I realised that cultural ideals are awful criteria’s put in place that are totally superficial and actually mean nothing. They are just another form of social compliance, and who said that we have to comply to be accepted? Especially in degrading manners like being made fun of if you’re not fair and slim – why should you deserve to feel like you’re not worthy, or depressed because you don’t meet the expectations of a few? A lot of these people who comment on external factors are not even aware of the struggles that some people face; some people find it extremely hard to lose weight due to so many reasons such as medical reasons or general health issues, and I bet if they knew just how strong you really are, these cultural ideas wouldn’t even exist!

In the real world, these expectations don’t actually matter, and once you absorb them into your healthy minds, they will spread and sort of “contaminate” your thoughts of yourself (I’m sure you can sense my hatred) you’ll see yourself through false eyes that will only notice the negative. Of course, no one is perfect, and everyone has imperfections, however to highlight them on a daily basis can seriously affect yours and others’ mentality and would drive anyone to the point of breaking – but we’re not going to let that happen.

Tackling stigma around anything relating to culture can be challenging let alone something as sensitive as weight and appearance, however, it can be done.

1) Stop listening to the backward sayings of ANY culture, even western culture has ridiculous standards too, because the more you listen, the more you will notice the “wrong” things about yourself.

2) Start listening to your mind, really challenge the ideas that pop up and say “You’re not good enough”, “You’re never going to fit in”, “You’re obese, overweight and ugly”, with “Who said I’m not good enough? I am the creation of Allah, and that is good enough for me”, “Why do I need to fit in? Fit into what? A culture that doesn’t accept me for what I am? No thanks!”. I’m not telling you to kid yourself – be true to yourself, and know that no one really “fits” into anything, and no one is “ugly”.

3) If you do have trouble losing weight, then tell yourself that! It’s not your fault if you can’t help it, and it’s not your fault if you fall a few times – because you can certainly get back up and try again. The only time someone becomes a loser is when they give up.

4) Don’t be intimidated by other people who fit into those “ideals” – and don’t compare yourself to them, because comparing yourself to people who you’re nothing like will not help the situation and will only make you accept the stigma – but we’re not doing that, we’re challenging the stigma! Don’t lose focus of your ultimate goal.

5) Don’t have the intention to be like others, because you are you. Simple as that, no one can be like you and you can’t be like them, so take a deep breath and accept that you are simply you. You were not created to be like others, and understand that individuality is needed in the world! Life would be a bit boring if we were all the same shape, shade and size – especially in one culture.

6) Understand that you can be the generation or the change within your generation. Why shouldn’t you be the change in society that you are to yourself? Just because everyone else accepts and thinks the same thing (chances are they don’t) doesn’t mean you should follow like a sheep. Be the growth of modern and new ideas to push out the stigma. The elder generation are still dipped into traditional ways of thinking – but in order to break that chain, it has to be broken somewhere, right? That can be you.

7) Put Islamic thought before cultural thought. Understand and see what Islam says about weight and healthiness rather than sticking to what unrealistic traditions suggest because unlike culture, Islamic sayings are beneficial, actually have some substance, and will probably motivate you more. Allah knows what is best for you, not aunties.

8) Know that culture does not define you! Your faith, your confidence, your nature, YOU are what defines you, so don’t look for definition of identity or appearance through something that has no grip over you, look towards what you already have and what you are really working for. Once you know and understand what truthfully defines you, the more sooner you can start working on yourself to make that definition better!

9) Show that you are confident with who and what you are, even if you’re not, because once people see that “different” people are actually okay with the way they are, then they will in turn start being okay with it. When conversations crop up about ideals and weight, or if somebody makes a comment – reach the inner you and express your thoughts and opinions. If nobody is given a different perspective, then what else are they supposed to think other than what they have been taught?

10) FYI – it’s okay to be curvy and toned, you don’t have to be super slim to be healthy! Remember, be the change, don’t accept the stigma, challenge it, accept who and what you are, understand that no one has the right to tell you what you should fit into, and lastly, you got this!

Meanha Begum

Author Meanha Begum

Meanha Begum is currently studying a degree in Islamic Psychology where she has been given the blessing to explore her passions, Islam and Psychology. She relishes in the insight of an Islamic perspective to incorporate into psychology, to help those who have never been given a chance that every devout muslim, and non muslim deserves. Which is why she considers Inspirited Minds to be a huge blessing in her life. She has been brought up in a heavy western environment, where Islam was once far from her reach, but through trials and tribulations, she has managed to come out stronger and closer to Allah than ever before. It's simply her experiences, ideas, and open nature that pushes her towards wanting to help others out of their vulnerable places, through their journey, and into happiness, with tranquil souls.

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