For as long as I can remember, self-hatred has been a part of my life.
I can remember, as a child, wanting a white tank top. My mother used that white tank top as a bribe -- if I lost ten pounds, I could have the tank top. When I was a teenager, I wanted to go to a formal dance, and my mother bought me a dress -- two sizes too small. If I could lose enough to wear the dress, I could go. I didn't. The next year, she bought me a dress in my size, but it would only look good on me if I lost weight, so for the two months before the dance, she harassed me about every bite I put in my mouth. I went to the dance, and wore the dress, but spent a good portion of the evening wondering if I really was as ugly as my mother seemed to think I was. (You might wonder why I was not picking out my own dresses, but that its another dysfunction for another time.)
I could tell hundreds more stories in the “lose weight, lose weight, lose weight” genre; all the diets, the crazy exercise regimes, the supplements and drugs and roller-coaster addiction of the diet cycle; but I don’t need to – they are the same stories told by nearly every fat woman who lives in American culture. I could also tell stories about all the ways I have been convinced my life would be better if only I were thin. I was sure life would be easier, I would have lots of friends, men would love me, and, most of all, I could finally, FINALLY stop hating myself.
The truth is, even if I had been thin, I probably would have continued to hate myself. It is remarkable how we can always find something to hate about ourselves.
I don’t hate myself anymore. Thanks to lots of people and events, I have been able to put that behind me. But it is remarkable that in spite of learning to accept (dare I say, even like) my body, I still fight contrary thoughts and voices every day. I put on clothes and think how much better they would look if I could just lose 5/10/100 pounds. I have a lonely moment and think that I would have a boyfriend or husband if only I were thin. I am even tempted by the commercials for Alli, uncontrollable oily diarrhea notwithstanding. It is hard to shake the eternal “if only” thoughts that have been my constant companions for so long, particularly when the people around me are still in the grip of fat fear.
A few weeks ago I donated both of those dresses to the costume closet in my drama department, and had a good laugh at them with some of my kids. Hopefully someday I will be able to purge those thoughts as well.