I have talked a few times about my love of art here on the blog. In fact one of my very first dates with my husband was going to a valentine’s day event at a local art gallery. We both love and appreciate various types of art. So it’s really not unusual for us to visit an art gallery, or some sort of tourist attraction surrounding art, when we go on vacation. My most recent vacation in September was no exception. We visited The Ringling while we were in staying in Sarasota County.
In addition to having a lot of fun and relaxation on our vacation, I also found a lot of inspiration. One of the things that inspired me, as you might have guessed, was walking around the Ringling Fine Art Museum. This is just one of four museums you can visit at the Ringling. I found as I was walking around their Fine Art Museum I was really thinking about how body positive art is and has been since the beginning of art. I was especially struck by this thought when I came upon this statue. (I apologize for the quality of any of the pictures I am sharing from my trip, but there was a lot of odd lighting and you can not use flash photography in an art museum)
In the museum I couldn’t find the usual tag that tells the name of the artist or piece. I didn’t see anything other than the signature at the base of the statue. You can see the signature says G. Lachaise. After a tiny bit of research I found this piece was done by Gaston Lachaise, a sculptor of the early 20th century. I couldn’t find the actual name of this piece, but I found that he was known for his sculptures of women, most of who were voluptuous in form.
Every day in our media we are inundated with messages that women are only supposed to look one way. And while that look has changed from time to time over the years, it is still only the look that is popular at the time. But when you walk through an art gallery, it is much more like a celebration of all body types and is representative of real women through time.
Here are just a couple of the pieces I found that I loved during my walk through the museum (paintings will be on the left, and their information tags will be on the right.)
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that a walk through your local art museum is going to suddenly make everyone love their body as is. What I am suggesting is it is a healthier representations of women’s bodies than what is offered in the media currently because there are so many types of bodies represented in art. And I think having those representations of all bodies is the first step in accepting your own body.
There are also these false ideas we get sold about fat bodies through watching TV and movies. And, unfortunately, those ideas sometimes come from health professionals that should know better. We have this idea that there were no fat bodies until the last thirty or forty years. Or sometimes you are told there were exception during a short period of time that being fat was a symbol or your status and money. And while there is truth in that last statement, the first time you walk through an art gallery of any size and really think about what you are seeing you realize what bull shit the rest of it is.
We might have more fat bodies walking around today than in previous times, but there are many reasons for that. Those reasons are really a topic for another time.
It’s important for future generations that we continue to have those artistic representations of fat bodies. Thankfully there are already artists out there doing just that today. Here is a short list of some of the artist I personally love, please go show them some love.
Butter n’ Honey – An artist local to me located in Lexington, Ky. Amongst other things, her art includes curvy mermaids, fairies, and other cuties.
Joanna Thangiah – An artist based in Sydney, Australia. Her art is mainly focused on feminism and quite often features fat bodies.
The Tiny Hobo – I have talked about this artist on the blog before, her art is pop culture and icons shown with fat bodies. I am linking to her website. She did have an Etsy shop previously, but it seems to be gone now.
Tell me in the comments below who your favorite artist is that includes fat bodies in their work. Who should we be following and supporting?
Where do you get your self confidence? ……… That is hands down the number one question I get from blog readers, friends, aquaintences, etc…. The answer, well its neither simple, nor is there really one correct answer. And truth of the matter, I am still a work in progress. I may have more confidence than some, but I still have my days where I doubt myself or let those bad thoughts in.
I think there is some element of how my parents raised me that has helped with my confidence. That may sound odd to any of you who read my post about my journey to self acceptance. My father did say and do a lot of things in my pre-teen and teen years that left me with body image issues to say the least. But my mom did everything she could to counteract that. And outside of my dad’s fat phobia, both of my parents constantly told me that I was smart and capable, and that I could do anything I wanted. Really a contrast there for my father I know, but that is sometimes how it is living with someone who is mentally ill.
Just because you didn’t have the same sort of family life I did, that doesn’t mean you can’t get to place of confidence. I am happy to share with you some of the things that I think have helped me at various stages of my journey. Some of these may sound cliché, some of them may sound silly, and some may be difficult for you. But, they are what worked for me, and I think they can help you too.
This is not a step by step guide, so these are in no particular order.
1. Fake It Till You Make It
I am a great believer that you can fake it till you make it. Research has shown that making yourself perform simple physical task can bring forth emotions. The most commonly cited is the case talked about in Psychology Today, showing just the act of smiling itself can make you happier. So even if you aren’t feeling confident in the moment, sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, push out your chest, head up, and say here I am world bring it on.
And every time you do that it gets a little bit easier. You realize each time you were up for the challenge before. You have got this. Whether it be going into a challenging meeting or simply stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new with your wardrobe, you can do it.
