Society sucks. So do some physicians in the medical field. We live in a thin minded society, where thin is best, forget the rest. There’s all these studies and opinions on if you weigh “this much” you’re just doomed. It’s not true. Your weight is just your relationship with gravity but if you’re over 200 lbs this world says it’s not made for you and you must lose weight in order to fit in. I’ve been fat the majority of my life. I’ve experienced first hand how you’re treated. I could have been saved the heartache of having cancer if more doctors treated the whole patient not just their weight. I still see doctors who say my weight is the problem. I still live in a world that I don’t fit into. I’m preparing to have my perfectly healthy organ mutilated because multiple doctors at my disposal say that it’s the only way I can ever have children. A few of whom say I’m too fat to have the alternative surgery to completely remove the cancer. Well, hell how am I supposed to choose. I have friends who’ve chosen this because they don’t fit into the thin-centric world we live in. One almost died because of complications! I have friends who are constantly trying to lose weight because they buy into what society tells them. It is so frustrating and heartbreaking to be in this position. I fully believe and support health at every size and fat acceptance. We were not born to all be carbon copies of each other. I’m just trying to make it out alive.
I’m up at odd hours now. I sit here in my chair and just admire the beauty of our Christmas tree. It’s old and missing some of its needles. It’s lights are missing in some places but it holds only good memories. All the ornaments are special, either they’re handmade or have a special meaning. Every year we would decorate the tree and then turn out all the lights and my dad would say “look at that. It’s beautiful.” It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect to us. I can’t help but think that’s how God sees us. People have such flawed versions of what beauty is and no matter how much we might wish to change that version, it won’t happen. If you look back at the centuries you’ll notice how versions of beauty have changed. It sounds cliché, but what we look like doesn’t contribute anything but outward adornment and decoration for this world. Your soul and your heart matter. People will claim it’s all in the name of health, but boil it down and it’s because you don’t look like everyone else. My point with this is, this Christmas season examine your heart. Your motives behind what you say. Be a little kinder, judge a little less. Love people like Jesus would; just because their people.
I wish I had some big, verbose thing to tell you but I don’t. I’ve just been thinking recently about cancer, life, boys, and God and how I have changed. It is entirely by Gods grace that I’m not the same person I was not too long ago. I fought hard to become this person I’m becoming, but cancer, it sucks. It kinda puts a stopper in any kind of progress. As my dad would’ve said ” it has a way of knocking you on your back so you’ll look up.” So I have. I’ve found God in all the corners of my life lately, it’s a scary time at its core. I put on a brave face, but cancer is a cold-blooded killer and I’m not ready to die. I feel amongst all the yucky-ness of this that there is a silver lining waiting to be discovered. I truly believe everything happens for a reason and in the words of one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott,
“Sometimes when a lot of things around you start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born. In other words, perhaps it needed you to be distracted so it can be born perfect.”
I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future and He makes broken things beautiful. My life has been so broken the past four years and I saw how He worked in dads life and I saw how He works in the messiest times of grief. I choose to believe that He’ll show up and work in all the brokenness of this season. Speaking of brokenness, I recently had several encounters with dating in this modern generation, and they all sucked. Guys these days are quick to want to hook-up, play little mind game, and be terrified to catch feelings. Well, my heart has been cracked and I’ve omitted pieces of myself to fit what their looking for and I’m done. Life is far too short and too precious to waste on that. In the words of my homegirl Bey,
“middle fingers up and tell em’ boi bye.”
