So yesterday, I wrote about my issues with being a vegetarian, and I talked a little about my weight struggles. In a moment of great timing, I saw a link to Bombshells Against Bullying on Stacy Pershall’s Facebook page. If you don’t know who Stacy Pershall is, she’s a wonderful author and advocate for mental health awareness and destigmatization. Her book, Loud In The House of Myself, discusses her recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder, probably the most stigmatized mental illness in existence.
But I digress.
I was reading the Bombshells Against Bullying page, where various women talk about their experiences with being bullied, so I’d like to share mine.
My first memory of being bullied was on the school bus. I was maybe 5 or 6, and pudgy, as I said yesterday. An older boy from church started calling me “Pigface,” and the name followed me for years. I remember I had a beautiful pink winter coat that was fuzzy. I loved that coat. A girl my age started chanting at me, “Hey ho Eskimo, don’t you eat that yellow snow. I thought I saw a doggy go.” Of course then the, “Ew, you eat yellow snow?” followed.
There were more incidents throughout the years. I’ve been called, “Elephant,” “Fido,” and many other things. The ironic thing about this is that I was really beautiful, and yeah, I had a few pounds on me, but I wasn’t that overweight. These days, I’m heavier than I’ve ever been, but I’m also more comfortable with my body than before. Would I like to be thinner? HELL YES. Am I going to stress about it or make it the focus of my life? I’m going to try not to.
I think we all need to focus on how we function. When I was struggling with stomach problems, I changed my eating habits in a way that worked for me. It wouldn’t work for everyone, but it worked great for me. I felt better and it fit my lifestyle. I love to hike and walk and swim, and I’m able to do those things. If my weight gets in the way of what I enjoy, THEN it’s a problem. If my weight affects my health, THEN it’s a problem.
I have great eyes, and people always ask me if I dye my hair because it’s such a cool color. My strengths are what is important. If it’s not a strength, that doesn’t mean it’s a weakness. Unless I allow it to be.
I’m a whole person, not just the sum total of my parts, and if I want others to treat me that way, then I need to treat myself that way. I used to wear baggy clothes that weren’t flattering because “I didn’t care how I looked.” But that was just defense. By not taking care of my appearance, I was trying not to care.
Recently, I went into Lane Bryant, Torrid, and New York and Company with a friend who dresses great and bought clothing that flatters my shape and makes me feel good about myself. If I feel better about how I look, then I feel better in general. I want to be a good role model for others, and the best way I can do that is to be me.
And in case you’re wondering if the bullying ended when I was a kid, it did, more or less. People learned in high school that I was too hard to bully to be bothered with. I cried when I was 5, but by the time they called me “Fido” in high school, I just rolled my eyes and told them to try to be a little more creative. However… about 6 months ago, I was at a buffet with an “average weight” friend of mine, and she was teasing me about how being a vegetarian is weird and I need to eat some meat. “Screw your vegetables,” she said. A random woman said, “I agree. You tell her.” I laughed until the woman continued, “And all the vegetarians I know are fat anyway.”
I didn’t say anything back because I was stunned. My feelings weren’t really hurt, but I realize that part of the reason for that is that I’ve internalized “fat” as part of my identity. But the fact that a grown woman thought that was okay to say to a stranger just tells me how far we still need to go in the fight against bullying.
*After I finished writing this post, I came across another article, Eight Things I Learned from 50 Naked People. It relates to the topic of loving yourself, no matter your shape… I highly recommend it. My favorite quote from the article: “Your weight is the least interesting thing about you.” -Kate Bartolotta