It is a truth universally acknowledged that having a body can be hard. It can be nearly impossible to escape body image messages about how you should look, what you should eat, when and how you should exercise, and what kind of all of the above is "good" or "bad." And these messages almost never factor in disability, physical and mental illness, or class.
Take a cursory glance at any women's magazine and you'll see advertisements for everything from detox tea and "meal replacement" shakes to articles about "How to Get a Bikini Body" or "How to Lose 10 Pounds in a Week!" That's where Body Positive and Fat Activists come in, including Angie Manfredi, the editor behind The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce, out Sept. 24.
The (Other) F Word is specifically focused on giving fat people the chance to tell their own stories. In this book, you'll find personal essays, prose, poetry, fashion tips, and art by Dumplin' author Julie Murphy, Undead Girl Gang author Lily Anderson, body positive blogger Corissa Enneking, and many more creators. This anthology is meant for people who desire to be seen and heard in a culture consumed by a narrow definition of beauty.
Keep reading for an excerpt from the book, written by Corissa Enneking, a fat activist and body positive blogger at FatGirlFlow.com, and take a look at the vibrant cover, designed by Hana Anouk Nakamura with illustrations by Lisa Tegtmeier:
EXCERPT: "Confidence" by Corissa Enneking
Be confident. That’s what people tell us now. Fat people can be beautiful, you just have to be confident! Confidence is the new pretty. You can achieve anything as long as you’re confident. But while we’re being told this is the key to loving ourselves, we’re being accosted with language and images that tell us otherwise:
Be confident in your body
*diet pill commercial plays on the radio!*
*the store you’re in doesn’t sell your size!*
Everyone is beautiful
*the thin model on TV says!*
How does anyone expect us to just wake up and be confident in a world that tells us every day not to be? And what exactly is this confidence thing everyone is talking about?
The problem with all the confidence rhetoric is that it doesn’t give people a true picture of what confidence looks like or how it is gained. Confidence, by definition, is the belief in one’s abilities. Now let’s break down what that really looks like.
Confidence is not looking fly as hell on Instagram. It is not walking around with your head held high. It is not an aura that someone exudes. Confidence is the belief that you are capable.
When it’s put that way, it becomes a bit clearer why people have such a hard time with it. Believing you are a capable human being can get fucked up pretty much anywhere along the way in your life. And once it’s fucked up, it’s pretty hard to fix it. Let’s quit talking about confidence as your goal. Feeling confident and believing you are capable become easier as you make your way toward loving yourself. The goal is not confidence; the goal is to love ourselves wholly and completely. Because when that happens, confidence will come naturally.
"Confidence is not looking fly as hell on Instagram. It is not walking around with your head held high. It is not an aura that someone exudes. Confidence is the belief that you are capable."
First and foremost, we have to speak kindly to ourselves. When my best friend’s son was about two, he went through a mild rebellious phase, and my best friend bore the brunt of that phase. We all know that children mean no harm and it takes them some time to learn boundaries, but it was still painful for my friend. One day he said something hurtful to her, and I saw tears well up in her eyes. Before I could catch myself, I looked right at him and said, “Don’t talk to my friend like that!” He looked a bit shocked and proceeded to apologize to his mom. I couldn’t believe I just said that to a two-year-old. He didn’t know his words had that kind of impact!
Well, that voice inside your head doesn’t know its impact, either. That voice inside your head has been hearing and speaking cruel things for as long as it can remember, and you’re going to have to set some boundaries with it. Now when I have a negative thought about myself, I say to that voice in my head, “Don’t talk to my friend like that!” It doesn’t always stop the nasty thoughts, but it almost always slows them down... and makes me giggle a little bit.
Once you slow down your thoughts, you’ve got to start doing a little fact-checking. It turns out we’re told a lot of bullshit for a lot of years, so you’ve got to start asking yourself, “Why the hell do I think that?” If you see your thighs in the mirror and think they have too much cellulite, try asking yourself, “Why do I think that? What constitutes too much anyway?” Is there a scale on which you’re measuring the amount of cellulite on your legs? Or do you think there’s too much cellulite on your thighs because some kid made a joke about cottage cheese legs when you were fifteen? Does that kid get to decide how you feel about your body forever after? No way!
"That voice inside your head has been hearing and speaking cruel things for as long as it can remember, and you’re going to have to set some boundaries with it."
It’s important to remember that sometimes we find out someone we really care about may be one of the sources of bad thoughts we have about our bodies. It’s OK to be upset about that, and it’s OK to address it with that person. There’s no need for it to hold you back, though. You do not have to resolve every issue with everyone who ever hurt you before you love yourself.
Lastly, stop judging others. Here’s the thing: You don’t need to stop judging others for some greater good or because it’s nice. You’ve got to do it because every time you judge someone, you store that judgment in a little vault. And on your worst days, you unlock that vault and you let those judgments pour out onto yourself. Practicing love and non-judgment for others is a great way to build self-love. Sometimes we might think we are judging people because we care about them. Judging someone and masking it as “concern” is condescending and unnecessary. Unsolicited advice is never good advice. You are not more informed on another person’s life than they are. Once you slow down your judgments of others, your judgments of yourself will naturally follow suit.
"You can cope with difficult. You are capable of unlearning the lies you’ve been taught. You are capable. You are so incredibly capable."
So that’s it! You’re magically going to love yourself now, right? Well, not exactly. You’ve got to remember that society has been planting these hurtful ideas in our heads for our whole lives. It’s going to take a little bit of time to unlearn them and start accepting ourselves. You’ll need to practice and be gentle with yourself when you fail. It won’t be easy, and in fact, sometimes it will be hard. That’s OK. You can cope with difficult. You are capable of unlearning the lies you’ve been taught. You are capable. You are so incredibly capable.
And that’s where we gain confidence: in the experience of unlearning what we’ve been taught and finding our truest selves. It’s a wild ride, but it is so incredibly worth it.
You’re worth it.
CORISSA ENNEKING is a fat activist and body positive blogger at FatGirlFlow.com. She has a major obsession with plants, bikinis, and summertime. Her activism focuses on providing resources for plus size shoppers about where to purchase clothing that will fit them and make them feel incredible. You can find Corissa on Instagram @fatgirlflow and on Twitter @fatgirlfreedom.