When I was a teenager I would lay in bed at night and imagine what my life would be like if I was skinny. I knew deep in my bones, that if I could fit into the clothes at Dotti, my life would be okay. I would be popular and boys would vie for my attention at parties.
I wouldn’t be loud and weird and trying to make people laugh, I’d be demure and skinny – because not taking up space is what an attractive girl does.
When I was a kid I remember standing in front of the mirror and holding the fat around my arms back to see how they would look if they were skinnier. I would wear jumpers and jackets in 40-degree heat, because I was convinced my body was disgusting. In high school, I’d walk around with my arms bent, because I thought they looked skinnier.
When I was in my twenties I went to a plastic surgeon to talk about getting liposuction. I didn’t go through with it, because I thought, ‘if I have a daughter, how can I tell her to love herself how she is, if I have surgically changed myself to fit an ideal’.
As I got older, I learned to wear short sleeve tops, but I always felt uncomfortable. I felt that if I could just lose 10 kilos, I would be loveble and acceptable. I felt worthless, because I didn’t look like the women coveted in magazines (and now on Instagram).
My weight and what I ate took up most of my waking moments. It was fucking exhausting.
How to own your space
It has only been in the past few years that I have started to really understand that my worth, and by default the worth of every person, is not determined by their size.
This may be a part of getting older, and also because I happened across body positive role models like Iskra, Ashley Graham and of course, Lizzo. I saw these sexy, powerful women owning their space and moving through the world unapologetically.
Suddenly, I had role models of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds.
Before I continue, I want to say that I am not shaming smaller bodies. Some people are naturally smaller than others, some people have bigger boobs, smaller bums and thicker hair. This is kind of a genetic lottery, which can of course be influenced by lifestyle.
Often, I would listen to my smaller friends talk about how fat they felt, and how much weight they wanted to lose. I would look at myself and think, if they don’t feel worthy at their weight, how am I worthy at mine?
This preoccupation with weight and appearance is endemic in our society – it doesn’t matter how thin, tall or Insta-hot you are, most people I speak to seem to want to be different.
When I was a kid, my mother (who I now realised is not a healthy role-model) used to say, ‘it doesn’t matter how much pain you’re in, as long as you look good’. I am pretty sure she was referring to an insane pair of high heels I tried on in a store. Another time, I told her I was sexually assaulted. She said to be grateful men noticed me.
This encapsulates the kind of message most women experience.
You are lucky if you’re noticed. You are someone if someone thinks you are attractive.
Now I say, fuck that.
Taking back your energy
The exhaustion that comes with constantly worrying about what you put in your mouth and whether your arms are skinny enough to be held straight, is what stopped me from living my life for too many years.
The energy that goes into worrying if you are enough, is energy that should be channelled into writing, painting, swimming at the beach, or doing whatever the fuck it is you want to do.
The energy of wondering if you’re attractive enough for some guy who should feel lucky to be within feet of your naked body, should be channelled into deciding if he is good enough for you and not the other way around.
It’s been said before, but women should be allowed to take up space. We should be allowed to be loud and have opinions, without feeling like we’re unattractive. So often, my friends say they are ‘bossy’ when they speak their needs, when in fact, they are just maintaining healthy boundaries.
- You are not ‘aggressive’ because you ask for what you want, you are empowered.
- You are not a nag because you ask them to clean up, you are asking them to meet a minimum expectation.
- Don’t let the world shame you into being small.
- You are powerful and courageous and your feelings matter.
If you could be happy and satisfied with your body right now, how would you live?
- I would go to the beach in my bikini and strut to my towel like the bombshell I am.
- I would do yoga and stop worrying about my arms in Warrior 2 or whatever the fuck warrior pose it is people do.
- I’d go do these things, and enjoy them.
- I’d have sex the way I want, without worrying if my tummy is wobbling about.
- I’d enjoy food because it satisfies me and tastes good, and forget about denying myself those wonderful cinnamon donuts that make me happy AF.
- I’d stop feeling guilty for eating, taking up space and speaking my needs.
And, even though I still lapse back into moments where I think I am too big or too much, I remember those other women who own their own bodies and live their lives the way they want, and I think, if they can do it, so the fuck can I. Which means, you can too.
In a world where women are conditioned to keep themselves small to make other people feel more comfortable, speaking and eating up are acts of rebellion that create happier lives – for us, and the young women who come after us.
You deserve to take up space and do all the things you love to do.
So let’s take up all the fucking space we want together (no matter what you look like) and take back these lives that were always meant to be ours.