Get out of your own way
I’ve mentally written three blog posts over the lockdown period that aren’t this one. In my head, but not yet on paper, have i finessed lines on gratitude, and on time and on hope, but this post is instead somewhat more real and raw. It’s hard to be eloquent with a topic so personal, with prose that feels like a lit match or loaded gun. For so long have I let my own internal shame silence some of the thoughts i’ve wanted to unleash the most, but lockdown life, along with an upcoming birthday, has provided confrontation with my own consciousness, that proves now is a more pressing time than ever to get out of my own way.
There are many ways in which we all may hold ourselves back, but mine is most definitely through the yet unbroken connection of weight and worth. Let me explain…
I’ve probably been internally shaming my body since I was 8. It was the Christmas present of a football kit that first did it, and the embarrassment I saw on everyone’s face as I tried on the top that was already a few sizes bigger than it should have been, but that still had my belly straining out of it. As I grew, both in age and body I felt the glare from the other girls in primary school, conscious that at 10 I was already feminine in ways they were not.
Secondary school brought its own challenges, with size 6 friends who called themselves fat and who threw their lunches away. So I did too. And then breakfast. You can guess the rest of the story here…
By 14, everyone was praising me for losing “my puppy fat” and looking great, unaware that they were by then helping to cement the already rooted notion that weight and worth were intrinsically connected. Boys themselves tell you they don’t like big girls, particularly by shouting fatty at you across the street, on multiple occasions. It’s easy to believe what you’ve spent your whole life being told or shown.
There’s a line in Taylor Swift’s song fifteen that says “When all you wanted was to be wanted, wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now” and I suppose that’s what this blog post is about. I’m less than a month from 25 but I am often still treating myself like a 15 year old who lets boys and bullies be mean to her. You know them people that say offensive things and then follow up with the ultimate get out clause of “I’ve just got no filter”? Well I, my friends am the complete opposite, as I am a walking self censor machine who lets everything hold her back rather than propel her forward.
Every place I walk into, I automatically assess if i’m the fattest person in the room, and I then judge my abilities and if i should contribute in accordance with that. When I deputise for my manager in a meeting, I sit as close to the back as possible, to show everyone else that I know before they tell me, that i’m not worthy to be in the room. I often see things on social media that I agree with, but then don’t re share due to one offensive word or for fear of rocking a boat that may not even exist. I won’t let my husband, who tries to convince me that i’m beautiful, share 99% of the photos he has taken of me online because I am fearful for what people will say, or at least think of my chin, or my belly, or my arms. I stopped wear sleeveless anything for good at 19, and have worn only midi dresses since 22, for fear of revealing my thighs. I’ve learnt to be self-deprecating so it’s me and not you making the fat jokes.
I realise now that I have somehow been subconsciously living to gain approval or acceptance of everyone else but myself. Strangers in the street, instagram acquaintances and careless colleagues. My adult life so far seems to have been attuned to impossible standards that no one is asking me to live by. Years of the repetitive weight conversation has turned a confident teenager into a shy adult. The 15 year old who would adorn herself in colour, now the adult who wears mostly black. A once unparalleled love for fashion slowly stripped away by that buttons that do not account for busts, or zips that have not dated hips like mine before. It’s hard to acknowledge, but now something essential I must act upon.
Before the world got crazy, it was easy to let yourself get caught up in the reflection staring back at you, or at your high school grades, or number of romantic relationships. To lose sleep to pondering success or wealth was almost encouraged. To sweat the small stuff was how many of us lived.
But with so much time with ourselves right now, and so little with others, is there a cold hard truth in living for the moment and for what your heart truly desires. For taking chances, for believing in yourself, and to finally, stop seeing your body as a weapon and instead a vessel, a machine, a powerhouse that is the very reason your heart is beating, and your lungs are breathing.
So 15 year old Jess, my love, what i wish i could tell you now. I wish you knew of your strength, that so much darkness truly does make the light shine brighter, and that you are too clever and too bloody brilliant to give a single shit about any of the floppy haired boys that do not fancy you. The only thing that you can measure your worth in is kindness and the positive impact you can have on the world, and this matters so much more than the roundness of your stomach, the curve of your hips and the chunkiness of your thighs. So be free and be fearless.
P.S, you actually have great boobs so wear less polo necks xo