being healthy
Thoughts

Is being healthy not enough?

Honestly, I’m very uncomfortable when people compare weights and skin colors in front of me. It’s not that I’m offended or anything. It’s just… the way they look down on themselves because they think they’re not skinny enough or white enough. It’s disturbing–the way they praise that slim and white body image.

I haven’t been skinny in a long time. I think the last time I was considered skinny was in the fourth grade. After that, although I didn’t suddenly become fat, in gatherings with my family, my parents’ acquaintances or my friends’ parents (basically the adults), they’d say I was “healthy”. I got it then. I was bigger than most kids my age, therefore, I wasn’t pretty enough. In high school, my weight was at the highest that it has ever been, that even some teachers gave me a talk after classes to stop eating too much, to try to be skinny–“What happened? You weren’t like this when you first came [to this school]. Such a shame for someone like you,” they said. (Also, someone like me, like what?) Even until today, I can’t believe I grew up in this kind of society and survived.

My friends didn’t say anything about me being fat. My parents, of course, calmed me down and said things would get better, either I became skinny or I accepted my body. And honestly, as crushed as I was, I never wanted to torture myself with extreme diet and exercise just to show people I could be skinny. I didn’t want to give them that pleasure. If I’d do any of that, I wanted to do that for myself.

Then in college, I lost quite a lot of weight. Still not skinny, but it was a lot. I didn’t plan any of it, but missing meals, walking a lot and doing exercise (just because I didn’t have anything else to do) contributed to that.

These past 7 years, I’ve lived far outside of my hometown. And when I get back there for holidays, people always comment on how different I look from high school, how they think I’m pretty because I’ve lost weight. Yes, this happens every year, even when my weight hasn’t changed in these last 3 years. Guess some people can’t move on from the image in their past, can they?

What disappoints me the most is that those old friends who didn’t mind me being fat were the ones who complain about their weights. They jokingly say it’s unfair that I lost weight while they gained some. When they say something like this, I could only smile–completely don’t know what to say because it’s just so sad and I don’t want to be talking about it. How could they become like this? Where did the people who didn’t mind my weight go? I know people change, but I thought the ideal body image that the media have portrayed wouldn’t get to them.

About skin color is also a problem to me. It breaks my heart because every day on my way to work I saw a skincare center promoting “white, flawless skin”. Race-wise, the natural skin of Indonesians is yellow or brown–we can never be “white enough”, so why promising something that’s quite irrelevant? Don’t they realize that that kind of advertisement would make some pepole uncomfortable in their own skin?

The body of each and every one of us is different. It requires different treatment, different kindness. It’s hard enough to love our body without other people getting in our nerve. Can you imagine how much harder it is if they scold us and tell us what we should become? I understand that we have to go through difficult stuff to defeat our demons and appreaciate what we have, but the ways media and most people around me praise skinny body and white skin, and assume that that’s the perfect body we should all strive for, just don’t help. Instead, it makes me sad and upset and angry. I thought we all had passed that. I thought we all knew better not to bow down to those standards anymore.

I’m not in the perfect shape and I have my own ideal image, which I know isn’t considered skinny either. But isn’t that the point? That we define our own standard and should stop comparing our body to others’ because they simply work differently? When would we start being kind to our mind and body if we’re that harsh? How skinny is skinny, anyway? How white is white? What is flawless? Is being fit and healthy not enough?

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