I have struggled with a very negative body image for most of my life, although I didn’t know it was called body image up until a few years ago.

As a kid, I was shy and liked to spend more time with books than playing outside with the neighborhood kids. I still used to go out and play, but most of the times, I was called names — mean words for being fat. One of the kid, who was actually two years younger than me, used to call me Rhino/Hippo in our local language. It was mean of him, and I would usually laugh it off for the fear of being seen as weak or upset at some word. But it hurt, every single time. And I never spoke about it, never told anyone about it for so many years.

Growing up, there were a lot of incidents when I was compared to other kids, peers and cousins.. compared by my own parents, relatives. I was a little chubby, but I wasn’t as fat as I used to think and feel I was. Whenever I look at my childhood pictures, I can see that I was just a normal kid, a little bit chubby, but by no means overweight like my mom used to fear and criticize me for eating more. I don’t remember ever receiving one good word of compliment about how I looked, so I used to assume I didn’t look good at all. 

I felt ugly, so i shied away from people. I felt I was being judged for how I looked all the time. At school, at home, at any social event. I hated when I went out, even going to the nearby small shop. I felt so self-conscious all the time that I was convinced no one liked me. I didn’t try to make any friends at school coz making friends meant opening up to someone and I felt too vulnerable. 

That’s me in 6th grade

I also started overeating at some point. And since I wasn’t allowed to eat more during lunch or dinner, I started to eat stealthily when no one was around. I would take bowls of snacks in my room, hide and eat. I did get caught a few times, however, that didn’t stop me from overeating.

But all this also somehow shaped my inner world when I was alone by myself. It made me wonder why. It made me question why looks were important to everyone around me, and whether having a certain number on weighing scale really mattered. Looks and weight stopped being important for me, what mattered more to me was love and care. I started rebelling, not listening and more overeating. But even then, that self-consciousness remained. That feeling that other people, even strangers, are judging you and making fun of you behind your back.

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