In my previous article on body image and weight obsession for women, lots of women shared why they will always be very jumpy around weight. It all started in the childhood when they heard barbs related to weight, even their family members added to them. You are too thin or you are too fat defined them for years. And even now they struggle with every kilo of weight gained or lost.

That made me think how much the experiences in our childhood moulds how we think subsequently in life. While growing up, I heard a lot of conversation around skin colour. Relatives commenting casually on colour, peers and friends too. I remember how actresses of yore who were dark skinned were always called dusky beauties, as if their skin colour was always what defined them more. While I was not really complexed about my skin colour, I hated the topic. I knew I wasn’t fair skinned as my mum was or as women were supposed to be.

It took me a lot of reading and understanding, support of close family and friends to appreciate and understand that I was truly beautiful in my skin. That being brown did not take away from my physical beauty. That I did not have to satisfy someone else’s view of beauty. But little did I know that men faced the same issues. In my opinion, a man could be dark or fair and no one really cared. But when my own sons were growing up, there were many instances when their being brown was used to insult them. Being kids they were confused and sometimes ashamed.

comfortable in skin

But as a mum who was now confident and determined to raise her sons to feel pride in their colour, I knew that this work began at home including having conversations. We always talk about these sticky issues at home. I understand the hurt they feel, after all who wouldn’t. I recognize that sometimes they would wonder why couldn’t they just be fair, and it would be easier. And I had to put those thoughts into perspective. After all, if not this there would be some other issue that another person who wishes to pull you down would find to taunt you, isn’t it? So the answer is not in the issue going away but in how we deal with taunts and slurs in general.

We try to see why a person would want to feel superior by pulling others down. We try to understand why we have a deep-seated complex when it comes to skin colour. Is it hundreds of years of being colonized, of messages shared on big screen and articles, of advertisements of fairness creams and products or something more? And how do we address these both to the person pulling us down and to our own selves? Thus began the process of building pride and confidence in who we are and in what we have been blessed with.

Today, I can say very safely that I am super confident, aware of the qualities that I have been blessed with and happy in my own skin. Now, when a salon person asks me if I want a bleach or a detan treatment, I smile and tell her no. I no longer internalise it as her judgment of my skin colour because she is asking a fair skinned woman the same question as well. Let’s face it often a harmless query may make us respond in a totally crazy way solely because that query has a certain association for us. In our minds, your assumption about me being dark implies that I am not beautiful or somehow inferior. If we can break that association in our minds, then we have won half the battle.

Today, I feel that my sons respond in a much more controlled and calm manner to any insinuations about their skin colour. Hopefully, somewhere they are taking pride in being brown, in their Indian heritage and in the way they look. Apart from raising them as men who are feminists, this is another area that I have focused a lot on. It is not to say that they are devoid of insecurities or angst. But much work has been done to raise their self-esteem.

Earlier while I kept quiet when someone made a comment on skin colour, today I speak up. Not as an outburst but in a quiet tone, questioning the intent and often shutting down any insinuation about dark-skinned being inferior. I know of a number of women who have lived with families and friends who had constantly taunted them and shattered their self-esteem. I do hope that they can work towards healing.

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feel comfortable in your own skin

We all can dream of a day when we will not be shamed for being who we are in terms of our appearance. But till then, let’s empower our children to embrace their true identity and to feel comfortable in their own skin.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic? Have you ever been shamed for the way you look?  

8 Thoughts on “How to Feel Comfortable in Your Own Skin

  1. A very relevant topic and an important one to teach kids. I’ve also gone through a lot of body shaming and it’s hard and hurting.
    Just today I watched Big FM’s initiative on this one. And I’m glad more and more voices are getting added to this.
    Always good to know you as a parent take care of these things. Open dialogue is a key to many issues.

  2. I once believed that children were mostly innocent and positive. However over the years I’ve come to realise that they can be really cruel. Teasing takes on crazy proportions and the barbs can stay with a child for life. Prejudices about skin colour, body weight and height are rampant. My friend’s daughter who is shorter than her peers had a hard time in school all of last year. She had to seek help from a counsellor.
    And I agree talking to your children is the only way to help them look past it all.

