It was a little more than a year ago when a man said, “You look ugly and that’s because you lack protein!” (A response I should’ve expected because, I was talking about saving the planet and animals and people considering veganism)
Yes, he told me that I looked ugly!! Yes, in this world filled with all niceness people sometimes choose to respond this way!! As mad I was with him, I just didn’t know how to react. And the stupid girl that I was (am, maybe), I tried defending animals and veganism instead of retorting with a wiser response.
Fortunately for me, I’ve been through some experiences where his opinion mattered less to me, so that hardly affected me. In fact, I only joke about it.
Before I talk about some experiences that changed my view about looks and beauty, I’d like to add that I believe comments from people around us arise from concern. They’re used to a different definition of the same thing (beauty and health in this case), which is a result of what they’ve largely been exposed to. So, I’ve learnt to look at it from a different set of glasses and mean no harm to anyone who would’ve responded that way to me.
Rewinding to 2 years ago, I lost quite some weight – maybe owing to the grief I was experiencing – and later, the kinds of reactions I would get from people would make me hate meeting people. I truly felt ugly from within because my views were coloured by what others were defining me to be then. My world shrunk. I would make all sort of reasons to not participate in functions or go out! I started getting very anxious at the thought of going out.
Rewinding a little more than 6 years ago, when I had just started to gain weight, I was considered chubby and cute then. But then, I honestly hated that phase despite all the lovely compliments I would get. I hated that as a 19-year-old, my knees had begun to ache. I hated that I couldn’t run as fast as I used to before that. I hated that I had to mentally plan ways to hide that ever growing waistline and tummy of mine! For me, it felt so awkward to be in that body because I realised that it made me feel uncomfortable to carry that much weight on the small frame that I have.
I am thankful to my partner, Raghav, for being the awesomely honest person that he is (not that I appreciated it then). I still vividly remember the efforts he would take to wake up early, come home to pick me up and encourage me to work out with him, and how I would be so closed to all his efforts.
But then I am so thankful he did that and talked some sense into me. It got me thinking about “Who defines beauty?” “Who says you’ve got to present yourself this way” or “that way?” The person inside me obviously said “YOU!” A lot of insights occurred to me with that thought. The very practice of commenting about somebody’s “appearance”; on seeing/meeting them instead of greeting them with warmth seemed absurd.
After most encounters, I would be grudging within: “Why not ask me how I’ve been instead of making me feel worse about the way I look?” At some point, I had pre-planned answers for comments about my appearance, and it’s too bad that I could never bring myself to be sarcastic or rude (mentally, my mind would counter almost always to be empathetic of their emic perspective and views on life).
I later lost all that weight (5 kilos – that had felt like a lot to me) soon after going vegan and instead of cherishing it, I got so worried and wrote to every possible expert I could get in touch with, only to hear that I’m fine. My view of beauty was so clouded then, that I couldn’t notice my regained functionality or cherish that it had returned, but just kept complaining that I looked bad.
But then, thinking about it, the human brain manages to make sense of the world – and it does that almost entirely through vision. Almost 20% of our brain is purely for processing vision. We are hardwired to respond to faces, so that explains our obsession over faces and appearances. However, the ability to not judge a book by its cover is a learnt behaviour and can be picked up – which most of us learn to do over time with wisdom and thought (some of us don’t).
Thanks to the media and popular standards of beauty and body, almost every woman is made to feel inadequate – unless, some realisation dawns upon us and we learn to neglect it all – which is very hard to. It’s almost like they’re putting us in an obesogenic environment and expecting us to not become obese.
I still don’t know if there’s a best way to deal with such things at all… But the best we can do is to not be that “commentator” to someone.
P.S: This post in no way indicates that thin is good and fat is bad! We can mentally train ourselves to welcome all sizes, provided they make us feel comfortable and reflect our good health.
That intelligent person inside you knows whats the best for you. Just give him/her a chance to voice out.
Also, I know at a time of low confidence, I, like many people might end up feeling inadequate, which will be worsened by the popular belief. But disconnecting with such popular beliefs has surely helped me a bit, and offers far less inner battles to deal with.
I have learnt to make peace with my “physical appearance” and, when there’s little I can do about it, I don’t stress much about it, and this truly is a happy space to be in.
Here’s wishing that everyone finds it easier to make peace with themselves and what they’ve got.