Skinny shaming summed up my teenage years and brought out the worst in me, but I’ve since learned how to feel good in my own skin.
At Honeycombers, we aren’t afraid to speak up about body-shaming ads and finding confidence in the bedroom. Accepting and loving your body for the way it is can be challenging, but is an important step in taking care of your well-being mentally, emotionally, and physically. Fat or thin, for many people the experience of body shaming begins in their teen years—perhaps when people are most vulnerable to negative comments from others. Here’s how skinny shaming brought down my self-esteem during my adolescence.
How skinny shaming destroyed my mental health
I was underweight until the age of 16. Whenever we checked our weight during P.E., my teacher would specifically single me out and tell me that I was underweight. She was concerned that I just wasn’t gaining any pounds. I was a picky eater growing up but I snacked on all the junk food. Perhaps it was because I had a pretty small appetite, or maybe it was just genetics.
Are you on a diet?
I was about 12 years old when it all started. Every time I went to India during summer vacation, it was baffling the number of times people asked if I were on a diet. I’d casually laugh it off (Me? On a diet?!) and move on. Then there were relatives who’d ask if my mom fed me or not. I just wanted to storm out of the room but I didn’t want to seem like a spoiled and rude kid. Some aunties would directly tell me it doesn’t look nice and appealing to be so skinny. Again, I was 12.
Where do I start?
From being called a stick, the walking dead, a toothpick…these jeers may have been said in jest but it made me feel weak. It made me feel like I was not good enough, not worthy enough, just, literally, my body was not enough. Some would mockingly ask if I was anorexic, which is appalling as anorexia nervosa is a dangerous eating disorder and is definitely not something to joke about. Plus, I had high-functioning anxiety, so I took every word to heart.
Never really looking at myself in the mirror
Particularly at school, when other girls would casually check themselves out in the mirror, I would sheepishly stand to the side avoiding it. My self-esteem was so low that I never really checked myself out. And well, my school’s mirrors had terrible positioning – my head was always cut off! Looking at yourself in the mirror is such a small act of self-love and I wish I could go back to tell my younger self that I am worthy of my own reflection.
Skinny does not mean weak
I’d like to say this again louder for the people at the back. Looking like you’re all skin and bones does not necessarily mean you are weak and incapable. Students would laugh at me when teachers asked me for help in carrying books or made me a striker or defender during P.E. Nevermind that I was terrible at certain sports. Athletic ability and strength has nothing to do with being skinny, or not.
How skinny shaming made me passive all throughout high school
All the constant remarks about my body made me awfully quiet in school. I wasn’t active academically or outside the classroom in extra-curricular activities. I never had the confidence to stand up for myself or do anything that would make me the centre of attention.
Transitioning from adolescence to a young adult
When I started university, I was at a healthy weight but I still lacked confidence. To help myself make the leap, I decided to go all out. During my first year, I participated in a public speaking competition and made it all the way to the finals where I spoke in front of hundreds of people. I will always be proud of myself for stepping out and doing what scares me because that gave me a tremendous confidence boost.
Now, I have a somewhat awkward body-fat proportion – skinny arms and legs and stomach rolls. I still get remarks from people saying I am skinny, but I know so much better now to not let others’ remarks pull me down.