I have been big my entire life- I remember as a child being called “big boned” or “extra curvy” as if the people commenting on body I lived in believed that the extra body fat I carried would go away if they used different words. In high school I hid behind baggy shirts and jeans, hiding my body away from others’ eyes because I was afraid of what they would say or think. I was so tired of my internalized critiques that stemmed from feedback about my body… this sack of bones and nerves and tissue and muscle -and yes, fat- that I tried to make it as invisible as possible. I thought that if I stopped hearing opinions about it, my shame of my body would go away too.
Memories of my teenage years include so many well-wishing friends and loved ones spouting the cliché “guys get better in college” as if all the sudden boys would wake up from their media-fueled lust for “skinny girls” and love me despite my body- as if receiving attention or love from a man would make my body more acceptable. I have a secret, though- even when I was more insecure I was receiving attention from the male species (and female too, in some cases)- before I fell in love with my body. I had people that were dying to show me how lovable they thought my body was, and I made excuses as to why they were wrong, or how they must be desperate to try getting with me, or even that they were just trying to use/hurt/play with me and my emotions. When I look back at all the years of love and opening my heart I missed out on because I refused to get out of my own way, my heart breaks a little- and I refuse to continue that trend.
It was only when I started viewing my body as a tool that I started really loving it. The summer after high school, I became a camp counselor with Girl Scouts; suddenly my lifestyle included many miles of hiking daily and eating food that was not only delicious, but also fuel. I still had fat, but I knew that my body was capable of things I wouldn’t have tried before. It was with that knowledge that I headed into college. I wasn’t ready to fully embrace my body, but I was well on my way- the seed of self love was planted.
It took a few years, and many tests of my new found comfort in my body to really and truly fall in love with my entire package. In that time, I have discovered new ways to use my body, new ways to share it with others, but most of all… I’ve realized that loving myself is a process. There will be days when I feel fat, or tired, or ugly, or whatever. It’s part of being human- I’ve also found ways to help cope with the days that my insecurities about my body try to creep in- things like eating a healthy meal or taking my dogs for a walk. Fearless self love includes being nice to myself, even when I don’t feel worthy.