A few days ago, I got a message from someone who read an essay I wrote about my husband. It was a lovely email, but one line really made me cringe:
“I wish I had your confidence.”
She explained that, as she read my words, she related to some of my experiences as a fat woman, but didn’t see her self-image reflected. She perceived me as self-assured and happy, while perceiving herself as insecure and sad. She said, “You are out there truly living. I just exist.”
I sent her a positive and hopefully encouraging response, but now I wonder if that was the right thing to do. Because what I wanted to say was, “Oh, sister. If you only knew.”
I so understand why she feels that way because, honestly? I feel that way too.
I wish I always had that kind of confidence. I wish I was always that sassy woman, so outgoing and sure of herself.
Don’t get me wrong: I am a confident woman. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t fully believe that I am beautiful, smart, and fun and worthy of love and friendship, sex, happiness, fair treatment, and every other good thing. I feel great about myself a lot of the time, and I don’t believe that the fat defines the woman — at all.
I love my life in this body. I can rock a red lip like nobody’s business. I have an amazing family. I laugh loudly. I love big. I’m generous and hospitable. I am really happy with the person I have worked to become.
But that doesn’t mean that being fat doesn’t really, really, really suck for me sometimes. There are a lot of negative messages swirling around this planet about fat bodies, and it’s not possible for me to ignore them all every day. Sometimes I listen to the critics, and I lose sight of everything that is amazing in me.
I am not at a weight that I’m personally comfortable with right now, so I’m not always happy with what I see or how I feel. I even let it stop me from participating in some things because I’m afraid of what I might look like while I do it. Being fat isn’t always so matter of fact for me. It can be a really complicated, emotional thing.
But this body is the only one I’ll ever have, and I can’t afford to hate it. On bad days, I choose to remind myself of everything that is healthy and whole and wonderful about my body.
Once in a while, I wonder if that’s the right thing to do. Do I have a right to rejoice in a body that is so different than the accepted ideal? After all, isn’t celebrating fat bodies the same as glorifying, glamorizing, and encouraging obesity?
I never wonder that. People who say that are being ridiculous, and I reject that idea fully.
I celebrate every inch and ounce of this body without guilt or hesitation because my body has carried me through the dark days of loss and pain with strength and dignity. My body has been my home for every moment of happiness and joy that I have ever experienced. It has housed me through my greatest triumphs and realized dreams.
Whenever I have been moved to tears by the awareness that I am living in a close-to-perfect moment, I’ve been in this body.
My body conceived, carried, and nourished my boys, but I am making an effort not to thrust my whole identity into motherhood. Just like I’m more than a fat girl, I’m more than a mom. My body’s ability to reproduce isn’t what makes me worthy of celebration, and my fat cells don’t make me unworthy of the same.
So you’ll have to excuse me while I make zero apologies for reveling in the joy that is my life.
Last time I had a bad day, my husband was out of town. Since I couldn’t ditch my kids, I got up, threw on some lipstick, streamed Motown’s greatest hits, and danced with my boys in my kitchen. While my babies were dancing and laughing with me, I stopped criticizing my body. I thanked my lucky stars for the privilege of living these beautiful days in it.
There will always be days when I feel ugly, clumsy, or unworthy, but those are the days when I am wrong.
My body isn’t my enemy. I owe everything to my body. And I will make no apologies for loving myself. You shouldn’t either.