My body is my most profound confidant and ally. I’ve hurt my body psychologically and emotionally, although not physically, blaming it for not being perfect, as if perfect exists. The resulting pain has destroyed my sense of self and the love, comfort, and safety my body affords me. This pain is not entirely my doing.
As a little girl, someone told me to measure my breast with a cup so that they would take its contour size and shape. This was before I reached puberty. Although my mom told me that this was a myth, it was hard to believe her when my friends constantly teased me, saying I had ‘lemon breasts.’
In college, I seemed to be outgrowing these teases, dismissing them as futile, but they only got worse. “Where is the summer body at?” “Your butt isn’t round enough.” “You’re too fat for me to be interested in you anyway.” “You should stop eating that much.” “I don’t want to make you feel bad, but you are fat, it’s all in your face.” “Do you go to the gym?” “I am worried about your health, your level of cholesterol and your heart.”
“I should probably start doing some squats and lunges,” I thought.
This was followed by practicing body positivity, reading about women going through similar experiences. I would look at my naked body and repeat to myself how beautiful I was, that I was enough, that there was nothing wrong with my body, and that I could be healthy if I wanted.
But no matter how long this lasted — hours, days, weeks — I would still hear the same disparaging comments in my brain. Even bodies of the black women I looked up to seemed too perfect compared to mine.
So I started looking for someone to look at me and say not only is my body fine, but that I don’t have to like my body all the time. I wanted to find a woman — that black woman who looks like me — who has fat around her stomach, her butt, her face, and her arms. A woman who loves herself enough to not care about fitting into the societal standard. A woman whose body has been liberated from systematic oppression coming from fatphobia, capitalism, the media, family, friends, and doctors. A woman who simply lives. I thought to myself, if I can find that woman, I can liberate myself from body shamers.
But is that really the answer? Why can’t I look at my body the same way and see perfection? Was I just looking for validation? Even saying this makes me feel like a leech, but it is true.
All I can say is: I know. Because these are things I say to myself every time I look at my body or wear my fitted clothes. Because I feel guilty. I have cried and forced myself to cry alone, feeling bad for not feeling bad and frustrated for giving up a diet or exercising after a week.
I may smile at these comments and say that I am okay. But they hurt me. Because they make me feel wrong and guilty and powerless and disgusting.
I don’t want to shame body shamers the same way they have fat shamed me. But I want you to know, so that the next time you see me, you don’t comment on my body.
Because there is nothing you can say to me that I haven’t already said to myself.