The discrimination of my body and how I overcame it
If the joy of dressing is an art like John Gillian said, that moment felt like mastery to her. Eureka! She had found it. After trying on several clothes, she had found the dress that best reflected her mood that morning—freedom. She could not go wrong with her choice, as she was in high spirits and could not stop admiring herself in the mirror. The velvet dress, which fit her well, truly felt like freedom that day, as her pretty thick thighs seemed ready to enjoy some outside breeze. Everything was perfect. Although one could say the only thing that was missing was Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” song, playing as she headed out to visit her friend in a nearby locality. Aboard a transport van, however, she would be met with an experience that would shatter the sunny disposition with which she woke up that day, along with her a piece of her confidence.
The passenger beside whom she start, a middled-aged man, scoffed: “you are making your clothes cry for help. You are just too fat for such clothes.” She did not want to believe she was the one he was addressing, so she kept her focus on her phone. But the man would repeat her statement and make further degrading ones about her body size. At this point she could not believe her ears. First, why would a grown man pass such a comment about a lady they do not know from anywhere? Second, why did it always have to be about her body size? “Maybe you should get some air pump to pump some weight into you because you are skinny for those clothes,” another passenger retorted in her defense. But that would not make her feel better. Totally embarrassed by what had just happened, she got off the car and rushed back home. Back at home, she stood in front of the mirror, just like she did in the morning. But this time, she no longer saw anything admirable. By and by, she stopped looking at herself in the mirror because the words of the man on the van and those of others she had encountered previously kept ringing in her mind. And that was the genesis of her long battle with body shaming and its associated psychological issues.
Body shaming is defined in Wikipedia as “the action or inaction of subjecting someone to humiliation and criticism for their bodily features.” Over the years, it has become a go-to tool of abuse and bullying. While its scope varies due to different body image concerns across cultures, some common types include fat-shaming, shaming for thinness, and height-shaming.
Is it right thinking to shame a person because of how they were created? Body shaming has been a major crisis among the youth. In recent times, we find some people justifying and supporting perpetrators of this terrible act knowingly or unknowingly, allowing these offenders to feed off a person’s confidence over the insecurities they (the offenders) have. Currently, people have a vivid image of what the “perfect body” should look like. For women, it is an acne-free, even tone, perky breast, and hourglass-shaped body. For men, it is an acne-free, huge biceps, broad-chested body. With the image registered in their memories, they are quick to call out anyone who does not look anything like that which should not be so. They are quick to compare themselves and others to random social media ‘influencers’ who tag as having the “perfect body.”
Studies have shown that body shaming has led to depression, identity crises, anxiety, and even more weight gain. According to Obesity Canada, “more than three out of five adults who are obese encounter weight slant from health professionals. Some even argue that it is a mechanism to promote weight loss.” (Rolling of eyes). Irrelevant, right? Unfortunately, it is the world we find ourselves in. We have our parents, guardians, colleagues, and even people we consider friends playing crucial roles in this act. They are usually of the notion that being tough on the victim allows him or her to lose weight quickly. Also, there is emerging evidence showing that body shaming has been the premise of stress among people. Stress then escalates to depression and depression to suicidal thoughts.
One needs to know that there is no perfect way to look, and there is no perfect way to eat, notwithstanding the fact that one must be cautious of his or her diet. One needs to know that comparing yourself to these influencers is a dent to your originality seeing as most of the models on social media have gone through cosmetic procedures before having such body shapes.
Being body-shamed can serve as a huge risk to the individual. At most, it can cause eating disorders and mental health issues.
I have been a victim of body shaming; specifically fat shaming. My entire life I have tried to mold myself into perfection and acceptance for the one who does not appreciate God’s perfect work. I have sought validation from the wrong people. In people who saw me the way they wanted me to be and not the way I was. Imagine having to grow up in a household where you would be insulted for gaining excessive weight. You would be given godawful and lousy names because of the way you looked; you would be teased nonstop over weight you did not ask for. Growing up, I had to face all these troubles. In facing them, I lost myself. I lost who I truly was, I had a severe identity crisis. I was subjected to numerous potions, detox teas, strict diets, and uncountable workouts but funny enough, the moment I felt I was making progress, I would bloat all over again. This went on for years until I was diagnosed with the polycystic ovarian syndrome, PCOS for short. According to the Mayo Clinic research department, “PCOS is a hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges. Its cause is not well understood but may involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Symptoms include menstrual irregularities, excessive hair growth, acne, and excessive weight gain.” In these symptoms, I never lacked. I was blamed for years for the way I looked. I mean, how could you possibly look at your African Ghanaian mother to tell her you are plus size due to a medical condition?! You sef reason am na (laughing out loud). You go to mum and say, “Ma, doctor no se mewo yarie bi nti na meye obolo no.” Do not laugh, just imagine this scenario. Yes, exactly, it is absurd. There were times I cried myself to sleep because there was no one to turn to. I made people’s comments about me controlling my life; the way I ate, what I thought of myself, and even the way I moved.
Gracefully, reality dawned and I picked myself up and decided to do me. I decided to look at myself in the mirror and give daily affirmation, I decided to profess good things in my life, and most of all I decided to love myself for myself because I am the only person I have. Doing this made me find genuine inner peace, it made me genuinely love myself and in loving myself I attracted good and positive things. I cannot boldly say I have done all the self-love but I know I have accepted to live for my creator and for myself, I am still in the learning process, I know it takes baby steps but I am willing to do it and do it right.
Dear reader, it is a gift, it is intentional, and it is your shield. It is how you came, it is your body. You do not have to be slim or plus-size to be beautiful, you only have to be you! The only thing you have is yourself; therefore live your life for yourself.
Therefore, I say all of the sexy peeps come out one by one; tall, short, ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’, come out one by one. (in Wizkid’s voice).
This piece was done by Freda Gbati, a student of the University Of Ghana. Follow her on Instagram @_gbati