Fat, Feminism, Self-Image, Sweet Machine

Stress, anger, habit

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, for various reasons that are unimportant to this post, and I’ve noticed an insidious pattern in my thinking that I bet a lot of Shapelings can identify with. See, I’ve been (mentally, silently) ragging on my looks a lot lately — chiding myself for wearing less than awesome outfits, tut-tutting at my slightly shaggy hair, scrutinizing every aspect of my skin. I fantasy shop online but I never buy anything; I just imagine the “better” me that would result from all my purchases of clothes and beauty supplies and things that would “fix” me. I have these thoughts even when I fully know and fully believe in self-acceptance, and that’s what’s so infuriating: I’m thinking these thoughts because I’ve been trained to.

None of the stressful things in my life have anything to do with my body or my appearance. Not one. But I’m a woman, and I’m stressed out, and therefore my brain knows what to do: engage in self-loathing. The pathways that allow for those thoughts are so much more deeply entrenched, have been around so much longer, than the feminist/FA thought patterns, that they become a kind of default setting in times of high stress. I’ve experienced this kind of self-trickery before, but it strikes me as even more ludicrous now because I have more resources against those thoughts than I ever have before, thanks to the fatosphere and feminist theory and lots of like-minded friends. But all those external resources are doing battle with an internal resource that never tires of saying Your life would be different if you were only prettier.

We’ve talked about this before, of course, but it never hurts to say it again: this is a crock of shit. For one thing, you don’t have to be pretty. For another, you already are way more attractive than our fat-hating, misogynist culture tells you you are. This kind of twinned loathing/fantasy thought pattern is where individual psychic needs get deranged by patriarchal culture. When life is really stressful in ways you can’t control, it can make it easier, existentially speaking, to think that in fact it is under your control. My stressors are, literally, all things that I cannot change: they’re not really about me, they just affect me. But my brain wants to make it about me because it’s so much easier to understand a world in which everything sucks but I am the center of that suckage than one in which everything sucks and it has nothing to do with me. I don’t know that that’s in any way dysfunctional; we all want to feel that the game isn’t rigged against us. Where our culture steps in and fucks us over is by convincing us, especially if we’re women, that the problem is our bodies. When we have that “I wish this were somehow about me” fantasy, we are taught from the youngest ages to translate that into “I could be [thinner/prettier/whiter/sexier/more acceptable].” It’s the FoBT with a vengeance.

I’m really angry that I’ve been trained to do this, that when I feel down I necessarily start to feel ugly. I admitted all this to a friend and classmate not too long ago, and she confessed that when a lot of deadlines piled up on her, she started weighing herself several times a day. Maybe you have some habit that you fall into when you feel overwhelmed, even if 90% of the time you are the happiest fat girl on the block. If you do, remember that you can break out of that training, even if it takes considerable effort. You don’t have to beat yourself up when the world is beating you down.  When my older brother gets stressed out, he gets angry at the world. When I get stressed out, I get angry at myself, and then I get angry at the world. I’m trying to cut out the middle man.

62 thoughts on “Stress, anger, habit”

  1. I get it. I never really put the two together, but now that you’ve articulated it, I can see it so clearly. Control: we don’t have it, but we want it all the same, and at such high cost sometimes.

  2. I know what you mean.
    But thankfully, the only thing my inner eeeevils can get me to do now is bite my nails, which although annoying is not as soul-destroying as “I look like shit”.

  3. YES. THIS.

    Thank you for articulating this so perfectly. I have been swimming in stress for the past two weeks and picking on my hair (yes, it needs to be cut. No, it’s NOT a reflection on my value as a human being, dammit!), weighing myself, and fantasy shopping and all of it. I feel a lot less lonely now.

