I wouldn’t say I’m fat. I also wouldn’t say I’m thin. It’s taken me a really long time to be okay with my flat-ish bum, lower abdomen pudge and arms that always look bigger than they are in photographs. I would now describe myself as a confident young woman with ambition up her sleeve and success in progress. I’m someone who does sometimes think about my imperfections but also understands I still have time to work to accept them. However, I haven’t always felt this way.
When I was in elementary school, I was teased every day for 10 years about my clothes, my weight, the food I liked to eat, my hair…
As time went on, I found ways to try to make myself more likeable. I tried to wear the same clothes my friends did. I tried to take away the beautiful curly hair I was born with by straightening it profusely each night before bed and each morning before school. I tried to get rid of the blond upper-lip hair starting to grow by shaving my face before picture day (which only left me with a huge cut).
I was convinced there was something wrong with me. I was convinced I was simply not cool and that there was nothing I could do about it. I was convinced I was born a loser.
Even after trying to look the part, I was still teased by the boys I had crushes on for not being thin like the other girls. I was still teased for having frizzy hair. I was ridiculed so much that I was once scared to put my hand up when I knew the answer to a question for fear that someone would scream, “Stop talking, fat ass.” I was once scared to read aloud in a room full of people for fear that they would make fun of the way I spoke. I was once scared to get up from my chair and move to another spot in a room for fear that someone would make fun of the way my thighs jiggled.
I also spent every day comparing my body shape to those of other girls. I would literally be standing beside a friend or family member and obsess over the size of their stomach, legs, arms and bum. I would then find any reflective surface (a car door or a mirror) to point out to myself the ways in which I was different.
One year, I joined danced camp. After a few days of activity, I went to bed and noticed my hip bones poked out more than they had before when I lay down. For a long time, I associated the feeling of my hipbones when lying down as a sign of partial perfection.
The summer before grade nine, to prepare my mom for an operation, her doctor put her on a diet. She asked if I wanted to do the diet with her so she had someone to help motivate her. Her intention was solely to have support from her daughter. So, I dieted and in a mere eight weeks, I lost over 30 pounds. The day before my first day of grade nine, I looked in the mirror and remember thinking: “Tomorrow, I will get noticed.”
When the boys who bullied me in elementary school quit saying things like, “No fat chicks,” to my face and started to befriend me, I began to associate weight loss with being well liked.
So, when I gained the weight back between grade 12 and second year university, as a result of exposure to alcohol and the freedom to order fast food whenever I wanted, my confidence levels plummeted.
She was back. My inner fat friend was emerging and she needed to be stopped. For close to two years I struggled with regaining acceptance of my body. When I saw a girl on the street who was skinnier than myself, I would immediately compare stomach sizes and be brought to tears when I concluded mine was bigger. I felt, between the ages of 18 and 20, I had let myself go. I was not worthy of anything good and that I was doomed to forever be the fat friend – the friend who took up more room on park benches and the friend who sometimes left sweat stains on chairs.
On the brink of an emotional breakdown, where I sat on my bedroom floor and cried because I had weighed myself immediately after dinner, I learned I needed to let my worried, unconfident, self-conscious inner person become confident, determined and mentally healthy. I needed to stop thinking to myself, “You are the fat friend.” I realized that though I cannot control the way other people treat me, I can control how I treat myself.
Over four years of challenging myself to achieve new goals, learning to use my difficult childhood experiences as a way to motivate me positively and loving my anywhere from size two to size 10 physique, I no longer think of myself as a fat, uncool loser who should fear any subtle movements.
As much as I am proud of the person I have become, I did not write this to flaunt about my partially regained self-confidence. I have decided to share my story because there are so many people currently feeling how I did – worthless.
It is my dream to have children who come home from school with smiling faces and head to bed able to sleep at night. I would fake those smiles and lay awake at night, praying that tomorrow would be better, that I wouldn’t get made fun of for wearing a bigger size.
If you can share your story or talk about how you overcame difficulties with self-esteem, together, we can spread awareness about healthy self-perception. Together, we can stop body-shaming and body hate. Together, we can make change.