I watched ‘Miss Americana’. A documentary on Taylor Swift’s life. There’s this one thing which I particularly liked and that’s when she says, “There’s always some standard of beauty that you are not meeting”. I felt a personal connection with these words. I believe every women who consciously decides to walk away from their insecurities related to beauty standards, will know exactly what Taylor meant.
It’s ridiculous to even think about the time we spend caring and thinking about our looks. Think of all the time we spend in front of the mirror. All the time we spend researching online on how to get fit, how to get shiny hair, how to make our skin glow. Think of all the pictures we reject, just because the angle was not right, our arms looked too fat, our love handles were visible, that grey hair was showing. All the clothes that we try and dump on our beds before heading out somewhere.
No one seems to be satisfied with how we look. If we are too thin, we don’t have that ass. If we have a hot ass, our body is not lean enough. If we have a flat tummy, then we miss out on the curves. If our breasts are bigger then we look heavy, if they are too small then God bless our partners. If we don’t use makeup, we are unlady like. If we use too much makeup, we are not natural. If we don’t care about our appearances then we are jhallis. If we are too much into our looks, we are self-obsessed. If we choose to show our legs, we come from a bad family. If we choose to cover ourselves top to bottom, we are not modern enough. There’s absolutely no winning. Because, there’s always something which we are not.
There was a time when I had put on weight. People started telling me about my double chins and stretch marks. From ‘you won’t get a guy to get married’ to ‘you would have difficulty getting pregnant’ I heard everything. And when I lost a lot of weight by working out (which by the way, I did because I wanted to. Not because people commented), people told me that my body became too athletic to look good in a Mekhela Sador/saree. It only proves that there will always be some unsolicited advice on our body and looks.
We see fitness enthusiasts working out and eating healthy, every day. We see beauticians taking extreme care of their skin and hair. And we think if they can we can too. During our quick comparisons, we tend to forget that what they do is their job and livelihood. They think about health, fashion, and fitness maybe 9-5. Not everyone can afford to do that. On top of that, our bodies are different. Genetics and metabolism also play their roles. Instead, what we should really learn from these influencers is the dedication, drive, and efforts they put in towards their goals. It’s not that we are not as driven as them. We also have that drive but maybe towards something else, maybe our job, family, maybe cooking or some other hobbies. Which is equally incredible.
Society puts too much pressure on us. A woman is always required to achieve something. A woman is always required to look younger than her age. If we don’t, beauty police shows up everywhere. Taunting and humiliating us. We should look beautiful and fit to get hired, because fat screams unproductive and lazy. We should look pretty and thin to get married. We should look healthier and yet not fat to get pregnant. After kids we should not look like a mother, but should be able to care and work like one. After 40, we should look like a 27 year old. After 50, 30 year old. Time and again, we are made to feel that we are all about looks. And that we are nothing beyond our looks.
When I was a kid, my mother and a neighbourhood aunt took up cycling to lose weight. But, they would always venture out after dark, never in day light. Because, people must not see women working out. It should be like magic. I remember a friend telling me that her boyfriend would point to other girls and say I want your hair to look like that. A newly married 18 old girl’s husband would complain that her body is not grown enough. A senior of mine stopped posting pictures online because she was fed up of people commenting on her weight. I have heard my whole childhood how my hair is not normal. How it looks dirty and unmanageable. I have a cousin who got told off at her friend’s birthday party that she was too fat to be eating. I saw a comment on one of my friend’s (after giving birth to her second child) pictures that she looks unbelievably fat.
Where does this nonsense ends?
I will tell you what, it ends when we stop listening. It ends when we learn to shut people up. It ends the moment we choose to look beyond our looks. It ends when we start loving our body, because small or big, our body is an extension of us. And, if someone is uncomfortable with our body and how we choose to live with it, then that’s their problem.
When someone ‘out of concern and care’ gives us advice then it would not make us uncomfortable. They would not say anything that crushes our self confidence. Genuine suggestions should lift us up and make us work towards something positive. People can be genuinely concerned about our health, but not for our beauty.
We decide what beauty means to us.