I DESERVE A SEAT AT THE TABLE, EVEN IF I HAVE TO MAKE MY OWN

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized a lot of things about myself.

I’m sensitive about my ish. And by “ish,” I mean… my family, my food, my money, but most importantly, my art. I’m a sweetheart, but I don’t take too kindly to the wrong buttons being pushed. I give great advice, but I don’t always take my own. I love writing, but some days I hate it (and that’s okay). I enjoy being alone, but I don’t like to feel lonely. I, unfortunately, base my worth on productivity, but that’s a mindset I’m working to change. I’m a little bit of a people pleaser, and it’s a bad habit that I need to break. I’m not great at accepting criticism, even if it’s constructive. Bad opinions sometimes bother me because I like to leave good impressions. I hit below the belt when I’m angry, but I really don’t mean it. I’m shy, but I tend to come out of my shell when I feel that I’m in a safe enough space to do so. I could go on and on, but there are so many layers to me. Layers that I have yet to fully peel back. But they’re there. They’re what make me, me. 

However, among those, I’ve discovered one of my most toxic traits: I’m quick to self-sabotage. Can you believe it? The one who’s always encouraging others to be their best selves and believe in what they’re capable of? Yes. She is me, and I am her. As of late, that has been the biggest battle I’ve been trying to fight–mentally and emotionally. I’ve never admitted that aloud, but the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging that it needs to be fixed, right? I’ve been guilty of dimming my light to give someone else the room to shine. I’ve been guilty of turning down the volume of my confidence to bring others comfort. I’ve been guilty of selling myself short when I knew, deep down, that what I had to offer was worth so much more than the discounted price tag I’d put on it. 

Because of that, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’ve been getting in my own way and holding myself back from reaching my fullest potential. For some odd reason, I’ve just gotten so comfortable with dumbing down myself and my achievements that it’s almost become the norm for me. I hate attention. I hate bragging. The Leo in me is probably disappointed right now, but it’s the truth. I often question whether I am “capable” or “good enough” to be put in the places that I’ve been in.

A prime example of this proved itself true, even more, when I received an invite to an amazing writing group on Facebook.

If we’re being honest, although I still have so much further to go in my writing career, as much as I try to say otherwise, I’ve accomplished some bomb-axx things. I’ve had Amazon bestsellers, yet, in a room full of other accomplished writers, I’ve made myself feel small and unworthy. As if I don’t belong. As if… who am I to even think that I am deserving to be in a bunch of writers of their caliber? However, upon entrance into the group, I immediately noticed that all of the women in this collective were amazing, supportive, and HUMBLE. Not once did they or have they ever done anything to make me feel the smallness and unworthiness that I just spoke about. The part of me that feels inadequate has, though. 

Oddly, I’ve found myself in the same mental space when I’m asked for advice on things that I know I do well. I can’t count how many messages I’ve gotten from others who were interested in writing a book or entering the world of journalism–two things I’ve done and have been doing for quite some time now. “What if I can’t lead them in the right direction?” I’d ponder. “What if the advice that I do give is not as helpful?” So many doubts would swirl through my head that, though eager to help, my nerves almost wouldn’t let me. 

Starting my podcast was a huge jump ahead and step out of my comfort zone, though. It was through starting it that I realized exactly what the title of this blog post is: I Deserve a Seat at the Table, Even If I Have to Make My Own. I’d been talking about launching my podcast for the longest, but I never could work up the guts to do it… until, one day, I said EFF IT! I hit record and began talking. I didn’t stop. Hitting that upload button was equivalent to the pride I feel every time I finish a new novel. It was exhilarating–liberating even! Five episodes in, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I can’t lie and say that I haven’t thought about it on those days where nothing seems to be going right, but if I worried about every little thing going wrong, I’d never get anything done. 

These days, I’m teaching myself to be more kind to my mind. To quit beating myself up over things I can’t control and focus on the things that I can. To tune out the opinions of others and rely on my own. To trust me and all that I’ve been gifted enough to do. To take the wheel of my career and drive wherever I’d like to see it go. He or she may be great for whatever position, but that doesn’t snatch away the spot that has been reserved for me.

I’ve been told NO a lot, but I’m saying YES to myself.
And it feels good.

Do what makes your soul smile and your heart dance. Don’t wait for the opportunity; create it.

FATPHOBIA: IT’S NOT ALL JUST IN OUR HEADS

Your body isn’t wrong; society is.

