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The Struggle for Self-Acceptance: Battling Internalized Fatphobia

“I desire thinness”.

“I’m struggling to love my bigger body.”

“I want to take up less space”.

“I want to be skinni-er, thin-ner...Pretti-er? “

Getting these words to leave the secrecy of my head was a painful process. It hurt because, whenever I admit these things, it feels like I am accepting that my own mind is turning against me, erasing all the efforts I’ve made to care for and love my body as it is.

Wanting to go back to an idealized, thinner, more athletic and socially acceptable version of myself makes me feel like I’m relapsing into old disordered habits and harmful patterns of behavior that I thought I had long overcome regarding my body. I hate it.

As a firm believer in the necessity to dismantle the racist, misogynistic and fatphobic standards of beauty that the white patriarchal society applies to all of us, and especially to us femmes of color, wanting and aspiring to thinness makes me feel like a gigantic fraud. But sadly, I can’t seem to shake that desire away.

When quarantine started, I worked out a lot. I danced, jumped, walked when I could because indulging in movement helped me cope. Amidst the global pandemic and despite my anxiety, I realized that my body was my home and I truly felt connected to myself in a novel way, away from the world and its unrealistic standards and expectations. Moving and living in my body actually felt comfortable for the first time in a while. It brought me joy. And then, the lockdown ended.

Since then, it’s become much harder to exist as myself and love my body. When I scroll back to old pictures of myself when my body was visibly leaner, more athletic and thinner, I find my quarantined self so much more attractive than the ‘me’ I see in the mirror, all because the size of my body has changed.

These thoughts are not new. In fact, every time the size of my body changes, I often feel them creep into my consciousness, coming out of their hiding place at the back of my mind. They tell me that I’m too big, that my bum is too flat, that my hair is too thin, that I take too much space. They tell me that I’m unattractive, unworthy, unlovable.

This is simply a testament to how fucked up I am and have been thanks to white society’s standards of lightskin, slim thick, curly-haired, racially ambiguous, hourglass, thigh-gapped, instabaddy beauties. As a young, dark-skinned Black woman, with thin kinky hair, living in a body that has been shamed, that hasn’t felt desirable, valid or visible, it’s hard living in this world. It’s hard loving and embracing my body in this world.

It’s hard because despite all my efforts, and the huge awareness and care for myself I’ve cultivated for years, I still fall prey to these standards that make me feel like l’Il never be enough. Like I’ll never be pretty enough, even “for a black girl“ because I don’t feel like I fit society’s vision of what an attractive woman is. I know for a fact that white society’s current standards have never validated me, and yet the standards of alleged “acceptable“ “attractive“ black femininity don’t welcome me either because I don’t have a huge afro, 3-C curls, light skin or a big bum.

That’s why, despite everything I’ve learned, there’s still a part of me which wants to be thin, to finally feel conventionally attractive, accepted, worthy. And I really wish I didn’t. I really wish I were above societal pressure, and beyond disordered eating, and long past body dysmorphia and fatphobia. I really wish I was. And to some extent I am. Or rather I fight every day to be body neutral, to see myself as an existence rather than a vessel that needs to be validated, consumed or judged in order to have value. But sometimes, I relapse. Sometimes, I fall back, and it hurts.

So, what do I do? Should I attempt to shrink myself to look “better“ ? A voice in my head, growing stronger on the days when my dysmorphia is at an all time high, says that I should be able to do what I want with my body, even if that means going through painful diets again, if that makes me feel more comfortable under other people's and my own scrutinizing gaze.

Even if I know better than to believe in the narrative that “thin is health, and beauty, and acceptable and respectable, and attractive“, a part of me wants to believe that voice. Because back when I existed in that space, I found that society’s fatphobic standards of what is acceptable, valuable, and beautiful were finally within reach for me.

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