Check this out: I was nominated and selected to be one of Rochester’s Roc health all-stars!
Here’s the article, and here’s the video:
I am so honored to be part of this group. It really shows that health is multi-dimensional, and that it means different things to different people. It also illustrates that health is not just about the body, but also about the mind, heart, and spirit.
Now, it wouldn’t be Big Fit Deal if I didn’t tell you the whole truth, so… Yeah, I am not loving what I look like in this video. At all. To wit:
Here was my train of thought:
Oh, man, they picked the part where I got super emotional. Ack, is that what my makeup looks like? My skin is so blotchy. Why did they have to shoot it at an angle where my chin looks enormous? My nose is so crooked! No wonder I don’t have a boyfriend – look at that face!
Interestingly, I love the shots of me power walking on the oh-so-snowy canal path, which is exactly the part I most feared seeing when they were being shot! But it’s the video clips of me just talking in my living room that bother me. Of course, the point isn’t what I look like – the point is what I’m saying. Still, I’m allowed to feel my feels, and these feels are along the lines of “ugh.” I told you I was going to be honest!
At the end of the day, I hope that when people see this, they hear my words and take them to heart. In the meantime, I’ll work on accepting – and maybe even loving? – what I look like. Deal? Deal!
Oh, and a huge thank you to Heather and Amy for nominating me!
It’s finally here: My interview with Jes Baker, known to the world as The Militant Baker! Jes was in Rochester last week to give her talk, “Change the World, Love Your Body.” I was thrilled to be able to hear her speak, and she did not disappoint. She talked about her theories on why and how fat became the worst thing a person can be, offered us ten ways to learn to love our bodies, and explained how individual body love can change the world. I hope you get a chance to see Jes speak live one day, because it will change your life in the best way. (Check out her TEDxTuscon talk here.)
Pretty soon, you’ll be able to bring Jes home with you in the form of her new book, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls, which comes out in September. In the meantime, see what she had to say when I had the chance to ask her some questions after her talk. It’s a long post, I know, but totally worth your time. Bonus: fabulous fatties photos!
BLS: What is the best part about what you do?
JB: I think that speaking has turned into my favorite part. Because it’s really nice to reach millions of people online, but there is something really special about meeting people in person. And afterwards, a lot of people come up and they ask you questions, but really they just want to tell you their story. Because we know we don’t really have many people we can have these conversations with. So that is really wonderful, and I’ve heard a lot of really touching stories, and met a lot of really amazing people, and can’t believe I get paid to do this.
BLS: What’s the hardest part?
JB: I hate dealing with the amount of hate that comes towards me, the bullying. It’s just terrible, there’s no way around it. I’m not gonna pretend like it doesn’t exist, I’m not gonna pretend like it’s not hard to deal with. But what’s really lucky, that I just realized, is that there comes a point where it’s so extreme, and there’s so much of it, that it just turns into noise. And I finally hit that part where I will never please everyone, I will always be hated by some – loved by many, hated by some – and it has no bearing on me, my worth, my job. And so that was really liberating.
BLS: Do you think that one day fat people will truly be treated as equals of thin people?
JB: No. Not necessarily. I know it’s not 100% likely, because anger, hate, violence have been around forever. There will always be bullies. You know, my generation’s obsessed with diversity, so we’re seeing a lot of progression, which is very exciting. But there will always be a scapegoat. And I don’t know if it will be a body shape, or if it will be something else, but I know that hate, anger, bullying, will never go away. Because it’s, unfortunately, human nature. So I don’t know where it’s gonna go, but I do think, gradually, we see it getting better. As far as getting rid of body stigma, we obviously are seeing huge improvements. So I think it will continue to improve, but if you’re asking if it will go away 100%, I can’t say that it will.
BLS: What advice do you have those of us who are already involved in the body acceptance/love movements?
JB: Well, I think there’s a lot of requests for Body Love 201, and I think that’s a fair request. But I don’t think it’s fair to request it of other people. My role in this movement is not to come up with anything new. My role is to bring the message to people who are still in pre-body love and translate it into their language and meet them where they’re at. It’s kind of like I’m the gatekeeper, where I meet people in the very beginning and then you can progress. Because there’s lots of academics who have done a lot of research, and you can learn so much from them, but that’s not my job. So when people ask for 201, I would just encourage them to do it themselves. We need somebody to bring 201 to the masses.
BLS: What does Body Love 201 mean to you?