I wish I could go back and constantly remind preteen-year-old me, who’d spent most of her time avoiding big crowds because she hated the extra skin that dressed her, of those very words.

​Throughout this never-ending journey of self-love that I’ve been on, even today, I still find myself whispering that in the back of my mind… every now and again. Maybe it’s because, deep down, I’m still that little girl who’s trying to see where she fits in the world because she doesn’t fully and truly know how to love herself just yet. If we’re being honest, I’m still learning.

Confidence and esteem are two things that I’ve always struggled with. As if my problematic, melanated skin wasn’t already at the top of my insecurity list, the chunkiness of my frame slowly, but surely, added to that. Growing up, I didn’t realize how “wrong” my weight was until others started pointing out why it wasn’t right. Nor did I realize how much of an impact my appearance had on the people who chose to be around me and how they viewed my character. It actually took having fellow kids refuse to sit by me in the school lunchroom, snicker at me in PE, and taunt me on and offline for me to understand that, in their eyes, I was different.

I could never understand why. Why the boys would overlook me for the skinnier girl in the bunch. Why I was good enough to make them laugh but never good enough to make them kind. Why I was rarely invited anywhere, and if I was, I was always the oddball out. That prompted me to feel as though I was the problem, as though my bigness was not desirable or acceptable. Be it through friendships and/or relationships in my teenage years. I simply just felt like I was taking up too much space by being me, which is why I despised any type of social setting that would make others notice my fat body. To them, I didn’t belong, and as hurtful as it was, I had become okay with that. I had become okay with being the girl who no one liked or wanted around. To the point where, when people did really like or want me around, I chose to isolate myself before they had the chance to.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking would follow me from my childhood to my young womanhood. And even in my adulthood, I still find myself slipping back into it on the few bad days that I have outside of the good days. Sadly, as an adolescent, I had been convinced that the width of my waist deemed me to be less than. I had been convinced that smaller meant better. But I didn’t understand that the world’s opinions of how I should look were conditioning me to think that way, and fatphobia was really the root of the problem.

Define fatphobia, you say.

“Fatphobia is the fear and dislike of fat people and the stigmatization of individuals with bigger bodies. As with any system designed to exclude, shame, or oppress people on the basis of shared characteristics or identities, it can be easy to assume that something like fatphobia only exists on an individual level,” SRH Week’s website reads.

​Yes, you heard it here; fatphobia is actually one of the most common forms of discriminatory behavior. However, when mentioned, it’s either brushed to the wayside or completely (de)labeled as the tactic of oppression that it is and (re)labeled as more so “overanalyzing.”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told, “It’s all in your head,” while receiving stares of disgust from random women of a thinner stature. Or, the times it’s been directly told and/or indicated that I’m “pretty for a big girl” by men who were only interested in fetishizing me to fulfill their own first-time fantasies. Let me not even get started on the uncomfortable sexual references or pet names; that’s a different topic for another day. But, what I’m really trying to say is, it all plays into fatphobia. No one wants to talk about it because they don’t see it as a real issue that larger women face.

And, NO… before I go any further, I don’t want this to get misconstrued or misinterpreted as an attack on all skinny women or all men who find an honest attraction to fat bodies. Because it’s not. I’m speaking of the ones who dehumanize someone solely off of the strength of how many sizes up they have to go in clothing. I’m not saying that women only experience fatphobia either, but if we really want to get candid, we are the ones who endure it on a more extreme level. Men of bigger sizes are often praised for their seemingly strong-ness, while the women are stereotyped and stigmatized. Nasty, unkept, desperate–due to lack of male attention–and food-crazed are four of the most overused misconceptions of us. The crazier part about it is, most of these misconceptions aren’t just placed upon us by people with smaller frames; men who carry the same body shape, if not a stretch mark and stomach roll ahead, do as well.

Nowadays, it’s even more evident that some people simply just can’t stand to see plus-size women loving their bodies without it being seen as “promoting obesity.” So, because my frame may not meet what everyone has deemed as “normal” beauty standards, I’m not allowed to love myself out loud? I’m not allowed to appreciate my body for what it is–flaws, flabs, and all?

I have made a vow to myself to stop turning down the volume of my confidence to bring others comfort, and from this point forward, I plan to honor that vow.

Maybe one day, society will grasp that one’s weight doesn’t determine their worth.

To my fellow plush pals, until then, we can only continue being the fluffy, fine, free queens that we are… unapologetically!

Featured Image: Nadine Kruithof Illustrations