The earliest memory I have of being body shamed is my school friends calling me “Gundu”, meaning someone fat. They found it cute and I tried to brush it off, but it had become my identity. That I am fat.
I have countless memories of being fat shamed since then. A cousin of mine called me a buffalo. Although the most common comparison was to an elephant. My thighs were called ugly and I was taught to cover it up because they were too bulky. I had no appreciation for my pear body or my curves because all I would see in the mirror are my “ugly” thighs.
Even today, as I’ve begun to be fitter, I still get a million comments on how I look. It comes mostly from my family or close relatives. I can see how easy it was for me to just feel like I’m ugly. I have been taught to hyper focus on my flaws after all.
Despite all the popular motivation around body positivity and reframing “I have fat” to “I’m not fat”, it fails to make me feel worthy of acceptance or admiration. Perhaps it is because I have internalised this idea so much that only a thin person is acceptable. Irrespective of my achievements, I continue to remain unworthy in my own eyes because it is the message that has always been reflected onto me. That no matter what you do, you have to look “thin and beautiful”.
What is worse is that I believed in this false narrative and I have body shamed others too. I can’t help but judge others for their looks, despite being a victim of it myself.
And then I learned that I judge others exactly the way I have been taught to judge myself. In their flaws, I actually see mine.
Today’s empowerment movements demand us to say f*** you to the society and live life the way we want. But why don’t we acknowledge just how hard it is to do that? There are days of feeling empowered of course, but there are also many many days where I fall back into the old narratives and believe the voice of my bullies. There are days I feel like it is hard to shake off this conditioning, but there are also days where I see myself be more open and accepting of myself and others.
I think we underestimate the power of conditioning way too much. It is beside me just how strongly these affect me.
Why don’t we talk enough about just how hard it is to rewrite these faulty narratives and adopt more helpful beliefs about ourselves? Why don’t we sit in this feeling of unworthiness and despair and shame a bit longer instead of forcing some courage to be authentic down our own throats?
Perhaps it is okay to fall back into old patterns and it is okay to feel horrible. The last thing we need is more shaming for feeling how we feel.