Date: 05 January 2018
It was the year 2007 and I was a mere fourteen years old when the boy I liked rejected me.
“You’re too fat and ugly for my liking. Girls are supposed to be thin and pretty with long hair”, he said. To add fuel to the fire, all my ‘thin and pretty’ friends had boyfriends, but not a single boy in my school looked my way.
Thus, began my decade long journey of self-destruction, low self-esteem, and a cargo plane load of emotional and psychological issues.
I can’t believe that it’s taken me a decade to realize the gravity of the situation, and how just how messed up all these years of body-shaming has left me – anxiety, depression, anorexia, you name it.
“What would ma say? Nani (grandma) would flip her sh*t! How would daddy show his face in society if his daughter is abnormal?”.
Yes, that’s right – the taboo was so bad, that if you faced any of these issues, you’re almost immediately labeled as ‘mentally ill and abnormal’ or ‘psychotic’, and out casted as the bad egg of the family – nay, society!
– an excerpt from my diary
Heart breaking, isn’t it?
Coming from a typical conservative Indian background where issues such as mental health and body positivity have not really been discussed, I unfortunately did not have the freedom to speak out loud about the struggles I was facing. It took me eleven painful years to finally speak to my family about it, and although my father is still in denial about it, my mum took it quite well.
This only compelled me to think of a way to help the many young women out there who are in the same position as me. To provide them with some form of guidance, a direction to navigate their negative thoughts and self-doubt, bring them out of the black-hole that is a psychiatrists’s couch before it’s too late.
How does it even begin?
A study published in the journal “Eating and Weight Disorders” determines one of the key factors to weight related comments made by parents. The HuffPost argues that glamorously photo-shopped model in magazines are to blame. While The Sun claims that body shaming begins in high school.
While the above all stand true, the situation has actually become a lot more serious today. BBC debates that social media platforms are increasingly responsible for putting a young girl through this traumatic experience.
“Body shaming doesn’t have a starting age as such. It starts when a girl or woman’s skin colour is compared with her cousins or when she sees the bigger kid in cartoons be portrayed as lazy, slow or as bullies and the ideally pretty or thinner one be the superhero or be stronger, smarter and more popular”, explains Regina D’cruz, a counsellor for teenagers, specializing in self-esteem and anxiety in youth.
“In fact, social media adds fuel to the fire, as women tend to constantly compare themselves to other women on their feeds, unaware and nescient to the amount of Photoshop that has gone into that post.”
Darling, you’re not the only one!
In 2016, global skincare giant Dove commissioned a beauty and confidence study as part of their ongoing Dove Self-Esteem Project, interviewing women from across 13 different countries. The shocking results of this study as shared by News.com.au and Huffington Post suggest that body shaming has become one of the primary causes of low self-esteem in women leading to self destructive habits. This in turn not only affects the way women perceive themselves, but also the way they behave in a public environment.
So, how bad could it get?
The effects of body-shaming, D’Cruz explains, are manifold, and these play a major role in important areas like work and relationships.
“One of the most obvious effects is how a woman views her body, which in turn affects her self-esteem and confidence, leading to excessive worrying, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression, self-harm and physical health problems.”
In a work environment, a woman might feel extra conscious about her outfit, when she has a presentation, anxiousness surrounding interviews or job promotions. These factors eventually lead to her avoiding challenges which could potentially stunt her career growth.
When it comes to relationships, D’Cruz elaborates, a woman might avoid meeting new people due to a fear of judgement. The self-doubt that has harboured within will make it hard for her to believe that someone is interested in her. Instead she may believe that the person is settling and might leave when a more attractive option comes around. This only creates a wall between the partners, as she subconsciously avoids getting intimate, or becomes insecure during moments of intimacy.
I don’t want to go through that! What do I do?
Freaking out and want to speak to someone?
Try reaching out to one of these amazing centres which provide support throughout the country:
The Butterfly Foundation: 1800 33 4673
Youth Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Headspace: 13 11 14