Why Women Still Have A Love-Hate Relationship With Their Bodies
Body positivity is a concept that most women still embrace half-heartedly, even those who wear their feminism on their sleeves. While the conversation about acceptance of plus size, stretch marks and love handles has given us much food for thought, have women truly embraced their curves? Have we found a way to get over the envy that finds its way to our hearts, every time one sees a traditionally “good looking” woman? Many women have embraced their bodies, but have they stopped desiring stereotypically beautiful (read slim) bodies? Recently I got a reality check on my own stance on this subject, when a deep-seated insecurity regarding my plus-sized body was grabbed by the collar and put out in the open for everyone to see.
- Body positivity is a concept that most women struggle to embrace fully.
- While most of us have learned to embrace our curves and stretch marks, how many of us have gotten over the desire to have a slimmer body?
- Accepting your body and getting rid of your insecurities related to your size are two different things.
- Acceptance is a gradual process and it takes more than advocating plus size to truly love your body, without any terms and conditions.
Many women have embraced their bodies, but have they stopped desiring stereotypically beautiful (read slim) bodies?
Being a plus-sized woman for most of my adult life, my relationship with my body has undergone gone a drastic change in the last few years. Eventually, in my mid-thirties, I have come to accept my plus size, and I can boast that I do not feel envious of women who are lighter or have a figure worthy of being on a health magazine’s cover. I exercise, I eat right (well most of the time), and my goal has shifted from losing weight or going down a size or two to being a fitter version of myself. I am on the right track, or so I thought.
On a recent holiday, I was presented with a challenge that let it dawn on me that accepting your plus size and getting rid of the insecurities related to your body altogether are two separate things. We were staying at this lovely resort that had the cleanest and most serene pools I have seen ever. This was the right opportunity to introduce my daughter to the pleasures of splashing around in the pool. The first challenge was to find a plus-size one-piece swimming suit for myself and that didn’t happen. Despite so many women being plus size, why is there such a shortage of swimwear for us? Is swimming only for the sleek and the lean? But that is a question for another day and it was eventually decided that my sister would take over the pool duty for my daughter. The first day went well and my daughter was taken to the pool as fervently as any enthusiastic six-year-old would have.
So the next day she was eyeing the pool since eight in the morning, itching to get back in again. But we had a problem. The aunt responsible for pool duties got her periods and my daughter was looking at me wide-eyed to take over the duties. I loaned my sister’s two-piece, and managed to squeeze myself into it. However, looking in the mirror, I felt that the sight wasn’t a pleasant one. It is one thing to wear a dress or shorts and to say that you love your body, and completely different to let rolls of fat, stretch marks and scars from the c-section literally hang out in the open for everyone to see. Ever had a dream of walking into your office or a public space buff-naked? I was about to live it!
There were people around us and all my advocacy of body positivity over the years disappeared into thin air, as I retreated into a shell of shame.
But a mom’s got to do what needs to be done. You don’t promise your kid fun in the pool and then tap out because you cannot “carry” a two-piece. One braves over any and every hurdle that challenges your child’s happiness and rolls of fat that you are conscious about is a minor problem. The seconds in between removing my kaftan and walking into the pool were fraught with anxiety. There were people around us and all my advocacy of body positivity over the years disappeared into thin air, as I retreated into a shell of shame. But then I looked at my kid’s face I knew it didn’t matter. This is the magic of motherhood, every problem, every struggle becomes inconsequential the minute you see your child happy.
Later, I tossed and turned my sense of insecurity and shame over in my head again and again. Was I not as liberated as I believed? While I loved my body, why did I still bother so much about others perception of it? Did I have no right to call myself a body positivity advocate, now that the shortcomings in my mindset were glaring back at me? I also observed how there were so many plus-sized and much older women from other countries around me, who wore swimming costumes without a care in the world. They didn’t care what the world thought. So is this an Indian thing? To double down on body positivity and cling on to stereotypical notions of beauty at the core?
The truth is, the stigma around beauty is not a bandage that you can rip off and be done with. There are layers to this conditioning and when you peel one, you are presented with another to deal with. Thus it requires patience and persistence. Self-love is a gradual process, and only when you are presented with challenges on your outlook, does one realise how far one still has to go.
This experience of letting my plus-sized body out in the open was both a reality check and a lesson on why we shouldn’t be too quick to criticise women who struggle with self-love. Everyone has a baseline, beyond which we go back to embracing the very values and stigmas that we vociferously criticise. So bear with the women around you and do ask yourself, do I have a baseline for self-love and acceptance too? At what point do I give into pandering to stereotypical views on beauty and how do I get over that?
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.