The perfect size

23 July 2019 | Columns

Evany van Wyk

The action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size is called body-shaming. I can remember the last time someone asked me if I was anorexic, because it was only a few weeks ago. The person did this while smiling, as if it was a completely normal question to ask. My honest answer was: “No, I am not.” That was not the first time this had happened. Comments and questions about my weight have been following me all my life. People just don’t seem to understand that there is nothing I can do about it. This made me start to question myself and I found my self-esteem reaching an all-time low. Making nasty comments about my weight, before anyone else could, became the norm. I realise that I am not alone in the struggle of feeling utterly insecure, because of other people breaking you down. We need to start understanding that body-shaming is a total devaluation of a person’s self-worth.

“Do you eat enough?” is the question that I get most of the time. What am I supposed to say? When you reach this level of being fed up, you’ll have the urge to say something that may come across as rude. People always expect you to answer their questions in a polite manner. What if I just burst out and scream at you?

Asking someone why they’re so thin, if they’ve gained weight or if they have always been so skinny, and telling them to eat a little less, is not the way to treat anyone. Why should it concern you? There is no such thing as the perfect weight or shape. This is what the world has engraved into our way of doing, living and treating others. Why, when we are upset, annoyed or intimidated by someone, do we default to criticising their appearance? Does it really make us feel better? Let’s try and not be Debbie-downers - trying to reach the top by crushing others. You’ll never reach it, and if by some miracle you do, the rewards will not be sweet. I always find myself standing up for others, but this time it’s personal. Never having been able to stand up for myself, I find that now is the perfect opportunity to do so, not only for me, but for all the other people out there. All of us have been bullies in our lives, even if we didn’t notice it. Apologise to all the people in your life sincerely; not everyone has the courage to stand up if they are hurt.

Sitting on my bed, tear-filled and ready to end it all, I’ve tried to ignore the comments and make it seem like they don’t hurt. But they do; a lot. It might seem like a trivial, vain and stupid reason to want to kill yourself, but don’t underestimate the power of a few uttered words. “You should eat more; no guy likes a bony girl,” he said. Pretending it didn’t affect me, I just shrugged it off until I couldn’t anymore. That is just an example of a young girl, ready to end her life, because of body-shaming. Wake up world! It’s not just girls who go through these things, everyone goes through it. Be part of the change and condemn body-shaming.

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