May 4 , 2019
By Tsion Fisseha ( Tsion Fisseha is a writer and head of foreign languages in the news department at a local TV station. She has been a part of a pan African poetry slam competition representing Ethiopia and is a member of a rock band entitled the Green Manalishi. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. )
I was in sixth grade when a skinny cousin of mine looked at me from head to toe and uttered words that would upset and affect me for a long time.
“You’re getting fatter by the day,” she said.
I hated the idea of eating food after that, and worse, looking at myself in the mirror. All I kept thinking about were my flabby arms and tummy. I wanted to be thin. Not fit, just thin.
People rarely shy away from speaking their minds in Ethiopia, however simple and insignificant the matter may be. It is a favourite pass time. And one of the most popular subjects is physical appearance.
If one is thin, then that person must be poor or stressed. Likewise, if one is fat, then that person is wealthy and pacified, at least that is the popular assumption. Or someone is chubby because that person is bad at taking care of their body. The list goes on. These thoughts are thoroughly communicated without the fear of causing anxiety and depression on the receiving end of a conversation.
Body image is a concept that has evolved throughout the ages. The concept refers to a person’s perception of their own body as compared to society’s predefined standards. It includes the memories, experiences, assumptions and comparisons of one’s own appearance.
This concept, as expected, varies from one society to another but is and has always been a significant idea that eluded and eludes our understandings. Body image could be of both positive and negative attitudes, both holding their own connotations. It does enormous damage to one’s psychology which leaves a huge imprint and takes quite a lot of years to get rid of.
Due to the predetermined standard that is set by society and exploited by the media, an obsession of altering one’s body sets in, which can be followed by eating disorders. This also leads both male and female individuals to have an assumption of others being more attractive than them and eventually developing low self-esteem.
Body image has slowly but surely become a relevant topic in Ethiopia. Having the desire to have an hour-glass figure or a muscular feature has become an obsession.
A compounding factor is social media, which has been found to be a significant catalyst in widespread body and weight dissatisfaction among girls and women, according to a study titled “’ Selfie’ Harm: Effects on Mood and Body Image in Young Women” by Jennifer S. Mills et al.
This is not to say that physical fitness is unimportant. It is something that we all should aspire to for the sake of living a longer life unencumbered by diseases. There is nothing wrong with starting a weight loss diet or hitting the gym.
The problem appears when all the equipment and remedies are used for the wrong reasons. Body image has more relevance in the thought process of a person than the actual body one carries. Much of our work should be focused on loving our image before attempting to change it.
“You are no less valuable at a size 16, than a size 4. You are no less valuable as a 32A than a 32C,” said Mary Lambert, an American singer and songwriter.
We should not allow external bodies to have an immense effect on the way we feel about our own. Only when we believe our worth can we truly achieve a positive body image. Physical health starts from how healthy our mind is - fixing the former without the latter is pointless.
PUBLISHED ON May 04,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 992]
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