“What is it like…to be you?” No one ever asked me that before. Sitting across the room from her on the uncomfortable violet couch staring at her decorative wooden clock. I told her what it felt like…to feel driven by addiction to food and working on recovery from my eating disorder. To rarely feel satiety. To have used my body as a shield from all the pain I’ve experienced in life from physical to sexual assaults. I shared with her what it was like, to be nearly 500 pounds and not invisible in a society that valued thinness and voraciously consumed body shaming memes and gossip. To have strangers offer random nutrition advice or push their weight loss products on me. To have people wonder…how did I find love? Or even more explicitly ask…. how do I physically have sex? To have people fetishize me because of my size and even one asshole grab my breasts in public. What it was like to see others laugh and point while I was out in public with my husband. What it was like to see people surreptitiously take pictures and sometimes blatantly take them. Imagining what pictures have been circulated in inboxes or messaging apps. To recall people yelling fat shaming obscenities to my mother when they were drunk with friends and driving late at night. To have to often ride standing up on public transportation when I was younger because people didn’t want me to sit next to them. To live my entire life with people denying me basic respect because of my outward appearance…Because I wasn’t a normal size.
My eyes lowered. I smiled.
Then I shared what else it was like. To be …over… the …bullshit. To still put on a genuine smile each day. To still show kindness (…for the most part…. I mean Hey…I can be an asshole just like everyone else). To still not be afraid to show my husband affection in public and not care who sees. To be comfortable with what my body looks like regardless of the flab and jiggles. To finally be unconcerned with other’s judgments on my life as they look from the outside. To be in a place of finding self-love and self-confidence after a lifetime of insecurity. Sure, I still have some ways to go but man…the peace of mind I’m experiencing compared to the dark state I had before is so comforting.
As I left her office and later that night scrolled through my support groups on Facebook, I read the experiences of others. I saw myself in them. I saw some of my lingering concerns in them. I wanted to wrap my arms around them. Their pain. Their self-hatred. Their harsh self-criticism. The insanity they experience- as a someone struggling with an eating disorder, as someone struggling with food addiction, as someone struggling with self-acceptance. I wanted to shout to them all:
You can love yourself. Regardless of what others think. Regardless of your weight, regardless of your appearance, you are worthy of love and respect – and it should start with you.
I’ve said it before, there will always be someone that judges you – that has a comment to make about your appearance – by chasing the ideals of beauty that others set forth, you end up forgetting what you love about yourself. You end up losing your uniqueness. You end up trying to appease someone else’s idea of you only to find out that once attained, someone else has another disagreeable opinion of you. The words others say about you, don’t matter nearly as much as the words you say to yourself each day. Those words become your inner thoughts, your inner voice, your inner belief system – and they truly have an impact on your feeling of self-worth.
So please. Take a moment to speak kindly to yourself. The world won’t do it for you. Form your foundation of self-love. Start a journey of finding you…your strengths, your flaws, your uniqueness, it’s all you. You can improve your flaws without hating them or speaking of them with disgust. You can work towards self love and a healthier body or mindset without invoking self hate.
Get in touch with you…make peace with you…then celebrate what it’s like to truly be you.
LOVE YASELF: A LESSON IN SELF-LOVE