What I look like, doesn’t define who I am.
Or does it?
Sadly, it does – many a time.
World history puts before us vivid accounts of racism and apartheid – all because of skin colour. Blacks vs. Whites! Thanks to valiant activists and sensible people at the helm of political affairs a few decades back, that equality has been established by law. But, did this change in pen and paper bring about an immediate change in the mannerisms of people? Not really. It took many awareness campaigns and social literacy programmes before the Blacks and the Whites could look eye to eye, intermarry freely and work together comfortably.
With the discrimination done away with, we look at the world today, and we still see incidents of racist attacks and shootings! All this because of identifying someone on the basis of their skin colour – as encroaching upon one’s own rights and opportunities.
In a different part of the world, we have people who discriminate against certain others on the basis of the size of their eyes. It sure causes a lot of embarrassment to many.
Did you ever spend some time to marvel at the wonderful geography of the world? If you haven’t, then I would humbly suggest that you pick up some geography books or spend some time each day watching the dynamics of land, water and air in the Nat Geo. It sure helps to understand our fellow human beings in different parts of the world, better.
The way people look has a lot to do with the part of the world they belong to – the climatic conditions there and the food habits prevalent. One cannot expect people living in tropical climatic zones to look the way people in temperate zones look. We cannot expect people in Saharan and sub-Saharan zones to look like those in Latin America.
There are differences!
But, differences need not be converted into discrimination and body shaming.
There are basically three ways in which body shaming occurs –
- You body shame yourself (before the mirror or before friends and family)
- Others body shame you (on your face or when you are not around)
- You body shame others (either in front of them or behind their backs)
A few years back, a friend of mine shared with me that she was excited to accompany her family members that evening, to visit the family of a potential bride for her brother (as in arranged marriages). The next day when we met in college, I asked her how the visit was. She said, “Everything is good about the family and the girl – only that her nose is too long! So, we are not going ahead with the match.” I was silent – couldn’t find words.
A young teen I know is struggling with Anorexia nervosa. She has been in and out of the hospital a couple of times. She has been exposed to several counselling sessions. But, to no avail! She was once the topper in her class. And, now her grades have started slipping low. Her parents are frustrated so much so that her mother told her not to stay in the house before her eyes as she will not be able to witness her daughter die in front of her. It all started when someone told the girl to control her eating; else she would put on weight and look ugly!
Most of us aspire to look the way we are not created.
People in Western countries like to spend hours on the beach to get beautifully tanned whereas, in Eastern countries, tan removal facials and fairness lotions are much sought after.
You surf the internet and you find different types of tonics and herbal remedies to lose weight, there are ways to put build on those enviable abs, there are tricks to gain weight for those who are lean – and some even promise to help increase the heights of people way into adulthood!
Cosmetic/corrective surgeries are the trendiest things on the platter these days, with celebrities being quite open in talking about their experiences in getting some parts of their bodies reconstructed.
Aspiring to look good is not wrong. Desiring to look different is not a sin.
But, when we or someone steps down to shame oneself or others on the basis of their skin colour, shape, size, etc., it unveils a sick mind.
The major reason behind body shaming – be it of oneself or others – is lack of acceptance. Our mind fails to accept and appreciate the way we or others look.
There are special children in all countries of the world – those with Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, hydrocephaly, progeria and others. They look different. Let’s accept them as they are without making lives even more difficult for them or their parents, thus forcing them to stay within the walls of their houses and never venture outside.
Looking down upon ourselves or others because their bodies create the feeling of insecurity, breeds anxiety and depression, causes low self-esteem, lowers self-confidence and for a few it may even provoke them to commit suicide.
The key is to realise that we are created differently. Each human being is a marvel of the Creator’s creative potential. We need to celebrate that. We are created in God’s image to reflect His glory and so is each human being on planet earth. Only when this truth is realised, can we refrain from shaming our own or others bodies.
I join the Psalmist in the Bible in praising God for creating me the way I am –
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
The intention of this article is not to discourage essential corrective surgeries for eye squints, cleft palettes and the like, or to justify obesity or size zero figures.