I’m worth being pursued and worth some effort. I’m too old and mature to play stupid little games. If you like me, tell me. I’m worth a man that can stand his ground and sees me for more than an object. Yes, I like the skin I’m in, but you should see my brain. It’s far more sexier. My life is spent taking it minute by minute. I’m going on with everyday life, including college because I have no intentions of dying this soon. So they’ll be plenty of time to check off my bucket list. Plus let’s be real, who has money to do that when they have cancer? Do they know how much it cost!? If anything, cancer has certainly made me more introspective. And let’s you know where your priorities lay…
I don’t like complicated. I like clear cut, straight to the point, give me the answers right now. Cancer isn’t simple, the answers never come when you want them and sometimes not at all. I got the news today that I would have to go back and have another Mri, this time under local anesthesia. Here again, I don’t have answers in the time I want them. Along with this I have some decisions to make about bariatric surgery, something that, mind you, has never crossed my radar…
Speaking of that, I have a little story for you and the point to this:
I’ve never been skinny, no one in my family is. Genetically speaking, I was predetermined to be big. I was bullied in school for it. I had horrible body image and no self confidence. I was in my late teens and was trying diet pills, appetite suppressants, fad diets, calorie restriction, and unhealthy amounts of exercise. You say how is exercise unhealthy? Well when you’re restricting calories which your body turns into energy to exercise you get light headed and vomit or pass out. Thankfully I never got to the last one. I was in a destructive cycle. I hated myself and my body. Then one day, I said I’m done. I found the body positive community on Tumblr and my life was changed. I took back the word fat, as it didn’t have power to be used as an insult anymore. It was simply a word to describe my body. It took years and a daily essential, but I found peace, happiness, and a love for my body.
I’m passionate about body positivity, body image, and a firm believer that your weight does not equate your health. I think all bodies are good bodies. However, being told that your weight mixed with genetics is causing cancer… Well, honestly, it’s really messing with this foundation I live on. How do I be all these things when I need to have a surgery that alters my body so I can lose weight? I’ve never wanted to be a “normal” size. Not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you. But I like my body the way it is, it’s lumps and bumps and hills and valleys. It was once a war zone now it’s a happy, peace filled place. I fought to be that woman, now I’m having to change without even knowing it’s going to put the cancer in remission. How do I deal with that? How does that place I’ve built to live in, not crumble? Can I find that place of peace?
I fallen off the tracks. I’ve forgotten how to see myself. I’ve let other dictate how I should look or feel. It’s been a roller coaster of ups and downs the past 6 months. I thought I found my new normal, living life without my dad here. Missing him but moving forward. Then as quick as the new normal came, it all shattered with news of a diagnosis. It seemed as if my life fell apart in that instant, all over again. Many things happened all at once and continued to pop up over the course of time. I suddenly didn’t have the job I loved, I couldn’t workout because of the pain, I lost new connections that had been made, I turned to food because it was a comforting old friend, I gained back all the weight I lost. I turned back into the ugly ducking. I am back a square one. I started avoiding mirrors because I didn’t like how I looked. I want the approval of men because they are where I held my value. I stopped going to church because it was too hard to worship a God who let bad things happen and takes away your dad. This has been my normal for the last 6 months. I pride myself on being authentic and open, on being my own person. Yet, I’ve lost sight of what that really is. I’ve looked to men for approval on how I look. I’ve been ashamed of myself when I go out the door. I put my value in how many miles I walked or the amount of calories I consumed. I let my crushing fear of not being good enough ruin precious time. My value isn’t in a person, a number, or any material thing. My value doesn’t decrease because of a person who doesn’t have my body positive views or feels that they or anyone else needs to look a certain way. My value is in the one who died for me on a cross. I am who God says I am and He says I’ve more precious than rubies. He says I am fearfully and wonderfully made, handcrafted and the mold shattered after I was created. It’s so hard to live in a word where if you don’t fit in you’re automatically cast aside or counted out. It’s hard being an advocate for a movement you believe in when you hold value in how you appear to others. I lost sight of what the body positive movement is. It’s not about working out or being conventionally beautiful. It’s about loving yourself exactly how you are, where you are and extending that grace to everyone. God doesn’t care what size your pants are. He care about how big your heart is and how you’re living this precious life He gives you. I’m not saying I’ll never worry about how I look. I’d like to eat better and see if I could do some light cardio but if my body isn’t ready for that, my value doesn’t decrease because of it. I recently read this quote,
“Was who she was, who she really was, really enough?… This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take: to be seen as we truly are.”
But the thing is, that you are enough. I am enough. Exactly as we are right now. It’s a risk worth taking because it is the most freeing thing in the world to know you need only be who you are.
I’ll leave you with this Litany that has become the prayer if my heart:
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of comfort and ease, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being criticized, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being passed over, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being lonely, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being hurt, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering, deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, strengthen me with your Spirit.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, teach me your ways.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
help me put my self-importance aside
to learn the kind of cooperation with others
that makes possible the presence of your Abba’s household. Amen.
