The problem with body image

I realised this very late in life. Love your own body and you’ll be a happier person. Growing up in a normal, middle class family in Chennai, I always had body image issues. I hated the way I looked. Too dark, too fat, too clumsy and too much of a slob. This was what I was always told by friends and family. Cousins made it worse by telling me that fair is beautiful, which I was admittedly not.
At 14, I discovered the secret world of crushes and boys. And what did I find? That I could never peacefully have a crush on someone without being relentlessly teased. Sometimes the teasing was baseless. About a crush that was actually non existent. Since then, I’ve always been circumspect. Losing two close male friends to such juvenile teasing did not help. Especially not when one of them told me upfront that he did not want to be my friend because being teased with a fat slob troubled him. Maybe this is why I don’t quite keep in touch with school friends any more. They are reminders of an unpleasant time in my life I’d much rather forget.
But, coming back to body image. I always thought I was too dark and too fat to be beautiful. The obsession with being fair goes a long way back. I was advised not to venture out in the sun, to use sunscreen and haldi and all sorts of assorted creams and lot . The rebel that I was, I still did exactly as I pleased.
Then came the obsession with weight loss. I starved myself, skipped breakfast, ate fruit. But no matter what I did, I could never slim down to the size I wanted to be. I was conscious of my weight and tried to cover up the layers in clothes that are better called pillowcases.
As I hit my late teens there was an additional problem. Blemishes and body hair. There was nothing I could do about it. So I did what I knew best. Cover up rather than flaunt. This reluctance to dress my age continued right through college and university.
And then something changed. I went to France for my masters. Suddenly, I discovered a world of possibilities. I discovered that women were proud of their bodies and flaunted them. I discovered that for a woman to be beautiful, she must first love herself. I saw women who were twice my size carry off short skirts and dresses with an elegance that I could only hope to match some day.
Gradually,I told myself I was beautiful. I convinced myself that weight, complexion and body hair notwithstanding, I had the right to flaunt. If I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror, nobody else was going to.
And there has been no looking back. With every passing year, I find myself dressing bolder and bolder. I find myself picking out clothes when shopping that I wouldn’t have dared look at when I was 14. Crossing 30 was an important moment because at that moment, I realised I no longer cared when men thought of me. I realised that I only cared what I thought of myself.
Now, I realise that all it took for others to find me attractive was the courage to accept my own body for what it is. That acceptance is never easy to get. But it’s essential for me to be happy with who I am. The other day, someone told me that very few people can look elegant with no makeup on and I am one of them. I acknowledged that with a quiet sense of pride in who I have become.
When I look back at my teenage years, I tell myself that I will never let this happen to anyone else if I can help it. Maybe this is why I felt the need to write this blogpost.
Beauty is the way you treat yourself rather than in the colour of your skin or in the inches around your waist. If you love yourself, everyone else will love you as well.

2 thoughts on “The problem with body image

  1. valluvar selvan says:

    They say,”Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.We are the first to behold our body,shape,complexion etc.As you have said one has to learn to love oneself first.Muhammed Ali’s famous lines “Black is beautiful” says it all.

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