On Skinny Shaming

I have always been a naturally thin girl. It’s just the way I am.

When I was younger, my slightness never bothered me. My bony figure seemed to just be accepted by everyone: I was described as cute or slightly lanky and awkward. Then I started high school.

My female classmates blossomed into young ladies, their legs becoming shapely and curvier. I started to notice that my legs were stick-thin, my calves were not rounded, my thighs not meaty enough. I started to notice my chest stayed resolutely flat, my figure resembling that of a 10-year-old. As the years progressed and I reached 14, my classmates started to notice my stunt in growth as well.

I remember it was Dress as an Athlete Day at school to celebrate the start of the Olympics. I went as a gymnast and wore a leotard and pants. My mum and I shopped for ages to find the right one. It was a beautiful purple material with streaks of silver that made it shimmer. I loved wearing it. As my friend and I sat on the floor to start our music class, a loud whisper carried across the room.

“What is she wearing?”

“Look at her chest, she’s so flat!”

I was frozen in humiliation. Suddenly, the leotard became my most hated possession, my body along with it. Pretending I hadn’t heard, I asked my friend for her jumper.

“This room is cold,” I said.

It was in the middle of summer; the temperature soared to 30 degrees after midday. Noticing the plea in my voice and the embarrassed flush of my cheeks, my friend took the jumper out of her bag and handed it to me without another word.  I wore it for the rest of the day.

For a long time, I hated my body time. When I stared in the mirror all I saw was someone severely underweight. I could count every rib and my sharp shoulders and knobbly knees became my primary focus. Not matter how hard I tried, I could not gain weight. My parents invested in packs of Up and Go milk boxes – a disgusting drink that triggers my gag reflex to this day just thinking about it. I was made to drink one every morning before school and encouraged to drink them after. Thinking this would make me fill out in the right places, I plugged my nose and downed it. But they never worked.

I tried confiding in my friends about my body issues. They all seemed voluptuous to me and had already gotten their first period. I hadn’t even bought my first bra yet.

“Oh, it must be so hard for you,” one friend exclaimed in mock horror. “Do you know what I would give to be too skinny?”

“Stop complaining – you’re like a stick!” said another.

“You should be grateful,” a third agreed.

I know my friends did not intend to offend – just the opposite, in fact. But being called a stick is not a compliment, as any thin girl would agree, and their comments just made me feel even more isolated. Did I not have a right to voice any concerns about my body? Was I not allowed to have flaws because I was “stick thin”?

These scathing comments are what led me to hate my body for many years. We are all human and we all have insecurities; it is not justifiable to shut someone down just because you think someone else might have it worse. Everyone goes through their own journey in this life and our concerns should not be made out to be insignificant.

It may seem strange to some, but there are many women out there who try desperately to gain pounds, and are constantly on the verge of being dangerously underweight.

“Real women have curves,” screams the slogan intended to empower, but often, all it does is hurt and belittle. Nothing could’ve crushed my 16-year-old self-more than to read it online. I had never felt like a “real woman”. I still shopped in the pre-teen department at Kmart and only wore a bra because I wanted one, not because I needed one. I hated school swimming carnivals and often said I had an ear infection so I could sit out and no one would see me in my bathers.

It took a long time for me to accept my body for what it is and it took even longer to thicken my skin to the comments that taunted me whenever I looked in the mirror.

So for the women who are told they need “more meat on them”, to the ladies who grew up feeling not “womanly” enough, and to the women who still struggle with their body image as adults: it’s about time we embraced what we have. Having less fat on your body doesn’t make you less of a person, just as having more fat on your body doesn’t diminish your humanity. Your body type doesn’t determine who you; your core values are what truly matter: your kindness, your strength, your loyalty and generosity. Skinny shaming is not okay; fat shaming is not okay. Let’s put body shaming in general to rest and spread more kindness than criticism.

Our bodies do not define us.

Cover by Yuris Alhumaydy 

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