By Vanly Keomuda

Source: Charlotte Astrid

Greetings! You are reading Keomuda’s very first blog post. To get to know more about me, let’s start with a simple question: “Who am I?”

To start things off lightly, my name is VANLY Keomuda. I am just a regular eighteen year old teenager. I am a type of a person that is shy and awkward the first time I meet people until I get comfortable and start to open up. I live a plain and simple life, and have only a small circle of friends. I walk through my school invisible, unnoticed, and unrecognisable. Because I was born naturally shy, I enjoy expressing my thoughts through writing as writing allows me to freely express my individuality.

To get deeper into the question above, I am a girl who highly values other people’s opinions about me, especially my body image- the way I look. I am the girl who constantly changes myself in order to simply fit into the society’s standard of beauty. Currently, I am 55kgs but only 1.55 metre tall with excessive fat around my tummy. According to Cambodian standards, I am classified as overweight or fat. This category has always wounded me emotionally.

Since I was a child, I was always the punchline of jokes because of how I look. People would make comments or mock me about my weight and the girls in my class would exclude me from their group because I was too big to join them. For many years, I had been on diets, and I tried to lose weight in order to fit the standard of beauty; however, no matter how much I try, I don’t think I would ever be considered as a beauty as the scale of beauty constantly changes. Because of all that discrimination, until these days, I have become and remained the girl who would look into the mirror and feel ashamed of my body. My insecurity over my size, my body image, has become part of who I am today.

The reason why I chose this insecurity to answer/to define who I am is because body shaming is still an ongoing issue in Cambodia because Cambodians put beauty and outside appearances as their first priority. In Cambodia, people would typically start their conversation by giving a comment on each other’s appearances, for example, “you look good today” or “you have put on some weight since I last saw you”. These simple remarks, if meant to be compliments, are very flattering and would make a person feel good for days; on the contrary, if meant to be bad or mean comments, it can deeply scars a person emotionally. Because of these bad habits, most Cambodian particularly women are never satisfied with their natural born body; some people would live in a depression thinking that they will never be beautiful enough, while others would try every possible way to change themselves just to get a little flattering compliment (like myself).

The obvious question to the issue of body shaming is “Why?” Why does beauty have to be the first noticeable thing of a person? Why does beauty have to be the benchmark to decide on who a person really is on the first impression? Why does commenting on each other’s appearance have to be the start of each conversation? There is more to a person than meet the eyes. The value of a person is more than their appearance. It is about time to stop categorising body-types and limiting the definition of beauty.

I am just an ordinary eighteen year old girl, yet instead of defining who I am based on my personality and achievements, I define myself based on my appearances because my society also viewed me based on my beauty. Therefore, the answer of the question “Who AM I?” is that I am just a plain ordinary girl who is never beautiful enough to fit into the standard of beauty. I am a nobody who will always be the punchline of the joke because of my body. I am and will always be the girl who feels insecure of the way she looks as long as my society value beauty as the first priority. I am what the society wants me to be.

Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.

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