JB: I think it gets more radical. I am fully progressing that way. I think that health is a really great place to start. Our culture’s obsessed with health. We say ‘healthy is the new skinny.’ And so there’s a lot of learning that can happen there, there’s a lot of revolutionizing that can happen there. I used to say, “Well, my body’s healthy,” and that was radical to me. And that’s what I would talk about. I thought it was really justified and very important. And to a certain extent, there’s people who don’t believe that. And it is [very important]! The level up from that is, “It’s none of your f**king business! I am not less worthy because I’m unhealthy.” And so that’s where I’ve progressed to. I refuse to quantify my health for people, because it has no bearing on me as a person, and my worth. And it’s none of their business. Stacy Bias is a really great person to follow. She does 201. She does this whole comic of good fatty archetypes, and it’s fascinating… and really offensive to a lot of people, because we define ourselves as good fatties, right? And we’re like, ‘Ah! You can’t be talking sh*t about me!’ But she’s not. She’s just breaking it down to things we never think about. So that’s kind of what I’m talking about.
BLS: Okay, these are the two most important questions: What is your favorite movie of all time?
BLS: What’s your favorite TV show? Because you haven’t watched Friday Night Lights yet, so that’s not the answer… yet. [Jes laughs.]
BLS: Anything else you want to say to my one hundred readers?
JB: Yeah! Well, first I’m gonna share this [on Facebook], so that’ll be fun, so don’t misquote me and tell people to lose weight.
BLS: Honey, that would never happen in five million years.
JB: I know, I’m just teasing. I think it’s just really important for people to do their own research. Especially in our social media culture, we see something, we make assumptions, we like it without reading it. And I think that’s relevant because we do the same thing with health indoctrination and all of that. And the information’s out there, so people shouldn’t necessarily believe me. They should do further research and make their own opinions. And I think once people start that, it becomes intoxicating, and that’s where a lot of change happens, in doing the research yourself instead of just listening to other people.
BLS: That word is great, intoxicating. Because when I started on this path, I had no idea where I would go. And it’s been the most amazing journey, and I’m glad it’s still going. I’m glad there’s not an end in sight. I mean, I marathon, so you say, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” And I feel that way about body love and acceptance. It’s just gonna keep going on and on. And even knowing people like you and Ragen Chastain and Marilyn Wann and many of the people that you’ve mentioned tonight, this community that’s out there – and I had no idea these people were out there, and it’s just amazing to know that there’s that community. And to feel a part of it.
JB: I remember just discovering body positivity. It was an accident. [Jes describes finding the now-defunct blog The Nearsighted Owl, which was written by a “super fat” woman whom Jes describes was “like me.” You can find Rachele online now over at Lady Bits.] I remember clicking out of it, because it made me uncomfortable, and then going back, out of curiosity. I eventually kept reading, and then it hit me – and I feel so sad that had to be this moment, but there was a moment where I had that realization, “Maybe I don’t have to hate myself for the rest of my life.” And it blows my mind that some people have never had that realization. I did, and once you know that, you can’t unknow that. And the excitement that comes from blog hopping, and following more and more people, and realizing there’s so many people involved. There is a culture and a community there that you can find. And everyone belongs, and it’s so cool.
BLS: I think that’s one of the most powerful things that you talked about tonight, that I’ve talked to other people about to, is that it is revolutionary to realize that you don’t have to hate yourself. [Jes laughs.] And it’s ridiculous to even say that’s revolutionary, but it is. I’m so grateful for people like you, and I’m just gonna grab on to your coattails and ride along with you, if that’s okay.
JB: Yep, sounds good. We all gotta do it.
I have to hand it to companies: They do try. From Dove to Special K, all kinds of companies are busy trying to show us how they embrace and celebrate all kinds of people – whether we are fat, thin, freckled, frizzy haired, or what have you. Of course, they don’t really want us to accept ourselves as we are, because then how would they make money? But I admit, it’s a start.
Another trick companies use to convince us to like them is showing us how they are the opposite of another company whose slogans and images irritate us. Take, for example, the new Lane Bryant “I’m No Angel” campaign.
This ad remind us of the Victoria’s Secret Angels, a club that is exclusive to very thin, beautiful, busty women (representing a very small percentage of bodies) and shows us that the Lane Bryant club is different. Where Victoria’s Secret is exclusive, Lane Bryant’s lingerie line, Cacique, is inclusive. Sort of.
