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How obsession over beauty pushed me into a pitfall

Updated on April 24, 2016

Beauty vs Mental health

When I was 5, I asked my mother why I wasn’t beautiful. She said people didn’t get all the gifts in life. Some were beautiful. Some were intelligent. Some were healthy. I wasn’t very satisfied with the answer but I accepted it at that time because it seemed reasonable. But as I grew up, I questioned why I didn’t get the beauty that my mother possessed. I used to get so agitated about it that my grandmother would show me my baby pictures and tell me how much alike I as a baby looked to my mother. This proved that when I grow up, I would inevitably look like my mother (who is very beautiful).

Above all my features that I considered unattractive, the top one was my dark skin. I hated it. My mother’s skin was peachy white and everybody appreciated her for it. People would often look at me with pity because I was unfortunate enough to have been born with my dark skin. They suggested creams, herbal treatments and exfoliating to ‘improve’ my skin. I took their suggestion and did everything I could. Banana facial, egg facial, miracle creams, aloe vera, tamarind, cucumber..... You name it, I have done it.

This tireless routine went on for 2 years. By 14, I had gotten tired. Having tried all the treatments and never seeing any hopeful improvements, I gave up. I accepted that I was never going to look beautiful. I hated it. I hated every part of me. When I looked in the mirror, all I could see were faults. But my skin was one thing which tore me apart the most.

All this hatred for my skin tone was brought on by the social conditioning that is highly prevalent in India. Black skin is considered to be very ugly here. There are all kinds of advertisements advertising various skin whitening creams which promises dark skinned women that they could be transformed from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan. Unlike in USA and some other parts of the world, it is not a social stigma to degrade someone based on their colour either. It is usually a very ‘entertaining’ thing for everybody to do.

For the next year, I struggled badly. I couldn’t get over my obsession with my skin. My mother’s comforts didn’t help. Although she assured me my skin colour was beautiful, she herself tried to get even fairer to become more ‘beautiful’. So that kind of defeated the point of her assurances.

It was them that I found a halo that changed my life and perceptions of beauty. I found the feminist corners of the internet where I never entered into before. I saw people proudly being themselves. I saw dark people, white people and everybody else just being...people. They opposed discrimination and judgement. They learnt and taught others there is nothing called as the ‘ideal beauty’. They celebrated diversity. And I for the first time in my life, I fit right in between all the crazy people who didn’t care for what colour your skin was or how you looked. A person said something to me that I never forgot ‘Listen to me, kid. Nobody’s praises and assurance are going to make you feel beautiful. You don’t need that. You know you need? You need your love and your acceptance. “

This had a huge impact on me. I begin to see my skin as something to be proud of rather than be ashamed. I realised it was a part of me. If I couldn’t love a part of me then who would? Gradually my distaste for my skin vanished. My obsession with beauty declined. I stopped wanting to impress others and just took to impressing myself. I cut my hair short because I liked it short. I wore casual boyish clothes because I felt more comfortable in them. I stopped wearing makeup because I liked my face without makeup.

When I woke on my 16th birthday and looked into the mirror, I saw someone who I adored and loved to bits. I liked my skin, liked my pug nose, and I absolutely loved my hair.

What I am hoping to say with this article is not my story of self acceptance or how my family failed in comforting, but I am trying to shed light into the daily life of an Indian girl. I am trying to make more people aware of how Indian girls lose their self esteem during adolescence. We are taught that our beauty measures our self worth. Adults, who are responsible for taking care of our physical and mental health, degrade us every single day over our appearances. I’m hoping I could make a change in our lives. I hope you all think twice before you insult anybody over their appearance.

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