I didn’t wake up one day just deciding I wasn’t going to diet anymore. The decision came over the span of years where I would struggle to lose weight to no avail, stop trying and then feel so disgusted with myself for being weak I would re-start my diet. When I finally gave up dieting, self-acceptance didn’t just come immediately. For years after stepping off the dieting merry-go-round, I still believed the hate filled messages society threw at me.
I was like a “dry drunk”. I’d given up the addictive behavior, but didn’t give up the feelings of self-loathing and self-contempt that brought about the destructive behaviors. It took a very long time and conscious rejection of the ideas instilled in me by society at large to get to this place in my life. It took hard work to build up my self-esteem to the point that I can look at myself in the mirror and not hate the image that stares back at me. Where I can look at myself and actually like the way I look, even when I’m not wearing anything to ‘hide’ the fat. It took constant vigilance to weed out the thoughts of self-harm, the thoughts calling me lazy, dishonest, an affront to all hard working (read skinny) people everywhere.
It took identifying the too small boxes society tried to force me into. It took realizing that it didn’t matter how much weight I lost, society would never be happy with me — unless I starved myself into near non-existence that is. It took waking up and realizing that society does not have the right to decide my worth. Especially not by using the most shallow of metrics available, my appearance.
When I started developing self-esteem I was able to realize that I didn’t have to wait until I lost 20, 50, 100 pounds to be okay. I am okay just as I am. When I started to develop self-esteem I realized I didn’t have to be treated with contempt by doctors and store clerks and jerks on the street. It was only after I started to develop self-esteem that I realized society does not have the right to define my reality.
Before I developed self-esteem, I believed the doctors who told me I was unhealthy, even though all the tests said otherwise. I believed I couldn’t be a contributing member of society because I was fat. I believed I was too lazy. I felt I deserved the contempt and abuse heaped upon me by a society that is fearful of anything that doesn’t look like itself.
Self-esteem has nothing to do with what size you are, contrary to what people will try to make you believe. Self-esteem does not come from a number on a scale or a BMI percentage. Self-esteem comes from deliberate acts of self-love.
It comes from living your life by your rules. It comes from breaking out of boxes other people put you in. Or even boxes you put yourself in. Self-esteem come from not letting anybody else define you. It comes from not believing the lies society tells you about not being good enough. Especially since society is pretty shallow and judges your worth only on the most superficial of criteria — your number, your skin color, how much money you make.
Rejecting society’s boxes and judgements is a constant, mindful act. Breaking free of self-hatred, self-loathing, and self-harming behavior is not “giving in”. It is actively repudiating the harmful messages society constantly throws at us.
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