I have a friend who is fat. I gave her the label of friend and she labels herself as fat. She literally labels each picture of herself as fat and posts them on social media sites. This week another friend asked her why she always labels herself as fat. The following was her response:
“I tag my pictures as fat, because I am fat! I know a lot of people see that word as a negative description - but I don’t. It’s just descriptive, I have excess fat on my frame - that’s all that word means. It took a lot for me to start using that word for myself, and it did feel uncomfortable because like most people who grew up in today’s society, I used to synonymize fat with bad, lazy, stupid, ugly, lacking self control and be pretty much as the worst thing you could possibly be. I decided a year ago that I get to decide what fat means and fat means me! When I stopped viewing it as an insult, it also helped me deal with those who would try to use it against me. For example a jerk muttering “fatty” under their breath as I walked by used to really hurt my self-esteem and throw off my whole day or even week. I didn’t like that a three letter word had the power to change my entire demeanor. Now if someone calls me fat I can just be like totally, and never miss a beat. Also have you ever tracked the fat label? It’s real depressing, lots of ‘thinspo’ images, self harm, lots of body dysmorphia and hate. So I figure if I put my fat happy face in there all the time, maybe one girl will see someone who is happy to be fat, and it will start a chain reaction towards body positivity for them as well.”
I can imagine some people reading my friend’s words and not agreeing. I had a medically obese friend who had gastric bypass done and she died from complications from the surgery. I think about her often. I wonder if she had better self-esteem and empowered the word “fat” would she still be here today. After years of low self-esteem and letting the word fat hurt her, her weight became medically dangerous. I don’t think she had enough strength mentally to try to become more healthy. Just like my friend, one negative comment or look could derail her whole day. I think she let society’s view of her beat her spirit down so much, she had no fight left.
I am a thin person and I have self esteem issues. They are not extreme but they are there camouflaged when I am in public. I have to be honest, I don’t have the most positive self image. While it is easy for me to talk about my both of my friends’ journeys, I find it hard to open up about my own. I don’t even think I realized how bad my body self-esteem issue was until I edited this column. I hope this story helps you as it has helped me on my journey to have a more positive body outlook.
I have a cousin who has visible scars on her arms. I once asked her how can she have such a good body image. She told me a story. Her niece looked at her arms and saw the patterned scars and said, “One day, I want to have spots just like you.” My cousin told me from that day on she wasn’t going to have issues with her scars and she doesn’t.
My friend who inspired this story told me body positivity is all about accepting and loving the body you have right now and what it can do for you. It wasn’t just about weight. Everyone should be positive about their bodies, including bodies missing two limbs, missing four limbs, bald, scarred, aging, skin discoloration disorders, bodies with cancer, and all bodies period.
After I read my friend’s comment, I liked her even more. I agree with taking power away from words. Words are negative because we allow them to be negative. I think the next time someone tries to use a word to insult you, I would like you to think about my friend.
© 2013, MaLu Bradford Beyonce, All Rights Reserved.
You may reach MaLu Bradford Beyonce at firstname.lastname@example.org.