Body beautiful: How I found fat acceptance at the workplace

For as long as I can remember, my mission in life, as a fat girl in a small town in India, was to somehow make myself invisible. I’m outgoing and reaching out to people comes naturally to me. But most of the time, I worked against my instincts and was hesitant to talk to people. Because I knew that no matter what I wanted to talk about, the conversation would somehow veer to why I was so fat followed by worry about the horrible things life would subject me to if I didn’t do anything for my “health.” ” As if I was the only one responsible for it and had nothing to do with how I was born.

I learned to repress my first instinct to say yes to any social invitation, limiting myself mainly to my circle of close family and select friends who, despite their concerns, allowed me a few moments to breathe easy. It was far from ideal, but it was still my best chance at being myself, albeit a bit by way of apology.

Another thing I remember is that I have always wanted to work. Although the books interested me, the academics didn’t and I couldn’t wait to go to the office. “Do you think someone is going to hire such a heavy personality? Won’t they worry about their chairs breaking?” an elderly relative of my aunt joked. “No. On the contrary, we are trained at work to judge people only by their work and nothing else,” replied my aunt. I was glad for the support, but I also wondered: “Would they do it?”

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Around 2010, fresh out of journalism school, I applied for a job as a trainee deputy editor at the lucky now office of an English newspaper. As part of my writing test, I was asked to write down my bus ride from Kanpur, my hometown, to the state capital for the meeting. I wasn’t expecting much, but as soon as I boarded the bus home, I got a call from the editor’s office: “You’ve passed the test. Would you be available for an interview tomorrow? And that’s how I got my first job: no placement, no hands; pure merit and good luck.

A few days before my 23rd birthday, I finally had the opportunity to live out my long-cherished dream: go to work. I put on the best clothes I owned, boarded a full car instead of a shared one (a luxury at the time), and cautiously made my way to what would be my workplace for the next half decade.

Without the scope of any concession for a beginner in an understaffed office, I was given copies to edit, assigned pages to design. It was a good feeling to finally be part of the workforce. I was financially independent, my mother could hire a maid instead of pretending that she liked doing housework. Everything went as expected, but there was also something else, a pleasant surprise that I was not prepared for: nobody cared about my appearance.

Day after day, as I walked into the office, no one reminded me that I didn’t fit the conventionally attractive mold, no one expressed concern that I wasn’t “healthy.” The only thing that mattered to them was what I brought to the table, not my three-tier tiffin box, but the work I turned in.

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I fully immersed myself in my work and enjoyed every part of it. It was almost like having two lives: one outside my office where I cringed, worrying about who would say what about my appearance, and then another, inside the office, where I could finally breathe easy, walk around with my head held high, because it was good. in what I did and they told me many times. And that was all that mattered.

I remember my first evaluation letter and the accompanying comments from my editor about the quality of my work. Not even a passing mention of my health, not a single comment about my appearance: just a generous appraisal and recognition of my work.

My workplace became my sanctuary, where I could finally be myself. I didn’t have to run away from anyone, hide to look thinner, or not be seen at all. I was given challenging assignments one after another: leading a team at 25, representing the regional office in the Delhi HQ for a month’s assignment, pinning the front page, and managed to, well, at least not embarrass myself anywhere.

Twelve years later, I have reached a stage in life where I am very accepting of my appearance. My body confidence is at an all time high (though, as is my weight) and it would be very hard to bring me down. I know that I am not exactly “pretty”, but at the same time I am aware of my attractiveness. I am grateful to everyone who has helped me get into this state of mind, who told me so many times that I was attractive that I began to believe it myself. I’m also glad we live in an era where body positivity is a legitimate term and obesity-shaming is frowned upon. But I am also immensely grateful for the place, my workplace, which, without explicitly intending to, showed me that none of it mattered at all. What counted was how I performed at my job.

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What about the “concern” that my family member expressed? Well, that too came true. I broke chairs at work three times. Not as if it broke them or turned them into rubble, but in the sense that one wheel or another broke, rendering the swivel chair useless. But you know what? Nobody gave it much importance. The chairs were quickly replaced and I was back to work with no problems. Every time. Because that was all that mattered.

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