Every time I log on to Facebook or Instagram, I am a little saddened by the large amount of insecurities at display. One of the issues that a lot of young people grapple with, and I have been frequently asked about is – body image issues. Body shaming has become a commonly accepted norm these days – and there is no dearth of both – the guilty and the victim. Too many people struggle with overcoming body image issues- height, complexion, nose, hair, proportion, voice and many else. As a motivational speaker, I write this an attempt to steal the thunder from vanity in the name of body shaming because of genetics and bring some real clarity on the real things that really matter.
You must have all seen that meme that surfaces from time to time, where people usually make fun of someone who doesn’t have a ‘pretty or handsome’ face or body type according to the currently accepted standards of beauty (whoever set those!). Those memes where you are supposed to tag a ‘Rahul’ or an ‘Anjali’ who would get such a guy or girl. Because that’s supposed to be insulting or funny. The ignorance that social media perpetuates and most people subscribe to is sometimes painfully funny. For e.g. one such popular meme (picture given below) is ‘Shaadi karungi toh sirf…’ where the picture of an African American woman along with the words ‘tag a Rahul’ or whatever is circulated immensely. People tag their friends trying to make fun of them.
But what they do not know is, the picture is of Gabourey Sidibe, a famous American actor who has been nominated for Oscars, the Golden Globe, and many such prestigious awards. Ironically, the people who use her picture as a medium to indulge in body shaming – have no such accomplishments, awards, or progress in their own life to boast of. Or maybe, it is not so ironical after all!
Unknowingly, body shaming has somehow become an impregnated part and parcel of our everyday psyche and vocabulary. Am I guilty of indulging in it too? Probably yes. And I am making that change now. It’s time you stop body shaming too. But this post is not intended to talk to those of us who indulge in this. I am writing this for those who feel ashamed of their own bodies and fall into the trap of inferiority complexes. This blog is for those who are finding it hard to recover from negative body image issues or distorted body image issues and are moving on the path of self-harm. These words are for those who have allowed the markets to tell them what a human being should look like, for those who keep giving more importance to beautifying the exterior than honing the interior.
And if you are one for whom overcoming body image issues is becoming a problem (or you know someone who is super-awesome but is gripped by these issues and need to be told otherwise), do read on.
Let me begin with Bollywood, one of the biggest perpetrators of this myth and mithya. You all must be familiar with Rajkumar Rao. Within a short span of 7 years, he has made a wonderful mark in the Indian film industry, rising as a diverse, immensely talented actor. And he is not one with the quintessential ‘hero looks’ or ‘six pack abs’. He is the one with his craft as his only mighty sword. If you ever watch any of his interviews, you would know how much emphasis he puts on being an actor first, and being superb at ‘acting’ first. Gymming, grooming, styling – they all come later.
And if that’s what ensured success, neither Johnny Lever would have made us laugh for decades, nor would ‘Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi’ have been such a popular, heart-warming, inspiring TV show that broke all stereotypes when it was aired more than a decade ago! The beauty that you see on screen, takes hours in the make-up rooms and vanity vans (befitting word) to come alive. Our inferiority complex about baldness or short height or dark complexion have no room when it comes to things that really make a difference in living a better life.
The problem is – all these films, music videos, web series, advertisements, marketing campaigns – they are out there to sell you beauty that’s not really skin deep. Because, let’s face it – who has time to go that deep! Let us all live on the surface, touch the circle of life tangentially, and then keep whiling in our insecurities – which btw do not exist in nature, but only in our minds. Yes, these complexes exist only because we allow them to live rent free in our heads.
Let me ask you – have you loved your grandparents because they are tall, fair, beautiful / handsome, because they look good – or because they are amazing people who love you unconditionally and have nothing but your well-being in their hearts? Because they are the most selfless people in your lives who are there for you, even when you are not there for them!
Have you been inspired by the teachers who looked so hot in class or the teachers who just blew your minds away with their deep knowledge and their ability to understand your individuality and show you the right way?