    (And can I just say, knowing that “stress” is bad for me health-wise doesn’t actually make the stress stop. Deep breathing doesn’t make it stop, nor does exercise or eating lots of veggies or any of that stuff. And every time I run across something about how bad stress is for you I get more fucking stressed, because of how I’ve lived my life up to this point, in a pretty constant state of panic and ultra-vigilance means I am going to die of a heart attack at forty, because I was just so stressed! ARRRRRRGH. You know, society, if you are so concerned about everyone being so fucking stressed, maybe you should STOP BEING SO STRESSFUL. Thank you.)

  4. Control. Yes, that’s it. When it feels like I’m a failure and my life is falling down around my ears, I tend to slip back into eating-disordered thoughts, if not behaviors, trying to be ‘good’. But at least I can acknowledge and fight it; that’s all you can do, right?

  5. Thanks, Sweet Machine. This is exactly what I needed right now…I recently got married, moved to a new state, bought a house, and started a new job. Things have been *really* stressful. And I just hate myself right now…I hate my hair, my clothes, everything. And I want to buy new clothes, and dye my hair, and on and on and on…

    But this post? Is exactly how I feel. I just wasn’t able to logic, and figure it out myself.

  6. I just went back to the “attraction” post. I went from thoughtful and introspective after SM’s post, to “lol your pendulous breasts” in about 2 seconds.

  7. I really needed this today. I’ve been obsessing about my pimples, my hair that desperately needs a cut, my lack of makeup skills, my glasses, and yes, my weight. And it really hadn’t occurred to me where it was coming from, but as I read this, I realized how stressed out I’ve been – overscheduled, crazy at work (it’s hard times to be a fundraiser!), worrying about funds, etc. And I turned it on myself. Thank you.

  8. This post so speaks to how I’ve been feeling the past few weeks, right down to the ‘I don’t feel like I’m dressing well enough’ part. But it makes sense, when you mention it, that with the stress I’ve got on me from all sort of different crazy life bits right now, that I’m trying to channel the stress into self-hatred.

    I kinda love it when people can articulate how I’ve been feeling, when I can’t even sort it all out myself.

  9. kristin, the following is an actual excerpt from my personal LJ;
    Things I would like to spend money on right now:
    New boots and shoes
    New pants
    Nail polish
    Dye job

    I’ve been in total fantasy-me land. It’s not just you! (I did end up buying boots and nail polish, which partially defused the longing for other goods.)

    (Also, aren’t you glad you read me here instead of on LJ? Sheesh. It’s all angst all the time.)

  10. It must be something in the water….this morning I almost reflex-chopped off my hair (I cut my own, which is generally awesome, but dangerous in this context), tried on sixteen outfits before giving up, lamented my lack of the perfect fall boots, and have been wasting most of the morning tooling around the internets contemplating how many new jackets I could buy before I break the budget and getting annoyed with the lack of awesome shoes in my size.

    And for the record, I love your shaggy hair!

  11. Ailbhe, yes. Yes, you did.

    Seriously, though, one of the reasons I posted this (and we post this kind of thing in general) is so people know that if they’re having a bad run of it, self-esteem-wise, that doesn’t mean they fail FA or feminism or whatever. We all have sucky times. I’m not hating on myself for feeling the way I do above — that would be another instance of making it about me and my failure rather than the world and its difficulties. I’m trying to turn it outward instead of inward.

    (Thanks, Tari!)

  12. Huh, looking at that list of things you want to spend money on, SM, I realized that my list has been almost identical. To the point where I’m obsessively looking at clothing sites on-line. And I did just buy new boots (which are awesome; no regrets). It hadn’t occurred to me that it was related to the rest of my life -temporarily7 moving to a city where I don’t know many people and starting a new job – but, you know, it probably is. I will have to think on this.

  13. SM, your last comment about how your brother reacts to stress by getting mad at the world and you react be getting mad at yourself reminded me of an interesting comment Jodi Foster made during the press junket for The Brave One. She said that the movie was shocking because women usually turn anger inward and destroy themselves, but her character turned the anger out and went on a revenge-seeking crime spree, more in keeping with a male character. I never saw the movie, but that comment has stayed with me because its truth brought me to a standstill. It is so very true that we have been trained to hold on to our anger and stress and hurt, while allowing it to twist and and scar us from the inside out. Whether through guilt, shame, body loathing, that voice that says I am a bad mother, or the complete lack of self respect and self esteem that is the daily reality of many women, stress can reshape our understanding of self and our place in the world.

