This article first appeared on Role Reboot and has been republished with permission.
I have a love/hate relationship with my body. Some days I celebrate it for the goddess vessel it is and others I feel betrayed by it, want to light it on fire, and run it over in the middle of the street.
Living with a series of chronic illnesses, suffering the effects of hormonal manipulation, steroid use for inflammation control, and dealing with weight fluctuations, as a result, has created this massive divide between what I think to be true and reality.
It carried me forward after I was raped on a date, when I gave very serious consideration to ending it all. My body healed itself. My body healed me. It isn’t perfect — it’s riddled with bumps, scars, stretch marks, and cellulite. It’s floppy and droopy. It jiggles and bounces. It hurts all the time. But my body is capable of amazing feats of strength. And my body is sexy.
Over the past few years I’ve worked very hard to bridge that gap. Some days I fail spectacularly, others I move through life with a satisfied smile, confident and content. Anyone who has ever had qualifiers placed before compliments knows exactly what I’m talking about here.
“For a bigger girl, you’re really pretty.”
“For someone your size, you have a pretty spectacular shape.”
“You have great, perky breasts, for a fat girl.”
“Even though you’re kind of large, guys are still into you. I keep seeing them check out your ass!”
“As big as you are, I’m surprised you have a flat stomach.”
Despite, even though, for…words and phrases said before backhanded compliments intended to build you up, but tear you down instead. I always found these phrases so confusing and felt myself tense the moment they were uttered.
Here’s the thing: While all of the above might be true, my body and I are more than the sum of our parts. My weight isn’t the most interesting thing about me.
And my body, this larger body of mine, has been there through everything.
My body was there for me when I was diagnosed with cancer. It carried me through painful surgeries, biopsies, colposcopies, laparoscopies, and a seemingly endless number of medications (all of which had heinous side effects, my favorite of which was losing my hair).
My body stood resolute in the face of spousal abuse, through every hateful word and threat. My body carried me through the Army and through the weeks before my 19th birthday when I was attacked while walking home from a party. It carried me on swift feet when I was able to run a six-minute mile, climb a rope in under 30 seconds, and deadlift 300 pounds.
It held me up, through every fist fight and knock-out punch. Through child sexual abuse and the trauma that followed, my body burned with anger and helped me cling onto my life.
It carried me forward after I was raped on a date, when I gave very serious consideration to ending it all. My body healed itself. My body healed me.
It isn’t perfect — it’s riddled with bumps, scars, stretch marks, and cellulite. It’s floppy and droopy. It jiggles and bounces. It hurts all the time.
But my body is capable of amazing feats of strength. And my body is sexy.
This is something I have to remind myself of when those qualifiers seep into my own speech. When I look at myself and say, “For a fat girl, I have a nice smile,” “Despite being bigger, I look pretty today,” or “Huh…even though I’m kind of fat, that guy just flirted with me.”
No. I have a nice smile. I am pretty. Guys do check me out. My rack is pretty spectacular.
Being fat or overweight does not disqualify me from being any of these things. Beauty and body fat percentage are not mutually exclusive.
It took me eight years to come to that realization.
So how did it finally happen? One day, when I was feeling particularly self-hateful, I stripped naked and stood in front of a mirror. I forced myself to look, really look, at the person staring back at me. I examined myself from every angle and spouted off every thing I liked about my body. By the end of it, I was smiling, and when I went out to the pool that day I didn’t wear a cover-up.
For someone who hadn’t been able to be naked in front of another person, who kept themselves covered wrist to ankle despite soaring temperatures, that was a huge step forward for me.
I invite you to do the same. Without the qualifiers.
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