You know how there are core beliefs that you hold dear and work hard to keep, but find moments where you waver? The times when truths that you think you understand deep down in your gut get questioned? I've been dealing with some shaky moments recently as I started to see myself through foggy lenses. Let me try to explain.
I've worked extremely hard over the past several years on finding acceptance with my body. I was first made aware of my fat when I was five years old, and it's been a constant nag in my head of a perceived failure that I couldn't overcome. Being fat was a fatal flaw – an automatic disqualifier from any other achievements. No matter how hard-working I was in any other aspect of my life, fat negated it all.
- She is smart, but she is fat.
- She is a good friend, but she is fat.
- She has a good career, but she is fat.
- She is a kind, compassionate contributor to society, but she is fat.
So like many people, I drove myself crazy trying to fix the fat. It was exhausting. Not physically (except for the compulsive exercising days) but mentally. I chased this image of being “normal” for so long and ignored a lot of good things around me. Pulling away from social situations, saying “no” to opportunities, never accepting a compliment.
The past 2 years or so (after dropping Skinny Emmie), it's gotten better. I've learned to enjoy experiences, embrace friends, and have worked hard to stop apologizing for my size. It's been a lot of therapy, introspection, writing, and reading body positive blogs. I started taking outfit photos and embracing fashion because it makes me see my body in a different way than what my mind perceives.
So what's the problem?
The lenses through which I see myself got foggy thinking about dating.
The last time I opened up my body for judgement from a man was 14 years ago. I wasn’t old enough to legally consume alcohol. I slept on my childhood twin-sized mattress and boxspring sitting on the floor of my apartment. There wasn’t texting, and of course there wasn’t Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social networks. There weren't news and popular culture websites where anyone can hide under the veil of anonymity and spout their hate on people. I was young and naive and was too carefree to give a damn about what a guy thought about my body. I dated all of like 2 people in my life, and ended up marrying 1 of them.
Finding self-acceptance was easier when I was married. I didn't have to worry about anyone finding me attractive or worry about them judging my body. I could shrug it all off because I had my partner and he accepted me as I was. He was with me through over a decade of dieting, gaining and losing a combined 200 pounds, and overcoming binge eating disorder. I had unconditional support (or so I thought) and it was a relief. One less thing to worry about.
So when I recently started thinking about dating (it's been 7 months since he left), my mind reverted to all the negative self-talk I worked so hard to quiet. Opening up myself and my body for dating is like yelling, “COME AT ME, BRO!” and I have avoided it to prevent being knocked down.
- No man will like you because you're fat
- The only people who will reach out to you are only doing it because they have a fetish
- If someone asks you out, it's a joke. They don't want to date a fat person.
Typing those words out now makes me want to cringe, but it's taken me about 3 weeks of them simmering in my mind. It's almost like whack-a-mole practice: a negative thought comes up, and you try to form a faster reaction to knock it down. The hammer is reality.
- If a man isn't attracted to you because you're fat, that's his problem. You're no worse off. Same as if you aren't attracted to him because of whatever reason. It is what it is, and it doesn't mean either of you is a bad person.
- Just because people have fetishes doesn't mean you have to participate.
- If someone asks you out and it IS a joke, I feel sorry for them and the void they're trying to fill inside.
- I don't need a man. I am a self-sufficient woman with more to be thankful of than most people.
- My body is the same whether I'm single or married. So why should my body image and self-esteem change?
I'm not sure showing up to date is considered “courage” but I love Brené Brown and this quote – we have to let ourselves be seen.
My friend Jessica Kane has been all over the news this week (woohoo!) for posting a photo of herself in a swimsuit and saying how it isn't “brave” to do so. She's SO right. Some people consider things like showing our bodies “brave” because we've been told for so long that it's unacceptable. But the words “bravery” and “courage” should be reserved for things much more radical than being yourself.
So armed with my whack-a-mole truths, and years of working on loving myself, I suppose I'm ready to say “COME AT ME BRO!” and open myself up again.
Now, where to start?!