Rupi Kaur on Bad Body Image: “My Body Cries”

How can poetry explain having a bad body image? What did Rupi Kaur’s negative self-image teach her?

As she explores the struggle of having a bad body image, Rupi Kaur’s poetry in her book, The Sun and Her Flowers, expresses feelings of depression, envy, and longing. Kaur’s poetry gives intimate details of how women, especially women of color, come to terms with negative body image.

Keep reading to learn about Rupi Kaur’s experience of having a bad body image, expressed through poetry.

Rupi Kaur’s Poems on Body Image

Even after leaving her abusive partner and beginning to recover emotionally, poet and visual artist Rupi Kaur still had a long road of healing ahead. Some of Kaur’s empty feelings and longing to feel love came from her bad body image. After describing her abusive relationship in the “Wilting” section of her book of poems, The Sun and Her Flowers, the “Falling” section then reflects on the root causes that led Kaur to that relationship in the first place. Many of the poems in “Falling” explore Kaur’s struggle with bad body image, including feelings of emptiness, depression, and anxiety stemming from deeper traumatic events and powerful insecurities.

According to Rupi Kaur’s poems, she often feels like her physical appearance is inadequate, or that she’s lacking the traits of a “beautiful” woman—thin eyebrows, little to no body hair, an hourglass figure, and so on. Kaur explores how bad body image is a particular challenge for a woman of color living in the West, which she says bases beauty standards on white women. 

Kaur recognizes that these aren’t objective standards of beauty and that they’re created by her society, but she still can’t help but judge herself by them. Kaur positions her negative body image—and her subsequent need to feel attractive—as one of the root causes of her anxiety, depression, and feelings of emptiness.

(Shortform note: Some psychologists suggest that to address bad body image (and the negative feelings it often inspires), people can think about their body in terms of action rather than appearance. Instead of judging their body by how beautiful or ugly it is, they can appreciate everything that their body does for them—feeling gratitude for their physical abilities, talents, or simply the fact that their body is crucial for getting through daily life. Proponents of this strategy suggest that if someone tries to see their body as beautiful, they’re still focusing on what’s good or bad about their appearance—but by focusing on action, they can break that cycle of thinking.)

Rupi Kaur on Bad Body Image: “My Body Cries”

Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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