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A Journey in Self Love: fat positive instagram, fatphobic mindset.

“…a constant tug of war between not wanting to conform to ideals that I know are bullshit, but also wanting to be comfortable in my own skin by being comfortable within society”.

It’s always an anxiety-ridden process writing pieces about fatness. Mostly because ingrained in me is the idea that being fat really is my own personal problem, that I feel shit about myself and my body not because I live in a fatphobic society, but because I made myself this way. I’ve started thinking recently about how this system of thinking produces currents of self-loathing, but also how it means that I’m constantly wrestling with trying to be fat and body positive at the same time. I’m in a constant tug of war between not wanting to conform to ideals that I know are bullshit, but also wanting to be comfortable in my own skin by being comfortable within society.

For the last 2 years, I’ve been losing weight, and I’m still waiting to feel completely transformed. When will I get to that point? How much more weight do I have to lose until I’m no longer doubting my self-worth? ‘Skinny’ is sold as this magic feeling, this cure-all for your troubles. We are sold the idea that to be physically or ‘conventionally’ beautiful is to be whole in some way. Being thin is sold as having self-worth, it is a form of social validation. We have been socialised to believe this, and I now have this crippling fear that whether fat or thin I won’t be good enough. Being thin won’t fix or get rid of the very real scars of learning and being reminded that your body, your shape, your being isn’t ‘right’.

What if skinny won’t fix all my problems? Is self-worth and validation at the end of the tunnel, or is it simply just more questions and self-doubt? Because being fat within a fat-phobic society isn’t just about the lack of plus-sized models or plus-sized brands. It’s about space; it’s about being conscious of the space that you take up and not feeling enough, or like you simply don’t deserve to take up that space because of the way your body is shaped. I want to confront what my urge for an outer fix says about me as a self-proclaimed body and fat positive person. Does it mean that being fat is acceptable as long as it’s not a label that’s stuck on me, thus being something that I’m not actually okay with? Or is it an understandable feeling? Does it make me any less fat or body positive if I don’t want to fight anymore?

Any form of resistance is an act of self-love, but it’s not easy. Societal structures don’t function in a way that make self-love and acceptance easy. However many plus-size cycles of ANTM (America’s Next Top Model) there may be, society is not ready to allow fat people a seat at the table. Definitions of beauty are still rigged and set. It is a complete contradiction to preach self-love, and body and fat positivity for everyone else but yourself.  But this is something that is real and raw, it’s my life, my feelings, my mental and emotional well-being. This embodied experience does not exactly fit the contemporary narrative and imagery of unlimited, easy, and unconditional self-love that I and a lot of others portray in life and on social media. Some days this body is confident and feeling herself, and some days this body stands in front of the mirror hoping for a magic fix. And what does that mean? What are the effects of someone wanting society to shift around them for others, but not themselves? I think that these are the questions that need to be asked in this day and age of self-love, and broadly speaking, throughout the whole fat and body positivity movement as a whole. The movement itself has become packaged and market-ready, or as I heard someone say the other day: “the whole chubby trend… you know chubby is in”. Even the way in which we think about fat bodies is becoming set, to the point that I now feel like:

  1. I’m not skinny enough and
  2. I’m not the pretty type of fat.

Moreover, the underground issues aren’t shown. To my naked and insecure eyes, people on my feed are somehow comfortable in their own bodies, and in between the posts, all the shit is skipped. You can’t really practice self-love without dismantling the most toxic parts of yourself, reaching into those dark corners and unpacking the ideas that you have taken on and swallowed your whole life.  But it’s hard, it’s painful, and it’s horrible. At times I feel like a fraud, but I also feel like I’ve lived in this body and I’ve been taught that it’s a prison, and I want to leave. Do I think that those with the same body shape as me, or the same weight as me or even bigger should share this opinion of themselves? No. But do I understand why they would? Yes. I consume a daily narrative on social media of plus-sized brands, plus-sized bloggers and fat positive activists who demand inclusion on their terms, and aim daily to dismantle the narrative we as a society hold onto about fatness. But do I still want to lose weight? Yes, I do. I think my weight-loss motives are more than problematic, but the realisation I’ve come to is that self-love is a radical process. It is made up of trials and tribulations. I may feel like a fraud, but I do know that these are the conversations that we need to be having, and that it’s not an easy breezy process, that it is so much more than increasing your sizing. It’s about shifting thinking, because fat bodies should be seen as valid and worthy, and not burdens on our society and psyche.

Tendai is a 23 year old currently trying to muster up the energy and creativity to apply for her PhD living in Brighton, existing between who she is and who she thought she’d be by now. Her interests centre around identity and how we perceive ourselves and others with a focus on race, desire, mental health and national identity and a few others thing here and there.

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