I am overweight. I have been for over half of my life. I’ve had doctors, friends, parents and society constantly remind me of this. There is little room in society for someone like me to love myself. Until I was about 13 or 14 I always saw myself as a “thin girl” in a “fat girl’s” body. I felt that I wasn’t going to be this forever (ugly and unloveable) but it was just for now.
One day I would go to the gym, start eating right and be the person I really was. I used to think “Well sure I’m fat….but at least I’m not as fat as her. Or her. Or him. It’s bad but it could always be worse.” Because I wasn’t at fault if someone else weighed more than me, I didn’t have to hate myself if somebody else needed to hate themselves more. I still feel anxious eating in front of other people, I still hate the look the shop assistant gives me when I walk out of the changing room and hand everything back, I still don’t wear shorts in public or shirts that show my upper arms or shoulders. But I’ve learnt to let go a lot of the shame that comes with being fat. This shame isn’t warranted even slightly but it’s definitely there and can take a long time to truly shake off.
I don’t remember the first time I felt ashamed of my body but I think it was probably at age 7 or 8 when I realized that my body was deemed as different. Being fat was something I have struggled with for quite awhile. Especially in my early teen years I always dreaded clothes shopping because nothing would ever fit and I’d always go into the changing room (and still do) knowing that no matter how close to my size the garment is, it still probably won’t fit me in some way (be it thighs, chest, back or shoulders). During elementary school there were always comments, mainly from the boys, about my appearance in some way. I remember being 13 and having a boy “joking” to his friend that the cow skull our teacher kept in the back of the classroom looked like me. Yeah. Very funny. What upsets me most about this memory is that, when I took myself to the girls bathrooms to cry it out, it was myself I was angry with and not the boy who slandered my body. Angry at myself for existing in such a way and even though it saddened me: I thought the boy was right.
But fast forward 4 years and here I am now. And I feel really good about my body. In the last 2 years of high school I’ve learnt a lot about self love, body positivity and feminism and they’ve all really changed my life in a positive way. I would have a lot less to feel happy and good about in regards to myself and my body, without them. It was a huge learning curve for me and I feel really lucky to have gone through it at this age rather than later in life.
It is important to remember that whilst your looks and physical features aren’t actually important in the larger scheme of things, unfortunately, they are greatly valued in the society that we live in. But it is hard for us all to identify with our society’s beauty standards. The features that make us different (and I think beautiful) are the elements that can “disqualify” us for being beautiful. If you’re not white, able bodied, thin and cisgender you’re seen differently when it comes to being beautiful. You’re supposed to have to try that much harder to fit somebody else’s expectation or to just not try at all. Because I’m fat I’m supposed to want to be thin and to hate the body I’m in. I want to be healthy and losing some weight would be good for me but I don’t hate what I’m supposed to. At least I’m learning to. I love my thighs and the way they fit into my jeans. I love my breasts because they look cute when I wear my pink sports bra. I’m learning to love my stomach pouch, it helps to hold some of my organs and I reckon that’s pretty important no matter how it looks on the outside. You don’t need to hate parts of yourself just because they’re different. No matter what, they are yours. And that’s okay, I think they’re great no matter what they are.
It’s important to not shy away from the word ‘fat.’ Writing this article I thought to myself maybe I should just refer to myself as ‘overweight’ instead? But by doing that what would I be saying? I’d be saying that I don’t want to label myself as what society perceives as a “fat person”. Lazy, slobby, stupid and unattractive. How wrong is that? I am fat. And I rock it. Being fat is just like being tall. Being fat is beautiful. Sure there are more interesting things about me, but being fat (but still healthy) is really important to me. I think if I’d been underweight for more of my life I wouldn’t feel like this, I wouldn’t understand it but it’s become a part of my identity.
Being fat has taught me-
- That everyone is different and that that’s okay. I’ve learned to try and be curious about people’s differences and not afraid.
- I’ve learned that everyone experiences and understands things differently and you won’t know how someone thinks and feels about something (such as their own social inequality) unless you ask them.
From Youtuber Meghan Tonjes, Tumblr, Rookie mag and our feminist group at school I have learnt-
- That all bodies are good bodies.
- I’ve learnt that it’s okay to love yourself and like how you look.
- I’ve learnt that self love doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long learning process of rewiring how you think, and it’s okay for it to take time. I know I’m still not done.
Some amazing firsts of learning to love myself:
One day when I was 16 I looked in the mirror and I realized something. I realized that I didn’t see the girl I was looking at as a fat or ugly girl, I just saw her as a girl. It was just me looking at me as I was and this was really wonderful. I wasn’t seeing myself through society’s eyes, I was seeing myself through my own.
Just the other week, in a clothing store for size +14 girls (yuss), dancing in the changing room and shaking my arse in a mirror while wearing the perfect pair of blue jeans. This was a big deal because finally I’d found a clothing line that supported all my curves and not just one or two.
No longer cringing when my thighs are out. (I used to do this even if there was no one else in the room) I think the idea of being ashamed of your own body when your alone with it is really scary and really sad. We’re always told to look for beautiful things but never to find beauty in ourselves. But now I really believe, and know, that I have a beautiful body. It’s the only one I’ll ever have and it’s truly wonderful; fat and all.
And finally, singing along (loudly and off-key) to Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Myself” and believing every word. If you’ve not heard this song please go listen to it. It’s so refreshing to hear a young, new and female artist singing about how much she loves herself.
I think without overdoing it the best advice I can give to someone learning to love themselves is that being beautiful is a mindset, you already are in your own unique way, you just have find it, believe it, know it, and live it.