Not that kind of self-love, you dirty birds! I am taking about loving who you are. This is not a new subject on my blog. I have talked it about in Love Yourself First, Body Image Q&A and Square Hole, Round Peg. I listed myself as someone I love and mention fat acceptance throughout my blog. Heck, most of my traffic from unique visitors comes from search terms such as "fat girl with short hair" and most of the emails I get aren't about my artwork or cats but about body image. You may also notice the "No Diet Talk" badge in my sidebar.
So when I read that A for Ampersand was declaring February self-love month, I wasn't blown away at the concept but I still want to show my participation and express my take on the subject. Although Amy wouldn't be considered plus-sized, she has struggled with body image issues of her own, just as anybody any size can. Her perspective may be different than mine on certain points so I am going to share my thoughts on self-love. She declares that we refrain from negative body talk while I use the word fat freely. To some, the word fat is negative but I think of it only as a 3-letter word that describes me and not my fate or worth. It is not productive for me to use mantras and notes on my mirror, reminding myself of the beauty I am inside and out. While I can see the value of these exercises and therapy for some, I am personally more focused on changing how the world sees fat bodies.
I am fighting for fair treatment and respect from my peers, medical professionals, family and workplace. I am saying let's stop hiding behind words like "curvy" or "hour-glass" and be allowed to live normal lives without having to buy extra plane tickets or listen to countless lectures on weight loss from our doctors. You may need the self-love process or maybe you are ready to stand up again discrimination, like me. Either way, the fact that we are talking about it fairly and without judgement is important and I give a thumbs up to Amy for that.
I am very supportive of people living their life to their fullest and not waiting for their body to change before they go on trips, get married or start a hobby. I am saddened by people in the blogger community that avoid fashion posts and posting photos of themselves because they are unhappy with their weight or looks. I wish I knew how to reach out to every single one of you that feels that way! I want to encourage you to put yourself out there. You don't have to wait until you think you are perfect. You may not know it yet, but you are already perfect. You are you and there isn't any reason why you shouldn't show off that cute outfit you are proud of or plan a silly photo shoot! I used to feel the butterflies in my stomach before hitting the publish button on a post with photos of myself. But now I feel only a couple and never regret sharing my life and fashion with you guys.
I have come a long way since the days of mapping out my curves and bumps and going to sleep at night wishing they would disappear by morning. I used to feel hurt by every comment and worried about every glance. I started reading fat acceptance blogs and began to see people in a different light, like Beth Ditto and Torrid models. Soon after, I started seeing myself in a different light too. Those bumps and curves I used to worry about so much were now just a part of me and no big deal! My shape was uniquely mine but yet similar to all these confident and beautiful women. One day, the negative thoughts stopped and I started living my life. I stopped crash dieting and crying at bathing suit season. I was enjoying shopping for sassy outfits and going on trips. Ignorant comments from family members bounced off me instead of staying stuck in my squishy side. I wasn't alone anymore and I felt useful and appreciated.
It's amazing what a huge difference was made when I starting loving myself and accepting my body and shape. Maybe it is what the difference of being 29 instead of 19 can make but I owe a lot of it to the community I found over those 10 years. This amazing online community of plus-sized bloggers and activists that still inspire me. They didn't validate my faults or give me an excuse to be unhealthy or have bad habits. They taught me to stop punishing myself and end a cyle of abusing myself physically and mentally. I get to be me now. All 300 pounds of Rachele that wears skinny jeans, horizontal stripes and short hair. Food is not a problem or issue, it is fuel to take this body where it needs to go. This body that goes to work every day, blogs, creates, thrifts and adventures.
I challenge you to think differently about your own body image and encourage others to do the same. Treat all sizes with respect and dignity and don't judge a person's health or value based on their weight. This month and all months!