  14. Whenever I tell myself “I look fat” or “I feel fat”, it really means “I feel unattractive/sick/stressed out/tired/depressed/etc.”. You hit this right on the head, Sweet Machine. When I feel stressed, depressed, or any kind of negative emotion, I start beating up on my body.

  15. To add to my previous comment: One of the reasons I love this site so much is the fact that whatever I’m feeling about my body, there are other people who have been there. :)

  16. SM:

    I skimmed your list and completely thought you wanted to spend money on dyebags and handjobs. My apologies for perverting you with my mind.

    When I get stressed out, I completely do the same thing, but on the topic of how dirty my house is. I think this might be slightly different because I know the state of my abode is something that I DO have control over. On the other hand, the standard is steeping in gender roles, and bothers me because I use it as a standard of my overall acceptability. So, my mental voice is not just saying: You could never host a dinner party with the house looking like this. It is saying: All you friends would be disgusted by you if they knew your house looked like this. Meh, the struggle continues. . .

  17. My LJ is all angst all the time, too. It’s a perfect platform for that, apparently.

    I enjoyed this post as well. It really resonated. Life is crazy and overwhelming right now for a lot of reasons, but hating on myself is not the right way to handle it…

  18. Wow- Like so many other commenters have remarked, you’ve really captured how I’ve been feeling lately! Your post helped me make some connections I haven’t thought about.

    Although I’ve been trying to cut out the FoBT for a while, it’s only recently that I realized that I have a similar Fantasy of the Better-Dressed Me, that if I figured out my wardrobe All Would be Well. Some of it has to do with learning to accept compliments- not just to respond to them with “Thank You” instead of invalidating them, but to let them really sink in- to realize I have a cute wardrobe and sense of style, even if I don’t have perfect autumn boots!

  19. When it comes to shopping, I have the opposite urge: the more stressed I am, the more I want to STOP spending money and hoard my resources because stress means bad times and we must conserve! I’m sure it’s related to the whole control thing – it’s how my individual background manifests itself.

    I am glad there are posts like this here every so often, because self-acceptance and FA and all that good stuff is no guarantee that you’ll never have a bad day/stressful times when you don’t feel so good about yourself. That’s just a part of being human, not a failure.

  20. Oh man, I cannot believe how much this is me. As I was reading my jaw was literally hanging, this is *exactly* what I do when I’m stressed out. And until I read this, I had no idea that it was because of stress. This whole month I’ve been wondering why I was suddenly losing the war against that little voice and this makes so much sense. I am overwhelmingly stressed and while I was aware of the stress, I never put the two together.

    Thank you so much for writing this. I am so in awe at how this whole post could be me, and how other comments are echoing that. I have an entirely new way of looking at these behaviors, a new way to identify when I’m overwhelmed and stressed, and hooray! the knowledge that I’m not alone in feeling this way. It also helps me to cope with the “why am I letting the self-hate win?!” and all of the guilt and shame that comes with that (and all the stress it adds to the situation!)

    So yea, thank you!

  21. Deep breathing doesn’t make it stop

    Hell, for me, at least, deep breathing makes it all worse. High stress levels lead to edge-of-panic-attack moments, and deep breathing on the edge of a panic attack would push me right into full-fledged hyperventilation.

    I definitely do this, though I think I beat myself up less about my appearance than I used to. I *can* still tell in that objective, distant corner of my brain that things are too much and I am overwhelmed, though, by the sudden accumulation of many, many lists. It is one very transparent attempt at control over situations that are, really, totally beyond my control.

  22. kristin, the following is an actual excerpt from my personal LJ;

    (((you have an LJ? ……I wanna friend you now…)))

    HELL YES to the stress/self esteem stuff.

