I’m not sure how to begin this post and frankly, this is my fourth attempt at writing it. I originally wanted to bring my thoughts to ‘paper’ on Wednesday, I even went to Starbucks to motivate myself with a cup of chai tea (and to use their wifi which ironically did not even work that day) and ended up staring at my blank computer screen for 3 hours. So four days forward, I am giving it another try. The reason why this post is hard to write is that it evolves around a sensitive topic – but mostly because it evolves around a sensitive topic that personally affects me a lot. Today’s post is about body sizes, body image and about me addressing the question above or rather, why it is a question that should not be asked.
When you meet a person, the first thing you will notice is the way their look. That might be their eyes, their hair and the way their body looks. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as it does not lead you to do the following thing: reducing the person to that feature. I have been reduced to my height so many times that I wish I got a dollar each time – I would be rich. Yes, I get it, I am smaller than a lot of people although statistically still within one standard deviation (if you have done statistics at school/uni you know what I am talking about). For those of you who haven’t: I’m 1.58m and people seem to find that very striking. It almost seems like some people cannot bring up the energy to look further and end up reducing me to my body size. I got a lot of comments on my body during my time at High School and although I believe that a few of them were unintentionally hurtful, a lot of them were just straight up nasty. My school was pretty good overall but my class and later even my grade did certainly stray from that – the social environment was toxic, there were many cases of bullying, some of them very severe and looking back I something think I should not have stayed there. Anyway, in an environment were bullying was nearly perceived as the norm, everyone who were slightly different in a way went through a hard time and I wasn’t the exception. I also had different interests and a different taste in fashion which certainly didn’t help. Luckily, I eventually thought ‘sod it’ and started dressing just the way I wanted. But in terms of body image, all the comments really affected my body-image and therefore my self-image. I neither want to make this post just about me nor go into too much detail but let’s just say it got to a point where I did not want to leave my house. I tried to skip P.E. as much as possible (mostly because of my teacher’s comments) and the thought of going out or even meeting new people lost its appeal.
Apart from people calling me names, people referred to me as the ‘little one’ etc. Or I should probably say refer as I still hear that a lot. I even get that from strangers, they literally call me by my body size instead of my name. In my opinion, that is just disrespectful. If you reduce people to their body size, do it in your mind but please just keep it to yourself – you wouldn’t call someone you have never met the ‘skinny one’ in their face, would you? It is not even about the expression, it is about the feeling you evoke – you are verbally limiting a person to one attribute and the problem is that you don’t know how a person feels about that particular description. I do realise that most people mean no harm by calling me ‘little one’ (or a similar expression, this is the most common one though). Some of them might even consider it a compliment. But for someone like me who had very negative experiences with body size/image in the past, this word has a negative connotation. If your height was constantly used as an excuse to put you down, the nature of comments becomes hard to distinguish and it is nearly impossible to see the good attention behind such an expression. In a way, I am conditioned to feel bad when someone comments on my body. I am not trying to accuse anyone though, like I said I realise that most people are unaware of the damage their comments cause. When I was living in Nice, I encountered a situation that literally turned a switch in my head. Whilst I was trying on dresses (we were about to go to a club) one of my friends commented that I should wear a particular dress – ‘it makes you look cute and tiny.’ Unsurprisingly, I put the dress away and said that this was not the effect I was trying to reach. Not understanding the issue, they said that they would love to look that way and that if I didn’t realise that it was a compliment. I explained that it certainly did not sound like a compliment in my ears as people and explained why and I wish I had captured their reactions. They looked at me and one of my friends just said ‘what the fuck? that makes zero sense.’ And that was the exact moment that I realised that it made zero sense indeed. For numerous reasons. First of all, height does not say anything at all about beauty. Secondly, it is something that you cannot change. It is something you are born with it, it is something your parents pass on to you and it is just one body feature of many. And even if it was something I could change it still wouldn’t give people the right to comment on it in such a negative way. Body-shaming is a horrible thing, we all look unique and that is great. As long as you are healthy it really does not matter what you look like. Or at least it shouldn’t.
It does not help that the media and the modelling industry present being tall as an ideal. In fact, it makes even less sense to me than just presenting ‘skinny girls’. Because being short or tall really is something that has zero influence on your health and is something that we absolutely cannot change. I do believe that by creating diversity on the runway, we could make people feel a lot better about themselves. In my opinion, being small or tall does not determine beauty and it is about time that we change this perception in society. Why do people have label others? I genuinely believe that most people just do it to create a sense of order and structure. Categorisation leads to security. But sadly, it also leads to limitation and to creating unnecessary borders and groups. In my experience, body image often improves with age as people realise that other values matter and that body size is irrelevant. I am certainly at a better place than I was a few years ago. That doesn’t mean that this problem doesn’t affect me any more, it does. People commenting on my body still evokes feelings of negativity and after an unthoughtful comment, I often just want to bail and take the next train home. It also makes me wary when trying to connect to people in the fear of getting hurt. I know that most comments, especially those people who are friends with me make, aren’t supposed to hurt me but they sometimes still do.
And even though I find it hard to change my attitude towards these comments I have at least changed my attitude towards my body. Being different isn’t a bad thing. I have said this in many other posts and I still stand by this: being different is what makes us unique. Just imagine how boring the world would be if everyone just looked the same! I am happy with who I am and even though it took me some time to get to this place, I eventually got there. And you can do the same. So if you’re in bad place at the moment, keep in mind that it is temporary – things can get better and they will. Especially once you realise that nobody is perfect and that certain body features do neither determine your beauty nor should they determine your self worth. We all have a completely different concept of beauty and categories such as ‘ugly’ and ‘beautiful’ are created by society – in my opinion, the best thing you can do is free yourself from these labels and just be. (If you want to hear more about this topic, feel free to check out this post.)
And besides, we are more than just our body or our body size. And to all the people who manage to look beyond that: you are amazing. We need more people like you! Not all comments about body size are bad, let me just clarify that: if someone told me that x or y was taller than me or that they liked me body I would never take offence. This doesn’t leave any room for (negative) interpretation. There are probably people out there who don’t mind comments about their body as much as then their are cultures where being tiny is seen as the ideal. But in most cases this rule applies: How to comment on people’s body sizes – just. don’t. You never know how a personal feels about him and herself so when in doubt, just leave it. In general, it is not your place to comment and to judge. You might have noticed from the title that this post has been inspired by Zoella’s video ‘Why are you so skinny?‘, a video that deeply inspired me and that helped me a lot in the past and that everyone should watch in my option. Just like I wasn’t sure how to begin this video, I’m unsure how to end it. This was difficult for me to write and I hope it doesn’t come across as a post full of complaints as this wasn’t my intention. All I want to do is to share my experience, encourage others who are in a similar situation, raise awareness and tell you that you are great just the way you are. It does not matter whether you are short, skinny, curvy, tall or something in between all of those, all that matters is that you are happy and kind to others. I eventually learned learned to accept myself for who I am and to like my body but I wish we lived in a world where this question had never arose in the first place. We are all beautiful in our own way and it’s about time that this concept becomes ingrained in society.
Feel free to share your experiences (p.s. and to dm me if you want to chat privately about this topic). xx