Part 1 – Where I Came From, The Journey of Self Acceptance
As I am moving into my third year of blogging I have found myself making plans for what direction I want to take the blog over the next year. I have also been reflecting a lot on past post and the growth I have achieved in just this past few months. But as I think back I realized I have never really shared my journey that brought me to blogging.
I thought I would make this a three-part post about 1. where I cam from. 2. where I am now, and 3. where I am going. I think, if nothing else, many of you will see yourself in parts of my story. And I hope my journey helps someone who is struggling find their way to self acceptance.
I think there is nowhere like the beginning to start, so lets start there. I grew up in eastern Kentucky on a farm in the middle of no where (which to be fair, to most people the middle of no where would describe most of eastern Kentucky). I was, and still am, an only child and grandchild(at least on my father’s side of the family). My whole family was always big to one degree or another. That is, everyone except my father. Your father being skinny wouldn’t normally be an issue, that is unless he has a fat phobia and lives with all large people.
For the first five years of my life my father treated me like a princess that could do no wrong. I was the apple of his eye, his pride and joy, you get the point. Around the time I was 6 things started to change and at the time I didn’t understand why. All I knew was my daddy didn’t seem to love me anymore and he was treating me different. What I understand now is that was the year I started to put pudge on. I say pudge because previously I was nowhere close to being fat. I had previously been so rail skinny that I now just looked healthy. But that’s all it took for my dad to start treating me differently.
That was when things like forbidding food, especially sweets, started happening. I was forced to exercise beyond what was normal. At that point I really was still in the heavy play mode and very physically active on my own, but once the forced exercise started it suck all the fun out of it and I no longer wanted to do it. But for the next couple of years I maintained the same sort of weight. I was at a healthy level for my height, yet I thought I was fat and was already worried about my weight. Let that sink in…at 6 to 8 years old despite being a healthy weight, I thought I was fat and was constantly worried about it.
I remember comparing myself to the other girls at school all the time. Yes, I was bigger than most, but not fat. In reality I was really just taller and had larger bone build than most of them and a very different build. It didn’t help that I was the only mixed girl comparing myself to a room full of white girls. But to my young mind I just knew that since my dad was making such a big deal out my weight, and I was bigger than the other girls, then I must be horribly fat.
By the time I hit age nine I started getting ill a lot. I often wouldn’t feel well and that meant I laid around more than I had. By the time I was ten I had put a little more weight on. Again not so much that me looking back would say, “oh look I was really fat”. Rather, I had the kind of weight that the average person would have looked at me and said I had baby fat.
But of course at this point is when things really got worse for me. This is around the time my father started saying things to me that stuck with me for a long time. I distinctly remember him for the first of many times telling me, “no man will ever want you if you are fat”. This also started a deluge of forced diets, bribes to lose weight, and even a few threats. And I just kept getting sicker, so I was also accused of just being lazy and often forced to go out and exercise no matter how bad I felt.
The sicker I got the more weight I seemed to gain. I don’t really remember what my heaviest was as a teenager, but I do remember that around 16 I had gotten into a 26W in pants. My family was poor, so I never go to go to the doctor the way that I really needed to. We had no health insurance. Today I know that most of what I was experiencing was because of several health issues I have, but there was no way to know then. And through out my mid teens I was really depressed. Oddly enough I didn’t even know that I was depressed until someone else I knew was talking about their own depression, and it was like a light bulb went off in my head. I was depressed! Its funny, but somehow just knowing that it was depression made me feel better.
I actually felt so much better that I got out and did so much stuff for a while that I had a brief remission from the other health issues and I made some changes. I stood up for myself and demanded no more diets. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. And I got out and did things with my friends. And you know what, I lost some weight. I think at my skinniest, if I remember right, I was around 190 lbs and in a size 14W. I kind of teetered back and forth between a 14W and a 16W up till my early twenties.
But during that time in my late teens there were really some key things that happened to me that really helped my confidence a great deal. I remember a couple of days into my first job this man came in and kept making passes at me. He was very aggressive about it and very expressive about how much he liked how I looked. While I am not one to encourage getting your confidence from outside sources, this man helped me in a way no one else could at that time. You see, I had really bought into my fathers insistence that men don’t like fat girls. And while I had zero interest in this man that was probably just trying to hook up with me, what he did do was open my eyes to the fact that my dad lied.
My dad lied, and I was so buried in his lies that I had not seen the truth. If you have ever seen the movie the butterfly effect, those moment when he switched to a new timeline and he got an instant update on information, that is sort of what I felt like in the moment that I realized most of what I had been taught about myself was a lie. That didn’t instantly fix everything. I still had moments where I felt really shy and embarrasses, but I definitely was on the move to change.
