Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Self-Esteem Warrior

I am healthy and I generally take good care of myself.  Of course, I am not perfect, but I don't know anyboy who is.  Being human is like that.  We have to have some tolerance for the imperfections that make us who we are, that challenge us, that deepen us, that teach us.  However, though I appreciate the gifts I have gotten from having lived through my life as a fat woman, sometimes it gets old to be the brunt of negative assumptions, judgments, and and just plain discrimination. It gets old to struggle with my own internalization of those negative beliefs. 

This week I have been struggling with those negative inner (and outer) demons.  I have been thinking about all of the things in my life that I have waited to do until I was skinny, like that was going to be the magical ticket to greatness.  And the annoying part is that this idea (that being thin will magically make us happy and fix our lives) is blaring at us, all of the time. Our culture is infused with negativity about bodies.  So, in order to maintain my core sense that I am fundamentally OK, I have to be a Self-Esteem Warrior.  I have to work with my shame, and use my anger to stand up for myself, and stand up against the tyranny of a fat-phobic culture.

The idea of being a "self-esteem warrior" is examined in an Australian article by Elizabeth Sutherland about the fat acceptance movement, and the damage done by the cultural demonization of and discrimination against fat people.  This article sums it up nicely as follows:
"Much of the hatred directed towards fat people is seen as justified on the grounds that being larger is bad for your health. But this is a very simplistic and almost entirely untrue assumption. The link between weight and health is far more complex than the media would have us believe, and medical studies have never unequivocally proven that being fat is an independent health risk. Even so, in this country headlines about ‘obesity’ and an ‘obesity epidemic’ have increased fifty fold in a decade, and yet our waistlines have barely moved in that time. The Fat Acceptance movement attempts to demonstrate that the moral panic about obesity has more to do with junk science than junk food. What is very clear from the scientific research, however, is that there is no sure-fire way to make a fat person thin. We know that diets don’t work for the vast majority of people – but neither do ‘lifestyle changes’, drugs or even surgery. In fact, weight loss usually isn’t good for your health and could be associated with higher mortality rates – but we don’t read much about that in magazines."

Hallelujia, Sister!  This is the message I think women (and men) need to hear!  We are being given "junk" information, and are being physically, emotionally, and spiritually wounded by the idea that we have to fit a cultural ideal in order to be healthy, to be attractive, to be happy, or to have a life worth living. 

We have to be the change we want to see, right?  So, I have to take up my bow and arrow, and become a Woman Warrior for Self-Esteem.  I can't get sucked back into old patterns of dieting and binging, beating myself up, mistrusting and hating my body, and acting as my own jailer and abuser.  I am not just standing up against my own insecurities - I am standing up for all of us.  We all have a right to claim our bodies, our health, and our and happiness, whatever our size or shape.  We have a right to be free from discrimination, judgment, bullying, and abuse. This is a fight worth fighting.  I am putting on my armor, and going to battle.

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