    So I’m down at school, and so I’ve been meeting new people and such, and there’s this one guy…

    …Well, suffice it to say I find him pretty attractive. But we almost never see each other. BUT when we do he’s really nice to me, and he was present at a party where I called out another guy for his language (saying, “You SERIOUSLY need to work on your fear of women and gays. That’s, like, all that ever comes out of your mouth.”) and a lot of people there sort of ganged up on me (and they were slightly drunk) so I wasn’t able to defend my position well, but he didn’t gang up on me, and if his still being nice to me means that he’s interested even after that (which would turn a whole lot of guys off, which is okay, ’cause they’re not guys I’d want to be with anyway, but, you know, it does narrow my options down significantly) (and it might not mean anything – I’m pretty oblivious to things like flirting so I have no idea. I just know I might be interested in him. Maybe.) then this might be, you know, good.

    lol your run-on sentence

    Well, anyway, last night he and a few other guys wandered into my room at around 4 in the morning with my roommate (which is fine, ’cause I was really quite awake) and hung out for a bit, and when he left in order to go get some sleep (cause he has a class on Friday, poor soul), he slap/knuckled everyone while he was saying goodbye, and then I prepped myself to slap/knuckle and he looked at my hand and was like, What? You’re Not Getting Off That Easy! and then he hugged me.

    What all of this is leading up to is that I have been way stressed lately. Midterms start Monday, and I have a bunch of HUGE projects that I need to finish getting together this week. And I’ve been noticing every zit on my face and every crazy off kilter bit of curly mess in my hair (why can’t it be evenly curly? Or curly in the same direction?) and berating myself for not having the Wardrobe of Ultimate Sexiness. And as I was going to bed last night after everyone left, and was thinking about the hug, and if it meant he’s interested in getting to know me better as well – or maybe found me attractive, there was this voice that just inflated my mind of “Why on FSM’s Green Earth would he find YOU attractive?”

    And I had a bucket full of feminist and fat acceptance and other personal knowledge to fight it off, so it was okay.

    But, when I was stressed out and tired, and that stripped me away, underneath me that thought was just ingrained there.

    And that really pisses me off.

    …(((Sorry for the really long confessional, it’s just that this post really rings true right now)))

  23. bellacooker: I am the same way about my house! And car! And then add the body loathing on top, and well, I just feel like I could implode from the pressure.

  24. Ditto, ditto, ditto.

    When life throws shit at me, I immediately turn it into a series of flaws or deficiencies that have invited life to be, well, LIFE.

    I’m the president of a nonprofit board — of a religious congregation — and the system is just churning with anxiety because the leadership is in change mode. We’re basically instituting models of healthful behavior. The sabotage is unreal. But I’m dealing with it pretty well. Someone told me “when sabotage rears it’s ugly head, it is almost always because you are doing something effective.”

    And in the chaos, I’ve been calm and even accepting of others.

    Now, if I could just put down the bat with my weight, lack of exercise and skin.

  25. I am totally feeling this right now, thank you for this post! I do the skin thing too, I saw a few people mention it. But mostly lately, because my work is stress related (lol, I just caught that I wrote this backwards, but it’s actually more accurate this way!), when I shut down at work I start window shopping – for JOBS.

    I don’t think the solution is to leave my job (if for no other reason than because there’s nothing to leave it for in this economy). But it’s so tempting to scan Craigslist because I actually link more of my self worth to my job than to my appearance these days.

    Though that’s a slippery slope: once I start feeling like my job is embarrassing to admit to people (I have an engineering degree, but I’m in customer service) then I start scrutinizing *every other aspect of my being*. And suddenly I am not only wasting my degree, but also overweight, pock-marked, and and old maid who likes to knit.

