Tag Archives: acceptance

Channeling Amy Schumer’s Boldness

I’ve heard a lot of talk recently that some women feel part of the reason why women are encouraged to be thin is so that they are “diminished.” As Amy Schumer said in her recent interview in Glamour Magazine: “For women, we’re taught to eat less until we disappear. And trained to believe that if you don’t look like everyone else, then you’re unlovable.” Man, that’s harsh.

via Glamour.com

via Glamour.com

But sadly, so true. Growing up, I always felt I stood out as the chubby one. I shrank myself behind prettier, thinner friends, letting them shine in the spotlight because I didn’t think I was supposed to do so. I didn’t date much at all, honestly believing that guys wouldn’t be interested in me because of my size.

It took time, way too long, in fact, for me to realize that I am allowed to shine. I am lovable, no matter what I weigh. I had kind, supportive people in my life who helped show me that. And I learned a lot just by growing into my own skin and accepting myself for who I am.

It’s still a work in progress, don’t get me wrong. I am not always fearless or full of confidence, that’s for sure. In the past five or six years, working on my health has helped me become more confident. And it is not because I am trying to shrink myself or fade into the background. It’s not to succumb to society’s narrow definition of what is beautiful.

Instead I am finding strength in my own physical and mental strength. I am finding it in the motivation to work out, the energy I get from eating healthy foods and drinking a lot of water. I feel good when I can handle a hard spinning class or run 3 miles.

Working on my health has helped me feel good about myself, but strong women like Amy, Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey and many others have also helped me learn how I want to present myself to the world. I’m learning that you have to want to work on these things for yourself, not to meet someone else’s standards.

Getting healthy or maintaining your health isn’t about size. At least not for me. And it’s certainly not about being small so that I’m not a burden on anyone — God forbid my presence is a nuisance simply by being a woman and being a plus-size woman at that. To that, I emphatically say: Fuck you! (Amy inspires me to curse, too.)

Being comfortable in my own skin is all about me. It’s all about being the person I want to be for my husband, my family, my friends, and myself. And there’s a lot of boldness in recognizing that!

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Learning To Be My Own Best Friend

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I love to eat lunch alone. I choose the restaurant, the dish I want to eat, my beverage, and I settle in with an episode of “Reign” on Netflix or a chapter of Outlander. I take time when needed to make to-do lists, send and read emails, work on freelance assignments. It’s my quiet time to do what I want and take a breather from a usually hectic day.

I wasn’t always so comfortable eating alone, however. In fact, I wasn’t always comfortable being alone, period. Throughout my childhood I moved from one state to another, the daughter of an Air Force captain. My only friend, in many instances, was my sister, Karen. I had a bad habit of first befriending girls at my new school who were intrigued by the new person, but swiftly excluded me once my “newness” wore off. It would take time to discover my real friends and bond with them.

I went to a college where I knew no one, and that cycle repeated itself. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I really felt I belonged at Penn State. And, although I moved home after college and hung out often with high school friends who remain my friends to this day, I worked at a job that required me to grow comfortable with being alone. As a newspaper reporter, I traveled to assignments by myself, killing time before evening zoning board and school board meetings by eating on my own, reading books. I bought so many copies of Chick Lit back then, I’m not sure I ever read anything of much worth! I also liked to shop; the bustle of the stores made it seem less lonely.

It was when I moved away to grad school in Chicago that I really felt I was OK with being on my own. Though Penn State was five hours from my parents in New Jersey, Northwestern was really far away. Again, I was at a school and in a city where I knew no one. I was lucky to form a fast friendship with my roommate, but there were lots of times of riding the El by myself, walking around Evanston or downtown, exploring. It was there that a lot of the insecurities surfaced, keeping me in a shell, a shell I don’t think anyone knew of because on the outside I’m pretty extroverted. But the thought of rejection, the idea of dating, of finally tackling issues like self-esteem and confidence and body image — those were buried down deep. I was OK with being alone — but I was not OK with me.

But I finally started breaking out of that shell while at Northwestern. Assessing where I really wanted to go professionally. What I really wanted out of life. I even started dating.

