The title feels relatively meaningless, isn’t it? You must be trying to make some sense of it. Since this has caught your attention, let me take you on a walk into the lives of millions. There is a multitude of people trying to figure out the reasons behind some unnatural and shallow concepts as body shaming. The only burden is that the mind with tremendous pressure of aligning oneself with unrealistic ideas of ‘normal’ and ‘beautiful’. It is something that simply fails to contribute to our mental well-being and makes us continuously question our existence while feeling utterly miserable about the way we are.
So with this article, let’s address a few unspoken topics and bust some myths that most of us in this field have been trying to do ever since.
Let’s start with the term ‘normal’. According to social psychologists, the word ‘normal’ denotes anything that is following the social norms, unique to each culture. Even a slight deviation from these social norms in any culture throws you into the arms of abnormality. Say, for instance, in western culture, it is entirely normal to leave your parents’ house at the age of 18. That’s their social norm and anybody who deviates from that, that is chosen to stay back at their parents’ house, is considered unnatural, somewhat abnormal.
On the other hand, in the Indian culture, it is entirely alright, relatively normal to live with your parents till the day you are alive. Basically, all those people conforming to the ideal and expected standards of behaviour in one society are labelled as ‘normal’. The rest is anything but ‘normal’. So, it’s clear that there is nothing truly or universally ‘normal’ and that inclusivity of ‘normal’ keeps changing with changing times, society and culture. That may sound normal in one culture, may just be the opposite in another. That is what brings us to our next topic of discussion, and that is body shaming.
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘body shaming’ as the act or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size.
Now let’s go back in history and learn a little bit about the origin of body shaming. Yes, it has a history too! In ancient times, voluptuousness was taken as a sign of prosperity. As food became scarce in the 18th century, this association with fat and wealth started fading away, thus giving way to idealising a thin body type. Thinness became synonymous with emotional well being and attractiveness whereas fatness was now looked down upon. The 1850s and 1890s saw a movement called the Victorian Dress Reform Movement, which fought to put an end to the trend of women having to modify their body by wearing corsets. Although in India things were still pretty much the same, however from the year the 2000s the western ideas started seeing its effects here as well. As a result, people began obsessing about their massive body weight, trying every which way to achieve a zero figure.
Interestingly enough, such humiliation isn’t only restricted to women. Men are as much of a target of body shaming as women have been over all these years.
However, what stands out from this is that body beauty trends keep shifting and changing according to time, culture and society. It isn’t static and shall never be. This vicious cycle of shaming breaks only when we identify this as a problem.
Although this article refers only to fat and skinny shaming, it is essential to note that there are other forms of body shaming too. Different unrealistic beauty standards that leave a person feeling equally worried and anxious about their own unique body type. All of these duly lead to some significant psychological problems such as disordered eating (anorexia nervosa or bulimia), depression, body dysmorphia, etc. This, in turn, hampers one’s physical well being as well. The motive should essentially be to achieve a healthy lifestyle that encompasses the body as well as the mind.
Repeat this after me, every body type is beautiful. There is no specific type of beauty. So why are we giving in to the unrealistic and unreliable beauty standards which only results in the disturbance of our mental health? Why don’t we learn to accept our uniqueness and promote self-love and body positivity over disgust towards specific body types?
It’s time we accept and not tolerate our bodies and the uniqueness of our beauties.