2. Stop Caring About What Other People Think
Someone recently asked me what I would tell myself as a teenager if I could go back in time. The number one piece of advice I would give myself, and anyone else for that matter is don’t worry so much about what other people think.
The truth is people don’t really think about you that much, unless they are trolls on the internet and they don’t matter. I know that may sound harsh to some, but people are busy they have their own problems and worries. So short of you making a decision that directly affects maybe a family member, people don’t really get that worked up about the fact that a fat girl went sleeveless or her mid section is showing. I know the trolls on the internet might have you think so, but there have been post after post of plus size bloggers showing how nothing happened when they wore a bikini or when they wore a crop top. Oh they got some stares, but probably not more than you do on the average day as a fat person.
3. Learn To Take The Compliment
How many times have you had this happen? Your performing a task or out running an errand and someone says “You look so nice today”, “You are so talented”, “You have the most beautiful smile”, etc….And instead of saying “Thank You” and stopping there, you say “Oh, this isn’t my usual clothes” or “My sister’s smile is so much nicer than mine, you should see hers”. Do you do that? I can say I have been guilty of it in the past, and I struggle with it at times now still.
For me there is definitely two things going on that causes that internal struggle. First I that think just being a woman, especially a plus size woman, we are taught early on we shouldn’t seek those compliments. I have to continually remind myself that just because someone offered me a compliment, that isn’t the same thing as attention seeking. And the second bit is a little more personally targeted. I am a bit of an introvert, I do have my moment where I can step out of that, but I also have a fear of not just public speaking, but really anything that puts major attention on me. I know that there are definitely others that have that same issue. For me, blogging and posting pictures of me can even be difficult at times, but I can step out of my discomfort when my desire to help others is greater than my fear.
So how do you learn to take those compliments when you have spent a lifetime avoiding them? All I can do is tell you what worked for me. I started trying to look at the compliments as gifts. For me gift giving is my major love language, and I find a lot of joy in giving them. I know a lot of people who feel the same. When someone refuses your gift, or even if they don’t refuse it but just try to because they feel bad about receiving it, they are in a way stealing some of your joy about giving it. And when someone loses joy in giving to you they are less likely to give to you again. In the long run you hurt both yourself and them. And so its the same with a compliment. Like I said, I still have moment where I struggle wanting to turn the compliment down. So I might pause for a moment, but then I say thank you and smile.
4. Don’t Base Your Self Worth Around Your Looks
I get it, we are constantly bombarded with images of what the ideal woman or man looks like and acts like. Hell, at this point in our society we are even constantly told what the perfect thing is to buy if you want to be cool or accepted. But that is clever marketing from companies that want to make sales. And most of the images we are sold on are not real. You have to fight to keep that out of your head.
So when you evaluate your self worth try to focus less on the physical appearance and more on your strengths, talents, and achievements in life. Maybe even make a list of some of your best qualities. When you’re feeling really down about yourself this may be a hard task to accomplish. If you feel stuck try asking a friend to help you out.
5. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
I think many of us living in plus size bodies, especially us ladies, often get trapped into thinking we are the only ones who have body image issues. But the truth is I have yet to meet a person, man or woman, of any size who doesn’t have some sort of insecurity about their body. There is no such thing as a perfect body, or the perfect face.
And we do a lot of comparing ourselves to the people we think are those perfect ideals. But the only perfect person you can be is you. Instead of spending your time trying to achieve something impossible, put your efforts into to becoming the best you that you can be. I promise, when you stop comparing yourself to other people your confidence will soar.
6. Remove The Negativity From Your Life
Jim Rohn once said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” Do I think this is accurate? I don’t know if the number is correct, but I think the concept he is trying to convey is sound. The people we spend time with really affect who we are and how we look at life. If we surround ourselves with people who have positive attitudes and are confident, then we start to immolate that. But the same is true for being surrounded by people who are negative points in our life.
I think this is probably the thing that is the hardest for people to change. Sometimes you have to illuminate those negative influences, or at least limit your time around them, if you really want to make a real change in your life. Each person has to make the judgment of what is appropriate and what is not. For me there are some clear lines of what is appropriate to be negative about and what not to be negative about. For example any major health issue, major accident, life altering events, etc… you get what I am going for, these are all reasonable things to express negative thoughts on. But if you make constant negative comments about other people, their appearance, every day events, etc.. this is where I have to start evaluating whether spending time with you is going to effect my state of mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you just dump people for good out of you life, unless that is what you want. I am a proponent of honesty is the best policy. If its someone you really care about, talk to the person and tell them you feel they are too negative. Maybe you can help make both of your lives better. Or if its someone less important in your life and you still don’t want to let them go, perhaps just schedule less time with them. Use that time to spend with someone who has a positive attitude.
