Rose is from Sindh, Pakistan and was kind enough to share one of her most difficult childhood experiences with our journalist, Natalie.
Unfortunately, many people will experience some degree of body-shaming at some point in their life. Body-shaming is often perpetuated by the media, advertising and it can vary dramatically by culture. Body-shaming occurs quite often during childhood, directed at us by our peers and adults as well.
Body-shamers usually make negative and hurtful comments about others’ physical appearance because they are incapable of expressing their own feelings of fear, embarrassment, frustration, anger, or loneliness. Many times, you may find that a body-shamer has low self-confidence and a negative self-image. Many body-shamers may be going through a difficult time in their own life, have a broken family or a tumultuous home life. There is no excuse for body-shaming, but knowledge is power. It is helpful to understand the origins of body-shaming to learn how to cope and overcome it.
Rose is an only-child and has a B.A. of Applied Psychology from the University of Sindh. Her native language is Urdu, and English is her second language. She is now in her early twenties and has experienced various degrees of body-shaming throughout most of her life, most prominently during childhood. Rose explained that although she felt loved as a young child, once she became overweight the body-shaming became more apparent.
I used to watch cartoons all the time. And because of that, my view of life became a bit dramatic and imaginary. I watched the avatar series a lot and was so obsessed with it that I literally tried bending elements like water and rocks… I gained weight because of watching T.V. all the time. As I grew older, the comments made by my family and other people made me realize that I had a weight issue. I loved eating a lot and I still do. My grandma’s house was right next to ours so whenever my mom made a dish that I didn’t like, I would go over to my grandma’s house and she would make me some very delicious food to eat.-Rose
Rose recalled how she felt fat, and that people around her made sure she felt bad about it. Everyone in school made fun of her. All of the body-shaming affected her self-confidence and she became very shy. If she had a “crush” on a classmate, she was afraid to tell him because of fear of what might happen if he didn’t like her back. Would the bullying and body-shaming be exacerbated by her telling her “crush” this?
I didn’t even know half of the people, but they felt that they had a duty to body-shame me whenever they had the chance.-Rose
Can you describe three of the most dramatic experiences that dramatically affected you or still haunt you to this day?-Natalie
Rose continued to describe in detail several events that she clearly still remembers. When Rose was fifteen, she was at a party with her three-year-old little sister, having a great conversation with a group of her friends. They were having a great time, until a random older lady approached them and joined in on the conversation. As this older lady was speaking, she turned to Rose and asked, “Is that (pointing at Rose’s three-year-old sister) your daughter?”. Rose was incredibly embarrassed, she wanted to run out of the party as fast as she could or just become invisible. She was only fifteen years old, what that older lady said to her was such an unpleasant remark that she will never forget.
At fourteen years old, Rose was in the grocery store checkout line with her grandmother. A forty-something man had been suspiciously following them around the grocery store and giving Rose perverted gestures. Now he was standing behind them in the checkout line. Rose could feel someone touching her, it was that man! She was so embarrassed. After repeated harassment she finally spoke up to her grandmother. Rose’s grandmother furiously yelled at the man until he fled from the grocery store. Again, Rose felt it was her weight that was the cause of the harassment. But then, Rose began to wonder, maybe people aren’t as innocent as she had once thought.
I was once insulted by a woman, “You are too fat! You will never be able to find love because of your weight.” It was one of the worst moments of my life. I cried myself to bed that day. I lost all hope in humanity that day.-Rose
Rose, I’m so sorry to hear about your troubling experiences. How did you cope? Did you learn anything from these experiences?-Natalie
Never give up! That is one thing that I have learned from all these experiences. No one cares for you and thinking that the world cares for you and your feelings is a big mistake. Life is never fair, and it never will be. And because I was judged for my weight so much, I have learned not to judge anyone for their appearance ever. There could be devils hidden within the faces of angels. Harassment is a real thing and is more common then we think. It doesn’t need to be physical. Merely staring at someone in a way that makes them uncomfortable is also a form of harassment.-Rose
Natalie felt a sharp twang of sadness. At such a young age, all the body-shaming had turned Rose’s positive view of the world into a harsh negative reality of “no one cares for you”. Rose explained that, as a child, all of the cartoons that she watched created an unrealistic expectation of the world that all people have good intentions.
…having to go through such experiences made me realize how wrong I was. People are going through their own battles. I used to think, “Everyone is nice”, but certain events that happened in my life even took away the trust I had for my relatives. The world and its people are very materialistic. They are after things that are nowhere near as important as people are. The dilemma of our society is that we run after cash and “things” and forget about humans and their emotions. Another most crucial thing I learned is that people sadly run after fake beauty. Girls are forced to look a certain way to be accepted by others. This is very sad.-Rose
Natalie felt so much frustration, disappointment and sadness for Rose. Rose didn’t deserve this kind of treatment, no one does. Feeling much disappointment in humanity as well, Natalie asked Rose, “What lasting impact has this had on your personality and outlook?”.
I used to be very confident… but ever since people body-shamed me, I lost all confidence and became a girl of the closet. But my outlook is rather optimistic. I want to change the thinking of people. I want to make them realize that looks are not everything. What matters is your soul. If we all are eventually going to die then why run after materialistic things when you can spend that time, happily, with your family and loved ones?-Rose
A sense of relief set in, Natalie thought, is there a light amidst all this darkness? She asked Rose, “Have you been able to move on and break free from it?”.
When I was new to these body-shaming comments, I was much traumatized and felt very hopeless. But after thinking about it, I have chosen not to suffer. I want to live, and I am living, but with a new perspective. My perspective is that even though there are many bad and materialistic people, there are still some good people out there. That hope of finding the good, and multiplying it, is enough for me to keep going.-Rose
Natalie was relieved to hear that from Rose. Rose’s story is very motivating and inspirational. She has taken these negative experiences, and over time has learned how to turn them into motivations. Although Rose may have a darker view of the world, her new perspective also motivates her to find the good where she can.
My advice to any children going through a similar situation is to keep on holding to the one good thing in your life and trust it and use it to spread goodness around you. Never be disheartened by other people’s mean comments about your body. They will keep on body-shaming, but you need to ignore it and try your best to focus on bringing good into other people’s lives. The world and the people in it will then improve.-Rose, Pakistan