My youth was influenced by two polar extremes. One side was convinced that fat wasn't beautiful, and the other said that being fat does not determine a person's overall beauty.
I always believed that I was beautiful because there were kind people telling me so. For example, my grandma told me I was gorgeous all the time. If she thought I was beautiful, then who am I to argue? I believed her because I agreed. I looked in the mirror and thought I was cute creature. But my opinion was VERY outnumbered when I interacted with the fat phobic folk (say that 10x fast).
The opposite of my grandma is my aunt. While grandma always had a mouthful of compliments, my aunt was laser-focused to point out every single flaw she could find. She was right that fat was unhealthy, but suggesting I am a loser for not having lost weight so that I could be married by 18... well, I could have done without that opinion. She would mask her venomous words by insisting she was just "being honest".
The happy ending to that scenario is that I now understand that I get to decide which opinions to agree with. Honestly, no, I don't agree that being thin and married by 18 would have brought me happiness. Especially considering the source; this woman was married young and it ended in divorce. So, I choose not to agree with her opinions on relationships. But as a child I did not know how to stand up for myself, so I did believe her opinions for a long time.
These women helped shape me into the woman I am now. I got to see how different people can be, and how a negative mindset can be just as toxic as drinking bleach. Living in a hole where I only focus on my negative attributes isn't going to help me because I wasn't self-reinforcing anything positive. The negative tapes played over and over in my head and only when my grandma chimed in would I feel some glimmer of hope that maybe it's okay to be my own person and do things a different way than I have been so far. Change is inevitable, right? So, my thought was that maybe I have some choices in the direction those changes go. Maybe I can make changes for myself without anyone else's permission, acknowledgement, or support. If I am the one who has to live with the consequences, then I would like to have some say in how things are going down.
I think of my aunt as one of the biggest "bullies" of my early life. I realize now that everyone is bullied, especially as a child. I think that's just part of growing up. If you weren't bullied for being the fat kid, it was because you were a nerd, or too skinny, or had a big nose or laughed too loud. It's like, we're all super insecure most of the time for one reason or another. It's the fear of the judgement of others, and we're constantly spewing out our insecurities by making fun of others. But what good does that really do us?
Thanks to aunty and other meanie-bo-beenies, being fat was uncomfortable because that half of me thought that thin people looked prettier. To be fair, I do like the shape of a healthy human being - I think we're beautiful creatures! But around her, especially when I was at my heaviest weights, I always felt so emotionally deflated.
A visit with my aunt was torture. Like, just mustering up the energy to be confident with myself when in the back of my brain I'm thinking about how much I look like a stuffed sausage in my outfit and she'll probably make sure to let me know that she sees it too. Heaven forbid I was ever single and fat.... ugh, pathetic. For those few hours I felt like no one will love me because I am a lazy, fat slob of a person. Maybe if I didn't play so many video games and go for a run, I might be worthy of love.
Our visits gave so much opportunity for the sharing of opinions because we mainly did activities that included sitting around a table of food and voicing judgements about each others lives, politics and me pretending that what someone just said wasn't super racist. My coping mechanism was to laugh uncomfortably and eat. But not eat enough so that my aunt would ask if I really needed another helping...
Then I'd go home from such visits and in normal life I could receive positive and negative comments, but I'm already poised to focus on the negative ones because that's what I've been conditioned to do. Moving forward, anytime someone makes a negative comment about my weight, I add that to the pile of shitty thoughts already circulating in my brain and now we've got a real shitstorm-a-brewin'!
Now let's say it's time to visit grandma. She cooks and feeds me healthy foods. We go see shows, take a walk on the boardwalk or go to the beach. We talk are about books and articles that study how our minds work. We visit museums and talk about the art we saw. We would window shop or go into stationary stores and browse for colorful journals and pens. Decades later, grandma still says I am the most beautiful person on the planet. Her unbaised opinion, of course. She used to take me shopping at Lane Bryant. I would try on everything in the store, doing a little fashion show for her with each outfit. I feel like I'm one in a million. I was fat, but I was living my life like it was something to be celebrated. I hadn't had a negative thought about myself for the visit.
For me, heaven and hell were right here on Earth between these two women - and everyone in between either fed one side or the other. I choose now to believe in my grandma's words and live my life as the person she sees me as. She encouraged me to be who I am, regardless of what others think (including herself!). I am the one who lives with me every day. If I'm okay with it, then it really doesn't matter what people like my aunt think. Team Grandma ftw!
And now, my friends, in the honored tradition of my grandma, I am sending out a million hugs to you all! <3 <3 <3