    In other news, (like, say, on a good day) I’m a corporate account manager for an independent apparel company with a side business in fashion design and a killer set of tattoos. So, you know, spin is important. After reading this post, I will try to think more like the latter and less like the former. ;)

  26. I can not even tell you how often I do this.

    When I am stressing because I’m studying for a test and I don’t feel prepared, or I didn’t do as well on a test as I thought I could have, what is my first fucking thought? “I’m ugly.”

    I hate it, and I’m trying to unlearn it…but man, is it hard.

  27. Quite often, I will go around for a few days thinking I feel fat and ugly, and then when I scratch a little deeper, I often realise that what I’m actually feeling is angry about something. Addressing the root cause of the anger sometimes (not always!) makes the feeling of ugliness go away.

    I wonder if one of the reasons for this is partially because so many of the media and pop-culture images we grow up with automatically conflate angry!woman with ugly!woman. Disney, I’m looking at *you* in particular.

  28. Melena:

    Your comment made me think of this little bit of wonderful.

    “I am trying to unlearn these lessons, along with other lessons I was taught by my society, particularly lessons concerning the minds, work, works, and being of women. I am a slow unlearner. But I love my unteachers.” -Ursula K. LeGuin

  29. I relate to this, and pretty much all the comments.

    When I am stressed (or entering a bad mental health patch), the first thing I target is my appearance. I was eating disordered for most of my childhood/teen years, and it’s just a natural place for my brain to go to. Sometimes I won’t look in the mirror at my body (face is okay) for weeks just to avoid all the negative thoughts that I know will arise.

    I try to rephrase things in my head so that I’m not adding moral terms to my appearance or what I eat. I try to cut out the ‘fat talk’ (i.e. “I look so FAT today!”) but, really, sometimes the best I can do is not look at myself naked, not indulge in the self-loathing, and just ride it out.

  30. Yup. I’ve lived in self-loathing for the last couple of months for some reason and it fucking sucks. Bah.

  31. I’ve more or less managed to stop picking on my physical flaws when under stress, but I still have an instant reaction of self-blame. No matter what’s going on, I feel like I should be better than this, I should be able to cope better, I shouldn’t be so dumb/procrastinating/anxiety-stricken/depressed, and then these things wouldn’t happen. Like, you know, everything in the world outside my control. :)

    I have noticed, though, that when I’m stressed I literally pick at myself. I scrutinize my face and arms and chest and pick at and squeeze anything even vaguely pimple-y. Sometimes I’ll spend fifteen minutes looking over my arms before I realize what I’m doing and make myself stop.

  32. I used to do a lot more fantasy shopping once upon a time before so much of my job became fantasy shopping.

    When I’m feeling bad about myself and my life, I tend to plan fantasy feasts. I pull out all my cookbooks and plot out what I would cook, how I would stage the cooking, and think about how all of it would taste…and it’s usually composed entirely of foods I feel deprived of because Mr. Twistie wouldn’t touch them with a ten-meter cattlprod.

    I’m getting better about expressing anger and negative emotions in general, but it’s still fun to plan the feasts every once in a while.

  33. AMEN! I’ve been stressed out lately too and I find myself in the same boat. First, I get really impatient with myself, then I start beating myself up. I could be in a room full of friends, but I’ll still sit there and tell myself ‘no one wants me’ or ‘I burden everyone’. I haven’t been able to figure out why till now – thanks!

  34. Yep.

    I so relate.

    Lately, there hasn’t been the whole downward spiral… I’m able to stop at “will I every be beautiful?” and counter with, “oh, you must be really tired right now. How about you go home and have a nice dinner and eventually little one will fall asleep and you will, too.”

    And, when I look in the mirror, I see someone with kind eyes and an overall prettiness that I am unused to seeing. Maybe it’s age, or something, but I’m not as critical as usual right now, and I think I’m seeing myself the way would see someone who I like and care about. Sounds so sappy, but it’s much better than before.

  35. I hear you, 100%. I recognized this pattern in myself a few years ago—which helped so much in stopping it. I have good enough friends that I could tell this to, that I felt pooey about my body but I knew I was just deflecting. I find myself, as time goes on, doing this less and less.

