“You are too fat. You are too thin. You are too dark. You are too tall. You are too pale". The world, right now, is overloaded with body-shaming scoffing. The idyllic notion of ‘thin & beautiful’ and ‘fair & lovely’ is so overbearing that often the size of the waist is deemed proportionate to the worth of a human.
Amidst this cacophony, a teenager decided to take up arms against body-shaming. A war prompted by personal jibes. Standing 5ft 9 inches tall, Siya Tayal, 15, has often been sneered at for “being too tall” and “too tanned” from playing too much basketball. Instead of sulking and self-pitying, this student of The Shri Ram School, Aravali (Gururgam) took a deep breath and shouted an assertive ‘I am Enough’.
In July this year, Tayal launched the 'I am Enough’ project against body-shaming.
“I am Enough was triggered by the realisation that nobody is comfortable in their own skin, and if that’s not problematic, I don’t know what is. I have been body-shamed many times and I know how it feels to be demeaned,” says Tayal.
That one thought has now spread its wings and currently has 600 volunteers across the world. To spread the message, I am Enough held an art competition called Inktober via Instagram, a debate via Zoom, a physical photoshoot with seven people and is trying to conquer as many social media platforms.
Mustering support was not difficult, admits Tayal. “I didn’t have to do much. Almost everyone has gone through it and it’s sad that so many people relate to the issue of body-shaming,” adds Tayal.
I am Enough, however, is not Tayal’s first social campaign. Nested under Bee Nifty is her My Own Bag programme under which income and livelihood are provided to women in rural Haryana. Bee Nifty employs these rural women to stitch bags from recyclable, new waste fabrics that would otherwise be dumped or burned. She also launched Santa Cause, an event to bring joy and basic necessities to underprivileged children who can’t celebrate festivals and holidays.
At 14, Tayal was invited to speak at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, the youngest speaker ever. She is also the youth ambassador for the Global Challenges Forum under 1m2030. On her mantelpiece lie the Pramerica Bronze award, The India Volunteer Award 2019-Under 18 Female and a nomination for prestigious Kurt Han Prize 2020, a prize awarded in recognition of an exceptional act of service to others, immediate or long term, either within or without the school community.
At 15, Tayal is more than just another ordinary school girl. “I’m a regular schoolgirl, who believes that you are never too young to make a change”. Touché!Say No to Body Shaming
- Statistics indicate that 94 percent of teenage girls and nearly 65 percent of teen boys reported having been body shamed.
- One in five adults (20 percent) felt shame, just over one-third (34 percent) felt down or low, and 19 percent felt disgusted because of their body image (Source: Mental Health Foundation)
- Over 80 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat, 13 percent of 13-year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies (this number grows to 78 percent by the time girls reach 17), by middle school, 40-70 percent of girls are dissatisfied with 2 or more parts of their body (Source: macmh.org)
- Project EAT reported that 19 percent of high school girls reported chronic dieting and 57 percent engaged in unhealthy weight control behaviours. (Source: macmh.org)
- One limited study indicates that those with poor body image related to having been fat-shamed were three times as likely to develop diabetes, heart disease and stroke, than in comparison to individuals with similar weights and body types who did not carry those same negative self-thoughts.
- According to Walden Behavioural Care, a US-based eating disorder healing centre, most people are guilty of body shaming at some point in their life. And it often comes while dealing with conflicts, particularly with peers.
Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer.