Amul baby. Gundu lollipop. Moti. Moturam. Chubby. Chubster. Back in the day, these were just some of my nicknames. Back then, body-shaming didn’t exist. As in, the term body-shaming didn’t exist. The practice, though, was flourishing. Good-natured ‘teasing’ – from ‘well-intentioned’ relatives to complete strangers, was quite the norm. What made matters worse, everyone in pop culture – on TV screens, in newspaper ads, in the glossies – looked the same. Slim, skinny, slender.

I love me,self-love,self-care,self-acceptance

Needless to add, I grew up thinking there was an ideal shape, weight, size, one that I should aspire for, one that I could achieve with a bit of hard work (read, by going on crash diets). It was only years later that I became acquainted with the concept of body positivity, of self-acceptance, of mindful living, wellness, self-love. And ever since, there has been no looking back.

So much so, when a friendly neighbourhood aunty remarked, “Oho, you’re looking nice and roly-poly,” I smiled and replied, “I think I look just fine, Aunty. Thanks very much.” And what’s more, I meant it, too! And that’s the one thing I wish I could tell the teen me, who was stressing and obsessing and fretting over her appearance.

So, what exactly is body positivity, why is it so important, and is it really possible to be body positive in these times of filtered, airbrushed, beauty app-ed ‘Gram worthy selfies? 

 “I’m too fat.”

“I’d be happier if I weighed 5 kgs less.”

“I’m not fair enough/tall enough/slim enough.”

“I wish I had curves in the right places.”

“I hate my …(insert name of a body part).”

Just some of the stuff we tell ourselves.

Then there’s the stuff they (society, random folk, ‘well-intentioned’ relatives – they are always well intentioned, aren’t they), tell us:

“If only you were two inches taller/five kgs lighter /a shade fairer, you’d look so pretty.”

“How will you get a good rishta unless you lose weight, Beta?”

“You’re looking roly-poly! Any good news?”

“High time you lost all the baby weight.”

“I’ll give you the name of a good dietician.”

And it starts pretty early.

Who among us didn’t have an unflattering nickname growing up? And they were almost always based on our physical characteristics. Moti-motu-fatso-fatty (or some variation thereof), Patlu, Jhadu, Khambi, Gitthi – feel free to add to the list.

And then there are the messages the media constantly sends out to us:

*The Fair ‘n’ Lovely, er, Glowy lass bags the job

*The impossibly good looking girl gets the ‘hero’

*Size zero models sashaying down the ramp

*Painfully skinny models selling everything from cars to colas in advertisements

*Ageless, shapeshifter celebs – from nose jobs to boob jobs, from collagen implants to Derma fillers, from tummy tucks to facelifts – all in a day’s work. (Remember the “Jo bhgawan nahi deta woh doctor deta hai” quote?)

Whew!

We are constantly being bombarded by these notions of ideal beauty, about a certain image as being aesthetically perfect, aren’t we?

So how on earth are we supposed to feel good about ourselves?

Simple, by acknowledging the honest to god truth: there’s NO such thing as a perfect standard of beauty. By being body positive. What exactly is it?

Simply put, Body Positivity =Self-Love. Loving ourselves regardless of our physical appearance, accepting our self (and others) regardless of shape, size, complexion, height. It means taking the focus away from our looks and identifying with our strengths, skills and non-physical characteristics.

Because there’s more to us than our physical appearance. Because aren’t we more than the sum total of our parts? Surely Batman’s got it right? It’s what we do that defines us.

Alas, the pressure to look a certain way, to be a certain weight or shape or size, trying to live up to impossible standards of beauty due to unrealistic expectations set by the media and society and peers can result in a negative self-image. And a negative body image, in turn, may lead us to feel unhappy, depressed, angry. It may lead us to feel that we’re not good enough, that we don’t deserve love, that we don’t deserve to be happy.

This is why body positivity is so important.

We need to tell ourselves that we can be healthy at every size, that we don’t need to look a certain way in order to deserve love and respect, that we deserve to be happy no matter what. And, if we need to make a change, it’s because it will go a long way in staying healthy and certainly not because we need to impress anyone.

But it’s not easy (so not), being body positive. But it’s not impossible either.

We can begin by asking ourselves a few questions:

Why are we unhappy about the way we look? Why do we want to lose weight? Is it because everyone around us is thin? Is it because we hate being ‘teased’ (the word is body-shamed)? Is it because we want to fit in? Or is it because we would like to be healthy in the long run?

We can change the way we talk to ourselves:  

Thin is in – Says who?

I wish I wasn’t pear-shaped – People come in all shapes and sizes

My butt looks big in this dress – My butt is fine

We can take good care of ourselves: By forgiving ourselves when we make mistakes, treating ourselves compassionately, by doing the things we love without feeling guilty about it, by reminding ourselves that our self worth is not based on what people feel about us, we can be body positive. A big part of self-love is self-care.

Here’s hoping. Because let’s face it, can we really hope to love another if we don’t truly love ourselves first?

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Vibha Batra

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