One of my favourite songs is Crooked Smile by J. Cole. I fell in love with this song because of one particular part, “Love yourself girl or nobody will. Oh, you a woman? I don’t know how you deal with all the pressure to look impressive…”
This here hit home, and always does when I listen to the song.
These lyrics carry so much depth because it essentially dissects the fact that women have society’s beauty standards on their shoulders.
These same standards have continuously boosted the body shaming culture, and it is quite unfortunate that we are living in an era where body shaming has become so common.
As a result of body shaming, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate than all other mental illnesses and all this stems from the type of beauty standards our societies and cultures have.
In certain cultures, being petite and slender is the standard, whereas in other cultures being curvy and thick is deemed beautiful. These standards have enabled people to minimize people into their looks and through this put them into different categories.
For example if you look at the United States, being petite is the standard and people of this size are seen as beautiful and successful. Whereas people who are on the thicker end are categorized as lazy and unattractive.
The molds we make have essentially allowed us to feel like we can diminish people by their looks. We forget that what matters is on the inside, what good is beauty when the heart is unkind?
What good is beauty if the mind doesn’t generate substance?
If you are Rwandan, I am sure you may have gotten the “ko wabyibushe” (how come you got fat?) or the “ko unanutse, urarya?” (you are so skinny, do you eat?). These greetings have become so popular that some people have called them greetings.
In addition to this, people tend to give their unsolicited opinion about how you should look. What people fail to realize is the impact that these words have. Words have the power to uplift or to crush someone, and some people fail to realise the power that their words have.
When I was younger, I was incredibly self-conscious because of the constant “ko wabyibushe”. I would get this from a lot of people, and hearing this constantly made me think it was the truth.
Because this became my “reality” I would constantly compare myself to smaller girls and this same comparison only made things worse; essentially make me hate the body I was in.
Growing up with this perception, I had to fight hard to get to a place where I loved the body I am in. This battle is ongoing, and it is one of the toughest.
We need to change this narrative. We constantly preach about self-love, yet we are quick to bring each other down. Self-love is the root of the love we give one another. Instead of telling someone how small or big they look, look for the good.
Remember that your words carry weight, and you never know the impact they have on someone. As someone who had to rebuild my self-esteem, it is a grueling and hurtful process. Rather than being the reason that someone dislikes the body they’re in, give someone a reason to smile.
In the words of Jennifer Lopez, “You have to stand up and say, there’s nothing wrong with me or my shape or who I am; you are the one with the problem.”
I could tell you to mute the hate but I know it can get difficult, therefore rise above it and remind people that you do not owe anyone perfection. Be comfortable in the skin you are in and LOVE YOU.
Love yourself unconditionally and unapologetically. If you choose to work on yourself, work on yourself for YOU.
The author is a young Rwandan writer with a passion for bridging generations through words.