The Burnout On Fighting Fatphobia: An Essay On Self-Worth

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Yesterday, I was having lunch upstairs at work when my coworker started talking about the latest Victoria Secret models.

“I saw them at Fashion Week,” he said. “They’re just so beautiful. Like I think I’ve just never seen more beautiful women.”

I chewed thoughtfully for a moment and said, “They are pretty, but I think they’re a bit thin.” It was an honest opinion. They are beautiful, but to me, they’re too thin. There’s nothing wrong with their weight, but personally, I can’t relate to them, nor do I feel a pull to buy their product. I’m not thin and the lingerie they wear is never going to fit or look good on me.

He fixed me with a look of slight disdain. “I guess that depends on what you consider ‘too thin’ to be.” His eyes travelled to what I was eating, which was buffalo chicken fingers and fries, my “treat” for the week. His lip curled and he shrugged.

“I think they look gorgeous and healthy.”

I chose not to pursue the conversation, but it got me thinking. This week alone, I’ve had several confrontations on the subject of weight and beauty, both online and offline. Nearly all of them ended up with me feeling frustrated, disgusting, fat and worthless. Fighting fatphobia is really hard, and I’m aware I sound whiny, but it’s hard to be confronted daily with the ideal of thin = beauty. It’s hard to be looked up and down and silently judged for the weight I’m at.

I’ve spoken to a lot of my fellow “fatphobia warriors” and the general unspoken consensus seems to be that if you’re fighting fatphobia, you should never feel like your own body is worthless. It’s sort of a “traitor to the cause” to feel worthless or ugly. And I see why – you can’t stand up for something if you don’t believe it yourself. And in my heart, I do believe that I’m beautiful. I believe my body shape is as valid as a thin person’s body shape. I believe you can be healthy at every size.

However, I get burned out. I come home and undress to take a shower and stare at myself critically in the mirror. I wish my stomach was flatter. I wish the persistent wobbly fat on my arms would go away. It never seems to, no matter how many push ups or arm exercises I do. I wish my face was thinner, that my eyes looked bigger. And then I get lost in a shame spiral of not feeling good enough. Of seeing ugliness instead of beauty.

When you hear a consistent message, which in this case, is that fat people are ugly, unhealthy, lazy, and an inconvenience to society, you can’t help but internalize it. And then I feel ashamed that I would even give this message any airtime in my own life. Because it’s not true. I know I’m none of those things.

I’m not going to stop fighting for fat people to be considered worthy in society. I’m not going to stop thinking of myself as beautiful, or striving to see my own beauty. I want the children I influence to know that they’re beautiful, however they look. I want society to stop judging and to start feeling compassion. I want people to stop being Othered because they don’t fit the mold of what society feels is beautiful.

We aren’t worthless because we weigh more than the “average”. We aren’t necessarily lazy or self-indulgent because we’re fat. And there’s beauty there. As much as I hate my arms or my stomach, I love the beauty of my clear skin and shining hair. I love that every fat woman I know shines with beauty, because it’s not about weight. It’s about how you see yourself.

And I can say this over and over, and hope you agree with me. But the person I’m trying to convince shouldn’t be you.

The person I’m trying to convince should be me.

Guess I’m still fighting fatphobia, even though my armour is pierced and my battle scars hurt. That’s the nature of the beast.

You are worth it. I am worth it. That’s all we need to know – and that’s the front we need to present to eventually

change society’s mind.

I don't know who she is, but I think she's inspiring!

I don’t know who she is, but I think she’s inspiring!