Adapted from a prayer by Rafael,
Cardinal Merry Del Val, 1865–1930
We live in a world where society and media portray one body type and one extravagant love story as the gospel. We play with Barbies that are tall, thin, and perfectly proportioned. We watch Disney movies where a pretty princess gets rescued by the handsome, chiseled prince, so naturally most of our impressionable minds carry this mindset throughout our whole lives, I certainly have. Growing up I was always the bigger girl. Genetically and biologically, it was predestined. I had family that I spent those formative years with that was obsessed with their bodies and the newest diet fad, at school I was bullied for being the tall fat kid. However, with my parents I was told I was beautiful and perfect and I could do anything I set my mind to. Unfortunately, the former situations won out. The year before my dad died I spent so much time trying to lose weight, trying various diets and pills that I spent my nights crying myself to sleep because I wasn’t getting skinny and y’all, I finally had a come to Jesus meeting where I got so damn sick and tired being at war with myself and my body. I found the Body Positive community on Tumblr and my life changed. Three years later, I’d say 70% of my days I look in the mirror and love what I see. I am so much more than the weight. I like the person I’m becoming because I fought to become her, but sometimes I get caught up with appearances and outside views. I’m human and I still live in a world where these things are praised and worshiped daily. The last year or so I’ve been obsessed with finding Mr. Right and what I want him to look like or traits I want him to have. I even went as far to join a dating sites, since no one I knew in everyday life was interested. One of these sites bases matches off your first impression of the other person looks and I find myself judging a guy over his hair color, of his jaw line, if he looks good with a beard, if he’s average size. My point isn’t that these sites are bad but that they buy into what society is selling. You can’t tell if he loves God more than himself, loves his momma, or respects his daddy, or is kind to people, or if he gets along with his siblings, or if his eyes light up when he sees a dog, or if he gets invested into the books he reads, or enjoys taking in the beauty of a sunset, or how he treats a waiter or store clerk, or how he will treat you, if he’s kind, sincere, passionate, imaginative and the myriad of other important traits. I’m not down playing the importance of physical attraction but merely saying that those traits and the ones you value are truly what make a person attractive. I recently saw two videos that led to this post, one being on the body image front from my friend Whitney Thore, who has changed my life immensely in the year that I’ve known her. In this video, Whit talks about loving yourself and that projecting and attracting the right guy and this music video by Marie Miller, which is the song of my heart and the whole meaning behind this post. I have these things I’m physically attracted to but yet say “God, you can send me the complete opposite of that ” or “Lord, I’m going to be patient, but could you send him before I turn 25?” I guess ultimately I’m not trusting Him to send me my gentle giant. I think it’s time to stop waiting for Mr. right and to say “I really don’t care what he looks like.”
I’ll leave you with this secret I’ve learned on my journey, I have never met an unattractive person who was kind.
I recently wrote this essay for an English course and was rather quite proud of it. I thought I would share.
Have you ever noticed what a negative body image our society has? In Western society we are bombarded with images of what ideal beauty “should” look like. It seems the main focus these days is that we should fit a specific mold it’s considered the social norm. As a result, we have a horrible problem on our hands that affects young and old alike; we have a very negative body image. We see it everywhere, in line at the supermarket, on our televisions while our children watch their favorite shows and even in those very shows. We are swamped by images that society tells us is true beauty and the “mold’ we should aspire to; and if we want to be accepted, then we must comply with this. How are we not to be persuaded by these images, which tell us that we are not good enough? It’s human nature to want to be a part of the group, but at what cost are we willing to fit in? Body image is something I have dealt with my entire life. I was bullied in school because I was always the “bigger girl.” I was bullied constantly and hated school because of it. I suffered from horrible self-esteem, had no confidence, and hated my body. Now, as an adult, I have a huge passion for the Body Image movement and breaking those stereotypes and negative connotations that are associated with being fat or not measuring up to the social standard of “beauty”. With the adage that the youth are our future, why are we teaching them to see outward beauty or being a certain size as the most important thing? Images of beauty in Western society are harmful because they lower one’s self-esteem, present an ideal image that young and old feel forced to replicate, and lead way to prejudice and stigma towards anyone not fitting the “mold.”
