“Ever since middle school, I was body shamed. People all around me had set beauty standards in their minds and I was shamed for the way that I looked. People thought my body was ‘inappropriate’. They said I had a small face and a big chest and made fun of that. My self-esteem really suffered.

The very first time that I had people tell me I was fat and that my chest was too heavy for my age was in middle school. My friends and I were auditioning for a dance for the school concert and had decided to wear a full kira without a tego. This was my first time wearing a kira without a tego. The audience were ruthless and unforgiving. After that, I started wearing very loose clothes so that people did not notice my body and attack me. I wore bras which were not my size and started slouching when I walked. Now I have a slight hunch-back because of this. In High School, things got better because everyone was growing up but the scars remained. It was difficult for me to accept the natural changes in my body because somewhere deep down, I felt like the beauty standards people set were right and I had failed to fit into them.

When I joined college in India, I had a preconceived notion that it would get worse. But things actually got better. My college does not have a set uniform. It was then, when I started feeling more comfortable with my body and what I was wearing. I gained my confidence back and started feeling happier. I have never been body shamed by my college mates. They always make me feel beautiful and safe. However, there were other people- mostly strangers- who started sexualising me now that I was confident about my body. These people said I was ‘asking for it’. But with maturity, these lines did not affect me as much. Whether it was the change in mindsets or age-group, I feel happy about myself in college and I really appreciate the freedom. Along my journey of feeling comfortable with my body, I realised the major difference between complimenting someone and sexualising them. I want to tell people who sexualize girls to stop doing so. Let us learn to compliment people with the purest intentions.

These days I try to actively advocate on certain issues through social media. I wanted to study law from quite a young age. I was faced with certain challenges while trying to find a scholarship to study law after my high school. This took me to some of the lowest points of my life but I am glad now that I stuck with my dream. My profession has equipped me to fight for myself and to empower others. I started out by advocating for the LGBTIQ+ society. This inspired me to do further for issues like marital rape and domestic violence which people are hardly aware of.

I want to say just one thing. THERE ARE NO BEAUTY STANDARDS. If you are uncomfortable with your body, choosing to change how you look and how much you weigh is up to you. But you should never have to change yourself to please anyone else, the society or their beauty standards. You are the only person who should have a say over your body.”

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