  3. Your post about weight and this one about skin colour make an important point for me and that is to build a positive atmosphere around these topics with respect to our kids. When D started school last year, he used to question when is his skin colour getting white as his classmates. It took a lot of explanations to make him understand about the same. The huge task is however to deal with Dadi and Nani’s vocal thoughts about the same issues.

  4. I have gone through a lot of body shaming because of my skin colour. I don’t want the same to happen to my 7-yr old daughter who already knows she is brown and finds herself lesser than others, thanks to a few friends who taunted her she was brown. And the thought is then reinforced through family members who voice their concerns through ‘Oh, why is her skin become so dark, it wasn’t so the last time she had visited!’ or ‘she should stop swimming because it is making her dark.’

    Result – my daughter started throwing tantrums and avoided swimming. Said it would make her brown-er. I have to reinforce into her daily that brown is an equally pretty colour, and as important as others.

  5. Vartika goyal on May 29, 2019 at 10:29 pm said:

    Really nice post. I can relate with it. You have given some good advice.

  6. Saima on June 4, 2019 at 1:30 am said:

    Happy in my own skin ! It takes a huge battle to make this statement .Kudos .
    Keep writing

  7. This is a much needed discussion, Rachna.

    *Long comment Alert* 🙂

    I love & appreciate the way you’ve raised your children to not only come to terms with the imputations associated with racist remarks, but take ultimate pride in their skin color & personality. That’s what most of the Indian parents struggle with.

    For instance, I faced a lot of comments that I got to hear from people after I got engaged to my husband upon dating him for 2 years. We had common acquaintances & relatives who didn’t conventionally play matchmakers & our marriage came as a shocker to them. And the worst thing they could do to show their angst was to thwart at my skin tone. I originally have a wheatish complexion & all 4 years of long distance bike riding & beach picnics of Goa only got me tanned. Something that I retained till the engagement ceremony. And I had to hear jokes that were cracked to reckon me as the “imperfect” match for my fair-skinned (and therefore, ‘handsome’) husband. 🙂

    It was only when months later, one of them came to me & actually apologized saying, “You’re so pretty. We misunderstood your tan for a ‘lesser’ complexion.” I wish I could argue further on how someone’s complexion could tell how beautiful or ugly s/he is. But I just had to pass it off as a compliment. However, I mustered courage to ask, “How did you know if it were a tan?”

    The same went on to occur to my fair-skinned kid when as a toddler, she was complimented by “How cute & pretty this girl is; because she’s so fair.” This was enough to trigger me into correcting them. Of course, the deep rooted mindset couldn’t accept defeat & they only said, “Arre Beti, tumhe tho upar se khush hona chahiye. Humne uski tareef hi ki hai na.” And thereafter, I made it a point to let my kid know that we should never identify/appreciate any person based upon his skin color, weight or face features.

    In India, brown is not even a skin color. Let alone the Hindi adjective, ‘Saanvla/i” for another discussion. People have been patronizing racist, regressive & archaic Bollywood songs like, “Jiski biwi kaali….” & of course, “Hum Kaale hain tho kya hua, dilwaale hain.” See the lack of depth in emotions here.

    And not to forget the infuriating jokes that get shared when there’s an England Vs West Indies match. That ridiculous one about TV brightness settings. I guess most of us will never ever release ourselves from this bubble of racism.

    Like you mentioned, it must have stemmed from centuries of colonization.

  8. It’s a tough battle, Rachna, when we have to fight against these judgements and the labelling because of our size or colour. The importance of looking at the person beyond his or her skin color or body size should be one of the subjects taught at school as part of Value Education, I feel.
    I liked the way you have instilled a lot of confidence in your boys which today arms them with enough courage to not pay heed to any words spoken about their skin color.
    Why DO we even look at the color of the skin? Why don’t we look at the person? instead?

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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