Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What Are You Looking At?--by Shanti R.

I was talking to a friend and telling her about this blog and I asked her “if you would write something on this blog what would you say?” She told me so many beautiful things, but the first stuck with me. She said, “I am embarrassed by how much I look at other people. All day, every day I am looking at other people’s bodies thinking: Am I as fat as her? Am I skinner than her? Does she eat better than me? Does she look younger than me? Do I dress as well as her? ”

My educated, pragmatic, matter-of-fact, semi-feminist mind shot back at her honesty with judgment. How dare someone consume so much time in an outward appearance that we openly acknowledge in the educated world to be socially constructed?! I disgustedly thought, and then as the thought flit across my knowledgeable, rational, self-confident and overtly self-righteous mind…I was called to the carpet by my experiences in my short 25 years of life. My mind rung with a thought I had shoved to the deepest darkest corners of my mind not seconds before, as I had examined this mother of four, with a rockin smokin hot bod, standing before me…and silently prayed that I could have her body at 38 and 4 teenagers later.

As my confidence quietly, dwindled with the words “me too” ringing loud and clear in my oh so very educated mind, I thought of the countless times I have walked into a social event and examined the room of trendy hipsters, plastic blonds, fit athletes, and china dolls and known quite quickly that I was out of place. When one of them was kind enough to peel themselves away from their designated herd and ask me my name the answer in the cob webbed corners of my socially constructed mind was always the same:

“Hi my name is, plain, too tall, oily skin, chunky knees, jiggly thighs, chubby cheeks, big nose, big feet, big butt, with a muffin-top. “

“And you must be gorgeous, dateable, talented, and completely out of my league…so so nice to meet you and realize one more time that I will never be good enough. “

Let’s put it all out on the table…I am not overweight. But I fluctuate in weight like a roller coaster, thus making it impossible to wear the same size clothes in any given week. I am often judged for not understanding the “overweight mentality,” but with a body that is always jumping through hoops, you are constantly aware when your body is changing size on a daily basis. I am not fat... I am simply ALL woman…with all the normal imperfections that most women have: A tendency to gain weight in all the wrong places…that pleasant little kangaroo belly pooch, that cottage cheese booty, the Amazon woman thighs, the chicken wing flabby arms, the chipmunk cheeks with matching slits for eyes when you smile. These things make me feel fat…and although I may not actually be fat in reality…the point is I FEEL like it every day.

Forgive me for being so frank, I just read that paragraph and cringed at how many times I used the taboo word “fat” and wondered how many people would hate me for being so heartless and unfeeling. So I don’t talk about it. I don’t EVER talk about it. Because I don’t have the right to talk about it…because I am not ACTUALLY fat or undesirable…but I FEEL like it. I don’t know a lot, but I know that counts for something. I am convinced that those feelings are not only responses to socially constructed forms of beauty in the media and culture, but also much deeper results of emotional training. This is where the lines get muddy…emotions are notoriously unknown and unpredictable territory. And so my search for understanding continues.

In the mean time, as reality and self worth scream to the surface and often win in my social interactions…I close the doors on the secret mind corners of self doubt…and I think: “I don’t want to be like them I want to be like ME. I want someone to be friends with ME or date ME…not my make-up bag, or my straighter, or my wrinkle cream…and especially not my size zilch jeans with a perfect bod.” But no matter how many of my friends rag on me that they wish they had my body and they wish I only understood what it felt like to be fat; the mind corners are still there and the grass is always greener on the other side. So I will continue to not wear makeup, wear second hand clothes, and not style my hair, and pretend not to care what other people think…and I will make up for it with my out-spoken, intellectual, fun personality. There is something tremendously, wrong with that line of thinking I am fully aware…but for now that’s where I am at.

Hi my name is Shanti, and I have issues with my body like everybody else. Nice to meet you. 


  1. We all have moments where we feel insecure- even the "Barbies" and "Kens" have them. I thought that it was only a select few of us who felt that way until I married a successful "Ken doll" (seriously, many neighbors call him that) and started to hear him talk about his insecurities. Even though many people think that he has everything going for him, he still has times where he feels out of place, ugly, fat, or just plain not good enough. He would never admit it, but it's true. Knowing that I wasn't the only one who felt this way gave me the courage to start doing things for me and not others. I buy my clothes because I like them, changed my make-up because I liked it differently and even worked out harder because after all of those years of feeling like I could never live up to everyone, I was finally doing all of these things for myself. The crazy thing is that I am now in better shape than I ever have been, get more compliments (which are less important now than ever) and even get asked out more than ever (even though I'm married). My confidence in myself has changed because I live my life knowing that when I workout and primp and etc, I'm doing it for me.

  2. I think you're friend is right that the first step in accepting ourselves is working to accept others and not judge them, no matter what their body type. This might be even harder with people who we think look better than us than those we think look worse. "If I spent that much money on clothes" or "If I used that much makeup" are just as destructive as "how did they let themselves go like that."

  3. Agreed, Tim. A theme in the Bible--brought to life in parables and just flat-out stated--is that if we desire mercy, we must choose it for others. If we choose to be merciful towards the bodies around us and the souls that reside within those bodies, being merciful to our own bodies and our own souls will come a lot more naturally. Both the "poor" and the "rich" alike need our forgiveness, acceptance, and love.