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.