Live and Let Live.

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A fourteen-year old girl passes by a group of her friends and is instantly teased with comments like- “Hey Fat Lady!” and “Buy a new dress!”. She silently walks by, without looking back or even stopping. By this age, she is used to such remarks from outsiders and even family members who think that it’s okay to tease people about their physical appearance. The girl didn’t know what to do. She always thought her plump figure and chubby cheeks were like her mother’s and it gave her immense joy to think of herself as her mother. The woman closest to her heart. The person who brought her into this world and is the source of all comfort when things take an ugly turn. The teen knew she was getting heavy, but there was little she could do. She was a brilliant student and apart from spending time with all sorts of books, she was always helping out her parents and younger brother with their works, ranging from household chores to maths homework. So instead of worrying about her weight and the catcalls, she feels a secret contentment in knowing that she is the possessor of knowledge and that nobody of the outside world ever has to know anything about why she is the way she is. It was her own little secret. She was answerable only to herself. Not the outsiders.

 

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Another reference. A twenty-year old boy is facing a serious crisis. No shirt or even tight T-shirt fits him. Everything is loose and hangs on him. His friends call him “The Human Hanger”. He wasn’t really concerned about this till he noticed that everyone around him in college was into hardcore exercises and busy in “developing” their muscles. That’s when he started feeling awkward among his peers and very slowly, became withdrawn. Poor boy. He didn’t know what to do. Being skinny was a crime. Being muscular and “tough” was “hot” and “attractive”. He was very good at sports and won medals every year at the relays. His social withdrawal resulted in disturbed family relations and his studies became affected as well. He couldn’t discuss these with anyone as his initial attempts resulted in “Why are you so bothered about being skinny? It’s good. It’s healthy.” So, he just stopped communicating and only talked when necessary. His parents thought it was just a phase he was going through and they never bothered to talk about it. The boy never understood what was wrong. His friends were always teasing him and his parents were aloof. One day, he was found hanging from the ceiling in his room. No suicide note was found and the autopsy reports couldn’t shed any more light on the cause of his death. They all said he was frustrated with “something”.

 

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Two different people. Having different lives but joined together by a common thread of  bullying and ignorance. I didn’t use any names as these two people could be anyone. Hell, it could even be your classmate who hasn’t been talking much lately. These short case studies explain much more than obesity and depression.

It brings to light the important issue of peer pressure.

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Peer pressure is the influence that outsiders, observers, friends, family and other peer groups exert on an individual to the extent that it causes change in the individual’s habits, attitudes, mental and physical atmosphere. The “peers” may or may not know the damage they are causing and another name for this is “bullying”, which involves hateful comments and even threats coupled with physical harm. Everybody of us have faced this sort of pressure in our lives and for some unfortunate ones, it is still continuing. In today’s fast-paced times and with the boom in social media and all things “social”, the pressure to be perfect has never before been so high. Everybody has to be perfect and maintain fairy-tale lives. Even if that is far from reality, people have to show other people that they are happy. It produces a sort of chain reaction which is irreversible until another fatal reaction takes place and restores order.

Why is it that people have to be categorized in specific groups based on features? The teen you called “fat” might have just undergone some surgery and is required to move as less as possible. The girl you called “skinny” maybe struggling with anorexia. That guy whose muscles are an inspiration to all the kids in the neighborhood might actually be injecting himself with steroids. Those people you laugh at everyday on the streets, the ones who talk to themselves and try to chase you for no reason at all, may have suffered a severe mental breakdown as a result of repression for a very long time. That sexy, dusky actress advertising about the fairness cream may actually hate them but is compelled to star in these commercials because nobody will cast her in a movie due to her dark complexion…

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We are so used to stereotyping people that we fail to realize the consequences on the people being spoken about. Just because we supposedly have the “perfect” figures and faces, doesn’t give us the right to pressurize others into making them feel “imperfect” and “flawed”. What’s the use of such sham perfection when inside, all we can think of is deriding other people? What is the need to look good all the time? And we eventually look good on the outside, why is there so much insecurity in us that we try to control what others are doing or not doing? Why not just sit back and be happy with our own “goodness”, no matter how relative it might be? Just because someone didn’t react to your nasty comments doesn’t mean you can keep doing that again and again with everyone whom you think deserve to listen to your crap. Not everyone can tolerate nastiness. Can you tolerate it if someone called you names everyday, all the time? Would you believe it some good-looking person came up to you and abused you?

We are supposed to be well-informed and open-minded individuals. We debate against the corrupt governments, sign petitions in support of homosexual love and against animal torture. And still we make judgements based on the physical appearance and superfluous aspects of human life. We call ourselves “intellectuals”. Does “intellectualism” call for passing opinions based on random considerations? Does it involve isolating and grouping people based on such qualities as shape, hairstyle, skin tone?

Beauty was never meant to be about skin. Nor is a human being’s well-being based on the degree of inclination of the smile on one’s face, cause you never know that smile might just be hiding many tears and struggles. Instead of being concerned about changing other people, let’s just start by changing ourselves. After all, the faults that we see in others are the faults we actually have in ourselves. When the mirror at home will be cleaned, to look at other glasses, there shall arise no need.

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Believer. Reader. Brooder.