It wasn’t long after that when MODE Magazine hit the scenes. If you know what MODE magazine was, then you know I am really dating myself here. And if you don’t know what MODE Magazine is, first off I am sorry and second it was the first magazine of its kind. It was an actual print magazine just like Glamour or Red Book, but everything was for Plus Size Women. I remember being in awe of all the amazing clothing, and wanting to be those girls. We need to bring back MODE Magazine for the girls of today. I know we have several online magazine for plus size women, but MODE was sold in the store on the rack just like VOGUE. Finally we were but for a moment equal.
One piece of advice I remember reading in MODE stuck with me, and I actually did it for a while. I have even suggested it to friends that were struggling with their self image. It essentially said, stand in front of the mirror for a few minutes each day and just look at yourself. And replace any of those negative thoughts you have with a positive words that you find empowering. Don’t just think those positive words, speak them. I believe the advice went on to say to work your way up to looking at yourself naked when you do this. But either way, its good self love, because if you can’t say positive things to yourself how can you expect it of others.
It was in MODE Magazine that I saw Emme. Emme was and is the world’s first Plus Size Supermodel. She really has been one my biggest inspirations in life. It wasn’t long after I first saw her I heard about her book. I had to rush out to get it. If you haven’t read it, her first book was True Beauty Positive Attitudes and Practical Tips from the World’s Leading Plus-Size Model. She has since come out with a couple of other books. She has Life’s Little Emergencies: Everyday Rescue for Beauty, Fashion, Relationships, and Life and most recently Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident: 101 Stories about Loving Yourself and Your Body. Take some time to read about her journey, and maybe you will find her as inspirational as I did.
It was around 19 when the really big change happened. I had already gained some confidence. I had worked on my clothing the best I could at the time, but my options were still pretty limited at the time between where I lived and my income level. I guess those changes were enough to get people’s attention though. Roughly around the same time I was approached by two different local stores and asked to model for them. It wasn’t anything big, but it was enough to help my confidence make that last push it needed to really become confident in who I was, and it also sparked an already budding interest in fashion.
While my stint into modeling was a brief couple of years, my passion for fashion was fueled for a lifetime. Through my twenties and early thirties I had a handful of opportunities to act as a sort of personal shopper to a few women, which was a really great experience. I think that was where I really started feeling a need to help other plus size ladies find great fitting clothing, and perhaps with it a bit of confidence. I have always found it amazing how finding that one piece of clothing that fits you just right can change your whole being. When you look good, you feel good and the world around you feels it too. And the first time I had someone turn around and thank me for helping them feel beautiful, I almost started crying. Which for me is hard, I hate crying. But, I understood what she meant. This lady was actually quite gorgeous, but it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside if you never feel it on the inside.
I know that last statement sounded a bit contradictory since I am sitting here saying its what you feel inside and not what you look like that matters, but its not. The things is, I suppose my helping people find clothes came with a bit of therapy as well. These were all people I knew at least somewhat well, so I knew what was really missing, and what risks they had been afraid to take.
During all that time in my twenties I managed to graduate from college, get married and divorced, move 9 times (I am exhausted thinking about it), get diagnosed with several major illnesses, and lose a whole friends circle(that’s a story for another day or maybe never). But as I moved through my thirties, while most people were terrified of getting older, I relished in it. I can honestly say I am so much happier in my thirties and I really look forward to seeing my forties bring. I was lucky enough to find the love of my life who I married three years ago. And as many of you know I wrote for a couple of plus size publications for a while, one being Pretty Pear Bride.
After writing for other publications for a while, it didn’t take long for me to realize I really wanted to do my own thing. My husband and I discussed it, and that’s when we decided the blog was the right move to make.
As I sat here and wrote all of this down for you, I couldn’t help but think about what advice or words of wisdom I might have given my younger self all those years ago. And I think the only thing I could say, whether it would have helped or not, is “its not about you”. Maybe some might think that is a odd thing to say, but as an adult I now know two very important things that my younger self did not. One, my father had a mental illness that was not treated and he was not fully in control of his actions. And two, not just in the case of my father, but most people that target other with mean or hateful words, its more about how they feel about their selves and not about you.
And since I know many of you will probably be wondering about my relationship with my father, things will always be challenging because of his mental illness. However, I do want to give him credit and say that at some point in my mid twenties my father apologized to me for a lot of the treatment I received from him as a child and teenager. Knowing my father the way I do, I know that was really hard for him. And while it in no way makes up for the mistakes he made, I still appreciate that he is trying to change. That is all any of us can do.
We all have a story to tell, and I would love to hear your stories, your struggles, your triumphs. Or if you just want to talk about the fun times that good too. Do you remember MODE Magazine? I can’t be the only one.
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