These women, these not-angels, are not thin, but they are beautiful, and they are busty. They are pretty much thicker versions of the VS Angels, which means that they too represent a very small percentage of bodies (although this time, bigger ones). Which means that the #ImNoAngel campaign excludes me, just as all Victoria’s Secret campaigns exclude me. I don’t have a flat-ish stomach or small arms. I’m not proportionate like these women; I don’t have a big chest that would turn my pear shape (or whatever fruit I am) into an hourglass, that would allow me to comfortably call myself “curvy” in the sense that most people mean it. Lane Bryant doesn’t even come close to selling my bra size.
Okay, I know, it sounds like I’m never satisfied, right? I should be happy with this progress. And I am! Really, I am. I’m glad to see non-thin women prancing around in their undapants. But that doesn’t mean I can’t (or shouldn’t) want even more body diversity. More! I am unapologetic about wanting more. How does #IWantMore sound?
I want to see women who aren’t hourglass proportionate, who don’t have flat(ish) stomachs, who have floppy arms and jiggly thighs and stomach rolls and stretch marks and scars, who have short hair and no hair, who have small breasts and no breasts and mismatched breasts. The more we see bodies that look like ours, the more easily we will learn to accept – and maybe love – what we’ve got. Let’s see someone turn that into an ad campaign!
I wish there was a stronger connection between my head, my heart, and my eyes. Because I had a great time on my South Carolina beach vacation – I laughed, lounged, shopped, and sunned with my wonderful friends – and yet, when I look at the photos, I wonder how I managed to have a good time at all. How ridiculous that looking at a picture or two (or a a dozen) can make me feel bad, when I know I felt so good when they were taken. Listen up, eyes: It’s time for you to catch up with my head and my heart!
Here are two pictures I want to share with you. The first is one I love, of me in my favorite bathing suit and my fantastic new sun hat, standing on the beach. You’ll notice that my belly isn’t showing, or my hips, and one arm is hidden and the other is cut off so that you can’t see how big they are.
Now here’s a picture that my best friend took, of her youngest son and me on the beach, during a break in the action of an intense game of I Spy. Oh, man. When she sent me this photo, I cringed. Look at how wide I am! Look at my arm! I wanted to hide this picture from the world. And then I immediately asked for my BFF’s permission to use this here on BFD. Because a huge part of my body acceptance journey is accepting all parts of my body, even when they aren’t artfully and purposefully cut out of the frame.
There are a lot of other pictures from this trip that make me uncomfortable. I look so wide, so big, so this, so that. (I don’t know if I will ever like my eyes without makeup!) But I keep reminding myself of how much fun I had, how good the sun felt, how much I loved those sunrise walks on the beach, those moments when I laughed so hard I could barely breathe, those glasses of wine with the girls as dusk settled in. I can’t let those great memories that live in my heart and head be corrupted by what my eyes see now.
My friend Rachel once told me that, because a picture is just a frozen moment in time, it doesn’t capture the real us. In life, we are constantly in motion, our bodies are always moving, shifting, changing. When we see what we perceive to be an unflattering photo, that isn’t an accurate representation of what we look like, because our arm isn’t frozen in that particular position, our bellies aren’t always seen from the side, our chins (!) aren’t always viewed from that angle . I try to remember this, that a picture is worth a thousand words, but my body in motion – yours, too – is worth so very many more.
This picture comes into focus: Me, in a bathing suit on a beach, fat arms and belly and hips and thighs, laughing, surrounded by the people I love, happy.
I know I said I wasn’t gonna see you until after my vacation, but I had to pop in to tell you that Jes Baker is coming to Rochester! Before you say, “Who?!,” see if this picture rings a bell:
Yep, Jes Baker, who blogs over at The Militant Baker, is the amazing fat woman who created an ad campaign (that’s her tattooed self in the picture) after Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO made those ridiculous comments a few years ago about who he wants to wear his clothes (hint: not fat people).
Jes’s life exploded after these photos came out, and now she lectures all over the country. She’s bringing her talk, “Change the World, Not Your Body” (come ON with that awesome title, am I right?), to the First Unitarian Church on Winton Road here in the ROC a week from today – that would be Wednesday, April 8th. You can get tickets here, and join the Facebook event here.
Me? I cannot wait to meet this woman! She is a force in the body- and fat-positive movements, and I plan to completely fangirl when I meet her. Pretty much like this:
Hope to see you (local) guys there!
BFD is taking a vacation! I’m heading to the beach with some of my favorite people. While I’m frolicking in the sand, soaking up the sunshine, and unabashedly wearing a bathing suit while fat, I hope you continue to treat yourself and your body with kindness and respect and love.
