Growing up in Malaysia ones appearance was an issue everyone felt compelled to comment on. Most people wouldn’t think twice to let you know if you had gained weight, had a flat ass, boobs too big or too small, big legs, short legs, whether your hair cut suits you or not etc. Every well meaning family member, friends, members from church, colleagues and even the seller at the pasar malam (night market) would have something to say.
I grew up being told that I’m pretty but lacked the desirable assets like a perky ass and boobs. I’m tall but it’s a pity about my chunky legs. My arms, functional but would be better if they were smaller. The hair, thick and healthy but pity it had some waves in it, better if it were just straight.
The well meaning comments grew worse when I went back home from New Zealand after my exams. “Aiyah, Audrey lose weight la! So sayang!” (so sayang literally means what a waste). “Omg Audrey! What happened???” the best one was when I bumped into my ex at church and he just smirked and said “looking healthy”. I could have fired back “looking ugly” but I just smiled and walked into church.
Most of the time people mean well. Most have seen me at my thinnest which to them equates to attractiveness and then BOOM! I gained a few kg and everyone acts like I became this obese beast or on my way to becoming obese so they rally and try to help me get back on the ‘right’ path.
For awhile it did bug me and I tried losing weight. Around 2 years ago, I would unconsciously avoid taking photos. I felt fat and unattractive. I didn’t feel right. Clothes just didn’t sit right on me anymore, sleeveless tops would always be accompanied by a jacket of some sort, I would often wear pants and long skirts to hide my legs (once a stranger commented that I had “veiny legs” while I walking in a mall), I would tie my hair in a bun as I thought it never looked good enough to be loose. There was just so many things I was unhappy about with myself. All that mixed with the voices of other people’s disapproval just made me not like myself. There was always something that needed fixing.
I read somewhere that children especially girls learn positive body image from their parents. That got me thinking. What sort of image am I sending to my kids by not actively being with them in photos? What message am I sending them when I insist on wearing a jacket with my sleeveless tops even though its really warm outside? What message am I sending by being uncomfortable in my swimsuit when we go to the beach? What message am I sending them when they see me unable to take a compliment about my looks?
I wanted to change. I wanted to feel like I owned my own body. I didn’t like how I let my self worth and self esteem be dictated by other people. The first step towards self acceptance was to accept that if I felt fabulous, than I WAS fabulous!
It’s ironic, I only started to love myself more after I became a mother. Now, I am bigger then I have ever been before, my stomach is riddled with
stretch marks, saggy skin where firm flesh use to be. Stretch marks everywhere from under my arms, to my breasts, legs and even around my pelvis.
I decided to just let it be, to love and enjoy myself. If I lose weight fine and if I don’t that’s ok too. For too long I have let other people’s opinions become my inner voice. Now, my voice shall be my navigator and it’s saying I am fat but I am also fucking fabulous.