Then, during an internship in London, I felt I really broke free. I worked at a fashion magazine, despite my hesitation at being the heaviest woman on staff. At being probably not as fashionable as I would like. At being a small fish in a really, really big city. But I did whatever I was asked to do, and with gusto. I explored every inch of this city that I had loved from afar for many, many years. I was grateful to be there with my grad school roommate, though we lived separately and had different days off. It was nice knowing I wasn’t completely alone across the pond. But it afforded me enough freedom to explore as I wanted to. As I needed to.

I came home from that internship nervous to begin again in another new place — Birmingham, Ala. — but ready, too. Ready to fully begin my publishing career. Ready to continue breaking out of that shell and continue discovering who I am.

Since my move to Birmingham, I can truly say that I’ve become my own best friend in a lot of ways. I stopped being so shy about dating and eventually met my husband. I stopped worrying about surrounding myself with friends constantly and grew to like my own solitude at times. To actually choose to stay in on a Friday night and be happy with that choice. And I grew to become comfortable with what I need from other people. I learned that I don’t need them to feel fulfilled, but their presence simply makes me happy.

I’ve had ups and downs since I moved here. I’ve lost my job, and had to steel myself against feeling like a failure. I started new jobs, learning to navigate new workplaces. Over and over again, through tears and anger, I’ve had to motivate myself to try again. Try harder. At love. At my career. At being OK with myself.

And that’s where I still have work to do. While I may be OK with depending on my own friendship, I’m still not always my best cheerleader. I still look to others for validation. And whereas I can give pep talks to my friends, tell them how wonderful they are — especially when they doubt their looks or their body image or their abilities — I still have a hard time doing that for myself. I try to talk myself up on the inside. I list my good qualities. I list the reasons why I’m worthy, why I’m good at what I do or what makes me special. But many times it feels as though it’s pretend. I’m going through what I’m “supposed” to say, but not really believing it.

This is where being your own best friend is hard. Because we can also be our own worst enemy. It’s a battle that must be fought, though, for true acceptance of yourself. To love yourself fully. So, this journey that has taken me many places is still a road I’m traveling down. But at least I can hold my own hand now and notice when I’m not being kind to myself. And I can give myself a stern talking to. And learn to be my own best friend.

The Confidence To Be Curvy {Even If You Want To Lose Weight}

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be healthy — about society’s definition of health, the medical community’s definition, my own personal definition. And then the other day I came across an older post by CeCe on her blog Plus Size Princess. She had to defend her use of the phrase “weight loss” because while she promotes body positivity, she also promotes working out and eating foods that are good for you through her PSPfit program.

I actually felt bad for CeCe because, as someone who also wants to stand up for having a healthy body image, I am working on losing weight and trying to work out regularly and eat healthfully. I don’t understand why we have to choose between one or the other. It’s like you get backlash from people who think the only way to be healthy is to be thin, yet you also get women who are happy being curvier who don’t want you to promote weight loss.

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Here’s the thing: We all just need to learn to be supportive of each individual’s feelings about his or her own body. Period.

If you are heavier and you want to rock your body in whatever fashions you love and you don’t really worry about going to the gym, that is your prerogative!

And, if you’re like me and you want to be comfortable in your own skin at any size, while feeling good about eating healthfully and getting your sweat on, go for it!

I don’t want anyone to ever think that I am not OK with their life choices based on whatever size they currently are, or the size they want to be. And I would hope that others wouldn’t judge me on that either.

I want to lift others up — I want to lift my own self-esteem up — no matter how much I weigh. But, if we’re really being honest here, I will tell you that I’m not truly happy with myself at my current weight. However, while I may feel happy when I lose 20 or 30 pounds, that’s still not technically a weight that most of society would deem a good goal. But my definition of happiness is my own.

The fact is, my health, and anyone’s health, is a personal choice and, I believe, something to be discussed with your own doctor. I do believe that regular movement — whether it’s simply walking or more strenuous workouts (your choice!) — is healthy. And I do believe that certain foods are obviously more nourishing for our bodies and some foods should be eaten only in moderation. But that is my definition of health. And if that definition awards me good sugar levels, cholesterol numbers, blood pressure and the ability to live life to the fullest (which, thankfully, so far it has!), then that, in my book, is success.

As CeCe said in her post: “I finally understand that the most valuable results I can strive for are health related, not scale related.” That is definitely something I am working on, and I hope I can fully feel that way one day, too.

