“I always felt like I am the victim, because I am a large framed girl in a world where beauty means petite and thin. It was difficult during elementary and middle school, but now I feel a lot better about my own body. It’s like, well, what the heck to you expect me to do. I can go on a diet to the fullest but I would still look large. Now I don’t see being larger or fat as something, bad, I just like being healthy”

Ing, 25

“I had a lot of problem about this. I feel everyone likes people who are cute and pretty. I’m not pretty so I work hard, creating my own values from my talent to the point where people wanted me to work for them. I felt better about myself that way until it radiates to the outside. When I work more, meet more people, meeting people who might not be in the best shape but they dress well, and work well, and they look beautiful and talented, I hate myself less. I learned that “Bitch you CAN survive, and there are actual people crushing on you.”

Lilly, 23

“During middle school I was bullied by my classmates. They said my lips were thick like a drainage van, chest as flat like raisins on the wall. My self-esteem was rock bottom. Total opposite from elementary where I was good at everything and a really confident kid. Middle school was the darkest hour of my life, my hair was cutted to ear length bob, and with thick hair it can never look good. I was teased, but I gotta suck it up. Back then it made me crave love, so I tried to do everything to earn it, following people around. At least I still got some stubbornness in me. It all got better in high school, and the best was in college. I realized I don’t need to be like everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I am me, stop trying so hard. But before I could stand up for myself it was almost graduation time.”

Ann, 25

 

“Before I didn’t put much thought into it, but when someone I cared about a lot started mentioning my body, I felt disappointed. Because I wanted to look perfect to that person. I told the one I cared about the most, hey, could you not compare me with others please? Because if that person stops, if they understand me, I can go back into my ‘Don’t Give a Fuck’ phase like before.”

Ig, 23

 
 

All of these are some of the comments I like and think reflected the feelings of body shaming in 20-something women well; it’s all about the pressure to follow societal standards and expectations of people we care.

I also felt ashamed of my body sometimes even though technically my physique quite falls along what the society considered acceptable. Relatively thin, tall enough, small framed, clear skin, but still there are parts of my body that aren’t my favorites, like flat chest and low nose bridge, etc.

Probably much like anyone else; no matter how good you are, you feel it’s never enough. Even when people say ‘Don’t think about it!’, none of that would work because you didn’t actually ‘think’. You ‘feel’ that way due to the pressure you received from the society.

But for me there’s something a little stronger. Not only did I feel unsatisfied with my body in terms of aesthetics and images, which deals with opinions and what other people perceives of me, I also felt segregated from my outer body parts, which basically is all about my self-love and self-respect. To put it simply, I was repulsed by it. I didn’t feel it’s MY body, I feel disconnected to it as if my body and soul are two separated parts. I didn’t exactly feel comfortable looking into the mirror, but I thought it never did affect the way I live my life and tends to overlook it. Even though it affected my self-esteem on the unconscious level.

I’ve been through multiple experiences in life that have shaped me into the day that my feelings about this issue had changed. I don’t feel any shame or disgust for some of my body parts that do not fit the society’s standard of beauty. I feel good about my body more, not because I’m confident of my beauty, but from the feeling that this right here is my own nature—a human’s nature—that loves herself enough and finally feels comfortable in her own skin.

 

HOW PEOPLE DEAL WITH IT?

 

I think there are two levels of body shaming. The first is our images which people perceives and then judges whether it’s good or not, beautiful or ugly, does it fit the standards and ideals of the society. This leads to us changing things about ourselves in order to be accepted as part of the group, to avoid being overlooked in the social status that we are, and not be ridiculed or looked down on by the people that we cared about. The second level is an acceptance and respect in our own physical body in a concept that transcended the idea of image. But before we reach that level, let’s discuss the first level for now.

Upon talking with many friends, I found out that besides plastic surgeries and slight cosmetic modifications (lasers or anything else that involves needles), the trick that most people would deal with body shaming is shifting the attention to parts of the body that they feel proud of. Many would have their own personal wardrobe techniques that highlights the features they prefer and hides the parts they like less. I wear sleeveless tops because I like my broad shoulders, my friends never wear tight-fitted pants because she doesn’t like her large hip. Another friend will always wear shoes that matches their pants in order to elongate their legs. A senior from my school loves shorts because she likes her long legs, and another junior would bleached her hair in bright colors to distract people from her face which she believes is not that pretty.

Furthermore, people utilize their talents and personality to divert attention away from their physical images. They would focus on work, study, sports, or other hobbies in order to tell themselves and the world that even though their appearance doesn’t fall into socially constructed aesthetics, they have ‘got something good’.

 

I also notice from observing people around me for quite sometimes, that not only outer distractions help people deals with body shaming. The more important things are ‘age’ and ‘maturity’.