I don’t know about you but I have always been deeply impressed and inspired purely by substance, not shadows. I am not saying that people who have been blessed with visually appealing body structures are not talented. Or that one should not take care of themselves, their bodies, faces, beauty or other aspects. But those structures are just genetics. And it not being beautiful (according to your influenced perception of what’s beautiful in this world) is not the end of the world!
(Also read: It’s not you, it’s them)
Without beauty of the soul, the handsomeness of the face is of no use. It will fade away (Remember: Gore rang pe na itna gumaan kar…?). But what will last is – the strength of your character, the hard work and time you invest in yourself to become a better individual, to live more fully and sensibly. What will take you to newer heights and greater happiness is not your head turning face or body, but your soul stirring ideas, thoughts, and perspectives on life. Do people just want to look at you or are they also waiting for your thoughts, words, and deeds to inspire them?
Isn’t it then, a better idea, to invest more time in developing that clarity of thought, that confidence to take you to your dreams, that strength to help you withstand the many turpitudes of life?
After all – no matter how beautiful the cover of the book is, it is what’s on the pages that will ultimately sell the book. So, first spend time writing the book; then think about the cover design.
No matter how many fairness creams / handsomeness creams you apply, the glow on your face will not last if you are not healthy inside. So, eat better and run faster, instead of going on stupid diets that weaken your body. Trust me – there is NO substitute for good health on this planet. In the name of not body shaming, I have seen this growing acceptance of obesity. That’s equally harmful. It doesn’t matter what your body structure is. As long as you devote quality time and sweat to keeping your body fit, a little extra weight is fine. I have a problem with people lying around like a sloth and then taking offense when someone body shames you.
In any case, you should not be taking offense. No one, and I mean NO ONE will be living with you and your body and mind the way you will. So, the sooner you carve this insecurity out of your system, the better off you will be and the faster you will progress! So what if you don’t have those extra inches (vertically) or you have that extra circumference (around your stomach!) or you have less hair on your head or more hair on your body or nose is bigger or your colour is darker. The universe doesn’t CARE. It’s just a bunch of marketing peeps whispering sweet crap in your ears that you need to look good first.
NO. You need to feel good first. Once you have done all that you can in a day to become better than you were yesterday, once you have given your blood and sweat to your craft / skill / ability – if you have any life left, then by all means sit and groom. But let me tell you what I have realized over years of interacting with people –
It is not that we often lack confidence because we don’t look good. The lack of confidence comes from the fear that we are not good enough. We just try to mask it by focusing on our genetic shortcomings when the real culprit is our own lack of preparation. It is tried and tested (on myself) – on the days that I have not been well prepared for an event, no amount of good clothes or nice perfume can beat down the nervousness I feel. But there have been days when I have felt good about my work while talking to someone on the phone and helping them out (with no lights, camera, mic action going on). Put substance over shadow and trust me – your confidence will come soaring back to you!
And if it doesn’t, choose your inspiration wisely. Look at people who have succeeded despite the world thinking they are ‘short and ugly’; despite being at the receiving end of body shaming.
(for inspiration: 13 Body Positive Bloggers to Turn to)
And if you forget this sometimes, then here’s a thought – if you want to grow flowers, buying plastic flowers and putting them on display is not the solution. You need to toy with seeds, soil, manure, sunlight and your own hard work in taking care of the whole process. That’s what it takes to grow a flower that’s natural, beautiful, fragrant, and alive.
Be ready to put in the hard work for things that matter. That’s when the world around you will stop being vain. Otherwise, they take issue with even Serena Williams; what chance do you and I stand!
To all the young and old, the men and the women out there – be healthy, be hygienic, be kind, be brilliant. That’s the beauty that lasts. And especially to the ladies (who find themselves so very often at the receiving end of these inferiority complexes) –
I want to leave you with this question – Is your mirror really that important?