A group of us girls from the office went to a workshop the other day about body image and the media. Let's just say I did not leave there with warm fuzzy feelings. The workshop didn't inform me of anything I didn't already know. Society/the media in America says to be beautiful, to be lovely, you have to be tall and thin and white. Well, I am one of those things, so that must mean I am one third beautiful. After the presentation, there was a time for discussion. One woman, an overweight, middle-aged, black woman asked if men were really attracted to thin women. And several people spoke up and stated they didn't think men liked thin women, but preferred a woman who was thick. I believe this is the truth for those women who spoke up during this workshop, but it is not my truth.
My truth that I have known since seventh grade is that to be big (fat, curvy, thick - whatever you call it) is ugly/bad/wrong/unwanted. For as long as I can remember, I have battled my weight. I have gone on many diets. I have joined several gyms. I have bought the latest fitness gadgets from those ridiculous infomercials. I have watched The Biggest Loser every season wondering if I have what it takes to try out for the show. I have contemplated gastric bypass. I have lost and gained weight many times. I am currently down sixty pounds and am "stuck" at the same weight I always seem to get stuck at. I have been unhappy with how I look for so very long. It actually wasn't until January 2011 that I actually stood in a full length mirror, and for the first time, at the age of thirty-two, looked at my whole body in the mirror. And all I could do was cry. I hated what I saw. I felt disgusted. I began poking and pulling at my body and saying things like, "If my arms weren't so flabby and I could get rid of the two huge rolls on my stomach and I could have perky boobs and I could tighten my thighs, THEN I would be beautiful."
And as I reflect on that experience, it makes me so sad. Where did I learn to hate myself? When did I learn to focus on the faults I find in myself? I know this is learned behavior; that I learned being big was ugly. And I know I'm not the only one who learned that. Aaron Lewis, the cute redhead with freckles, the first boy I ever "liked" knew that and laughed in my face when I told him I liked him when we were nine years old. My classmates in middle school knew it when they tortured me for three years. Paul Flickenger, Andy McGuire, Dan Cox, Ben Knight, Orion DeSmit, Josh Conley, Chip Nightingale, Rick Jones, Robb Handy, Derek Meeker, Dave DeWitt, Chad Waterman, Matt Patton, Casey Fawley, Tim Bosworth, and every other man I have been interested in romantically has rejected me because they saw me as a friend or weren't attracted to me - aka, I wasn't beautiful enough. In college, I taught pre-school at KinderCare. One day, Ashley's dad came to pick her up, which only happened on occasion. Ashley saw her dad pull into the parking lot and was excited to see him. As I was helping her get her things together, she said to me, "Miss Stacie, my dad doesn't like you." Trying to hide the shock, I casually say, "Oh really, why not?" And she stated, "Because he doesn't like fat people." I contained the tears until she and her dad were gone. I cried, not because my feelings were hurt, but because a precious little four year old girl was taught that being fat was wrong/bad - at the age of FOUR! That just makes me sick. I often wonder about Ashley, she would be fifteen by now. I pray she loves herself the way she is.
And aside from all the personal messages I have received directly from people, there are the messages in the media. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jessica Simpson have been called fat. HA! Wow, are you f*cking kidding me? Because they have curves, they're considered fat?!!? Amazing, no wonder so many women hate themselves. The standard we are to live up to is nearly impossible to achieve.
All of this to say, I want to love myself. Not just parts of me, but ALL of me. I want to feel beautiful, lovely. I long to be more than the girl with the pretty face. But with all these messages and all this pressure and all these scars from my past, how do I do that? How do I see myself as lovely when everything I know says that's not true?
There's this song by Sara Haze that I just love. Every time I hear it, I tear up because I long for this to be how I feel about myself. The song is titled Lovely. I looked up the definition of lovely and it is defined as: exquisitely beautiful; highly pleasing; having beauty that appeals to the heart and mind as well as they eyes. Below are the lyrics. May we all discover what it means for us to be LOVELY.
Lovely ~ Sara Haze
I don't wanna be her
I just wanna be little old me
I shouldn't have to think
Who am I supposed to be today
And what gave you the right
To tell me who I should be
Who gave you that right
Cuz, I feel LOVELY just the way that I am
Yes, I feel LOVELY the way that I am
I know you want the best
Yeah only good things for me
But you have to realize
I can't be all these things you project on me
Cuz I'm beautiful to me
Doesn't that mean a thing?
I feel LOVELY just the way that I am
Yes I, I feel LOVELY the way that I am
I need that to be enough for you
I need that to be enough for you
Cuz it's enough for me
It's enough for me
Am I supposed to give up everything I am
Just to make you happy?
I thought I was the one you always wanted me to be
It turns out
I'm just little old me
I'm just little old me
And that's fine by me
Cuz I, I am LOVELY just the way that I am
Oh yes I am
Yes I, I am LOVELY the way that I am
I am LOVELY, LOVELY
I am LOVELY