I had an interesting conversation with a close friend this weekend (my 38th birthday weekend). He shared that he’s seen a change in me and that he likes it. We talked about losing weight and how that shapes our experiences, but then the conversation shifted to the very standard one about [me] liking myself better as a result of losing weight. I want to explain something in more detail here than I’ve ever explained before – simply put, fat people CAN like themselves. In fact, they can love themselves. I have always loved both the person my parents helped create and the feisty spirit that has defined me (quite possibly, some kind of divinely appointed feistiness) since day one. I’m smart, driven, funny, kind, and have a profound understanding that the world is connected by people and that we cannot exist without each other. In fact, I think the world would be (especially this society) a better place with more people like me.
But there’s a reality of how you express yourself, your personality, and the normal day-to-day routine(s) that shifts decidedly when you literally can’t feel comfortable “being” yourself.
An overly simplified example of this is hugging. Some people are huggers, some people aren’t. I definitely am, but, for as long as I can remember, hugging has been an excruciating reminder of my weight and size. I LOVE my friends and family; I mean, LOVE in a way that most people don’t even contemplate. But hugging someone is physically just awkward as a very large person. I feel strongly we are closest to the people who a) remind us of the best of ourselves, and b) love us for being ourselves. Hugs, to me, convey a thank you for both. Sadly, years of hugs for me were previously riddled with any number of the following thoughts:
They can’t get their arms around me
They don’t know what to do with their arms
She/he is feeling my back fat
They grabbed my back fat
My boobs are smothering them
I am smothering them, like a mama bear
This hug would be so much better if I could actually just CLUTCH THEM close(r)
This will be a brief hug since I don’t know what to do with myself
I feel like a giant wombat
All I wanted to do was HUG people, and it was a miserable thing. Woefully painful – every time. I didn’t want to “hide” myself or my emotions, but I would eclipse the full hug or say something self-deprecating (i.e. “hi, I feel like mama bear”) to try and make the otherwise normal episode less traumatizing for everyone involved.
Many years ago I realized I had to divorce a big part of myself from what I looked or felt like in order to manage in the world and continue being successful. It doesn’t mean that I was delusional about wanting to lose weight or knowing that I would “feel better” in a different mold, it just meant that I cared too much about all the things I did love about myself to have that get lost in the largeness of my physical self. Over time, due to a lack of full expression, I think those things have been kept in some kind of repository.
Larger people may be more subdued, less involved, or less inclined to do certain something(s) – but I would argue that should not be an immediate reflection of their self-worth or personal “liking”. It is, more likely, a measure of how and where they already know they are or aren’t comfortable doing the things everyone else takes completely for granted. Society is far too quick to project its own insecurities on its most marginalized members. Being more able and less limited is completely FREEING. Moving through life without ever having to anticipate the true limitations your physical body places on you, daily, is a privilege.
At 38, I feel a level of freedom I haven’t felt ever before in my entire life, and – yes – I am more comfortable at the thought of sharing all of me and the me I love with the world. I’ve been saving up for this.