Almost everyone whom I have discussed this issue with had felt some kind of trouble ever since they were young. Adults and friends alike would tease them for their skin color, acnes, or curly hair. That is because children are yet to gain any prominent traits other than their physical appearances. They have yet to acquire other attributes or accomplishments to ‘fight’ or ‘compromise’ with the mockery. Children and young teens whose personality are still not strong enough would often fall victim to body shaming. But once those said young ones started to mature and surround themselves with people who knows their worth, these feelings would slowly faded away.

When some would remember the kind and loving words from their parents telling them how they are the best for them, some aren’t lucky enough to have those kind of support from their own families. Instead, many actually developed these negative traits from comparisons that these close ones had verbally abused them in the past. These feelings are not as easy to get rid off as some may think.

 

 

WHAT IF IT’S ON THE INSIDE?

 

The above section might feel more than familiar, but what if the root of it all lies deeper than what meets the eyes? This is something that had been bothering me for quite a long while, I just never confronted it. I have no idea that it was affecting my piece of mind. I did not care much about my images or appearances, or how others look at me. Sometimes I even feel a tinge of pride. But everytime when I’m alone with myself, on the bed, in the shower, in front of the mirror, I could not get rid of the repulsion I had. I don’t like to see my own body. In the bathroom, I covered her right up after shower so I don’t have to see her again.

What bothers me was not about the size of my hip or how big my jugs are. It was about the feelings of not knowing my body well enough. It seemed like I do not have the authority over my body anymore. Since when did this become so out of control? Why did I feel so unfamiliar towards my body even though I have been living with it for years? I still do not know where did these unease feelings come from. I started to question whether I’m facing this alone?

So I sit back and went through all these thoughts thoroughly, it is probably because that I used to be physically weak. I used to be the brainiac back then so I didn’t get to exercise considerably in the past. I didn’t really know how to take care of myself (it has nothing to do with the physical appearance) and what my body is capable of.

 

Not until recently did I learn how to love my body after experiencing two “good things”.

I believe these two things would help us to see the significance of ourselves again. I began to understand more about the physical nature and what it is like to be a human.

When your mind and body resonates, it’s like two close friends who are able to share happiness and communicate with each other effectively have finally reunited again. By starting to appreciate my body, it somehow regenerated my weakened heart. The two good things are sex and exercise.

I first started my exercise shortly after my medical treatment since I was beginning to lose weight due to the side effects. I irrevocably felt so miserable, unhealthy and totally useless at that time so I started with yoga in order to cure my severe aches on knees and shoulders. Surprisingly, after a considerable amount of practices, I eventually found that it seems to improve my concentration and flexibility simultaneously. I felt just great to see what my muscles are capable of whenever I twist myself around.

I am so thrilled that my body and mind can finally do things together on the same page. At least, this is one of the things I could control.

 

Long-distance running is another activity that I love. (Mini-marathons would do. I’m not that tough.) It is quite similar to yoga but more intense since endurance running needs a lot of willpower. Since it is directly connected to the mind, it felt so magical when it correlates together. In other words, I think this is one of the practices you can do to help your body and soul to communicate more effectively, for instance, there might be times that you are physically hurted but your willpower is so strong in this. Thus, now is the chance for you and your body to negotiate with your innate thoughts because in the end, it is not all about the concrete golden medals you will earn but it is all about the “trophy of self-esteem” rewarded from your heart, mind and soul.

From my experience and public survey, it seems that everyone agreed that “sex” does really help as well. Many people agree that sex improves your self-esteem and confidence since sexual intercourse is an activity that its participants have to reveal their bodies with their sexual partners. The comfortable vibes we get from revealing our bodies is the proof that we started to accept it in a way no matter how chubby we are since it does not stop you and your partner from doing it.

Afterall, we will regard it as one of the “natural activities” that you no longer feel embarrassed about. Moreover, it also helps both mentally and physically just like exercising.

Unfortunately, there are also people who are struggling with it when their sexual partners aren’t satisfied with them. It is quite harsh but in the end I want all of you to think that is our bodies not someone else’s. Therefore, it is better to be focusing on the ‘body and interaction’ rather than ‘external appearance’. These two things are not the same.

 

However, I didn’t encourage everyone to go out there and have sex impulsively to fix our ‘hole of despair’ or issues related to body shaming. If we had sex uncomfortably, rather than being happy we might probably feel bad about them and end up rolling or crying on the floor just like the famous Internet meme of a depressive man crying with his sushi. I just want to point out my method here because these two activities have helped me a lot. I hope everyone has their method of ‘using your body to cure your mind’ OR ‘using your mind to cure your body’.

 

Find yourself a method to ease your balance. Start from loving yourself.

ILLUSTRATION BY PALIM
TRANSLATED BY PARISA BUNNAG AND SORNPROM SNITWONGSE NA AYUTHAYA
FOLLOW US AT FACEBOOK.COM/MOODYTWENTIES
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