If you’re looking for a few good reads while I’m gone, check out this article over on Slate – the tag line sums it up pretty nicely: It’s time to stop telling fat people to become thin. You can also check out the links at left, under Big Beautiful Blogs, to see some of the places I get my information and inspiration.
And be sure to follow me over on Facebook, because I might take some time away from sunbathing and relaxing to post a few things. As always, feel free to share and comment on things there.
See you after Easter, my friends! I’ll try to bring some sunshine back with me.
I found myself alone with a remote in my hand this past weekend, and I stumbled upon an excellent documentary on PBS (cause that’s how I roll). It’s called Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, and it was spectacular. I can’t describe it without a lot of superfluous gushing and fan-girling, so I’ll let them sum it up:
Directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and produced by Kelcey Edwards, Wonder Women! is a fun and warmly witty look at how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society’s anxieties about women’s liberation.
The documentary was fantastic. It was full of inspirational stories told by women and girls from all walks of life – different races, different sexual orientations, different life experiences – all centered on how the image of a strong and empowered superheroine positively impacted their lives. There was a single mom (and huge Wonder Woman fan) who had come to America in her 20s, put herself through college, and was now raising a strong and self-confident daughter of her own. There was a young girl who got picked on and bullied in school whose love for comic books (and Wonder Woman in particular) gave her the self-confidence she needed to hold her head up high on a daily basis, and inspired her to look beyond her current situation and into a bright, light-filled future. It was very moving, very funny, and I highly recommend it to anyone who could use a good “HELL, YEAH! GO ON, GIRL!” every once in a while.
Now, I’m a tremendous geek. I love comic books and superheroes. I grew up watching (and loving) the brilliant (and only slightly dated) TV adaptations of Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Superman…heck, I even watched Shazam!
But as I was watching the Wonder Woman documentary, hearing about how revolutionary the idea of a female super hero was (and is), seeing the impact this character has had on women and women’s roles over the years… I was struck by the realization that, despite my love of comic books and positive role models for women and girls… my life was impacted not at all by Wonder Woman, or any female super hero. I watched the documentary trip through the decades, showing all of the strong and powerful women who rose from the embers sparked by Wonder Woman’s flame: Charlie’s Angels, The Bionic Woman, Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor. I started thinking, I grew up in an era when women’s liberation was at its peak, and while I wouldn’t say I was surrounded by positive female role models in pop culture, they were definitely out there, and definitely well within reach in my nerdy little world. So… why did Wonder Woman – and all of those strong and powerful women – not have the impact on me that they did on those women in the documentary, and thousands of others?
Because these women looked at Wonder Woman, and saw themselves. I looked at Wonder Woman, and saw a tiny little waistline and gigantic boobs.
Most girls look at superheroines and see a projection of their fantasy-selves – they see a woman that they could one day grow up to be. I saw a thin, beautiful woman – something I would never be. The same applies to the rest of those pop culture superheroines I grew up with – Charlie’s Angels, The Bionic Woman, Buffy Summers, all of the female X-Men (don’t get me started on that name), and pretty much every single superhero to ever grace the cover of a comic book. All thin, all beautiful, all completely and totally NOT ME.
So that got me wondering (in a purely rhetorical way, of course): Why no fat super heroines? There are countless numbers of male super heroes who don’t all have rippling biceps and six-pack abs, and their powers and abilities are no less valued than those of Superman or Batman. Where are the plus-sized X-Men (ugh…that name again) who are strong and beautiful and a valued member of the team, and FAT? We want to inspire our daughters to be independent and self-confident and to teach them that it’s okay to be strong and to stick up for yourself. So why doesn’t that apply to ALL girls? Why doesn’t that apply to the girls who need it the most??
Where is my strong, body-positive, fat-as-hell, ass-kicking superheroine??
Let me know what you think. Were you positively influenced by female super heroes as a child? Were you able to look past the fact that they didn’t look like you, and see just the “power within”? Are you bothered by the fact that there has never been a fat female role model in pop culture, or are you happy taking what we’re given, and adapting them to suit your needs?
Sound off – shout it to the rafters! LET YOUR VOICES BE HEARD!!
(Sorry…too many comic books…)
The other day, someone asked me to distill the message of Big Fit Deal into a single sentence. I quoted a variation of the blog’s tagline, which is that health and fitness are for everybody, and every body. I also mentioned that I am a proponent and personal practitioner of Health At Every Size (HAES). We haven’t talked about that much here, not in detail since I first started the blog back in 2012 (!).
