Ever since I was a child, I have been told over and over again, what beauty is, and what steps I should follow to ensure that I become beautiful. And because of this, all through the years that I was growing up, I struggled with my body image and trying to achieve the so-called beauty stereotype.
But as a child, I did not understand what the fuss was all about. Why would my grandmother instruct my mom to keep me from playing in the sun for too long, or why should she control the amount of food that I eat? Why would my mother scold me for talking in a loud voice, or laughing loudly? When I did not understand still, they had to tell me what beauty is (sweet voice, fair skin, petite frame) and what beauty isn’t (tall, dark skin, loud voice, fat).
The women in my life hated certain parts of their body. I was confused. Beauty, for me, was unspecified. My grandmother, with her wrinkles and her dainty pearls; my mom, and the lines that formed beneath her green eyes and outlined her mouth when she smiled; and my aunt, with her long and pointy ears that so resembled mine, were beautiful. What they thought were flaws, were beautiful to me. In the eyes of a child, beauty is boundless and effortless.
Honestly, I did not care that the sun would make my skin more tan than it already was, or that the food I eat would give me spots on my skin, or how loud I’d sound when I laughed. I was just a child, and children will be children. I did not know that having a darker skin color was shameful, or having a natural deep voice was a bad thing. I thought I was beautiful, too, with all my crooked teeth and my tan skin and my loud voice. I did not, for one second, think that I was not beautiful.
With my mom’s youngest sister. I must be 6 or younger.
Everything changed when I started growing up. Since I used to play in the sun a lot, I got tan. More tan, than I already was. My skin color was prominent than ever because my mother, siblings, and all of my cousins were fair-skinned. They were milk, and I was chocolate milk. That did not bother me. But everyone in my family acted as if it was the most horrendous thing ever happen to me. As I started my teens, their behavior got worse. My grandmother would concoct home remedies to lighten my skin color, and my mom and aunt forced me bleach my face. Being told that the color of my skin is not beauty, was shattering. And since then, I stopped looking in the mirror.
My siblings were as white as snow, and I was as dark as coal. My best friend was fair, and I was not. My grandmother had whiter skin than me. I got so self-conscious that I stopped appearing in photographs altogether. I hated it when my picture got taken, because my cruel aunt and cousins would make fun of my color and my then crooked teeth.
My dad’s sister, while we were going through old family pictures one day, told me that when I was born and she saw me for the first time, she shrieked because I had really brown skin. She even said that she asked God what her poor brother had done to deserve such a daughter. Those were her exact words, but in Urdu.
With grandparents. I was 10 here.
My skin color was an embarrassment, I was starting to feel embarrassed about myself. I stopped smiling. I stopped loving myself.
Pakistani, and Indian people alike, have a strong beauty standard that concerns the skin color of girls. The common misconception and belief in my society is, that if a girl has dark skin, she will have trouble getting a great marriage proposal because nobody desires a dark-skinned wife and daughter-in-law (sadly, this is 10000000% true).
For them, beauty is fair skin. And that’s probably because of the British rule over us for many years. The British were fair-skinned, white, and pale, considering the climate and weather of the place where they lived. And the people of Subcontinent (Pakistan and India) lived in opposite conditions, and thus, had brown skin as compared to the British.
Despite of their distressing rule over the Subcontinent, I believe that the people were quite mesmerized by their white skin. They probably thought it was the epitome of beauty. And that has stuck since and has become the stereotype of beauty in my society. Hence, the huge production, demand and sale of fairness and bleach face creams in India and Pakistan:
I let these things affect me every day for a number of years. I let myself be haunted by this… depressed by this, night after night. I was crying all the time, hating the world. I wanted white skin because I thought that would make me beautiful. Turns out I was wrong. And I have realized this now. I’ve decided I won’t let myself be exploited by some twisted logic. I do not agree with society’s portrayal of beauty. It’s superficial and fake. Yes, beautiful people exist. But just like you can’t compare apples with oranges, or two classic movies, you can’t also just compare beauty. And it’s better to love yourself and not live with a dark cloud hovering above your head all the time. You need to be happy to have a healthy mind.
Society has to change. Beauty cannot be defined. All over the world, people are crying themselves to sleep, starving, cutting, loathing their bodies, and undergoing multiple surgeries to change the way they look. Beauty comes in all shapes, colors and sizes. We say that a lot of times, but we need to believe it, too. Believe that you are beautiful, believe that you are enough.
My inspiration behind this blog post:
Great! Another Thing to Hate About Ourselves by Jennifer Weiner