Whether or not I lose the 20-30 pounds that I’d like to lose, and then reevaluate where I want to be, I still want to be happy with my body and the things it affords me to do in the meantime. I still want to love myself and strut confidently in my favorite outfits.

We all deserve to feel that way — and we shouldn’t judge each other based on size or shape or skin color or hairstyle — we should just applaud one another for feeling good and doing good.

So go out there, be who you are, and do it confidently. And to CeCe — keep doing you!

Embrace Your Evolution

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Last night I attended a roundtable discussion with See Jane Write with local women looking to work on their blogs and businesses. The question our leader Javacia asked us to consider was: What is our biggest frustration regarding blogging, writing or entrepreneurship?

My frustration was feeling unfocused and uncertain that I was taking my blog in the direction I wanted it to go, and that my readers would want it to go. Thankfully, I left the event feeling inspired and confident. I still feel like I’m just starting out when it comes to blogging as I haven’t yet turned it into a real business. But I have been writing here for several years, and while I do sometimes feel that the topics I write about are disjointed, the women I met with last night assured me that’s not the case.

In my heart, I know this is true. I know that I write here to guide myself toward self-acceptance, toward a stronger self-esteem and more confidence. I am hoping that I inspire others to feel the same about themselves, too. I do this by exploring my own quest to be healthier, to find a happy balance between working out, eating healthfully and living a full life. I examine my love for fashion, my desire to express myself through my own style. And I work on my own feelings about my body and hopefully promote an attitude of self-love and body positivity.

All of these things, in my mind, equal a stellar life. They all come together to help me, hopefully, become a better person and challenge others to do the same.

One woman at the event last night told me she felt that, through my blog, I am peeling back my layers, sharing them with others and learning from that connection. She encouraged me to “embrace my evolution.”

Those words stuck with me, and I’m sharing them with you today to encourage you to do the same. Embrace your journey. Embrace your ups and downs, joys and pains. Peel back your layers and share them with your loved ones. Embrace who you are and who you are becoming.

Ban The ‘Fat Talk’

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On Sunday, I posted an article from The New York Times on my Facebook page called “The Problem With ‘Fat Talk.'” The author, Renee Engeln, a psychologist and professor at Northwestern University, says that studies have shown that fat talk “was linked with body shame, body dissatisfaction and eating-disordered behavior.”

While this is something many of us have known for a while, that and that fat talk rarely helps anyone lose weight, studies have also shown that fat talk doesn’t only harm the person doing the fat talking, but it’s “contagious.”

“We can’t control a lot of things in this world. We can’t stop advertisers from Photoshopping images. We can’t stop the fashion industry from preferring skinny models. But we can control the words that are coming out of our own mouths. And when women question whether their bodies are good enough, they may well be causing other women to do the same.”

When I read this, it really spoke to me. Sadly, I have been the one doing the fat talking on occasion, though it’s something I am really trying to stop. I know that it doesn’t do my self-esteem any good to comment out loud that I don’t like my body … it doesn’t do any good to say it internally, either.

But to know that I may cause other women around me to think poorly about themselves, or to join in the damaging fat talk, that makes me want to think twice before speaking.

And it’s because I know how they feel. I have been around plenty of women who say things like, “I’m fat.” Or “this shirt makes my stomach look huge.” You’ve all heard the comments. And how did they make you feel?

I’ll tell you how they made me feel — badly about myself. I would automatically either chime in with something like, “You look great, but these jeans give me a definite muffin top.” Or internally I would compare myself to that woman and think, “If SHE feels fat, what does that make me?” I’d wonder how someone so thin or fit could call themselves fat — as if being fat is the absolute worst thing in the world — when I am so obviously overweight.

All this kind of talk does is make us question ourselves and society’s ideas of how we’re “supposed” to look. I think women often think they’re deflecting attention, or maybe they’re fishing for compliments … or maybe they really do have a disillusioned idea about their own bodies.

Not only is that not good for themselves, but it’s also bad for everyone around them.

Learning not to talk about ourselves this way is hard, some would say impossible, especially when we’ve been bombarded with images and opinions about the “perfect” female figure since we were children. When we’ve been taught for so long that only certain body types are the acceptable body types, we, of course, are going to question our own bodies and, most likely, make disparaging comments about them.

