“We should have taken you for the Lantang trek, you badly need to sweat a lot hahaha”, someone I am only acquainted with through work casually said over the phone. I must have met him maybe thrice in formal settings, so, I diplomatically asked him to mind his own business. I still regret not coming out more aggressively about that passive-aggressive body shaming.
In Nepal people do not realize or more often choose to ignore that commenting on someone’s physical attribute or color is wrong. After an incident at a local school, there is a lot of talk online about body shaming and its adverse effects on victims. It is thus important to understand why this has to stop at any cost.
In simple language, body shaming can be understood as the act of humiliating someone by mocking or critically commenting on their body shape, size or color. The question is why do we/they do it? A lot of times people have a certain frame and rule of thumb set by the society on how one should look. Otherwise you are considered “ ugly”, “inappropriate” or an “outcast”. It has become accepted practice to name a person after his/her physical appearance.
Swarna Tamrakar, the author is a businessperson, prefers to be called connoisseur of DIY and recycle, and is mother to a golden retriever named Ba:la Princess
For example, if a woman is physically large people will call her “Moti, Dalli, Bhaisi, Hatti, or Gaida” or if they are dusky in complexion chances are they will be called “Kali, Andheri, or Koila”. This might sound cute once. But when she is constantly being called that in public, it affects her psyche.
Unfortunately body shaming is something that happens more in your own core circle. Family members constantly coax their kids to stop eating because if they are fat no one will like them. Girls are asked to use facial creams to whiten their skin tone to meet the social standards. The South Asian families are always worried about the girls’ physical attributes, again to avoid being singled out for the rest of their lives. The constant pressures from family, friends and society can have a devastating emotional impact on the girls.
Body shaming mostly starts at an early age at schools and family gatherings, resulting in the kid’s low self-esteem as they start being dissatisfied with their perceived body image set by society or media. This leads to psychological problems like social anxiety also known as social phobia (trouble talking to people, meeting new people and attending social gatherings), anorexia/bulimia (eating disorders characterized by food restriction, fear of gaining weight and strong desire to stay thin), bigorexia (can be referred as reverse anorexia or a body dysorphic disorder that triggers an idea that the body is too small or not muscular enough) as well as serious mental health issues.
It is a lifetime of trauma for the majority of sufferers. Some sink so deep in the trauma, suicide becomes their only way out. It might come as a shock that most people engage in body shaming because of their own insecurities and anger, which they like to vent out on someone else. In the young and adolescents, this is common when they cannot deal with conflicts with peers. Also, at times they are upset, annoyed or intimidated by someone and they don't know any other way than to belittle that person’s appearance.
Both the bullied and the bully need to go for counseling and take professional help. It will take time but the trauma can be healed. A lot of times confronting the bully helps tide over the psychological damage. It is fearsome for anyone to express their true feelings and become vulnerable but until and unless there is that venting out, they will continue to be damaged internally. Finally, the simplest thing we need to practice and the first step towards recovery is self-love and accepting yourself the way you are. After that what anyone says will be as important as a bicycle is to a fish.