I really hope these tips have helped some of you. I could probably give a few more, but I think some of the points would become a little over lapping and repetitive. If you have a tip to share please leave it in the comments below.
Over the last few weeks I have written about my my past and my present. Today I want to talk to you about where I see myself and the blog going in the future.
It took me a little longer to think about what I wanted to write for this one, and I realize a lot of that is because I have never been one for planning. I have always had general ideas and goals, but never a solid plan. And perhaps its a good thing for me to be writing this just so I can start developing a more solid plan for the future.
My goal for this blog is, and always has been, to help as many people as possible while doing something I love. But I want it to be something bigger than that. I really want to develop a sense of community here. I want you to become engaged and share your stories. Let’s help build each other up.
I thin k in the past I hadn’t been putting the focus on the blog the way I really should, and that is really because I had my attention spread too much into too many things. So as I move into this next year, I want to make sure I focus most of my attention on this blog. I want to make more of an effort to find ways to step outside my own comfort zone. It may be cliché but I do believe that saying, be the change you want to see. So if I am asking you my readers to step out of your comfort zones to make a difference in your world, I should do the same.
We create our on futures, or destinies, however you want to fraise it. So I want to create something where we all come together and create a positive world to live in. I ask for help from all of you by participating in conversations and by you also keeping a positive mind space.
This will be a continual work in progress. I will start working on a more structured plan. I also welcome input in the form of suggestions of what you would like to see on the blog and constructive criticism from each of you. However if you do not understand the difference between constructive criticism and criticism, it is best to save it.
I also would love to hear what your own goals are? Are you a planner or are you like me and go with more of a general idea?
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 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.
For years we (the plus size community) have been asking for more diversity. and for sure things have been getting better. Lets not stop there, we have so much further to go. We have been given more diversity in styles available that are fashionable. But where are we lacking? Everyday I see my friends and fellow plus size ladies hurt and hindered by the lack of diversity in price ranges, size ranges, and representations of body types. But today I want to take the time to focus on body types.
What I really want to share with all of you is something that was posted in a body positivity group that I am in. It was posted by a lady named Sharon Welk. I thought it was so beautifully said that I could not possibly improve upon it. So I asked her permission to share it with all of you.
Round Faces, and Round Bodies.
Second Class Citizens In The Fat Community.
Fat women with more of the hourglass shape, seem to be more acceptable, not only in society in general, but also seem to be favored in many fat groups. I probably should have prefaced that with “In My Opinion”, yet I have witnessed it in action.
When I was a young woman, before breast implants, women with large breasts were in style, and considered quite sexy. In those days, women, self included often asked “does this make my butt look fat?”. No woman wanted a fat butt, and did all kinds of exercises to avoid getting one.
Now, large butts are considered quite sexy. Some women opt for butt implants, trying to achieve this now sexy shape. Breast implants are still happening, again to achieve that sexy look. So let’s review, large butts, and breasts, are sexy, what about women with large tummies, are they left out of being sexy ? It is true there are many who find large, round, soft tummies very desirable, and quite sexy. However I understand that it is still considered more of a fetish, than liking large breasts, and butts.
Faces, faces come in all shapes, and sizes, just as our eyes, noses, and mouths do. Yet from what I have seen, it is only the slim faces, with the more delicate features long associated with feminine beauty, that get to be accepted. It is okay to be fat, we can even be considered beautiful, IF we still meet certain criteria,,, or is it? When do we really see beauty in all bodies, and faces? When do we choose to say enough?
I am guilty too, I have found myself whining over my now fuller face, and double chin. This face of mine, has more to do with DNA than weight gain. I look just like my dad, he had a slim face as a young man, and a fuller face as he aged, and he never was fat.
So I ask, why, WHY do some of us, even a few fierce, amazing feminists still hate our fat faces, and double chins? Oh and lest I forget, the horror of having a short neck, OMG how horrible. Long neck = pretty, short neck =ugly? Who made that lie into a law, and why do so many adhere to it?
Are fuller faces really less desirable, if so why? Is long and lean, more beautiful than short, and round, if so WHY ?
IS THERE ROOM FOR ALL OF US IN MAGAZINES, IN MOVIES, AND ON THE RUNWAY?
While I myself may be an hourglass shape, don’t think that I don’t want to see that same diversity you are asking for. I for one, support all my plus size sisters, and I hope all of my readers will stand strong in support of seeing this diversity to be actualized. We as a community must stand together and demand the change we want to see. I would love to see all of you posting pictures everywhere on Facebook and Twitter with the hash tag #roundbodiesandfaces to show Sharon and everyone else we support them.
I want to hear your experiences as well. What body shape are you? What do you want to see more diversity in?