An Open Letter About Sonam's "I Didn't Wake Up Like This" Story
Managing Editor, POPxo
It’s not often that a Bollywood celebrity opens up about being insecure about their body - or even if they do, it doesn’t always carry with it a note of sincerity. Let’s face it: it’s hard to place your faith in the words “I don’t care what people say about the way I look” or “I’m not ashamed of being curvy” when those words are accompanied by airbrushed “flawless” pictures of the celeb speaking them. But Sonam Kapoor’s piece for Buzzfeed, titled “I Didn’t Wake Up Like This” - it really is something that feels honest, genuine, heartfelt. Because she isn’t pretending that she doesn’t care - she’s being brutally honest about how much she does care. And therein lies the raw honesty, the power of her story - she gives voice to the millions of women who do worry about their bodies, about their looks, and struggle constantly to battle the demons of insecurity and feel good about themselves.
It’s not easy to feel comfortable in your own skin. Too tall, too fat, too skinny, too big around the hips, too short, too flat-chested…every girl has at least one “too” something that she feels about her body. The path to learning NOT to listen to that inner voice which tells you that you don’t look as good as other people - it’s a hard, hard path. Because every step of the way is someone or the other who’s ready to pull you down. “The rules of beauty are strict and it’s almost impossible to win. Anushka Sharma has been skinny-shamed, Sonakshi Sinha has been fat-shamed, Katrina Kaif has been fit-shamed. These are women who are and always have been staggeringly beautiful,” says Sonam.
And it’s true. You can be gorgeous in the eyes of a million people, but there are a million more who will draw attention to that tiny little pimple scar that you thought was invisible, point out cellulite on the back of your arm that you can’t even see in the mirror, ask you “Oh my god, what happened to your face?” on a day you’ve chosen to go without concealer or foundation. And it’s not just with criticism that people break your heart, chip away at your sense of confidence and self-esteem.
They do it with “compliments” too. “Oh my god, you’ve lost soooo much weight!” exclaim people - reinforcing that no matter how much time has passed and how you’ve changed as a person, apparently the most important of those changes is that you’re just a little bit closer to being the skinny-ideal-of-beauty that most of the world holds to be THE thing to be. People do it when you’re hanging out socially, announcing to even people you haven’t met before that you were once “fat”; they do it in the workplace, undermining all your professional accomplishments by hyper-focusing on your appearance; they do it in relationships. Even the boyfriend who says “You look so much hotter ever since you started going to the gym” - is he being supportive of your fitness goals, or is he simply reaffirming that deep-seated insecurity that a less-flabby you is a more attractive you?
“Despite being on the cusp of actually being a movie star, I didn’t believe I looked the part. I constantly worried that, if asked to dance in a backless choli, rolls of back fat would give me away as an imposter to the industry. Nobody lines up to buy tickets to see cellulite,” writes Sonam. Any girl who’s ever picked up a crop top and then put it back down because her tummy is just a little too big to look “perfect” will feel the pain of those words. Or the girl who doesn’t wear sleeveless because of the dreaded “arm jiggle” problem.
I am tempted to quote all of Sonam’s story as I write this here, but I won’t - because it wouldn’t be fair to Sonam or the editors of Buzzfeed who must have worked long and hard for this to happen. Head on to their page and read the full story. It touched me, and it will probably touch you too. I just leave you with one more quote from the piece: “At 18, I went on a date that I thought went well. Later, the boy told our mutual friend that ‘Sonam is too big’. I didn’t eat for a day. (Now, thanks to those dumbass teenage decisions, I’m stuck with acidity for life.)”
At eighteen, I was a skinny chick with a flat chest. In my early twenties, I grew boobs, which I liked, and I started putting on weight faster than I had ever imagined possible, which I hated. And for years I hated what my body was doing to me. I refused to be photographed - because looking at “comparison” pictures was a nightmare. It took me years to decide that I wanted to lose weight because I wanted to be fitter, not prettier. It took me years to become comfortable with my own body. I still have weight goals - and I work on them constantly. But for myself, not for anyone else, not for what people think I should look like. I only hope that nothing changes there - that I continue to do what I do for myself, not out of insecurity. And that this is true for other women too.