[image: a picture I love because it’s a skirt I made, because it was taken at a time I was happy, in a home where I was loved and loved, because the twirling and the dancing on Easter morning is spiritually significant, especially that year. But still a picture where I must intentionally continue the battle to insist that I am worthy despite the ways my body differs from the “standard.”]
I was talking with a friend the other day who is taking the first steps into body-positivity and battling bravely against all the lies that our culture puts in our heads about our bodies. She asked me, “How do you not hate yourself?” And, what I knew she meant, “How did you get here? How did you find freedom?”
I have no 5 step plan. I have no guarantees. But in the hopes that it will be useful to others- these were some of my first, memorable, steps into the land of not hating myself. Maybe something will work for you.
I do want to say – I’m still on the journey. I am more likely to roll my eyes at weight loss ads and I am usually pretty laser-eyed at spotting the subtle body-shaming that is everywhere in our society. But there are days when it feels like being thin would solve all my problems, when that new diet idea seems like maybe it would work, when it seems like the perks of thinness would be worth all the costs. Those days are rarer all the time, but they happen, and that’s ok.
Our culture is designed to make us desire thinness, it makes life easier for thin people. We are not likely to entirely escape its well-financed pull.
1. I intentionally spent time in body-positive online spaces. For me that was “fatshionista” back in the glory-days of LiveJournal. As a fashion blog, there were many pictures every day of large humans, mostly women, looking fabulous. I was able to see the beauty in other people first. It was an important step.
2. I measured myself. I set up my camera timer and took a full length photo of myself. I wore something I liked and smiled. Then I used a basic photo editor to add my measurements. I now knew, and had a reference of, the number of inches around my bust and waist, thighs and upper arms. This was beneficial in a number of ways: I KNEW my size. Much of plus-size shopping is done online because there are so few option in local stores – now I had the power to shop better with the various sizing methods of various brands. This was empowering. Also, in the fatshionista community, it was common for people to post their weight/size/measurements with their photos. Knowing my measurements, I was able to spot my “body twins” and was astounded by thinking. “She’s pretty. She looks fabulous. Does that mean maybe I look ok too?”
3. I started posting pictures. “Dear world. Here is me!!!” I was in a supportive community, so I got a lot of supportive feedback. The more I posted. The more confidence I gained. I no longer take the effort to set up cameras and timers to get full-length shots, but I’m a big fan of the feministselfie, “unflattering faces” included.
4. I dated a few different guys during the early years of learning to love my body (that’s not the tip)- – I slowly learned to be intentional at believing when they told me they found such and such about me attractive and not brushing it off or making some weird comment about myself in reply. I would say “thank you” sincerely. As much as my feminist side wishes it wasn’t this specifically male-gaze that was one of my influential steps, it is what it is. I’ll critique it – but it was still there. So – whoever is saying nice things about you in your life: choose to believe them.
5. I did a lot of standing in front of the mirror in various states of dress. I didn’t really “compliment” myself or find things I loved – I just got used to me. I just saw me. Years later, I’ll sometimes catch an unintended glance of myself in the mirror and think, “beautiful!” in that split second before I realize it’s me, and I just kind of laugh joyously.
6. I stopped wearing clothes that I didn’t like the look or fit of. Mine is not a body built for off-the-rack empire waists and button-closure shirts. I look FABULOUS in wrap-shirts, but they’re not really my day-to-day style, feel too formal for me. My style has shifted and changed various times over the years, but unless it’s something I HAVE To have – I just don’t buy anything that I don’t love. When I wear clothes, I like them for either their comfort or their style. I wear things that make me feel good.
7. I didn’t really tell people for a while, I want to say years. This is my personality type. I figure things out in my head, and then I tell people. I had a couple friends who knew I was trying. I had my online support community. But for the most part I stayed quiet about it with friends and family. I was battling some strong foes inside my own head trying to prove that I deserved dignity, I did not yet have the strength to be the go-to “fat and happy” person in my everyday community.
8. I started calling myself “fat” in a neutral tone. Not “plus size” or “curvy” or “fluffy” or whatever other euphemism there is. Just fat. I know others prefer euphemisms for their own body-positive reasons. Do what works for you. Find a word that is empowering and liberating. Find a word that tells yourself, and maybe others, that you are ok with you. Use that one, even if you don’t quite believe it yet but want to.
If you’ve started this journey as well, I’d love to hear what’s worked for you – even if it’s been those infamous steps forward and backward.
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