No human is born perfect. It is us, as individuals, who work rigorously to make us look perfect. We follow the "perfect routine" and eat "healthy food" to make ourselves look and sound better. When asked, most call this transformation the "need of the hour", while only a few accept the fact that the change has been triggered by some random act of body shaming!
Body shaming is ubiquitous. It has existed since time immemorial and will continue to exist till armageddon. No matter how much we talk and write about this topic, people will continue to body shame others.
From skin tone to body structure and weight- one just needs a subject to body shame a fellow individual.
Body shaming is passing statements or comments that hurt the emotions of an individual. It exists in newspapers, magazines, television shows, movies, plays, and also among a close group of friends and relatives.
Generally, it is assumed that only women are body-shamed. But that is not the case. Men are also body-shamed and I am a living example.
Since childhood, I have been body-shamed for the nth number of times.
"Oye motu", "Oye, lose some weight", "You look like an uncle", "When are you getting married, time is running out and you already look old", "Is your d**k working? Get married or else it will pump only air"
These are only a few of the comments, among hundreds more, that people have told me. And this is not my story alone.
Men get body shamed for their body type (fat/lean), skin tone, receding hairlines, voice, height, body odour. profuse sweating, for being too hairy, for not having enough facial hair, and also for the size of their private parts.
A man is also body-shamed for not wearing "attractive clothes".
A study conducted by the UK pharmacy site Superdrug in 2021 revealed that only 42% of men are happy with their looks. Even those with "perfect body type with six-packs" also complained. The constant comparison with others made them look uglier and unhappy.
Further, 32% of the respondents said that the mainstream media adequately represented their body type.
"When I proposed to a girl back in 2019, she rejected me because I was fat. I have been working out rigorously since then trying to get into shape. And now, when I post my pictures on Instagram, the same girl frequently posts flirtatious comments," said a friend seeking anonymity.
"There is an unwritten rule, according to which if a man doesn't have six-packs or slim body, he is unfit and less desirable," he added.
Body shaming has different effects on different individuals. It impacts negatively on an individual's physical and mental health.
Body shaming can destroy the self-esteem of a person. It can also push someone to anxiety and depression.
A person's self-confidence can hit an extreme low, one person can develop anxious-avoidant behaviour.
One can become delusional and can also develop obsessive thoughts about self-image and body dysmorphic disorder.
It can also lead to eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.
I have been body shamed for years, I have mentioned earlier in the article. It hurt my mental health during my growing up years. My self-esteem was crushed and I always tried to find an escape route.
It was only during my late 20s when I could muster courage and face body criticism right on the face. I developed the "ignore and move forward policy", and today I can proudly say that body criticism doesn't affect me anymore.
But I still wonder, why are people so much interested in changing the way one looks, rather than focussing on their own mental and physical growth?
I admit one should stay healthy and dress neatly. But gymming and having a fancy cupboard should be triggered body criticism.
"When are you getting married? You look like a grandfather already," is what a friend's wife told me last year. My friend got married in 2013 and in between, I probably had met her twice.
So, in our third meeting, she was worried about my physical appearance, rather than focusing on hers!
I do not hold any grudge against her, but she should understand this fact loud and clear that shaming someone for their looks is not "cool"!
We do not know what a person may be fighting against or why a person looks aged than his age. You may share a piece of advice without hurting his emotions.
Since the day I have been diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension, I always try and share information about the disease with my friends and relatives if I see someone developing symptoms of the disease.
"Please have a thorough body check-up" is what I always say.
I have a stammering problem. You can imagine the difficulties a stammerer faces. People used to mock me then and people continue to mock me even now. I am not Shah Rukh Khan!
Consistent mocking adversely affected me when I was a child.
From teachers sticking out tongues in exasperation while I fought to complete a sentence, to being asked to step away from the mic during an extempore speech competition- I faced several humiliations for being a stammerer.
I was ashamed of myself. After receiving several rejections and facing humiliation, I gradually flinched from public speaking. It took years of effort to overcome this fear and regain my lost self-esteem.
Today when people laugh at me for stammering, I ignore them and move forward.
But this story is not just about me. It is about millions of people who are still facing humiliation because their style of speaking is not "perfect" as per the set social norms.
Male body-shaming is common and it is on the rise. The social perception of the "perfect" and "good looking male" should change.
Studies have shown that most men are insecure about their weight and muscle. This body insecurity should not exist because we do not fall in the "ideal category male", which this society has labelled. If our body type makes us insecure then it should because an unhealthy body is home to many diseases.
Hit the gym, eat healthy food not because you have to impress someone or you need to look attractive for your marriage. Do it for yourself. Do it, because you deserve a fit body.
Body shaming should not be the only reason that triggers your fitness regime.
A body-positive campaign for males is the call of the hour.
Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.