I think it’s worth bringing up again, for a couple of reasons. The first is because it’s still not a very mainstream idea, and I think a lot of people could benefit from it. Here are the basic principles of HAES (with thanks to the Association for Size Diversity and Health [ASDAH]):
- Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
- Health Enhancement: Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.
- Respectful Care: Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.
- Eating for Well-being: Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.
- Life-Enhancing Movement: Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.
I think these are excellent principles on which to base your health. Of course – and here comes point number two – there are a lot of people who believe that body weight is the best indicator of health, that fat people cannot also be healthy. Some even think that HAES encourages fat people to gorge and laze around. (Strange… I didn’t notice any of that in the principles above.) It’s fascinating to me that if I choose to live by these principles, some people will think I am neglecting my health because of my size. These principles allow me to accept my body at the weight it truly seems to want to be. They also help me to enjoy life more – something which is so difficult when you are focused primarily on weight loss.
One of the most important aspects of health and wellbeing is in your head. No, really! Your mental health plays a huge role in your physical health. Some people believe that we should shame and stigmatize fat people, that this will cause them to hate themselves thin. HAES, on the other hand, encourages people of all sizes to treat themselves kindly and well. Which of those approaches sounds like it would be most effective in increasing your mental wellbeing?
The final thing I wanted to talk to you about regarding HAES is that people really like to fight about it. I ran across this article, and read through most of the comments, some of which are from Linda Bacon, who wrote the book Health At Every Size. The post is actually several years old, but I think it’s still relevant, because while these two medical professionals argued about science, I sat back and thought, They are missing the point! It doesn’t matter what this study or that study does or doesn’t say. To me, HAES isn’t about the science. It’s about feeling good, making decisions for my body that help me to keep it functioning and strong, and – this is the most important part – not hating myself because of my body size. When I learned to stop hating and fighting my body, everything got better, including my physical health.
My lived experience is worth so much more than any scientific study. And my lived experience has shown me that caring for my body, fueling and moving it because I want to live long and well, is the key to health. My lived experience has shown me that feeding my body less calories than it needs to function, and moving my body because I don’t like what it looks like, are not sustainable practices, and do not make me feel good – physically or mentally.
So tell me: What do you think of the HAES principles? Do they seem like a healthy approach to life? Or do you need to see the science to know if they really work?
My son’s daycare used to be on the same main drag that a middle school is located on, so every morning I see many kids trudging the streets making their way to school. Then one day I saw the fat girl. She was making her way to school just like all the other kids, but when I first saw her ,my immediate thought was “poor kid.” POOR KID!!! What is wrong with that picture? I made a snap judgment about a young girl who was simply walking to school. I know not two things about her life, her personality, her hopes and dreams, yet I felt she was doomed.
For the next six months or so, I’d keep an eye out for that girl, and my thoughts would reel. I knew right after I made that initial judgment that it was wrong of me to think this girl’s life was crappy just because she was fat, so I started to think deeper about it. I believe the thing that resonated with me the most was my past.
Middle school was the single roughest time in my life, as far as being fat goes. There were no jokes in elementary school (kids were all too young to know any better), but middle school was on its own level. There was one kid who made life especially terrible for me (we’ve actually reconnected and he apologized for making my life hell, but this is beside the point), terrible to the point of tears at the end of some school days, and what I truly feel is the birthplace of a lot of my defense mechanisms.
What do I mean by defense mechanisms? Well, after middle school (and during) I’d turn everything into a joke. I always think that I know what other people are thinking of me, so I immediately make a joke based on my projections of their thoughts to beat them to the punch. It let me make fun of me instead of having to deal with others doing it.
Case in point: My little family had Valentine’s Day photos taken with a good friend of ours. While we were reviewing the pictures at the shoot, my mom said, “You are so beautiful! You could be a model.” I just knew the photographer friend was thinking “She’s too fat for that!,” so I stated that I was 15 years and 80 pounds over my modeling career. Our friend laughed, and I laughed for the sake of the “joke,” but when I replay that moment in my head I wonder what would have happened if I had simply said, “Thanks, Mom.” I feel the photographer might still have been thinking to himself, “She’s too fat for modeling,” but who cares? As long as he wasn’t telling that to my face, that’s his opinion.
