Hey Guys! This is my first article of 2021 and also the announcement of our first (and only) project for this year! So, if I tell you that I am excited, it’s probably an understatement 😉
“Body positivity refers to the assertion that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of how society and popular culture view ideal shape, size, and appearance.” (Cherry, 2020)
It’s taken me years to realize that my own impression and judgement about my appearance and body image has probably had the most toxic effect on my mental health and sometimes even on my general wellbeing.
Depending on who you ask, body positivity can mean:
- Appreciating your body despite “flaws” (Well whoever was the authority on what “flaws” are or should look like)
- Feeling confident about your body
- Loving yourself
- Accepting your body’s shape and size
A lot of you know that I was born and brought up in New Delhi, India. While our culture has a lot of things that I value, a very important part of it (at least during my impressionable years) was a “set standard” on the appearance of a woman. And while I am at it, let me give you the deets: You are beautiful if you are fair (but not too much), thin (but not too much), tall (not too much, cuz how will we find a boy for you!!) and have long hair. The “too much” remains vague and knowingly so, cuz how else will fingers be pointed.
My mom was (still is) all that (and more); being Sindhi, she was naturally light-skinned, tall (but not too much), was thin, and had long hair. But the perfect girl fell in love and married someone who did not meet the “set standard” for men. (Come on, men have a “set standard” too!)
This is how a typical matrimonial ad in a leading daily would read (even today), “Looking for a well-educated, homely, fair, slim, beautiful and cultured bride for the apple of our eye loser son”. Sometimes the words – virgin, good cook, cannot work, nonsmoker, nondrinker and non-feminist are also added in. Don’t believe me, here are some examples:
I have struggled with my appearance for as long as I can remember. The moment I was born, you know the moment when all babies kind of look similar cuz they were squeezed out and are yet to understand what this world is about; things like air and sunlight…. Anyway, some of my aunts told my mom (at the hospital) how sorry they were that I was a darker shade, and that probably is cuz my mom had married a “madrasi”.
Oh well, this was her baggage (she must have felt awful), I didn’t have anything to do with it. As I grew older, unfortunately so, I was exposed to my mom’s side of the family (the fairer side) and they had no qualms about calling a spade a spade (by that I mean, in their world people were divided using a shade card and other such statistics). The only point was no one ever asked them for their humble opinion.
As a teenager, I came with enough baggage – dark (isshhh), madrasi (my dad is from south India and he is not from Madras!!), big ears, too thin… I don’t remember the other unkind jabs! When I moved cities (for college), I was one of the most beautiful girls in my class (this happened overnight), if I see the pictures now… I wonder why. The definition is so skewed in my country – “fair was lovely”. I was “fair” in this part of the country, and that equaled lovely, and now that I think about it – nothing about me had changed, except for my confidence meter.
At this point in time, I need to mention the most popular beauty product in the Indian subcontinent – Fair and Lovely. It is a fairness cream; it has been selling the idea of “self-hatred” for years and successfully so. When the CEO of this company narrated this particular story, “A woman who lives in extreme poverty decides to be indulgent one day and so she buys a dream sold in a tube: with Fair and Lovely written on it. “It broke my heart! The notion goes so deep in our society (not just in my home country) that it will take a long time for a change, but that should not be a deterrent for us.
Anyway, by the time I got absolutely comfortable in my skin, I was in the “favorite appearance” phase of my life; if you’ve had it, I can bet my life that in our heads (sometimes in reality) it is a short-lived phase. All of us (women) keep looking at those pictures as rude reminders. Oh well, after being teased all my life for being “stick-like”; I was mocked by that same clan about my weight after my daughter was born.
It was sad that girls in our family were not weighed or applauded for their achievements; but they were measured by their weight, their glow-y skin, and their choice of apparel. I found all of these themes absolutely ridiculous, but I can’t say that I wasn’t affected.
I was affected (and quite badly) till very recently, I felt small and I was hurt, and I started to measure my worth through that hideous number on the scale. I tried to diet, I tried to exercise, I hired help – the journey went through its crests and troughs. I could never again measure up to that “set standard” (only to realize that it was absolutely OKAY!).
To all those people, who made me feel small or hurt my feelings – SUCK IT! Cuz I work as a technology lead at a leading consulting organization, cuz I go by the name “Professor Pragati Siddhanti” at a Swiss University, cuz I run this platform and there is a lot more to me than my weight, my skin color, or my appearance.
I am ENOUGH!
Well, after hearing my story, it’s a little bit obvious – I feel extremely passionately about this topic and clearly have a personal agenda. After years of going through an unnecessary amount of insecurity – I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. Moreover, as a mother to a 10-year-old, I want to make sure that she always feels secure in her skin/body; that she values and respects herself, and does not get swept away with the unrealistic “set standards” that social media is dictating. Social media is doing what those relatives were doing; you could avoid them, but one cannot avoid social media 😉
For me, if this project can change the mind of one woman – young or old, light skinned or not, skinny or curvy; I would be elated.
According to research, some of the pressing issues that emerge as the result of poor body image are:
- Depression: Women experience depression at much higher rates than men do, and some researchers believe that body dissatisfaction may play an important role in explaining this gender difference in depression rates.
- Low self-esteem: Research has found that body dissatisfaction is associated with poor self-esteem in adolescents regardless of their gender, age, weight, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
- Eating disorders: Research also indicates that body dissatisfaction is linked to disordered eating, particularly among adolescent girls.
There is much work to be done, and I am hopeful that our collective creativity is going touch chords globally.
In a single word, the goal (also my word of this year) is ACCEPTANCE. But if I had to elaborate it, then I would say:
- Challenging how society views the body – I know that I (or our team) cannot change the world or the society that we live in, but we can challenge these unrealistic and unattainable standards. With the influx of social media apps, these standards are getting worse by the day, making the younger generation more and more susceptible to mental health disorders.
- Promoting acceptance – What is beautiful to one, might not be beautiful to another. Beauty is all about perspective, and the realization of this remains critical in this era.
- Helping people build confidence and acceptance of their own bodies – Our events, story shares, and events would drive awareness, engagement, and oneness! We are looking forward to your support towards directing our daughters (and sons) idolizing the correct role models.
- Addressing unrealistic body standards – The “set standards” of today are harsher, the overwhelming amount of information is unmanageable, and the resulting effects are scary! If not addressed now, it might become too late.
Well this project has both elements: online and offline. And here’s you can participate/collaborate/partner up with My Swiss Story:
- Story Shares: Share your personal story with us, not only would you feel great (trust me it’s almost therapeutic), but your words could influence many women! We would like to offer our platform for the positivity that you can emit and the change that you can trigger!
- An online event: Would you like to be on our panel of experts for our online events or join one of our LIVE sessions to promote the idea of body positivity?
- Offline event: Keeping our fingers crossed about this and hoping that the COVID cloud clears out in the later part of the year. An announcement for the same will appear on our website and social media channels in due course of time, but I can promise you that this is the most fun (and impactful) part of the project. If you are a stylist, a photographer, own a clothing brand/store, are an event organizer, or would like to join hands with us – get in touch!
Use the contact form below, to express interest:
Are you enjoying our content? We would love to hear your opinions in the comments sections. Stay tuned for more resources, and information on the Body Positivity project. Follow me on Instagram for the latest on this and many of our other projects!
Have you read our latest eBook, 21 Hidden Gems of Switzerland (Vol II) ? Click here for a direct download.
To read posts from January, click here