I’ve recently put on some weight. I won’t tell you how much but let’s just say every second person who’s seen me in recent times has been kind enough to bring this to my attention (as if the mirror and weighing scale were not doing their jobs already). And then I saw a video online which kind of pissed me off. Shaking her lissome body to ‘Kala chashma’ was none other than Katrina Kaif. I enjoy the song of course, but it was the comments from friends and family that bothered me; ‘Man, Katrina Kaif is smoking hot!’

‘Look at that body!’ ‘She’s such an inspiration.’ Shortly after, I saw a picture of Ms Kaif at a social do looking highly skinny and sure enough a leading media website published the picture with the tag ‘Body goals.’

Everywhere I look, thin, pretty, stylish women are celebrated. For what you ask? For the way they look. Sure a mainstream actor’s bread and butter depend on the way she looks. But when this translates to women of different shapes and sizes doubting their beauty and physicality, it’s a problem.

I know this because my recent weight gain has made me self-conscious. And I’m usually a self-assured woman. I remember the time a few years ago when I had drastically lost weight over a few months. I started getting complimented on my new skinny self everywhere I went. I started getting messages from guys I hadn’t heard from in a while and messages from friends asking me for weight loss tips (something I now seek desperately from my thin friends)

We live in times when the media send contradictory messages. Pick up any fashion magazine. While the cover will obviously feature a toned model, there is bound to be an article on staying fit/ losing weight. And these days, you’ll find the token article on plus size models or on loving yourself no matter what.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating obesity or not taking care of your body. If you’re fit, I applaud you for your efforts and the hard work you put in. I wish I had your will power. What I have a problem with is women being judged for the way they look rather than their work and accomplishments. As much as I enjoyed the attention when I was at my ideal body weight, I believed in deriving satisfaction from the work I did.

It is a sad reality that a woman’s looks play a huge role when it comes to attracting the opposite sex and even securing a job or impressing clients at meetings. I remember watching a Dustin Hoffman interview in 2012 where he spoke about his role in the film ‘Tootsie.’ Dustin confessed that transforming into a woman who was not conventionally attractive for the role made him realize he had spent a lifetime judging women by their looks. I went home and started crying, he recounted, explaining that he told his wife that he knew then that he had to make this movie.

When she asked why, he responded: Because I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen. And I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character.’

At his first look test, he asked the makeup artists to make him look more beautiful as a woman and he claims when they couldn’t, he had his epiphany; he realized he’d been ‘brainwashed’ about the typical notion of female beauty.

As Indian women, we’ve been taught attractive women are fair, slim and pretty. This message has been enforced by relatives, commercials, Bollywood, the opposite sex…the list goes on.

Heck we do it to other women without realizing too. I remember when a colleague of mine once told me she didn’t enjoy watching ‘The Mindy Project’ because she thought Mindy Kaling was ugly. I remember how appalled I was by this comment. Here I was so proud to watch an unconventional looking Indian-American producing and acting in her own TV show. Mindy Kaling is a comedian; she’s supposed to be funny, not good looking.

I know it’s too much to ask for to expect men to stop judging us on the way we look. But what we can do is to check ourselves when we reduce each other to our looks. Because you are so much more than just a pretty face and a ‘hot’ body. You are your accomplishments, you are your sense of humor, you are your personality. There is so much more that defines you. And I’d much rather read the book than judge it by its cover.

DSC_4174 - Copy (1325x2000).jpgAnjali Kirpalani is the bestselling author of ‘Never Say Never’ and ‘Written in the stars.’ She is also a public speaker and Co-founder of Epic Communications, a PR agency. This former Editor of Stylekandy.com has been a TV anchor with ET NOW, a Marketing executive, a radio jockey and a Voice-over artist.