I can’t remember the first time I actually used the word fat when referring to myself. I only know that when it started, it was really in part for attention and in part because I thought it was cool.
I am the youngest of 3 sisters…with 4 and 6 years separating us. So I spent my youth surrounded by older girls and wanting so desperately to be a part of that world. Uninvited, I listened intently to their conversations (probably with my ears that once upon a time my dad described as being able to hear a mouse fart 1,000 miles away), and I began to mimic.
By 8th grade, I was full blown using the F word (well actually – I was probably using both F words by that time, let’s be honest), and it was getting me a good bit of affirmation and attention from boys. Let’s just say it was a temporary boost to my confidence and because of this, I continued. But by my freshman year in high school, it stop being a word and starting becoming a feeling, a state of mind, a huge black cloud of doubt always weighing on my mind.
Fast forward to college and every time I went out, I struggled with what to wear to look smaller. Every time I met a new girl, I looked her up and down, took her in, and then began to mentally point out all of the traits she had that I didn’t. But to cover this up, I started openly making fun of myself. I’m freaking great at this, and not only did it make my feelings a little less intense, it was also a way that I felt safe. Calling out my own flaws and laughing at them before anyone else could. Felt kind of genius. In fact, my favorite trick was to pull my best friend into a bathroom at a bar or a party when we had participated in the drinking of WAY too many cocktails, pull up my shirt, and shove my fat rolls over the edge of my pants as forcefully as I could…making it look well, just horribly wrong. I had a belly button ring at the time (we can cover my awesome decision making skills another day), so after I did my best impression of Chris Farley’s stomach, I would ask her if she liked my belly button ring. And we would laugh so hard that we had tears. You should also know that I still send her photos of this today since we don’t live close enough for her to see this goodness in person. I’m sure she is super grateful.
As an adult, it bled into a million different pieces of self doubt, holding me back from feeling happy, or loved, or confident in my ability to succeed or to make friends. It was like an invisible cloak of shame wrapped around me for every occasion. I even went through a phase where I refused to smile with my teeth in photos because it made my face look fatter, and I was fully prepared to be penalized for unnecessary roughness (I suck at football so am hoping I actually used this correctly!) when someone posted a photo of me that I had not scoured over and decided was acceptable. If you are thinking this is absolutely ridiculous, you are right. And Amen!
Do you know what made me start my very long, still in-process journey of breaking up with the F word (the fat one because the other, well that is a staple)? Stepping out of my comfort zone. Finding new friends that pushed me to do things I never thought I would or could. Friends who helped me see a stronger, braver, more beautiful side of me. And it set a fire inside of me to just live my damn life. To REALLY see myself for who I am and what I am – which is a person whose laugh is contagious, whose honesty can be a bit hard to get used to (let’s face it, there are lots of awkward moments) but nonetheless is a breath of fresh air, whose heart bleeds for others, whose intentions are almost always good. Whose faith in God and the goodness of people is unwavering. And you know what? I love that person…with or without her badass Chris Farley belly button ring.