These beauty standards in Western society are harmful in such a way that they create low self-esteem in people of all races, ages, and genders. Self-esteem is crucial to one’s very being; it helps people be the best possible version of themselves they can be. These ideal images we see in our society are at the root of the issue. In an essay by Shari Graydon, author of In Your Face, Graydon writes,
Yesteryear’s magazine racks sported exponentially fewer publications devoted to fame voyeurism and advising women on the finer points of dressing up, dressing down or sculpting our bodies in pursuit of a profile that we’d be happy to avoid dressing altogether. Cosmopolitan and Vogue are now buried under a deluge of other fashion and ‘fitness’ magazines, while a host of new titles supplement the print lessons available to male readers regarding what’s ‘desirable’ and ‘ideal’ when it comes to the sizes and shapes of women’s body parts. ( Gerdes 41)
This is an example of what causes self-esteem issues for people all over our country. These images displayed make people feel like they are not good enough as they are and since this is the epitome of beauty, they should replicate it by whatever means necessary. In an article, Kristen Anderburg who is a contributor to Off Our Backs, the longest running feminist newspaper in the US states a revelation former supermodel Ann Simonton had when she saw what these ideal images were doing first hand; “And it hit Ann that these models were the pinnacle of beauty that society was holding up as every woman’s ideal, yet it still wasn’t good enough” (Anderburg). In the same article, Anderburg goes on to imply that Simonton took a hit to her self-esteem when she realized that, even though she was in a group of people considered the epitome of beauty, she still wasn’t good enough as she was. Like Ann Simonton, women of all ages and races take a direct hit to their self-esteem when faced with this mass amount of images telling them to look like “this” or “that” and that men won’t find them attractive if they don’t fit the 36-24-36 measurements. As a result, this causes a doubt of one’s self that wouldn’t have been there previously. This doubt cripples women in so many areas of our lives.
Just as self-esteem plays a huge role in the body image issue, so does the way these images of beauty make young and old feel like they must replicate them. This is such a huge loss to our society, as it basically implies that we must all be carbon copies of one another. This diminishes our diversity. Lynda Wiechinik, a contributor to The Oyen Echo reports on a study that states “one-third of college age women would trade an entire year of their life for the perfect body” (Wiechnik). An entire year! A year of one’s precious, amazing, crazy life just to have that ideal body. That very idea has been developed by copious amounts of information that says your body is not right the way it is. Media seems to portray one type of image that is considered ideal, this image happens to change over time and is always represented in various publications. An essay by Deborah Rhode says, “In 1984 the US average female model was five feet four inches and one hundred and forty pounds. Now the average is five feet ten inches and one hundred and ten pounds” (Rhode). Only five percent of women fall into this category. These standards make people feel forced to alter themselves to fit that ideal. These images presented have such a monumental effect on our society, as Rita Freedman, clinical psychologist says, “It can enhance and protect you as well as torment you… it echoes with the sound of your mother’s voice and the faces of a thousand cover girls who left a mark on your memory” (Valentino). This statement is an accurate representation of how these images affect us all.
As we have seen, people tend to be stereotyped if they do not fit in with these ideal images of beauty. We see it all the time; when one doesn’t look like the models, actors and actresses, and other celebrities who our culture dictates as the personification of beauty, there is a certain prejudice and stigma that follows. In an essay, Natasha Walter states that “the emphasis on presenting oneself as physically perfect has an impact on women throughout society” (Walter) and when women do not meet that standard they are subjected to cruel and senseless remarks that follow them throughout their lives. These people who happen to make up the majority of our society are labeled weird, ugly, and lame; just to name a few, are all based on the outward appearance and never given a chance to show what they’re really like or what they have to offer because they are already labeled and categorized by our society. Often, they are assumed un-valuable and tossed aside. There is a stigma that comes along with the prejudice that say if they have this assigned label then there must be something wrong with them because they don’t fit into the “mold” that has been assigned as ideal and pleasing. These prejudices and stigmas that are cast upon people follow them for the rest of their lives and more often than not affect how they see themselves.
As we’ve seen, these ideal images of beauty that Western society places on people are harmful to us all in many ways; they lower one’s self-esteem, make both young and old feel pressured to replicate these ideals, and lead way to prejudice and stigma that follows many for the rest of their lives. When you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, does it really matter so much to fit in with society when it has such a high cost? In the iconic words of Dr. Seuss, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”