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When I won back respect for my skin colour and my mental health.

I’d like the readers of the article to firstly know that this comes from a 22 year old who now is in a much better place from where she first started. I am a confident, self-assured, optimistic woman and above all, a believer of self.

'Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder' as we recited that one sentence everyday in our school assembly, I'd wonder as that 12 year old teenager who would that one beholder be, who would be the one who would find me amidst all other gorgeous girls, beautiful.

When I was a young girl, I was bullied and discriminated by fellow students for my skin colour. I grew in a culture where being fair was the norm, for both boys and girls. And God save you if you weren't one of them. I'd put that extra effort of dressing up with better hairstyles each day, putting that sheer gloss on, and making sure every cloth on my body fit me perfectly fine. I'd try so hard to fit in with all the others who were much prettier (read fairer) than me. I'd go home and try to "mend" myself with every possible product, homemade or otherwise. But of course, nothing worked. Nothing worked to help me become like those prettier girls or even capable of becoming friends with them.

One of my Hindi teachers in school stooped down to the level of comparing me with other girls and telling me exactly this while pointing towards these girls, "Inn ladkiyo ko dekho kitni pyaari hai aur tumhe dekho, kya kaali si shakal hai tumhari, bandar jaisi." It still echoes in my ears. I filled buckets that day. It obviously hurt me.

As a vulnerable teenager, this affected my mental health to a point where I started questioning my worth and my existence both. At that point, all I wanted was to feel 'accepted'. It started to hamper my daily functioning. I started performing poorly in academics. I acquired stage fear. I had no confidence, no self esteem left inside of me. I was filled with inferiority complex and self doubt so much that I wouldn’t dare to participate in any co curricular activities despite my parents trying to convince me that I would ace it. 'What would others think if I don't win?', 'What would it be like if I choked on stage?’, They'd make fun of me'. I was everything but the description I gave you about myself while I started to tell you my story. I was the child who would sit alone in a corner who other students would call 'weird'. I didn't want to go to school anymore. My mother gave me the push I required each day to wake up and go to that school that made me feel like I was a zero because I was born a skin colour I did not even choose. She'd tell me, "Your colour and your looks don't define you. You are what you think you are." And guess what, this too, still echoes in my ears.

Here I am today as an individual who has been through bullying and more because others thought I wasn't beautiful enough, to tell all you girls and boys out there who think beauty is equal to one's skin colour; beauty is equal to how much you weigh; beauty is equal to how much acne you have on your face. Well guess what, it isn't.

Beauty is equal to that genuine smile you carry around and is equal to how happy you are and how much of it you spread around. It's equal to your kindness and generosity. It is indeed about how you feel about yourself and about who you think you are. There's nothing more than happiness that should define your beauty.

"Don't let the world tell you otherwise or let that beauty industry fool you because at stake, is your mental health. If at all, that is something you should be worrying about. To those who are currently going through self doubt, inferiority complex in any form, pick yourself up, dust yourself up and know you're worth. Do not let them decide it for you. Don't let anyone feed off of your insecurities. "

As a more responsible fellow student, friend, parent or teacher, do everything in your capacity to support that one person who needs you, your acceptance, your attention and your love. You alone can save them from those irreversible emotional scars they engrave each day onto themselves. I need you all to be reminded that as much as words can make, it can also break a person. As that person, try to become more sensitive and empathetic than you already are.

And well about me, I am at a much better place. There are little scars from the past but that is fine. On some days, I have to remind myself of my worth and make myself believe that I now have so many friends that I cannot even keep a count of them. My friends and I are still trying to convince me that I sing well enough to go perform a song on that stage. That I need to ditch those fair and lovely creams I bought for myself in the VIIIth grade. And that I, and only I am the beholder from the quote ‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.’

This is the beautiful writer of this article and she would like to tell you all that this picture as a moment is very significant for her as she found the confidence to directly look into her friends' eyes while performing and realised she has come a long way. And we couldn't agree more!

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