I am my own worst critic. Seriously, I can be a downright asshole to myself. My body is often a source of negative thoughts. Too big, soft, wide, imposing, flabby, double chins, gross lower stomach… it goes on and on. It's something I try to be mindful of – correcting the negative thoughts as they happen so they don't spiral. Time, therapy, and doubling down on things that bring me confidence have helped immensely.
Despite my best efforts to practice love and embrace my body, it is still a battle multiple times a day. I constantly scan if I'll fit in a seat, or if chair arms are wide enough for my hips. When I sit down, I often shift uncomfortably to try to minimize how my stomach looks, or pull at my clothes to make sure they're not clinging.
Exploring plus size fashion the past 10 years here on the blog has enabled me to turn one of my most shame-inducing activities of childhood into a source of power. I can't remember a time when I was able to shop in the same store my friends did. My mom would drag me around looking for husky kids clothes, or to put me in styles made for women's plus sizes – even before the age of 12. My clothes often came from catalogs where there were “special sizes.” When we went to the mall, I'd try to run into Lane Bryant (the only place I could shop) as quickly as possible so no one from school might see me.
Every magazine I'd grab from my mom's stash was filled with tips on how to “dress slimmer”
- Wear black
- Cover your arms
- Don't wear anything above the knee
- Belt the waist so it looks like you have an hourglass figure
- Don't let clothes cling, but don't go too baggy
- Wear shapewear at all times
- Avoid prints at all costs
- Horizontal stripes are the devil
There are days when it feels like I've not made any progress in dismantling those beliefs. My knack for negative self-talk combined with a lifetime of being told I should look or dress a certain way is a real beast sometimes.
Then, something happened.
A couple of weeks ago, a photo I loved was shared. Instead of the lovely messages I usually get from my audience, it was a slew of people commenting about how bad they thought I looked.
- That dress is too tight
- She needs some Spanx
- That purse is ridiculous
- Her shoes don't match
- This is so unflattering
It hit me like a ton of bricks in the best way: I didn't see what they did, and their opinions didn't matter anyway.
I genuinely love the outfits I post, which should be evidence enough of how far I (and the plus industry) have come. I went from hating shopping to loving it. Style is a source of power for me. I am confident in it, and I love trying new things.
Instead of reacting with “they're right, my body doesn't look great in that photo,” I reacted with “are you kidding me?! I look great!”
The negative commentary on that photo made me realize how far I've come with accepting my body. Like with all things where you're too close to see the big picture, I never felt a lot of progress. A lightbulb went off! Sure, I'm still not confident in a super tight bodycon dress, but I AM confident enough to not be completely torn down by those comments. The only person that has to like what I look like is me. Talk about a powerful lesson! I don't know that I would have recognized this progress without their commentary.
The outfit in this post is pretty much the definition of what critics previously said was “unflattering” for a plus size body. It's massively oversized, horizontal stripes, no shape, bright color, and can't really be missed. And I freaking love it.
Photos by Charity Hedges, Hedges Photography
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