  36. I agree with your points, Sweet.

    The only thing I will say is that my (non-existent) Halloween costume would be a lot cheaper (and would fit better) if I wasn’t plus-sized. And now I wouldn’t be so stressed about not having enough money to buy a good one. Grr..

  37. “When my older brother gets stressed out, he gets angry at the world. When I get stressed out, I get angry at myself…”

    This is very true and common to women for ages and ages, I think.

    There’s a line that’s quoted so often it has become a cliche:

    “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” *

    What most of us do NOT realize is that we are misusing that quote to denote the outwardly directed fury of a mistreated woman. The character in the play that utters that line is a woman who has been scorned, and she goes on to kill HERSELF, not the guy who treated her so badly.
    * The play is “The Mourning Bride” (1697) by William Congreve. The complete quote is “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

  38. Thanks for the comments. I’ve been doing stuff at work that scares me – in a good way – but at the same time I’ve been eating like crazy (back to my bingey ways) and being full of self loathing. I’ve been eating loads of stuff that make me feel physically awful, and wishing I had perfect skin. And the FOBT has come back to haunt me.
    Thanks for a timely post. I wouldn’t treat a friend as nastily as I treat me, and I forget that sometimes.

  39. Thank you for this SM.

    I have been in a really bad place lately because my job is really high stress and I have been hating myself pretty hard. It doesn’t help that my spouse really doesn’t get it, since zie is only just beginning to realize that my body shape doesn’t change regardless of what I do to try and change it, and that I base so much of my self-worth on the shape of my body. Zie doesn’t get it and doesn’t get why hir lack of understanding only makes it worse.

    I don’t feel so alone now.

    Thank you.

  40. LeAnna, it’s extra hard when some of your stress *is* related to body stuff, whether it’s size or health or what have you. But remember, as always, that the fact that plus-sized costumes cost more is NOT your fault, it’s the fault of a fucked-up industry within a fucked-up culture. It has nothing to do with you as a person.

  41. Thanks Sweet, I realize that, it’s just that it gets to me sometimes. Guess this is the perfect entry to comment on for it lol.

  42. Yes yes yes. I’ve been cranky beyond compare, and stressed, and mad at myself for not better managing my stress. Plus, eating crap, which makes me feel gross and guilty, and then, to pre-empt the little voice that says, “you could go on a diet!” I go, “you can’t tell me what to eat!!! Watch, I’m going to eat everything in sight!!! RAWR!!” Which kind of starts the cycle all over again. We are not impressed. I really want to stop moralizing my food, and making it a site to play out all of my control issues.

    And ditto on the halloween costume thing. I have visions of being Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, showing up gruesome to a party where everyone else is sexy, and then irrationally beating myself up because, of course, I’m not sexy because of Teh Fat, instead of because I wore a non-sexy outfit over my generally sexy self.

  43. I just wanted to say thanks for this post. I have been going through the exact same kind of out-of-my-control stress and returning to picking on myself for every other thing at the same time, which just compounds the first issue and starts a vicious cycle. I was so stuck in it that I couldn’t even get outside of myself enough to see it this way.

  44. Another huge thanks for this piece! I totally just went through this recurring phase. I had just graduated from college in May. After a few frustrating months of diligent job searching with no results, I turned the tables on myself. Obsessing over my weight, wardrobe, skin, hair, AND nails. :( There had to be something wrong with me. I found that engaging in activities that I’m good at, helped to pull me out of this funk.

  45. I so needed to read this today. I often fall into that trap of beating up on my body when I’m overwhelmed by something.

    Right now I’m trying to work through my dating-anxiety (not by dating, but by analyzing myself obsessively *lol*). There’s a guy I know that might like me. I have to say might because I spent so many years telling myself that no one would ever be attracted to me that I now seem unable to pick up on any traditional signals; deep down, I think it’s probably because I do still doubt that anyone decent really would be attracted to me.

