. And nobody should be able to tell you otherwise. It is always worth it to pull yourself together, brush the dirt off, take charge and fight against the society’s notions of beauty and perfection.
Thankfully, there are organizations like Project KHEL, that have been conducting Teen Talks programme which also talk about positive body image and a lot of issues that teenagers have to deal with. A little guidance and positivity through these sessions helps a great deal in combating these issues. When you meet people who understand your situation exactly as it is and have even been in similar situations, you don’t feel alone anymore and that feeling itself is very motivating and liberating.