Last Wednesday, after playing around with my new phone and asking Ms. Google for the latest news, I ended up listening to the Fashion Unzipped podcast. They were talking about body image and eating disorders and it really got me thinking about my own issues.
The media and the fashion industry get a lot of stick for creating unattainable beauty standards. I grew up watching Bollywood movies and admiring the actress Raveena Tandon. I used to tell my mum that when I grow up, I want to change my name to Raveena! She was a great role model (and still is, in my humble opinion). I didn’t look up to her for her waistline or her looks. I wanted to be like her character in the 1994 movie Mohra. She plays a courageous journalist who falls in love with an officer while investigating a case, in a typical Bollywood all-singing, all-dancing fashion.
I didn’t really start caring about my looks until I started secondary school. I was bullied for my hairiness. Nobody really tells you when it’s supposedly time to start waxing your top lip and plucking your eyebrows!
My need to be “skinny” didn’t kick in until I reached 17. One of my closest friends at the time was a teeny tiny size 6 and she got a lot of attention from several of my male friends. So I figured skinny = desirable.
Through poor (student) eating habits and a lack of routine, I managed to squeeze myself into a beautiful pair of size 6 tartan skinny jeans from Top Shop in my first year of university. Being single, female and a first-year student, I finally started to feel what it was like to get male attention.
Over the years, I’ve had guys call me things like “tiny” as a compliment. I’ve had them say things like “I used to be even skinnier than you” and I’d think to myself “do I need to get even skinnier?”.
I’m currently 9st something. I don’t want to get on the scales to check. Family members have asked about my weight recently and I’ve found it massively triggering. I know I’ve got bigger – my old clothes stopped fitting and have been donated to charity shops.
I personally don’t think, in my case at least, that it’s fair to blame the fashion industry or the media for negative body image. It’s the people you surround yourself with that quite literally shape who you are. It’s the primary school teacher who tells you to tuck your tummy in (aged 8). It’s the grandparent who says “you used to be so slim – how did you get fatter?”.
I’ve had conversations with my mum and my masi (auntie) about how difficult I find it to accept my shape. It makes me cry – they have been so understanding, supportive and accepting. I know it might seem daft or trivial. I’m a size 10 and I buy as size 12 sometimes because I’m afraid of looking like I don’t fit my clothes (not the other way around).
Some women are naturally slim. Some are naturally curvy in all the right places. Some will outshine you with their charm and charisma. It’s a simple fact of life – we are all unique and you can’t be the best at everything, but you can be the best at being you!
To someone, you are perfect, so why not make that someone you. You can’t accept love until you can love yourself, inside and out. So love yourself, from head to toe. Eat a balanced diet, but don’t restrict yourself when you want a slice of chocolate fudge cake, or 6 extra Maryland cookies. Dance around in your underwear like nobody’s watching. You don’t have to be a top athlete if you don’t want to. Stay away from toxic people. Go where the love is.
Be beautiful, kind and spirited on the inside and you will attract other beautiful, kind and spirited souls.
As Roald Dahl famously said, “if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely”.