    So now I have to decide whether or not I should talk to this guy, and I’ve slipped into my usual routine of finding not only 100 things wrong with him and with this situation, but also with myself. These days it’s my jawline and my collarbones…I keep poking at them, wondering why they aren’t more pronounced. And I look at my thighs and wonder why they aren’t less pronounced.

    I know that these things aren’t really important, and that worrying about them won’t change anything, but it seems a whole lot easier than addressing any of my real problems *lol*

  46. I really appreciate this post. I usually manage to maintain a normal level of self esteem with conscious effort. Lately I have been very down on myself though. Maybe it’s a combination of the recession, a skin condition that is flaring up, and the many stresses that I have been under with work and a death in the family.

    I have been feeling like everything in my closet looks awful on me, and my hair is too frizzy, and everything that I say and do seems awkward and wrong… I hate to even leave the house unless I absolutely have to some days. I didn’t go grocery shopping for 3 weeks, because I just couldn’t bear the thought of going out in public. In the third week, when faced with the choice of grocery shopping in a crowded place or drinking a cup of tea to squash the hunger pangs, I chose the tea.

    I could go on and on but I am trying really hard to stop doing this to myself, so I won’t.

    Speaking to the thought of “Your life would be different if you were only prettier.” – I thought that exact same phrase my entire life. Only recently, with the help of the wonderful blogs I lurk on and the human perspective it has given me, have I started to change that thinking.

    Growing up, my two best friends were seemingly “perfect”. Thin, beautiful, perfect hair, great clothes, always saying the right thing, always graceful, etc. I always felt like an ugly sidekick. But thinking back, I have come to the conclusion that I am *lucky* that I was never what society would have us believe is the only definition of”desirable”. Here’s why:

    My beautiful friends were subjected to constant and never-ending catcalls when they walked down the street. In public places, random men would approach them and try to get their phone numbers, hit on them, spew cheesy pick up lines, rub against them inappropriately, get too close for personal comfort, etc.

    I remember several occasions where they would respond with a polite but firm “thanks, but I’m not interested” and the men would persist anyways, to the point of creepiness, not to mention that it was rude and annoying.

    They could not gain more than a couple of pounds without everyone remarking on it and making jokes about it (because it was much more noticeable on their bodies than it was on mine, and they were expected to appear “perfect” so the slightest imperfection was cause for comment). And many other things come to mind as well.

    If I had been “perfect” then I would have been subjected to the same kind of demeaning treatment as they were, which is absolutely no better than the demeaning treatment that I am subjected to as a fat woman. Trading their “perfect” bodies for my “flawed” body would simply be a trade of injustices. The real issue is that there are a lot of people in the world with no respect.

    I have come to see my fatness as my “asshole filter”. If someone looks at me and is disgusted by my body despite the fact that my brain is brilliant, then they are clearly not worthy of knowing the kind, smart, fantastic person that is me.

    On the other hand, those who treat me with the same respect and dignity I show them, and who don’t care one bit what my body looks like, are wonderful people who I am privileged to have in my life. 1 of them is worth more to me than 1000 jerks.

    I don’t have to wonder if anyone is patronizing me because they think I’m beautiful, or if guys are only hitting on me without regard for my personality, or if anyone is “just trying to get into my pants”.

    It took me a long time to understand, when I was younger, that the man I would eventually marry really did like *me* when there were so many more attractive women in the world. I didn’t trust him, wondered what his “ulterior motive” was. Was he pretending to like the fat girl because it was some kind of joke? (He is society’s definition of “hot” and that made me distrust him even though he was my best friend – how sick is that?)

    When I finally believed him, that he loved me – ALL of me – I realized that I could, indeed, marry him after all.

    I feel like I could talk forever on this subject, but I think I have already written a short story, so I’ll stop here.

    That being said, responding to this post gave me a chance to talk myself out of a very depressing and self-hating mood. So thank you!

  47. Gods, you three are so good at articulating what I always thought were complicated, messed-up thoughts of hatred and loathing directed at myself.

