I have to say that in general, I am pretty lucky. Growing up, my biggest role models were Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Melissa McCarthy (pre-comedy era), Oprah Winfrey, etc. These were women whose fictional and non-fictional characters were strong willed, independent and opinionated. Sure, they are stunningly beautiful but they were (and are) valued for their minds, their humor, their wit and their compassion. I knew I wanted to be just like them. So that’s what I did.. I wasn’t always comfortable in my body and certainly I still have days when I am more self-conscious than others but I’ve always known that my character and integrity are two things of which I can be proud and confident.
A couple of years ago, the body shaming epidemic hit social media like wildfire. Certainly this has been happening for centuries but now women were being reduced to whatever their shape represents and we are talking about it. From both sides of the spectrum, we have men/women who are candid in saying that we need to be more open about anti-fat discussions due to health concerns. And we have women/men who fight for all women of color, size, shape to not be told how to live..
To be honest, for years I watched it all happen: the debates, the social media posts about women being shamed, the several interviews/articles by incredible women shutting down critics who shame them.
As a spectator, I always thought “that would never happen to me”…until it did.
If it has never happened to you, if you’ve never had anyone make you feel incredibly small, let me tell you: it breaks you. As much as you want to be the person who doesn’t let words effect you, sometimes you can’t help it.
So on the day I became like the women I had read so much about, I was reduced from being the smart, funny, compassionate woman I had tried so hard to be, to a “chunky and beefy” piece of meat (yes, those were the actual words used when describing my body type).
I wish I could tell the story that I would want to read. That I got up, spoke my mind and walked away. However, that night, that woman was very much not me. I sat there and let it happen while simultaneously feeling like my self-worth was crumbling. Even worse, because I didn’t say anything, now those around us will think that I was ok with the comment and therefore crumbling the image that I want for myself.
Frankly, it’s not the words that I find upsetting, it’s the negative connotation behind those words. If someone is calling me chunky, beefy, husky, heavyset, flabby … fine. I know, understand and am 100% comfortable with the fact that I am not thin. However, when you place negative connotations behind those words, you are telling me and other women that we should not be that way, that we should not want to be that way and that it’s not acceptable that we be that way.
But let me tell you this…aside from my binge eating nights that leave me feeling awful (but are so worth it), I wake up every day feeling like a million bucks and I go to bed feeling like a million bucks regardless of what you say. For anyone that feels like they can talk about someone’s body, what they eat, what they wear, you need a hobby and a reality check. Because your opinion does not and will never matter to the person you are talking about.
Lastly, in the words of the brilliant India Arie:
When I look in the mirror and the only one there is me
Every freckle on my face is where it’s suppose to be
And I know my creator didn’t make no mistakes on me
My feet, my thighs, my Lips, my eyes, I’m loving what I see
I’m not the average girl from your video
And I ain’t built like a supermodel
But I learned to love myself unconditionally,
Because I am a queen