I’ve had this post written for a while and haven’t quite found the right time to post it. But really, if I wait for the right time I’ll be waiting forever.
There will never be the right time to eternalise my experiences of bullying on the internet. Yet if there ever was a good time to do it, the midst of Anti-Bullying Week must surely be it?
So, where do I begin?
Growing up, I, like most other young people, had a lot of insecurities. One of these was my weight. But in particular, I have had a particular loathing toward my legs for as long as I can remember.
I don’t use the term hate lately. When I was younger I would obsess over them, pulling back the skin on the sides to see what they could look like if only they were slimmer.
I’d look at the slim, toned pins we see in magazines and on celebrities and damn whatever godly powers exist (and my parents) for creating me with, as they would later be referred to, my “tree trunk legs” – more on that later.
It was only when I was flicking through some photos from a recent photoshoot that I realised, for the first time in my life, I was looking at them for all the right reasons.
After a lifetime of loathing them, I was happy with how they look.
Are they any different to how they were, one. five, even ten years ago? Hardly.
Only, it’s my attitude that has changed. And boy, has that been a long time coming.
First, perhaps, a bit of background.
I have never been a skinny child. I was never an overweight one either, but somewhere in the middle. And this “somewhere in the middle” is how I have lived my life – curvy – not in a “politically correct way of calling people fat” – curvy as in, I have curves, thighs, and rolls when I sit down (like most people).
I am fine with that.
And yet for reasons I can’t comprehend, for some sad, sad, people that I have met throughout my life… haven’t been fine with that. And they’ve gone out of their way to let me know it.
I remember crying myself to sleep when I was twelve or thirteen, wishing more than anything that I could be thin and pretty like all my other friends. Right now, I can remember that feeling as strongly as anything. It was brutal. And I want to do everything I can to ensure that young people don’t ever have to feel that way.
Whether it was nasty comments in the playground at primary school, being called fat in secondary school or the time in sixth form when a group of Year 13s boys spent their evening calling me every name under the sun on Facebook on a Saturday night (the real question here is, why did they not have anything better to do)?
The same year, a girl I’d met ONCE posted a status about me on Facebook saying how I looking like I ate the whale who ate all the pies (original). This was by an 18 year old… someone old enough to VOTE was spending their time bullying people they hardly knew on the internet.
When I think about it now, I laugh. More than anything, I pity her. But at the time, I cried. I couldn’t work out why someone I’d only met once could have show so much malice towards me.
Fast-forward to my first year at university when I was told that I had “tree trunk legs”. It was a flippant comment not meant for my ears, but nevertheless said by someone I both hung out and (thought) I got along with in my wider circle of friends. I was told by text. I was mortified (and furious).
You’d think a horrible comment like that would sting, right? But the fact is, I’d grown up alongside a lifetime of them.
It will hardly be surprising that I, the person that these complete eejits perceived as a “whale” was a size 14 at my heaviest.
That’s right – these people were outraged at my size which to this day remains THE NATIONAL AVERAGE of women across the country.
The national average of women across the country and yet I grew up in a world where they ARE NOT REPRESENTED AT ALL.
A world that conditioned me to think that the first thing people noticed about me when they met me was that I was nice, but, in the words of Bridget Jones “a little bit fat”.
A world where men didn’t find me attractive because I wasn’t super slim.
And a world whereby my contribution to society (or lack therefore) was pretty much based on how good-looking I was.
… and I don’t know who I’m angry at.
I’m angry at the society we live in and the effect of the media. I’m angry that a size 14 is the national average and is yet chronically under-represented in mainstream media, fashion and society.
I’m angry at all the sh*tty tabloids who make money from body shaming women on glossy front covers. I’m even angrier at the WOMEN and men who buy them.
I was angry at the children and teenagers who made me feel that way, but I let go of those feelings some time ago. This post is a reflection not a damnation.
I know that holding grudges only eats at you from the inside and bears no effect on the people they’re toward.
And I know that people do change, as one of those Year 13 boys proved by seeking me out at university to apologise to me.
People will say that children and teenagers don’t know any better, but here’s the thing – they SHOULD know better. And more than anything, it’s up to US to TEACH them better.
I wish that they knew the damage that they can cause. That off-hand comments to people at any age pave a society of body-shamers and lifetimes of insecurities. That even worse, they make us start to body shame OURSELVES.
Sometimes even now I will catch myself off-guard after I’ve gained a few pounds calling myself chubby or fat.
Chaz will say to me “You’re not fat, you have fat. Just like I do and everybody else.” Isn’t that the best mantra we can all live by?
Some people spend their whole lives on the journey to body confidence. Some, never even get there – this should NOT be how it is.
It shouldn’t be a destination or a journey, it should just be there – and it’s up to us to spread this message amongst generations old and new.
I am so grateful that I have grown up, matured and realised that there are so many things more important than what I look like or how much I weigh.
I am happy, healthy, alive and loved. What more could I possibly ask for?
Even if you’re a size 6, 16 or 26, no one has the right to belittle you because of your weight. It is absolutely nobody’s business except your own.
To the women of all ages who have experienced similar to what I have, and worse, I am so sorry you’ve had to go through that.
To the women who will experience it in the future, I am even sorrier that we have yet to create a world where this behaviour doesn’t exist.
The best way to respond? Carry on being completely and unapologetically you.
Don’t let someone else’s shortcomings dull the utter brilliance of you – EXACTLY the way you are.