I have been fat my whole life. From the moment I had my first glimmer of self awareness as a child I felt the sting of body shame. I have been criticized both constructively (“I’m just concerned about your health…maybe we should get your thyroid tested!” — true story) and very unconstructively (being mooed at by some random asshole in a parking lot — also a true story). These events along with countless others contributed greatly to my feelings of disconnection from the people around me and to my self hatred. I remember trying to talk about these feelings with my friend at the time and her advice was for me to use those bad feelings as motivation to change. This is a concept that springs naturally to mind to anyone who is dissatisfied with themselves. Let your self loathing fuel the fires within and you will turn into an exercising, dieting, self denying crushinator to be feared by all!! This has been my strategy for many years and I’m sure you’ll be very surprised to learn that it does not work. But why? If you don’t like something then change it, right?
The truth of the matter is that self care cannot come from self hate. Like oil and water, they do not mix. You might even try shaking them really hard, putting a great deal of time and effort to get them to blend but in the end they will always separate and make you feel like a failure. It’s just basic science! I have fruitlessly labored to neighbour these two concepts in my mind for most of my life leading to feelings of failure leading to more feelings of shame, and so on and so forth, forever and ever, amen.
When you hate your body anything to do to ‘improve’ yourself feels like a punishment. I’m on the treadmill because I’m fat and I hate myself. I’m eating lettuce because I’m fat and I hate myself. I’m staying in alone tonight because I’m fat and I hate myself. I made a mistake, I’ll always be fat and hate myself, time for bacon with a side of bacon (another true story). I may have been able to make some temporary changes but I always ended up feeling like a failure with every little mistake.
Since I started my body love journey I have found that a side effect of loving myself is a natural inclination to want to take care of myself. I want to keep more healthy to take care of this gorgeous vessel and when I don’t eat healthy I can forgive myself and let go of any feelings of shame. I want to participate more in life instead of shy away from it because I no longer feel unworthy. My goals are not to lose 50 pounds or fit into a certain dress. My goals are to do things that I had told myself that I am too fat for, or maybe to wear something that makes me feel extra awesome just as I am! And the crazy thing is that I already feel like I’ve ‘self improved’. None of this, when I lose 20 pounds then I can feel a little better about myself bullshit.
I had always thought that I needed to hate myself so that I would be motivated and that by loving myself that I would be satisfied to sit and rot but it is simply untrue. Shame is an extremely poor motivator. You may think it’s working for a time but in the end your feelings of self loathing on the inside will show on the outside too.