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On one of the list serves I regularly read, a person came on asking for support. She has secured some very important opportunities to share Health at Every Size and is herself a person of size. She is very excited about these opportunities. She is also, understandably, terrified. I wrote back to her with some thoughts and have decided to share them with you here.
My dear Chicklettes, I have a confession to make. My work as an advocate for exercise for people of all shapes and sizes and as an advocate for body love and size acceptance almost never happened. For a long time, I was paralyzed by fear. I dipped my toe in the water, but I was very afraid to go public in a big way. Why? Because in order to represent people of size, I felt I had to be the perfect example of a healthy, happy, fit and fat person.
I asked myself a lot of questions. What if I get sick? What if I injure myself and can’t exercise any more? What if I get diabetes? People might point at me and say, “see I told you fat people can’t be healthy!” People will disbelieve everything about Health at Every Size(TM) if I am not the perfect embodiment of HAES(TM). People will publicly deride me and call me names! What if I’m not strong enough?
At one point, I worked with a great coach Mary Jo Thatcher who helped me understand one very important thing. Even though I represent an idea, and even though I’ve given myself a moniker (The Fat Chick) I am a person and not a persona. That means I’m not perfect. I am a living, breathing, individual being who has fears and strengths and problems. I will get sick sometimes. My body will age. I will get hurt both physically and emotionally. And I will ache.
Being imperfect makes me vulnerable. Sometimes I am yelled at by doctors, by well meaning relatives and by pumped up (but very insecure) small-minded people on TV. Some of the comments that I moderate out of my YouTube channel and blog and website are just so unbelievably mean and stupid. And they hurt–every time. I am stronger now. This meanness doesn’t quite hold the same power over me that it once did. But it still aches.
However, this very thing that makes me imperfect and human also gives me power. It gives me a way to relate to the other imperfect humans that I work with. It allows me move beyond the need to be perfect and move into the need to be flexible, and open and LISTEN to those around me. And it allows me to help others accept their own humanity and right to be loved and respected right at this very minute: not when they’ve reached some arbitrary goal I’ve set up for them, and not when they’ve created a suitable “after” picture to help me hawk whatever product I have for sale, but right now.
So my dear Chicklettes, if you’re afraid to represent for people of size, or if you’re waiting to be perfect in order to earn the right to share your thoughts and your energy I have some sad news. You will never be perfect. You will never be the perfect embodiment of anything. All you can be is you–as hard and as joyfully as you can! Fortunately, that’s enough.
The Fat Chick