Pressure can be defined as a contrasting force or impulse of any kind (Oxford dictionary). It is described as a pressing; a force applied to a surface. It also means to encourage or exert force or influence. Other words for pressure are distress, urgency or impression. In other words, pressure means persuading someone to do something.
Recently, I discovered a trend on Instagram. Many pictures I saw on the app were either too indecent or had been photo-shopped to misrepresent. Then I asked myself ‘Why we need to impress others on social media? Why do we think we need to be seen and acknowledged? Why do we alter our natural features or attributes to look perfect? Who cares what we look like?’ and then the inspiration for this write-up came.
We say that teenagers are influenced by the society – what they see on the television and social media. But are these really what makes us want to look perfect? I started feeling the need to look like every other girl when I was about 10 years old and I that was before social media. I was bullied while growing up because I was chubby. It was tough and sometimes, it still is, though I have learnt to develop a thick skin. I do not believe the society is the reason for our insatiable hunger for perfection as human beings. I believe we mount that pressure on ourselves: the pressure to have clear skin, free of any form of blemish; for girls to have a flat stomach and for boys to have a sculpted body and nothing less. After all, we are the society and not the other way round. We are the ones that set these vain standards for ourselves. I mean there are more important things in life than looking like a Kim Kardashian or a Dwayne Johnson.
Like I said before, I am a chubby girl. It was hard fitting in when I was younger. It felt like everyone I saw around me everywhere I went were slimmer and better. I thought something was wrong with me. It wasn’t exactly a big problem at first. But, as I grew older and it became glaring that it wasn’t just baby fat, the teasing got worse. My family teased me about my weight and made jokes or snide remarks about it. They would call me names like ‘orobo’, ‘orobokibo’, ‘kidikidi’, ‘bantu’ and so on. Some would even call me ‘fat for nothing’. All these remarks started getting to me, so much that when I got into secondary school, I had dangerously low self-esteem, which slowly led to dysthymia (a mild but long-term form of depression) and social anxiety (intense and sometimes persistent fear of being watched and judged by others). Anytime I tried to talk to someone about it, they would brush it off and tell me it was nothing and that it was normal for me to feel that way at my age. They would tell me that it is a stage of life and that it would pass. But they lied because I am in university now and I still feel the same way- if not worse.
From a young age, I felt a strong need to be slimmer. My family members probably never had it in mind to make me feel this way but I did anyway. They may not even be the reason for my feelings. But why was I feeling that way? They were just joking after all. Why do I feel like I am not good enough? Why do I feel like I need to do more than someone with the average weight to prove myself? Was it really because of the words I heard while growing up? I don’t think so. I don’t think the remarks were what made me feel the way I feel and have been feeling over the years.
There’s this series I watch, ‘Skinny Girl in Transit.’ The series is about a big-boned woman trying to navigate through life. It explores how looks affect many if not every part of a person’s life. In the series, her size affects the jobs she gets, the relationships she’s involved in and many other things. As you’ve most likely already figured out I could very much relate to the storyline of the series. When I started watching the series, it confirmed my notion that society indeed affects who and what we become. But who or what is society? Aren’t we the society? We make up the society. A person’s society is who and what they are surrounded with. So in other words, the people around us strongly affect who we become. But then I started re-evaluating my notion. I mean if it was entirely true, why do some drug addicts come from families with strong religious backgrounds? Or good children and successful people come out of ghettos? That led me to believe that not only was my notion narrow-minded but it was untrue.
What surrounds us is not necessarily what makes us who we are. I mean it does affect who we become and how we think but it’s not the only reason we are the way we are. Then I started thinking if society didn’t make me this way, what did? Who did? What made me feel inadequate? Who put this invisible pressure to be perfect on me? Who or what even gives me the impression that I have to be slim to be beautiful? Beauty should not have a definition because many things are considered beautiful even when they are not to some people. A woman shouldn’t be considered the most beautiful because she has a small waist and a big butt or perfect skin and long legs. No! Beauty goes deeper than that. Beauty is what and who I am on the inside. The package I come in doesn’t matter. I might turn out to be the best thing that ever happens to you even though I look shabby on the outside.
I wonder who gave me the impression that I am not good enough because I am a size 14? My family didn’t tell me neither did they imply that my size determined who I am. But, I know who to blame for my awkward conclusion and it is nobody other than myself. I am the one to be blamed for my low self-esteem and not society. I am the one who put all these silly ideas in my head because from the very beginning, I believed that I wasn’t good enough. I allowed those jokes to define who I am. I allowed their opinions affect what I thought of myself.
A saying goes thus, ‘a cripple becomes truly crippled only when he sees his disability as an excuse not to be better than his fellow human beings.’ This means you can only be limited by what you consider to be a limitation. As long as you don’t see it as a limitation, it will never be one. I saw my weight as a limitation, as a huge problem when, people are making a lot of money with what I considered a problem. This only proves that what I thought to be a problem was in actual sense a gift.
So as you read or scan through this article, I want you to note one thing: you can’t please everyone with who you are, what you do or what you look like. You are you and you can only be who you can be. You can only do what you can do and as long as you are trying your best to be the best version of yourself, external opinions do not matter, especially when the aim is to trample on your happiness.
As for me, I have accepted the fact that I am plump like a rose and thicker than some people. The goal is for me to be healthy and not to be skinny after all, I can only be me or be nothing at all. I hope this write- up raises your self-worth. I hope it makes you realise that nobody can put any form of pressure on you to be their definition of perfection unless you give them the chance.