I initially felt bad for this girl walking to school because that was me walking to school. I was miserable in middle school, so I just instantly felt she was, too. Her clothes weren’t the greatest (just compared to the other kids I’d see), her hair was pulled tightly back into a ponytail ,and she always walked with her head down at a slow pace. Every time I saw her, I wanted to pull over and talk with her about life. Give her my number, take her on a girl’s day or something, and get an insight into her life – to know if she was unhappy about things or if she was 100% happy, etc. To tell her she should walk with her head up, facing the world, and to let her beautiful hair down. To take her to stores that carry plus-size clothes. In my head, we were BFFs. Then reality brought me back, and I thought she’d probably think I was some weird psychopath, so I’d stare at her as I drove by (a lot less psycho, don’t you know!) and have all these emotions and thoughts crop up.
If I knew the things I knew now back in middle school, I wonder how I would have turned out? If someone had sat me down and explained, “Look, pretty much everyone hates their body or some aspect of it. Life is not about your size, it’s how you carry yourself, it’s about your achievements, it’s about your experiences, it’s about so much more than your size,” would I have turned out differently?
So, this mystery girl gave me an idea: What if I collaborated with some folks and offered a small online site (BFD Junior!) that lays out the fundamental ideals behind BFD? “You hate your body? You’re fat? You’re skinny? Stop trying to please others. Take your life where you want to go, regardless of size or what you think your limits are! You can do what you want. Here are a few tips for learning to love your body just the way it is. Life never gets easier, and there are always bullies, but how you respond/react to such foolishness can really change your outlook on life.”
I’d love to feature photos of real girls of all ages (probably under 18, as this is what I think my target age would be) and sizes, get their hair and makeup done, make them feel as special as they are, and just see a slew of beautiful, smiling faces from all walks of life. Get the parents involved to let them see how much positive reinforcement can impact their child’s life. Root for them to be unique and different, not trying to fit the same mold of media standards we’ve all come to know.
Bethany wrote a piece on having so many ideas of things she wants to accomplish, and this one has been on my mind for at least a year. I’d like to think that if I had seen something like this in my younger years, I would have known that I wasn’t the only one affected by the poisonous thoughts I had of myself, to see other girls my age featured in my YM Magazine or Seventeen, I can only believe it would have had a positive effect on me.
I’d love to hear any input the readers of BFD have. Do you know a young person who has a drab outlook on life that my idea would benefit? Do you think this would help you, a parent of a teen or tween, guide your child through one of the perils of life? Let’s hear it!
You’ve heard the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” right? It’s the idea that comparing yourself (or your life, family, love, career, or anything else) to someone else will only serve to make you unhappy. The someone you choose to compare yourself to probably doesn’t actually have the perfect life, but no matter: You feel inadequate in comparison. So, you know, don’t do that.
Today I’d like to talk to you about something similar – what I’ve decided to call the Grief Thief. This is the idea that we can’t feel our own grief because someone else has it worse. You’ve heard people say this, and I guarantee you’ve said it yourself: “I shouldn’t complain, because [whoever] has it worse than me.”
Well, of course! There is always someone who has less, who suffers more. But why does that mean you aren’t allowed to feel your feels? It doesn’t, and yet we have this sense of… obligation, I guess?… to compare our woes to someone else’s, and find our woes lacking. I think we should stop doing that, too.
Think of it like this: Let’s say you sprain your ankle. Ouch! That’s a huge bummer for you. Now, what if you know someone who broke both their legs? They obviously have it worse than you, so you should probably just keep your trap shut about your pain and inconvenience, right? I say no. You can feel for that person, of course! But that doesn’t mean your own pain and suffering – or your wanting to talk about them, and get sympathy for them – are invalid.
You can do more than one thing at a time. You can feel for yourself and for others. You can be sympathetic, and understanding, and caring, to yourself and to others. You can try to help someone who is suffering more than you, but you can – and I believe you should – allow yourself to feel and experience and share your own pain, your grief, without comparison.
I don’t think this is a selfish or self-centered thing to do. In fact, I think it’s a big part of caring for your own mental health. The more I do this thing I do, the more I realize that mental and emotional health is just as important – maybe even more so – as physical health. This is why we’re seeing more and more evidence (I like to file it under Duh) that the stigma of fat (the bullying and shaming) is often more detrimental to our health than our actual weight.
The next time something in your life goes awry and you feel one of those knee-jerk “I shouldn’t complain” moments coming on, take a breath. Acknowledge what you’re feeling. Express it. Take care of yourself and your needs in that moment. I promise you’ll still have room to feel for the rest of the world when you’re done.