By Michelle Lewis
Confession: I used to be really mean to this one fat girl. In fact, I actually said some incredibly cruel and hateful things to her and about her. Some of my friends would try and defend her, but I was relentless in bullying her. I thought she was disgusting, and I hated her! I even made her cry almost every day, for several years. Looking back, I can see that I was horrible to her and I wish I could take it all back.
Guess what? That fat girl is me.
This isn’t an apology, but I wasn’t always this size. In fact, for most of my life I was slim, athletic, and for a while even super-skinny. Am I in a bigger body now than I used to be? Yes. And while I may be a “fat girl” the difference now is that I no longer think of this as a bad thing.
I don’t hate myself, or hate my body. On the contrary! I’ve learned to have deep love and compassion for myself, and it’s been completely life-changing.
I’m even reclaiming the term “fat” and taking the power away from it to hurt or shame me. It’s filled me with a passion to share the message of delicious, juicy, body-positive self-love with others, especially girls and women who feel that they are somehow “less than” because of their size and rebel HARD against the multi-billion-dollar beauty and diet industries’ ever-changing, overly-critical, narrow-minded standards.
I grew up a skinny girl – some would say scrawny – and I dreamed of growing up and having gorgeous, Marilyn Monroe curves someday.
My girlfriends and I were obsessed with reading glossy magazines like Seventeen, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan.
“Oh, her body is soooo perfect!” we’d ooh and ahh, then promptly proceed to pick apart and harshly criticize our own woefully inadequate pre-teen frames.
“At least you’re skinny!” my bigger-bodied friends would tell me, like it was the ultimate prize to obtain.
Seeing a constant parade of “perfect” bodies on TV and in magazines and hearing from older kids and adults what body types and shapes were “good” and which were “bad” – I suspect this is when my own fat bias and self-hatred/body shaming started to take root.
Oh, my goodness – if I could have Present Day Michelle go back in time to talk with Preteen Michelle…
By the time I reached high school, I had filled out a little and had a well-proportioned, strong, athletic body. Still no Marilyn, but I looked at lot more like a shapely young woman and less like a broomstick.
Fellow students were merciless to the girls who didn’t fit the thin, cheerleader ideal, and if you were even a little overweight you were scrutinized. Heaven forbid if you were fat, because it was a guarantee that you’d be the punch line.
You were an all-too-easy target for being teased in the hallway, at lunch break, in gym class. Sadly, this bad behavior wasn’t just coming from classmates; there were more than a few teachers who teased or outright bullied boys and girls with bigger bodies.
Even though I considered myself to be a good person and generally would stick up for anyone being bullied, I’m sure that even I said some things I’d like to take back about girls (and boys) I didn’t even know.
A few years went by, and a few more body changes took place. I had a baby! I grew boobs! My hips became soft and curvy!
My 20’s were actually massive in terms of how my negative self-image played out. It was the time when I really started hating my body. My inner dialogue was constant criticism, and the pain I was causing myself got to be too much. I got heavily into drugs and drinking, I became part of the XXX world, and I found myself in and out of terrible, abusive relationships.
I didn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t see it at the time, but now I realize it all just fed my self-hatred and catered to my old belief that I wasn’t good enough to deserve better. Better from the people in my life. Better from myself.
It took nearly a decade, a failed suicide attempt, and a divine intervention to start waking me up, but with the help of some good friends and a budding new faith in a Higher Power, I did start to wake up, clean up, and put the pieces of my life back together.
Fast-forward another TWO DECADES. More body changes, more life changes. Heartbreak, loss. Empathy and compassion for others. Life, death, renewal. Faith and belief systems shifting, evolving.
I’m now a woman in my 50’s (WHAT? Yes.) and I can honestly say that this current stage of my life has been nothing short of amazing.
I’ve spent the last year being open to receiving goodness, instead of deflecting it, and it’s made all the difference. I certainly haven’t figured everything out, thankfully, but I have learned to lean in to life as it comes. I have my struggles, for sure, but I’ve learned to look at my body most days with gratitude, instead of disgust. I’ve learned to speak to myself and about myself with kindness instead of criticism. It’s a total transformation.
Nowadays I spend my time writing and creating ways to share inspiration with the world around me, and I couldn’t be happier. I wrote and published a couple of ebooks on Amazon: The Blessings Butterfly and The Blessings Butterfly Companion Guide.
I donate a portion of the proceeds from book sales to support a women’s empowerment project for AIDS widows in Kenya. I have a wee little blog over on my website, www.theblessingsbutterfly.com, where I share as much positivity as I can.
I created The Cocoon – Empowered Transformation, an online holistic health & wellness program for people in bigger bodies, and I’m currently enrolled in the Yoga For All teacher training. I’m constantly inspired by the body-positive community and such trailblazers as bigger bodied beauties Dianne Bondy, Amber Karnes, Dana Falsetti, so many others.
Every day, I look for opportunities to pour Love into people, to share a word of encouragement, and to empower others. I recently posted this in one of my private Facebook groups, and it clearly touched something deep within that group that I think speaks to a larger audience:
6.13.16- “LOVES!!! The size and shape of our bodies is not what is most important. The size and shape of our hearts, our minds, and our attitudes is everything! Sending out so much love and light to all in this Challenge, and a reminder that WE’VE GOT THIS. ❤
You’re already beautiful.”
Finally, miraculously, magically – I’m finding myself in a place of giving and receiving true Love. By learning that it’s not only okay, but necessary to love myself exactly as I am, I can reflect and shine with unselfish Love for others in a perfect, unending circle.
It’s NOT about hating someone because they look different. It’s NOT about hating yourself. It’s about seeing ourselves in each other, and having deep love and compassion for each other.
I Am You. You Are Me.
We may come in different wrappers, but we are the same. And we are ALL worthy & deserving of good things.
YES! Whatever size you wear, whatever your body type, whatever color your skin, whatever your age:
You Are Perfect, You Are Beautiful, and You Are Worthy.
Michelle Lewis is an award-winning writer, speaker, women’s empowerment and body-positive advocate. She is the creator & founder of The Blessings Butterfly, a holistic health and wellness website that is dedicated to encouraging, inspiring, and empowering people to live a life that they love and love the body they live in.
Michelle is the author of The Blessings Butterfly and The Blessings Butterfly Companion Guide, both currently available as digital books on Amazon for Kindle. She is addicted to traveling the world, and lives in Southern California. Michelle can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on her blog at www.theblessingsbutterfly.com.