    Your life would be different if you were only prettier.

    This is a myth I am only just starting to actively work against in my everyday life. Lately I’ve been happier than I have been in a long time, and it’s due mostly to coming out of a long period of depression, stress and anxiety. I’ve been feeling good about myself every day, and what kills me is that this feeling is somehow “odd” for me. Yes, liking myself seems out of the ordinary. That is truly sad. I wish we could all learn to like – nay, love – ourselves, especially when we’re not at our most awesome, especially when we’re dealing with stress and pain. That’s when we need to be kind to ourselves the most.

  48. We’re planning to get married in the summer and despite being amazingly happy, I’m already fretting about being a fat bride. I still have a long way to go methinks!

    BTW we only talked about dates yesterday, and I’m not allowed to tell my family and friends until I have a ring on my finger – so you guys are the first to know!

  49. Wow…I am so glad to know I am not the only person who thinks this! I feel so awful and anti-feminist when “I’m ugly” pops into my head but only recently have I even been able to try and stop it. I spent a couple of years obsessing – literally sometimes not leaving the bedroom for a full weekend – about mysterious (and largely nonexistent) medical conditions and physical imperfections. Despite being a pretty smart human being, I had convinced myself that the problem was a physical problem – I was fat, or my skin was bad, or I had a weird lump on my leg that was undoubtedly fatal, or I’m going blind, or whatever. It never occurred to me, until I had some help with it, that maybe the physical “problem” wasn’t the real problem. Maybe the constant checking of a dry red patch on my skin or mentally thinking about how much I had/could/should/would eat wasn’t helping solve a medical mystery, but actually worsening the panic and anxiety, and getting in the way of my ever realizing that I was stressed or mad about something entirely different and entirely non-physical. Not to mention getting in the way of thinking ANYTHING positive about myself.

    So thanks for putting this out there…

  50. *nods a lot*

    Sorry, I’m pretty much at “ditto” with what everyone else said. Remember when fall just meant you got lots of days off from school and trick or treating and class parties involving people dressing up like pilgrims? *sigh*


  51. Curvygirl, congrats!! :D

    I was also a fat bride. One good thing about it is that, when times are stressful and all the negative self-talk comes out, you can remind yourself that he loves you and married you even though you’re fat. I was much thinner when I met my husband and used to beat myself up about having gotten fat. Knowing that he chose to marry me despite the fat helped me make the jump to knowing that I’m still a worthwhile person no matter how much I weigh.

    (It’s not a particularly feminist or even logical way of thinking, but it’s comforting. Head-monkeys don’t necessarily respond to logic or feminism, but they sometimes respond to comfort.)

  52. Thank you for this. I’ve been feeling the exact same way lately, and your post made me realize it’s stress related.
    Graduate school is hard – for me anyway.
    So what do i do after a day of work + a night of class? Rush home to pick at my skin. For HOURS in front of the mirror. From squeezing and plucking, to what could be considered minor out patient surgery. It’s so oddly calming… i could be hungry, but i’d rather pick at my skin than eat. Or even exhausted, but i’d rather pick at my skin than sleep. I know it’s fucked up. But, as you noted, i suppose it’s a taking back of control, and trying to fix something (that truly is not broken to begin with).
    The next morning, looking at my face in the mirror, like a true addict, i will completely regret the previous evening’s behavior—fully knowing that i will do the same thing again when i get home tonight.

  53. Stressed. I don’t know how it will affect me after I leave work, but I’m trying to get a handle on the self-loathing and self-sabotaging mindset. So, I really need to release this out there. I wish, I wish I could be heard when I tell my female co-workers to not talk about food like it’s a bad thing (typically sweet treats) and to shut up about their poor body image because they do/did indulge(d.) It tears at me sometimes so much that I bring it home and it sits on me like the sludge it is. I feel entirely misunderstood and sometimes it would be so easy just to agree with them and not have a mental hernia everytime they bring it up.

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