We have to start banning the fat talk, and it has to start with not just the words that come out of our mouths, as the author of the article says, but also with the words we allow to bounce around our heads.

When we start to think negatively toward our own bodies, we must stop ourselves and replace those thoughts with things we do like. We must rely on a list of the positive attributes about ourselves to build up our self-esteem to the point that those negative thoughts never enter our minds.

And when those thoughts don’t enter our minds, they won’t be on our lips. And we won’t cause other women to think negatively about themselves, too.

Look At Yourself Through New Eyes

Yesterday I posted a selfie on Instagram after waking up, sans makeup, hair tousled.

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I felt others may share in these same feelings as I have been experiencing lately, and may also need to examine how they view themselves. So often we let the stresses of life — work, finances, family — cloud our minds and then seep into how we think about ourselves. We place too much blame on ourselves, especially over things we can’t control, and then that negativity can start to cloud how we feel about our looks, our bodies, our self-worth.

I decided yesterday morning that I needed to change my tune. I know I am strong and worth so much more than I often give myself credit for. I need to start owning that and stop chipping away at it with self-doubt.

Do you ever feel this way? Do you ever let those negative voices creep in?

It’s so easy to let those voices run rampant. But I think there’s a couple of ways we can start seeing ourselves through positive eyes:

1. Write down your attributes. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but whether it’s in a journal or the notepad app on your phone, write down a list of things you like about yourself and review it whenever you need a reminder.

2. Enlist the help of a friend. No on likes to fish for compliments but we all feel doubt sometimes, so a close friend will understand your need for a pep talk. Make sure you return the favor when he or she needs it!

3. Repeat a positive mantra. Think of a phrase or search for a quote that makes you feel good about yourself. When you’re feeling stress and starting to beat yourself up, use this mantra and deep breathing to bring yourself back to a place of self-love.

What would your mantra be? And share some of your attributes with me in the comments!

It’s Not Us vs. Them: Why Skinny & Heavy Women Should Get Along

I’m the first to admit it: I’ve been envious of skinny girls.

Growing up, they seemed to always have it easy. They had plenty of boyfriends, no trouble finding and looking good in fashionable clothes. They got picked easily for sports teams and just seemed to walk around feeling, literally, lighter on their feet.

What I could never understand is why my skinny friends would say things like, “I’m not pretty.” Or “I feel fat today.” Or “This outfit looks terrible on me.”

To me, they looked great! Better than great. They had the type of body I thought I was supposed to have. And I was jealous.

What I realize now is we really do have the same struggles. No matter what you weigh or what you look like, it seems we are taught to obsess over something different. We as a society are never OK with how we look or who we are. We’re always wanting to change, to be thinner, to be curvier, to be brunette or blonde or tanner or lighter skinned.

Sadly, we are not supposed to just be who we were born to be.

And this is as true for skinny women as it is for heavier women … and I’m not going to put parameters on what is “skinny” and what is “heavy.” That’s for you to decide for yourself.

Because really, I was just fine growing up. There was nothing wrong with me. In fact, though I do work on my fitness and weight-loss is a goal of mine, there is nothing wrong with me. There never has been.

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And there’s never been anything wrong with girls who are naturally skinny. It’s so easy sometimes for us to judge others. I know I’ve said things like, “She needs to eat a cheeseburger.” Just like I’m sure others have said about me that “She needs to eat a salad.”

The fact that we say these things, or think these things, about other women who we consider “too thin” or “too fat” just goes to show how alike we are. And not in our body types or hair type or skin color or eye color — because how boring would that be?

But in the way we think. The way society has trained us to think. We have the same insecurities, the same lack of confidence, the same doubts and fears. And we all judge each other’s weaknesses.

What we need to do, especially as women, is celebrate each other’s strengths. Is hold up each other’s differences. We need to accept one another, as we are, for who we are.

photo 2 (10) If we can start to do that as individuals, my hope is that society will begin to change, too. It will be wrong to judge someone as too heavy or too skinny. We will just accept the bodies we have, and others have, even if that person is striving to be healthier or stronger. Because then it won’t be about fitting someone else’s idea of what’s “right.” It will just be about what’s right for ourselves.