Let’s talk about confidence. Fat people aren’t supposed to have it. We’re supposed to hate ourselves because how else would the diet industry flourish if we didn’t?
And yet somehow there’s an army of fat babes out there who are working on tearing those walls down, to promote health at ANY size but also the very necessary idea that we don’t owe anyone health and are still valuable if we don’t have it. They are showing us that all bodies are beautiful and worthy and lovable, and that confidence is not, and should not be reserved, for those that only fit into societal norms.
Fat activists talk about constantly receiving messages asking “How are you so confident?” which implies that they shouldn’t be while existing iin a non-normative body. Sure, some people ask because they wish they had their own confidence, but rarely does it come out as anything besides a backhanded compliment. This is why I’m talking about it now.
So. Here’s how I’ve found, and in some ways manufactured, confidence in my body:
1) I trust other people. I know we’re taught that we shouldn’t care what others think about us, but what if they actually think really good things?! I realized years ago, if I don’t believe a person who is sharing nice things about me, essentially I’m saying I don’t trust them, which is both insulting to them and plants seeds of self doubt in me.
I have to believe that I’ve surrounded myself with good people and those good people mean what they say and say what they mean. (My literal life motto.)
2) I make sure the media I consume includes all sorts of bodies. As Hollywood is slow to catch up, instead I follow a wide variety of people on my social media. Do I look at bodies like mine – or larger than mine – with a critical lens? Not at all. I see them all as landscapes with different valleys and mountains, all offering a beautiful view. The more we see ourselves reflected in our screens, the more confidence we can gain.
Make sure that you seek out those who might mirror your experiences. You’ll notice that you likely want to speak to them in a gentle, kind, and loving voice. The more you do, the more you’ll realize that you too deserve this voice and this kindness.
3) This one is hard, and might sound impossible, but I also choose confidence. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things I don’t like about my body. There are absolutely shapes and lines I’d like to be different. There are spots and wings that I wouldn’t miss if they left. My entire face is crooked and it frustrate me when I have to take 8000 selfies just to get one that doesn’t look lopsided. But these frustrations don’t, and most importantly cannot, define me.
I accept that I may never know what it’s like to live in a normalized body, though I am experiencing more benefits of “small fat” privilege, now that I am smaller than before. In accepting that my experience isn’t reflected in societal ideals; I try to tell myself I am lucky to have a different perspective. I work hard to appreciate it instead of longing for something I don’t have. At some point the garden has to also be green where I am, even if the shade is off.
I must move through every day knowing that my view of myself is often going to be off-balance and not always accurate. I must remember to treat myself with love and not feel anger or hopelessness when I don’t fit. I must honour my body by decorating it with outfits that are made for it in the moment, no matter what size it is. And I must let go of the idea that any physical parts of me I don’t like deserve to take up more brain space than simply noticing them and acknowledging their presence takes.
This is also where I say that I must work on not letting my chronic pain define me. I cannot punish myself because my body is constantly healing. The fact that there is more fat in some places isn’t why I hurt. They just both exist at the same time.
None of this is to say that it’s easy. If it was easy, we wouldn’t have to still talk about it. I happen to be pretty good at compartmentalizing, so thankfully I can put bad thoughts into a part of my brain that doesn’t get a front row seat. They’re still there though. All the external and internal fat-phobia that I’ve collected over the years, it all still has a vacation home in my head. And every now and then it will hulk-smash into the room and leave a big mess behind.
That’s why confidence is always a work in progress. It’s messy. It has ups and it has downs. There is constant clean up of negativity to manage and we don’t always win. Just remember that in those moments, where the bull most definitely is in the china shop, to keep fighting and treat yourself with the same kindness you show others. You deserve it.