Recently I’ve been struggling a lot with body image, which is something that is hard for me to admit as I strive to always be a good fat positive activist. It started slowly, and then the hatred I felt for myself quickly grew and grew until one day I almost couldn’t make it home because I’d barely eaten for days, and even though I knew what I was doing wasn’t healthy, I was congratulating myself on having lost 7 lbs that week.
The pressures I feel about my body and my life in general have changed drastically since graduating and starting my life in Japan. I left a wonderful, supportive doctor, and am instead seeing one who felt losing 2 lbs in 2 weeks wasn’t a good enough start and doesn’t believe that I walk 5 miles a day because it must be impossible for someone to be fit and fat. It was difficult for me to find clothes in the US, and while I knew it would be nearly impossible for me to find clothes here, it’s still frustrating, and all of the clothes I do have are quickly wearing out from my subjecting them to all kinds of weather conditions and activities. And really the biggest struggle I’ve faced has just been the everyday people in my life. While before I was surrounded by extremely supportive and positive people who appreciated me and my efforts as a body activist, I have had to deal with many people here, usually other foreigners, who openly and indirectly criticize my body.
Compounding all of that is an insane pressure to be in a relationship. Apparently I am wearing a sign that says “Please ask me why I don’t have a significant other” because everyone, from my students to taxi drivers, seems to want to know why I’m single. And that itself is something that I internalize and blame on my body. It’s so easy to say “I’m single because I’m fat and unattractive” instead of owning up to more complicated reasons like I’m too self-centered to maintain meaningful long-term relationships with other people, I don’t trust anyone, and maybe I just want to focus on other things.
All of these thoughts and pieces of conversation kept floating through my head until suddenly I realized I didn’t like myself anymore and I wasn’t sure what to do about it because, as a fat person, wasn’t not liking myself the right thing to do? Is that not what it means to be a woman with a body?
I realized that all of this was coming from a place of fear. I’m afraid of never being happy and I’m afraid of never fully being able to love myself, but I need to stop living my life in a place of fear. Sometimes I think everything I’ve done in my life has been because I’m afraid, that all of my successes have been because I’m afraid of failure, not because I want to achieve. I don’t want to feel that way anymore.
Learning to love yourself isn’t a class that you can pass and forget after the final exam, it’s a commitment to your self-worth that you have to make every single day because you believe you deserve to be loved. There are good days and bad days, but I’d like to believe it makes you better in the end.
I posted that on Facebook a few weeks ago when I realized I was falling into a negative body image spiral and wanted to get out. It’s true that learning to love yourself is an every day commitment, and I’d like to add that it’s the kind of commitment that is made deeper by failing and deciding to try again.
Earlier this week I was able to meet an inspiration of mine, Mary Lambert, at her first ever show in Japan.
I think what I got the most from listening to her perform and talking to her briefly afterwards was the importance of being kind. Not just to others, but to ourselves. I must learn to treat myself gently because no one else has an obligation to do so.
So I don’t have any answers for you today. I’m not sure how to learn to completely love yourself. I’m not sure how to lose weight from a place of happiness instead of a place of disgust. I’m not sure how to love my body while still trying to change it.
Also, though, I’m not sure what I’m going to eat for lunch tomorrow so maybe the only answer for now is to do it the way we do everything else: one step at a time.