I’ve learned that someone else’s opinion of my body doesn’t matter.
A not-so-big-but-big thing happened to me a few nights ago, and it changed the way I relate to my own self-esteem.
On Tuesdays and Thursday at 10:15 p.m. EDT, I host a show on YourTango’s Facebook page.
It’s called Becca After Dark, and during the show, I use my experience as a sex and relationship writer to give people advice on pressing issues like, “Can a dildo get stuck in my anus,” and “Is my husband cheating on me with his own cousin?”
I love the show. I’m proud of it. I feel exceptionally grateful to have built a community where people know they can come and ask anything about sex, love, and dating, and not have to worry that they will be judged.
It’s not, however, always an easy gig. Usually, my boyfriend acts as my producer, scrolling through the comments to send questions my way.
We started doing this because if you’re a woman and you put your face on the internet and invite people to comment, they will — and not all of those comments will be kind. It can be hard on your self-esteem, and that’s putting it mildly.
I try to rise above the trolls, and when I can’t, I acknowledge I can’t, turn the responsibility over to Rob, my protector in order to keep my confidence intact.
Last week, Rob wasn’t able to be there to help with the show. I knew that would mean facing a lot of negative, trollish comments, but I swore I wouldn’t let it bother me.
The show started well and people were excited to be there. For every question asked, I felt like I gave a helpful answer, and the community chimed in with thoughts of their own.
Then, a troll joined us. He wrote four words that he was sure would annihilate me.
“You are so fat.”
After reading it, I took a sharp breath, waiting for the knife stab of pain that usually follows being on the receiving end of those kinds of puerile jabs.
But it didn’t come.
In a flash, I traveled through every other time in my life someone called me fat, kindly or unkindly and made me question my body image.
There was the pediatrician who explained what BMI was to me at the age of 9. “You’re obese,” she said.
There was that group of teenage boys on the subway who said, “You fat c*nt,” when I told them to stop throwing candy at an old woman.
“You fat bitch,” from the guy at the bar when I told him I had a boyfriend.
“You’re fat, but your face is beautiful,” from a man at a party who never even told me his name.
Something about this fat-calling was different.
It didn’t bother me.
It was meant as an insult, as if “fat” was the worst thing I could be. He said, “You’re fat,” and what he meant was, “You are undesirable. You’re ugly. You are not a person who deserves love.”
That’s how he meant it, but for the first time, that’s how not how I heard it.
Instead, I heard it for what it was: It was a statement of fact. I AM fat.
“You’re right,” I said, after reading his comment aloud. “I weigh over 200 pounds. I say I am fat in my Twitter bio. I am fat. That’s true.”
Then I moved on to the next question because guess what?
There was nothing more to say.
I am fat, yes. I am also a woman. I am also near-sighted. I also have light-colored hair and eyes.
None of these things make me a better or worse person. They are just adjectives, a description of the physical, and the physical is only an inch of what makes up my entire self.
I am fat, but I’m also smart and kind and funny and a million other things.
Fat is my shape. It’s not good or bad. It’s a single part of the greater whole.
His comment didn’t sting the way he intended it to. In fact, it lifted me up. Yes: I am fat. That is a fact and that’s all it is.
Is it good or right or fair that we live in a world where people think it’s okay to belittle you because of how you look? Absolutely not.
But I can’t change those people. I can only change myself.
And I refuse to feel “less than” because some man behind a computer gets his rocks off trying to shred my self-esteem for the size of pants I wear.
In every instance where someone has called me fat, they are compelled to lash out at me not because of my size, but because I am speaking up.
I am protecting an old woman. I am rejecting a man’s offer of sex. I am speaking up about injustice and sexism.
That’s what’s really got them mad, but they can’t say that.
So what do they say instead?
But from here on out, every time someone tells me I’m fat, I am going to respond this way:
“Yes, I am fat. I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not shutting up.”
And you should too. Because your self-confidence shouldn’t come from anyone else’s opinion of your body.
Featured image via tumblr.com.
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