It’s so annoying to hear this phrase, “real women have curves’. Does this mean that we with not too prominent curves are a figment of the imagination? Are we aliens?
I may be getting ahead of myself. Let me introduce you to my life.
Growing up, I was body shamed. My biggest embarrassment was my body. My family, school mates, and children in my church then thought it was funny. They gave me nicknames like slimmie, rubberband, elastic, stick and always teased me at the slightest opportunity. I was deemed malnourished and was sometimes compared to a clothes hanger.
I was a very shy child and so I didn’t know how to handle the bullying and name-calling. Being an introvert at the time, I cried, criticized my body, found fault with myself, punished myself, fell in and out of depression, not realizing that I was doing myself more harm than good. I was sad, I always struggled to fit in and I believed that there was something very wrong with me. Fortunately for me, my parents didn’t make me feel anything was wrong with me but when I left the house, I saw the stares and felt the sting of those rancid remarks.
Constant body shaming and mean comments about my weight took a toll on my mental health. I struggled with low self-esteem, social anxiety, depression & suicide ideation because I had the notion that maybe the world would be a better place without me in it.
For someone to be referred to as being underweight, it means the individual has a Body Mass Index (BMI) under 18.5. Someone with a BMI of 20 to 25 is said to be normal; someone with a BMI between 25 and 30 is said to be overweight, while someone with a BMI above 30 is said to obese. If your BMI is under 18.5, you are just too underweight that you cannot afford to lose any extra pound of weight. As you may have rightly guessed, I am 24 and underweight with a BMI of about 16. I am not anorexic; I don’t have any underlying genetic or physical ailment. I am the perfect picture of health. I just have a high metabolism which in itself isn’t a crime.
I have tried several things I call therapies – garri therapy, water therapy, malt and milk, I have taken drugs, I have force-fed myself… All these in a bid to ‘put on some weight’.
Even now, I am still a target of body shaming. Meeting people sometimes is a chore because I know they may say something along these lines; “Oh my God! You’re so skinny! If breeze comes now, it will blow you away.” “You think you’re a model, better go and eat and put on some flesh.” “See you looking like broomstick/toothpick.” “You look sick.”
And then they turn into nutritionists.
In the world we live in, physical appearance gets precedence. Being kind, having a good heart or a great sense of humour doesn’t count by any standard.
I have had interactions with people online – we’ve probably connected on another level but when we meet even accidentally for the first time, I hear comments like – “so this is you… I thought you’d be bigger”
So what if I am skinny?
So what if I am not curvy?
Does it make me less of a human?
Sometimes, I just need someone to see me.
One battle I have fought long and hard is ‘comparison’. One thing I’ve learned is that everyone is unique; everyone is special in their own right. It may sound cliche but it’s the truth nonetheless. Everyone is flawed on some level. We have one thing or the other that we’re insecure about. You might not be perfect, but you are unique. Love your body and be comfortable in your skin.
To body shamers, STOP. Labels are for jars not for people.
I know that I’m not in the place of total self-acceptance, but I know that I am still on that journey. I am optimistic that I will get there.