“You should lose some weight.”
“You have such a pretty face. You would look great if you lost some weight.”
“Change your shirt. It makes you look bigger.”
“You should put on something to cover your acne.”
These words are forever ringing in my ears ever since I was a young girl. I took notice early on in elementary school that my stomach wasn’t flat like some girls in my class. It was something I was fully aware of but I never thought it would be such a negative physical trait until I was told directly by someone it was. School bully? No. Worse. My own family members.
The one group of people that I always want to make proud. They always constantly remind me that in some way I lack something that I cannot be. From an aunt telling me to not eat any cake to being compared to my cousins who were tall and skinny. It has been a constant cycle of being critiqued, being upset, feeling confident for a minute and then having that confidence taken away by my family. Up until college, I had absolutely no confidence in my appearance. I believed everything that I was told from the age of eight onwards. I would obsessively suck my stomach in with the fantasy of how I would look if I was skinny. I only wore baggy clothes to hide my curves.
The idea of classic beauty standards has been to be slim, fair and not too short or too tall. My mom and aunt grew up with this being their understanding of beauty in Pakistan. Of course, it was natural for them to carry over this standard to me as they saw these critiques as being a way to remind me of what I need to achieve. It was a constant reminder up until I moved out that some of the clothes I wanted to wear “didn’t look good on my body” or my “skin has a lot of scars.
In my freshman year of college, having space away from my family allowed me to make my own judgments of how I looked and feel good about it. On top of this, I began to notice on social media the emphasis of redefining beauty standards globally. Being a bigger person or having acne and not being fair was not seen as “unattractive”. Seeing plus size models to my own friends pushing for this new ideal that our generation redefined truly gave me the confidence I had been missing for so long. I began to finally appreciate my appearance.
Of course, there are days my insecurities come back to haunt me. I learned that it was okay to feel that but to also be proud of my appearance. I know that I take care of my body and it doesn’t mean it will look a certain way. I don’t blame my family for what they said to me growing up. I actually feel sorry for all the women in my family. I wish they grew up with this idea of beauty instead of the one they were taught to believe. I can only imagine what they grew up feeling about themselves. I hope they understand one day, maybe not from my own words but from others that having stomach rolls, double chins and acne is nothing to be ashamed of and is still considered to be beautiful.