Fairest of them all

Fairest of them all
You always knew it. Ileana D’Cruz just put it out there. When the actress posted a picture of herself on Instagram saying she struggled to accept her body the way it is, every single day, she gave a voice to millions of women who suffer from a negative body-image issue. It also made everyone realise the unspoken truth.

Everyone, yes, even actresses and models, are victims of the ‘Do I really make the mark’ syndrome. Too fat, too skinny, too toothsie, and, of course, too dark – think you’ve heard it all? Not really. No longer are the ‘too-s’ limited to external beauty alone. Women are now even conscious about the shape and size of their labia minora (you read it right — the inner lips of the vagina) and are getting under the knife to get labiaplasty done.

Reason? Firmer and nice — that’s how they want to look in their all-revealing yoga pants. Well, I just did a double flip. If this isn’t alarming, what is? Call it a problem phase of the selfie generation living in a hyperactive social media age, but the real reason boils down to low self-image, as Mumbai-based counsellor Merle Coutinho puts it. “No love for the self is a serious problem that could be triggered by negative inputs by the family. As a child, if she has had no appreciation, it will lead to a lack of self-confidence as she grows up. Comparison among children adds to this complexity as does an overtly heavy weightage on looks in anything from the marriage proposal to the job interview. It can have devastating long-term effects.”Mandira Tandon, a mother of twins speaks of how she underwent a nose surgery 15 years ago, just before her marriage to a wealthy businessman, her boyfriend of seven years. “Well, he was never happy with my nose,” she laughs. Point out to her that she is a stunner even with eight-year-old twins and had men swooning when she was single, and she brushes it aside. “Yes, but he wanted me to change. He had the money and I was fine with it,” she adds, lighting up a smoke. “My parents had no objections either. So, big deal.” Worth it? “Well, it was a little frightening. The procedure was done under general anaesthesia plus there was a week of convalescence. But the biggest fear was that I had no surety of how it would turn out.”

You’re being watched

But the bigger culprit here that’s causing the negative body image syndrome to percolate down to every woman out there, young or old, famous or otherwise, is the camera. The mobile phone has become everyone’s 24x7 camera. Selfies are taken in the washroom and on the road. The duck face is ready with or without friends; why even in trial rooms of malls in-between outfit changes to elicit responses! The angle is always high (no double chins or bulging tummies), the expressions practised and the pictures modified to reveal only the best.

Take Sana Oberoi, a Pune-based events anchor, for instance. She manages multiple social media pages, one for her personal use, while the other is for her events’ work profile, on Instagram and on Facebook. “I am big on selfies. And I am very particular about what I put out on social media. My work depends on it. I have a beer belly and I don’t want it exposed. I am working on getting it trimmed, but while that’s being handled, I don’t want to come across as unsexy. It will take away from my assignments. You may call it plastic but that’s what works |in the glamour world,” she adds, non-chalantly. “My looks are the most worrying part. If I am no longer hot, I won’t be in demand. This is what my nightmares are made of.”

Not just her. The youth are getting affected too. Even a quick glance through the Facebook profiles of kids in school reveals that they are way too conscious about how they look. If 20 years ago, a party was the time to obsess about what to wear, now youngsters are obsessed about it all the time.

Mihika Raj, who stepped into college this year, says that she discovered being plump is not an asset as soon as she moved into the ‘real’ world. “Facebook was a complete no-no at my house when I was in school. And I am not standard factory-made slim, but I know I am not fat. But other girls have different views. The other day, we took a wefie and almost every girl had a problem with it. It took us 15 minutes to get one thing ‘perfect’,” she says.

According to Merle, these are the same children who haven’t been curbed about gorging on junk food or about limiting gadgetisation. “A sedentary lifestyle has been gifted to them and then adolescence strikes. Now peer pressure sets in as does opposite sex attraction. Feel-good factors are part of growing up, but if not channelised in the right direction, they cause problems. Our society doesn’t help. Everywhere you look, there are unrealistic body images,” she maintains.

Let’s face it

And where there aren’t, body shaming is rampant. But thankfully, social media is now awakening to this ugly problem. The hashtag #curvy or #curvee has been started for women to show off their curves. Then there is #rockthecrop started as a response to an article in Oprah Winfrey’s magazine that suggested that women should wear cropped tops only if they have abs to match; #fatkini was started to encourage women of all sizes to sport swimwear.

Preeti Athri, a mom of two, tells us how body image issues can be handled well too. “Every time I step out of the bathroom, I’m scared to look into the mirror because of the zebra stripes, muffin top and batman arms,” she exclaims. “Actually, after pregnancy, I managed to get my pre-baby weight back, but it was coupled with fat stored in unattractive places. It was a weird situation.”  While she never compared herself to celeb mums who went from fat to fit in 0-60, Preeti still wanted to look good. “It helps your confidence. I have also come to terms with my body, that some things are irreversible. I wear clothes that compliment my body and don’t just follow fashion trends,” she says.

(Some names have been changed on request)

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