How does someone as fat as you have so much confidence? Where do you get your great self-esteem?
Why wouldn't I be confident? I am a good person.Why is it so shocking to see a fat, confident person? I contribute to the greater good. I love my friends and family. My friends and family love me. I have a good job. I pay my bills. What else does a fat person have to do to "deserve" to have great confidence or great self-esteem?
I have gotten this question a lot in my lifetime. I have been fat since the third grade (well, according to the BMI chart anyway) and I am 47 now. So that is a lot of years in a fat body. I've had lots of time to become comfortable with taking up a lot more space than other women in my social circles. And, now I own a plus-size lingerie boutique and the topic of confidence and self-esteem in a fat body comes up at our boutique pretty much seven days a week. Every single day, without fail, this topic comes up. "Chrystal, how can I become confident in my fat body? What is the trick?"
When women who shop at my boutique or the women who are a part of my Curvy Girl Facebook community ask me this question, I find it very sweet in a way. I know they do not mean it in a disrespectful way. They mean it more in the "Where can I find some of that confidence?" kind of way. I relate to their struggles to fit in. I mean, we do get that "thin is beautiful" message crammed into our brains daily. And, thin is beautiful. But so is fat, old, young, athletic, fluffy, varying mobilities and abilities, thick, tall and short! We're all beautiful and we all deserve to feel beautiful.
So this does beg the question: Where do we get our self-esteem? How does a fat woman get to be so confident? Where did I get my own self-esteem? I have been asking myself and my community that very question a lot recently.
Personally, I feel like my family and the way I was brought up gave me a good base. Unconditional love can do that for a person. I was blessed to have family who did not shame me because of my body. I had a few random, far-removed family members say some mean things to me, when I was prepubescent, that stuck with me my whole life, but my immediate family (the people I give a sh*t about) always made me feel so smart, loved and beautiful. They did it through their words and their actions. So, I got off to a great start by having very loving and supportive parents and aunties, uncle and siblings.
This is going to sound trite, but stick with me. When I was a kid I was a voracious reader. Any magazine, book, newsletter that crossed my path I read. I read a ridiculous article in Cosmopolitan once about how women should find one thing about their body that they liked and focus on that. (It was next to an article about how to measure if your boobs are droopy by trying to hold a pencil underneath them. You have to love Cosmo in the '80s. I was 14.) But, internally, I started that discipline when I was about 14. I would focus on things like "wow, I have really cute toes." Yes, at 14. "I love how my skin gets so tan in the sun." "My green eyes are really pretty," I would repeat to myself.
Then, when my inner mean girl would occasionally rear her ugly head, I would remember these other things. I think I even made a list in my diary at some point. I got focused on the positive so I could tune out the a-holes in high school and so I could tune out the magazine covers and the commercials on t.v. that perpetuated the myth that we all have to be the same size. Size zero.
I talked with some of my fat friends in my community and asked them what helped them to have great self-esteem. I also polled my Curvy Girl Facebook community and asked them where they find their self-esteem.
From drama class to years of being a camp counselor, I've always been outgoing. While I enjoyed taking center stage I never felt completely confident about my body. That was until, at the age of 30, I became pregnant with my son. As my belly began to grow, so did my love for my body.
The real transformation took place during 16 hours of natural childbirth. For the first time in my life I had to completely trust and believe in my body. I gave birth on my knees and had never felt so powerful in my entire life. My high level of self esteem comes from the knowledge that my fat body is truly magnificent. I only wish I wouldn't have waited 30 years to realize that.
Jen makes a beautiful point. Our bodies are small miracles and they are capable of so much pleasure and so many amazing things can happen with our bodies, even when we are fat.
My friend Saucye West is an aspiring plus-size model and she calls herself an "extended size" model. That means she is a size 26/28. Saucye is fierce and confident. I asked her where she finds her confidence to get on the catwalk and show off the fashions she is modeling.
As young girls we learn what is beautiful and sexy by the women in our families. They play a great role in how our ideals of beauty are shaped. All I knew was glamor. But with that came emphasis on size. After battling that at a young age I found that I really didn't have a problem with my body; it was everyone else that did! So from that moment (age 14) I vowed never to let anyone dictate how I was suppose to love myself. My confidence came from within. As a model I have to be convinced and love myself honestly in order for that to read in pictures. Being a plus model drives me to help other women find that unconditional love within themselves. It's there! You just have to start becoming blind to societal norms and create your own standard of beauty.
Everyone deserves to feel beautiful and to be able to value their own bodies whether they are a size two or a size 32. Knowing your value and your own worth does not need to correlate in any way with the number on the scale. We all are worthy of love and most importantly, loving ourselves.
I want to end with this comment from my friend Rachel Estapa of MoreToLoveWithRachel.com.
I've learned that confidence is contagious -- when I do something I'm happy about in my life, I make a point to recognize it for myself and then share it. Confidence is taking tiny steps in the direction of where you want to go. It builds and the little things I do get bigger, and more people feel my excitement and then find it easier to go for what they want. And then one day, you look around and realize you've got a whole bunch of great things you see in yourself and great people around who support you too.
If you're still struggling to find your own self-worth, be sure to surround yourself with positive people that lift you up. Get rid of the people who say little rude comments or who share their diet tips when you didn't ask for them. If you have toxic family members who say snarky things, it's time to cut way back on the amount of time you spend with them. You can even divorce family members if you have to. And, the one cool thing you can do right away is to remove any kind of negative crap from your social media feeds. Follow other body positive and sex positive people and cut out that other stuff that focuses on diets and get skinny quick pills and surgeries. Do what makes you feel good with the people that make you feel good. You can be 100lbs or 500lbs and have confidence bubbling out of you -- if you can just turn off that inner mean voice and tune out the shamers and haters.