Calling people names - even if it's done affectionately - isn't okay
Body and mind

Calling people names - even if it's done affectionately - isn't okay

Anonymous, 31, female

I am 31 years old and this is a sensitive topic for me. I relate very much to it because it has affected my self-esteem and self-confidence to a large extent.

All over the world, people hear comments on how they look; I have been no exception to this practice. From the time I remember, I have received comments about my hair, my complexion and my size. I was overweight when I was a kid and I was called names - both out of affection or anger. When they felt affectionate, people around me, my family and friends called me teddy; when they were angry, they called me hippopotamus. Both these words had the same impact on me - they made me feel uncomfortable. People called me a crow for my dark complexion. I am from the North East and have hair that's difficult to manage, so my friends would call me Sai Baba. I began internalizing these 'terms of endearment' and started isolating myself.

I started hiding my body. I had started to believe that no one would comment about my appearance if I was not seen. I internalized all those remarks and comments and had begun to believe that my body was not 'good enough'. I avoided wearing certain kinds of clothes – clothes that showed my skin such as sleeveless tops or shorts; and bright colors such as magenta or yellow that made me stand out in a crowd. Because of my skin, I stopped wearing bright colors and decided to stick to pastels. I was told to work hard in my life as I was not pretty. I did not participate in any kind of competitions and was never comfortable with my body. I believed that being fat was the same as being unhealthy.

I started to talk about body image and understood the difference between being fat and being unhealthy. I started to work on my self confidence as I now have started to ignore what people think about my appearance. Now I consciously care about what I feel and choice - whether I want to do personal grooming or not, wear a certain dress or not. I have now stopped caring about other's opinion of me. It took me a long time to get to where I am now, as I promised myself to love the way I am and what I am.

As told to White Swan Foundation. Name has been withheld on request.

This narrative is a part of a series on body image and mental health. You can follow the conversation through #ReclaimOurselves on Twitter and on Facebook.

White Swan Foundation
www.whiteswanfoundation.org