This post highlights body image insecurities and comes from a sufferer who suffers from behaviour blues and body image issues. Her insecurities started in her mid-teens and now in her early 30’s, she’s aware that though her image focused behaviors make her feel better in the very short term, but it actually only aggravates her insecurities. This is a very honest reflection and a very personal one. Please respect all stories on this blog. It’s very difficult for people to come forward and share their insecurities and illnesses on internet, especially mental illnesses. We work very hard at bringing such stories to you. A little respect and non-judgmental attitude will go a long way. Eating Disorders are very new in Muslim world, and each passing day I realize we have to work very hard at creating more awareness of this timely pandemic. Trust me, by staying silent or pretending it doesn’t exist, the illness will not GO AWAY. You need to treat it with the right remedy.
Dr Jessamy Hibberd & Jo Usmar: “Body image anxieites can make you preoccupied with how you look/and or with food. Your thoughts and behaviors (for example, checking mirrors, pictures of yourself on Facebook or reading up on diets) feed this preoccupation, which in turn provokes more negative thoughts and unhelpful behaviors, causing a vicious circle. Your appearance becomes something you think about all the time, which then affects your mood, leaving you feeling low, frustrated, ashamed, or guilty.”
I Cry in Lahore
Happy Birthday to you. I look at the Cake. Where has time gone? I wonder out aloud. We had just flown in from Boston to Lahore for a family wedding. “I can’t believe how slim she is even after three children,” is a comment made by my cousin.
I feel very uncomfortable. Only if they knew what torture I have to go through to maintain these looks.
Growing up crossing teens, I never had body image issues, the thoughts on body image started in my mid-teens. My middle brother was all set to get married. My mother was out you could say hunting for a perfect daughter in law. It was difficult to find a girl who matched my brother’s expectations. It was my Grandmother who insisted we go and see a girl she knew in Nazmabad, Lahore. I went with my mother to meet my brother’s potential future wife. The girl we met was pretty, graceful and nice. I took an instant like to her. After few visits and feasting on very elaborate meals at her family home, my father and brother rejected the girl on the basis, that she had a slightly long nose and she was not thin enough. My Grandmother was distraught, “why put the poor family through such torture, she asked my mother, they had very high hopes from this proposal.” This gave birth to my own insecurities and my own body image issues. I’m never going to allow anyone to reject me like that I made a vow to myself.
I got married in 2004.
When I moved into my husband’s house in Inner city of Lahore, there was a lot of emphasis placed on looking good and being presentable to outside world. My husband told me he had an acute dislike for fat women. I was adorned in beautiful outfits, Indian style saris and western tailored outfits.
Newlywed, appreciated by everyone my preoccupation with my looks started. I just wanted to look my best all the time. Who doesn’t like compliments? First came my preoccupation with my teeth. And then it was with my skin tone. I would avoid going out during day time. I would panic at mere thought of having a bronzed or tan skin, then it was my hair, it just wasn’t long enough, silky enough, thick enough.Everything began to take longer, as I became distracted by thoughts on my appearance. In one day I would go through 3-4 outfit changes and constantly look at myself in the mirror.
In one day I would go through 3-4 outfit changes. In 2005 we moved to Boston. Away from the hustle bustle of Lahore. In Boston all by myself I became fixated by Day Time television and How perfectly thin everyone was. In Lahore I never felt Fat, just not beautiful or perfect enough. I was also into my first trimester of pregnancy. All of a sudden I was fat, ugly and not worthy of going out. Crash dieting started soon after the birth of my son.
My preoccupation with my appearance was messing up my mind. I was lucky I had a full time help and a family nanny from Pakistan to help me out. The real problem started after the birth of my second son. My body image insecurities increased. I don’t know how but all of a sudden I started to focus on all my flaws. So first, I spent thousands of dollars on perfecting my smile, then hundreds on my hair and hair extensions, then it was nail extension and then eye lash extensions. Despite all this and everyone telling me I looked like Asian Barbie Doll, I would still look at myself in the mirror and would see myself as a collection of flawed parts. Forget my sons, my behaviours took up all my time.
And then I began to have more bad days. If I failed to meet my weekly targets of weight loss goals, self-recrimination and negative thinking would settle in, I would feel worst about myself and like a failure. I would spend days feeling depressed.
Now more than ten years later, with three sons all under the age of ten and a husband I live with all of these insecurities.
The comments by relatives and others who have nothing better to do drive me further into my insecure wold of appearances and weight loss, ‘just give her the mirror and she’ll be happy, ‘ ‘what kind of a self-centered mother is she?’, ‘Her husband is a saint to put up with such a self-obsessed woman’, ‘her poor children, what have they done to deserve such a self-centered mother?’ ‘Did you know she splashes her husband’s hard-earned money on beautifying herself, God forbids, I pray no one has daughter like this.’
For some reason, I now I feel I can fit in. There are so many insecure women like me in Lahore and in Boston. I walk around and I see hundreds of beauty salons, some of them have been opened by our models and ex-models. I see girls as young as 13 in these salons.
The only thing which really fuels my anxieties is when I hear women discussing perfect daughter in laws. Women are still out there hunting for perfect daughter in-laws; they’ve no idea how many hearts they break with their rejection or how they give birth to so many body image insecurities.
And even if I try to tell someone what’s in my mind, I’ll fail miserably. No one is going to understand, no one will care. They’ll tell me to snap out of this, or they’ll tell me, it’s because I don’t pray enough and I am not religious enough. I am tired, but I now this quest for perfection is something I will always strive for. The society values you on your looks and I want to be valued and I am willing to pay the cost.