I am participating in the UncoSynchro blog, a writing collaborative effort from #UNCO, focusing on subversive themes of faith and life. The theme for February is (un)Loved.
It's Valentine's Day, a day I hate more than almost any other day. Thus, I felt it necessary to write a blog post about everyone's favourite subject, self-love. The following represent my thoughts on a subject that is highly personal to me and one that is also highly charged.
"You're too skinny"
"Are you anorexic?"
"You just need to eat more. That will put the weight on ya!"
"Have you tried working out? Lift some weights, it will do wonders for you."
"Come over to my house and I'll fatten you up in no time."
These are all comments I've received over the years from people who mean well. I admit it, I'm skinny. For those of you who've only read my blog and have never actually met me in person, let me paint the picture for you. I'm 5 ft 9.5 inches tall. I weigh maybe 130 pounds if I'm lucky. I have zero body fat and my metabolism is super fast meaning that I can't gain weight even when I try. I know what you're thinking. "He's so lucky. I'd love to have that problem. I'll gladly give him some of my weight."
Yeah, I've heard that one before too. How it must be so great to eat as much as I want and not gain a pound. Or how lucky I am that I'm not overweight and have to worry about health problems that come from that. I've heard pretty much every comment a person can hear about my weight. I know people mean well. I know those comments aren't meant to be hurtful. Most of the time, I am able to laugh it off and smile.
However, I don't think people realise how hurtful their comments can be sometimes. I've struggled with body image issues my whole life. I got called anorexic every single day of high school because I weighed less than 100 pounds the whole way through high school and people thought for sure I must be anorexic or something. For the record, I've never had any sort of eating disorder and I do in fact like to eat. I eat at least 2 meals a day, sometimes 3 and I snack constantly. The idea of intentionally skipping a meal or intentionally throwing it up after eating it has zero appeal to me. So, you don't need to worry. I'm eating. That's one thing I'm really good at: eating.
I've made peace with the way I look, mostly. Do I have times when I wish I was fatter or had more curves or had a six pack? Yes, yes I do. Somedays I look in the mirror and I'm really disgusted by what I see. I think our culture glamorises and idolises thinness to an unhealthy degree. We demonize fat people and call them lazy. However, that also means that we sometimes don't think about the fact that thin people can also struggle with body image. Yes, I'm skinny but it's not the "good" kind of skinny. I'm too skinny (whatever that might mean). I look like I haven't eaten in days or like I'm starving myself.
I'm trying to get to a place where I can love myself, all my non curves and non edges. Self-love is actually the hardest kind of love there is. It requires you to accept the fact that you are the way you are and that that isn't likely to change anytime soon. It requires you to quiet all the voices in your head that tell you that you are too skinny or that maybe you should be anorexic since everyone thinks you are anyway. It is not helped by well meaning voices telling me to eat more or work out more or offering to fatten me up. What those comments are really implying is that I'm not good enough as I am and that my current weight is unacceptable to those people. That doesn't make the task of loving myself very easy.
We need to think about the way we speak to each other and we need to be careful that our comments never imply that the other person isn't perfect the way they are. What I want more than anything is for others to affirm that the way I am is great and beautiful and worthy of being loved and that I don't need to do a thing to change it. I currently weigh the most I have ever weighed in my entire life. It is very possible that I will stay this weight for several more years, even decades. I want to be okay with that fact. I want to accept the fact that I weigh what I weigh and that is good enough. But then, somebody else says something like, "we need to fatten you up" and I realise that I'm not ok with it.
On this Valentine's Day, a day when we recognize and celebrate love, let us begin with self-love. Let us love ourselves as we are and not be so quick to try and change it. Let us love the bodies we were born with. Ok, so I don't have a six pack and I don't have muscles and I don't look like a male model. That's ok. I don't need to. I look like myself and that's good enough, don't you think?