12/06/2015 8:34 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Set Yourself Free From The Beauty Trap


You must have already formed an image of me in your mind, but let me fill in the gaps for you. I am a US Size 4, light-skinned, light-eyed, brown-haired girl living in a nation obsessed with fair skin. You must be wondering what gives me the entitlement to write this article since I occupy quite an enviable position in this culture.

What motivated me to write this piece was an experience shared by my friend and some "advice" offered by another person I know. My friend is athletic and slender, but was not always so. In fact, while she was 17, she was oscillating between being overweight and obese. She did everything to lose weight but nothing worked and that made her depressed. Her story reminded me of my own. I was a Size 8 then and any jibes at my weight would make me cry. I was on some medicines which resulted in weight gain. After few months, I dropped sizes, yet was not happy with my body type as everyone I saw was waif thin and others' hurtful comments made me despondent. I reached that "dream weight" but lost my stamina, strength and confidence.

Then recently, a person while telling me his weight woes told me that I should focus on dropping a few pounds myself. However, this time I did not go on crazy diets or ridiculous workout sessions. Instead, I gave him a piece of mind. He never had the courage to respond.

"When you are not voluptuous people will call you flat-chested, if you happen to be curvaceous, you are called fat."

Why are sizes important? When you are not voluptuous people will call you flat-chested, if you happen to be curvaceous, you are called fat. If you are proportionate or disproportionate, you will still be fat. Quite a conundrum, I must say. Who decides who is fat/curvy/skinny? Does a particular skin or eye colour define you? Who sets the so-called standards of beauty'? What are these norms and conventions which define beauty? All I know is that these "standards" wreak havoc on your self-esteem.

One of the several reasons that I am not on any social networking site is that they help perpetuate a certain image, a certain figure, a certain type of facial features and skin colour that everyone holds desirable. In this mad rush to become a clone of that image, people forget who they really are. They try to look like that ideal, and on finding some success, post pictures of themselves flaunting the much-coveted look.

So many people will go to extreme lengths to be that image of perfection. Young girls will undergo surgeries, go on crash diets, participate in extremely intense workout sessions that their bodies cannot tolerate, use coloured contact lenses, and if heavy make-up doesn't do the trick they'll airbrush images of themselves, in case. I will never discern the rationale behind this compliance. When did the unknown public's perception become more important to you than your own? When did you stop valuing yourself for who you are?

We all have the freedom to choose. Freedom of choice defines our autonomy and dignity. Sizes don't define you. You have the right to choose to believe what others think of you, and you also have the choice to be what you really are. Do not deprive yourself of life's greatest joys by conforming to norms whose foundations are obscure and illegitimate, and then agonising if despite all your efforts, you still cannot be "beautiful enough". Something as ephemeral as your body should not make you despondent. Every time you focus on the judgements of others, you lose track of your own path towards reaching your maximum potential.

You are accountable to yourself and no one else. So choose wisely, without anyone dictating to you.

We all have preferences, just don't try to please everyone by conforming to theirs. I've a better idea - why don't you conform to your own choices and norms. Your worth cannot be assessed by others who are probably just as obsessed with their own perceived flaws.

A woman should never be confined by the sex stereotypes which seek to govern her or essentialist notions of femininity. Try to see that the ever-changing standards of beauty established by unknown people endeavour to hold you from exercising your freedom of choice. Rebel against foundationalism -- deconstruct foundations and you will find only hollowness under all the norms and definitions.

Right from big businesses to your own loved ones, there are several forces who wish to establish or perpetuate conventions and rules. Do not let them. Don't be ruled by them, instead be the ruler.

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