As I woke up this morning, the weather was beautiful, things were simply calm, and everything almost looked perfect! We are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. It’s holiday time and there is general happiness and celebration in the atmosphere! While doing my daily chores and ticking the brackets of everyday self-assigned responsibilities. My forty-year-old mushy self decided to watch a random Disney ‘Cinderella’, to make the day more perfect. As I was enjoying the happiness surrounding the film, a thought occurred in my mind. What if Cinderella was not beautiful or body perfect? What if she was overweight and body shamed for not being pretty enough? Would she have gotten her happily ever after? Is this the right parameter for people to cope with every day of our lives?
I realised at one point in my life I was not different. To be a part of the acceptance that I wanted to see in others’ eyes, I shamelessly followed all possible fads and unhealthy diets to reach a certain body weight and proportion. I bear the scars of that till this day. Despite losing an unhealthy amount of weight, it was never enough! I realised it never satisfied those whom I unintelligently wanted to satisfy. For them, I have shapeshifted too many times but the satisfaction of doing right is never there. Sometimes I was too fat, at other times too thin. I didn’t know what more to do to conform to the standards made ideal by my family, friends, and society in general!
Despite having my happily ever after, I still find myself struggling to keep my head afloat to survive all the weathers my body has faced over time. Many amongst us might be doing the same now that I think about it. The tension we bring in our lives due to pressures surrounding physicality gradually seems to be deepening in gravity. Even today there are days when I wake up and unconsciously see myself as a lost cause. When on one day my tummy seems to be more bloated than the previous day, the next day makes me realise my arms are too big. Then there is a double chin and thigh that is too thunderous! So, when people call me pretty, I smile in gratitude, but I see pity in their dialogue! This is not healthy and right.
I have come to accept that this is one bracket that almost every second person whom I have met in my life is trying to tick. I have friends who when eat do not even realise that they blurt unconsciously that they are trying to watch what they eat because they want to fit into a particular dress type. This is now becoming a random dinner-table conversation in so many households I have come across that it’s almost frightening at the acceptance of its normalcy. Almost every call that I make and every move I make, the physicality, attributes and its external confirmation have become so nauseating that I feel I almost need to shapeshift to come out of this society-induced body paralysis!
The fantasy that is associated with the name shapeshifter holds a different meaning, but the charisma remains similarly fascinating. Today is the day that I feel somehow is the right time to break this conscious silence on this intense topic that we try to run from but can’t hide. This is so close to hearing that for it becomes almost like a paranoia chasing me and people on the same wavelength. To discuss is almost like a sin to so many like us who face this body-shaming every day of our journey.
Despite so many open views and increasing discussions on body positivity, we see so much depression lurking around this process of the human body’s response to its surroundings physically. Every second person that I have met is constantly trying to project that it is the level of fitness that matters. But when I get interested in the aspect of building body strength and health, the dialogue rhetorically ends with how I need to look to feel stereotypically acceptable in society. What is most frightening is when my 9-year-old boy came up to me and asked if he was fat in a t-shirt he wore! I then realised that I need to draw a line at these words. The problem has invested across all ages and genders today and is seeping in further, in turn weakening the foundation of human comfort and confidence in self!
The stakes have become higher, and the margin of error seems to be diminishing despite seeing the supportive flags for self-acceptance all over social media. The pressures that we as individuals feel at an intimate level are by far the perfect example of pressure at the glocal level of our existence. As a mother when I meet my fellow mums over social dinners or school meets, I am amused that the conversation never ends or ends on the same note. There is a deep disappointment in the fact that there is another level of social pressure upon us to ‘not look like mums’ (whatever that may mean!) I am now at all judging those who are falling under this ideal bracket of body-perfect imagery. What I am worried about is those who fail to cross this line.
The mortals that perhaps cannot remain loyal to the shape are considered ideal for women. The question arises in my mind as to how to merge the two and create a smooth blend of the two. A point where we all can breathe the air of respect and acceptance with open arms. So when I talk to my friends whom I so dearly love and value, there is a constant voice at the back of my head that makes me nervous each time I think of coming in physical contact with them. Even though I have never felt any open judgement upon the way I appear, there is nagging thought constantly making me restless that I will never be able to reach their level of body acceptability. Is it the paranoia that I have reserved specifically for myself or are there many more like me trying to show their brave face and cringing at the thought of their potential ostracization?
How many princesses are there in the animation movies that are not slim and who have ideal body configurations and still manage to get their prince charming! We may teach our children to be independent, and accept our colour, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation, however, there is equal importance and serious responsibility on our part to make them realise their confidence in their body shape and type. This shapeshifting should be a natural choice and not an induced requirement! Health and fitness aspect is a different story but the need to conform to the existing standards just for the sake of physical acceptance and social norms must be thought about in all its seriousness. You, I or they need to be comfortable in our skin and not hopping the wagon of body conformity at every given chance!