We live in a rather lopsided world. A world which is quick to latch onto us and arrange us into socially constructed categories. One which brusquely brushes off our individuality and redefines us in terms of size, shape, and color. A world which unrelentingly convinces us that our self-worth is determined by our ability to meet in-vogue “body goals.”
Growing up, I was always called skinny. I heard it so often that I became stumped as to what it meant – was it an adornment to flaunt with pride or a stigma that marred my self-esteem? I didn’t know. In fact, I didn’t know whether I could ever be considered beautiful with a body “as thin as a stick.” You see, it’s a common misconception that smaller-framed girls have it easy. We don’t. Skinny shaming is as degrading as fat shaming. It’s quite astounding how we consider it to be indecorous to call a person fat, but acceptable to say someone is skinny. And I’m amazed how our society hushes those who advise people to lose weight, but turns a deaf ear when it comes to taunting others to “gain more meat.” The dichotomy of modern culture today is that we have double-standards even in our discrimination of others.
But that’s not the point. The crux of the matter is that body shaming has a detrimental impact on all of its victims, regardless of which end of the spectrum they find themselves.
The stigma attached to being skinny was clearer once I entered the latter half of my teen years. I soon discovered that my body size not only determined my self-worth, but also my sense of womanhood. Because my cup size is considerably smaller than a double-D and my hips are absent of curves, I was somehow made to feel less attractive, less beautiful, and worst of all, less of a woman. It is a suffocating feeling to be judged by your curves and edges before your character and intellect; to feel as though you’re a woman of less substance because you lack “meat in all the right places.”
I recall an ice-breaking activity I once participated in as part of an acting workshop. We had to stand in a circle and each person got a chance to jump in the middle and talk for two minutes on why they believe they are great. People started off listing their various merits, virtues, and talents, but as time ticked on, they found themselves running out of ideas. Desperate, they warily began opening up, peeling off their many layers of insecurities, stacked onto one another with the paste of fear and apprehension. What came out was raw, riveting and liberating. People said things like,
“I am great because I have a big red pimple on the left side of my nose.”
“I am great because I can’t walk straight in heels but I wear them anyway.”
“I am great because I’m on a diet but I still sneak a chocolate every other day.”
And so when my turn came, I too decided to celebrate my apparent imperfections; exonerate myself for not being what society expected me to be. I bellowed,
“I am great because my chest is kinda flat and my butt is kinda small but my dreams are big. I am great because I am skinny AND I am beautiful.”
That day a small revelation struck me – the moment we choose to embrace ourselves in our entirety, all flaws and blemishes included, we instantly free ourselves from the malicious claws of social stereotypes and standards.
So darling, regardless of whether you’re round as a pear or thin as a wafer, remember that you are beautiful just as you are.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.