We returned from our two-week vacation on the morning of the third and I’ve been trying to get back into my usual productive routine. This vacation has been quite different from those we’ve had in the last few years – we attended a cousin’s wedding at Nasik, from where we went to my uncle’s for a few days, where we mostly played cards and splashed in the waters of Narmada at dusk. This was followed by a few days at my mother’s parents’ farmhouse where I spent most of the time sitting under the trees in the breeze that never ceased during the four-five days that we were there and eating mangoes and watching a different sunset every day. We left for Indore on the morning of 30th, where we attended another of my cousin’s wedding over three days and then left for New Delhi on the evening of 2nd June.
What makes this different from our previous vacations is that not only did we visit a lot of places and meet a lot of people, but also that the experience of those places and people – most of which were familiar to me – had an effect on me that was unexpected and surprising, and that quite changed me by the time we returned home.
I’ll begin from the beginning: a couple of days before we left, I had a haircut, the hairdresser mostly assisted by my mother, the result of which was me having hair way shorter than I’d wanted it to be. My mother kept repeating that it looked good, but I’m old enough to know for myself that it didn’t, and even if it did, I did not like it. I was further disappointed because I was turning seventeen in two days and I didn’t want to look like a five-year-old on my birthday. (Quite) thankfully we ended up spending the entirety of my birthday in train so no pictures were taken, but after a while my mother lost it – quite truthfully I was over-reacting, because after all, it’s hair and it will grow back. But at that point (no longer now) nothing could make me feel worse. My hair and my eyes are the only things that I like the most about myself – they’re what make me more confident and less self-conscious about how I look, and now one of them was ruined. I actually like having glasses, because, even though before I got them I thought I would hate to have them, I look better in them than without them. Every time I look in the mirror, I’m happy to have glasses not just because they help me to see, but because they’ve given me one less thing to be insecure about.
It’s said that the more you think negatively, the more negativity you’ll attract in your life; the same is with positivity, and I’ve found this to be true. When I first started being conscious about my body, thanks to puberty, the only thing that disturbed me was the bulge in my thighs that I’d surprisingly never noticed before. It was also a time when I came across the Western culture because I spent so much of my time online, and I became acquainted with ‘ideal’ body types and what society thinks a girl should/not be like. I spotted one flaw and then another and then another, and the chain continued until there was nothing that I liked about me – not even my eyes (dark circles because of iron deficiency) or my hair (too rough). There was still time before I was to learn about feminism and body positivity.
After I learned about it, though, I started to try to accept the way I am and even encouraged others to do the same – whether online or in real life. I tried, but for a long time I failed, setting unrealistic expectations for my body – to be almost six feet tall even though my genes would not let me grow taller than a couple more inches than five feet, have slim legs and nice body curves and whatnot. Right now, I don’t care about being tall, I don’t care about having curves, and I know that I can have a flat stomach or slim legs by working out, but right now, I don’t want to. I’m fine as I am. I hardly notice the ‘flaws’ in my body these days, knowing it’s mine and that I don’t owe it to anyone, but I still lack a healthy physical self-esteem. I know I shouldn’t be insecure, but it’s hard not to be. Portia said to Nerissa, in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice:
“It is a good divine that
follows his own instructions: I can easier teach
twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the
twenty to follow mine own teaching.”
It’s easier to teach twenty men something than to be one of those twenty and follow one’s own teaching. It’s the only line from the play that I haven’t forgotten (besides ‘good riddance’) and find so true in my life. At both weddings, although I enjoyed a lot, I was half of the time preoccupied with my insecurity. I knew no one around me cared – they were all here to have fun, and I’m lucky to have such people in my family – but no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t convince myself entirely. When at the end of the day I put it down in words, my mind was clearer, though the insecurity hadn’t really left.
My body is a part of who I am; it’s a part of my identity. Both matter to me equally. It will change over time with age, but the only thing that will stay will be that it’ll always remain mine. My body will be my own and so will be my identity and at no point will I let either be guided or shaped by someone else’s idea of how I should maintain them.
I don’t know why I’d started writing this post – because I had to post after the short hiatus, or because I was still not over this one significant experience of my holidays. The insecurity is not perpetual, but it’s hard to ignore it when it does come, and I’m now tired of it. I want it to go away and never come back, because I don’t want to spend my time thinking about something as insignificant as society’s ideas and standards for women. I want to focus on my studying and my writing, and I want to do my bit in making this planet more livable. I don’t want to worry about whether or not I look beautiful, even though people keep telling me that I am beautiful just to cheer me up. I don’t want to hear this. Girls shouldn’t be told that they’re beautiful, because it just reaffirms that it’s important to be beautiful. It makes being beautiful a necessity for having a healthy self-esteem. Girls (or any human being, in fact) should not have to feel the need to look pretty, because in almost all cases, it’s inconsequential. What they should be told, and what I wish I had been told, is this line from The Help by Kathryn Stockett:
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
Have you ever struggled with having a positive body image? If so, how did you deal with it?