04/04/2014 10:10 am ET Updated Apr 04, 2014

I Grew Up Being Slut-Shamed By My South Asian Parents

Michael Blann via Getty Images

On a recent trip to visit my dad in Abu Dhabi, where he now works and lives, I was reprimanded for what I wearing -- a loose boatneck tee with baggy printed pants -- not by a stranger, but by my father. I hadn’t seen him for years, and had thought we were past this stage. I stood there, first flabbergasted and then frustrated, on the verge of tears that I only unleashed later in the privacy of my own space. For me, the ignominy of being rebuked by my parents has a far greater effect than many might imagine.

For years I wondered why I suffered from such severe body dysmorphia, unsure why I couldn’t accept myself for all the things that I am. Even if I couldn’t fully believe that I was beautiful, I wanted to at least allow that I was -- I am -- a human, a woman, alive, and that I have so much to be grateful for. But the seemingly innocuous things that many parents say to their children -- about what they wear, how they act, their weight, their acne, the size of their nose or their ass -- affect how children learn (or don’t learn) to accept themselves.

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