We have another great Ask BFD question, this time from Barnardgirl! She’s wondering about the cognitive dissonance of being an advocate and still not accepting yourself fully. Bolding mine:
First, thanks for adding an Ask BFD category. I love your blog and the FA blogosphere so much- I wish I’d known about it in high school! :) Reading these blogs are very rewarding, but yet difficult for me because of cognitive dissonance. How can you be a fat positive advocate, and a good friend and influence when it comes to body positivity for the people around you, when you still struggle with accepting yourself?
Obviously, the world we live in is still very judgmental, which is what a lot of blogs often discuss. My problem, though, is just as often me. Being college-age now, my sister and some of my dearest friends struggle with eating disorders, so body positivity and self-esteem are an important issue for me. But as someone who struggled with eating disorders herself, and who still sometimes -hates- her body at a ‘healthy BMI’, and what most people would call an average size- I often feel fatter now than when I was
obese- how can I counsel self-love without being a hypocrite? How can you keep from triggering the people around you when you’re trying to keep losing weight yourself?
I am the biggest HAES advocate believer you can imagine, and the last thing I want to do is spread any more negative energy into the world. I am a radical liberal and feminist, and many of the women I personally find attractive are bigger than me- Beth Ditto is one of the most fashionable, inspiring, and talented women I have ever seen, for instance, and I have the most monstrous crush on Hayley Hasselhoff from Huge. But this just doesn’t transfer to my own behavior and self-image. I want to be a good role model to the girls around me, and I think my problem is one a lot more common than some people think. The only analogy I can think of is being straight in a gay pride parade, except it’s probably closer to being a secretly self-hating gay- how can you support this cause when you’re one of those girls who are technically the ‘enemy?’
I know I’m a work in progress, and I try every day to become a happier, more self-loving person, but eating disorders don’t just go away just like that, or even just the puerile teenage insecurities every woman’s faced sometimes. Thanks for reading this, and I’d love any advice on how to still be an advocate for others, even with my own problems. Most of all, I love my sister more than anything, and I fear the effect I have on her sometimes. Does anyone else have this problem, and what do you do? Thanks for your time!
This is such a great question, Barnardgirl, and thanks for sending it in!
First of all, I think you’re making an assumption that isn’t true: that somehow, all FA advocates are perfect models of self-esteem and self-love. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t still struggle with these issues sometimes. I still “feel fat” and unattractive sometimes, I still get my feelings hurt by petty fatism, I still have a semi-disordered relationship with food—I’m not immune, and I honestly don’t think anyone is.
So, be careful with things like calling yourself “the enemy.” You’re fighting a lifetime of messages that there’s something wrong with your body, and at least you’re thinking about these issues. You’re doing the best you can.
So, first of all, I would advise you to keep doing what you’re already doing—read and participate in blogs like this one and other feminist and fatosphere blogs, replace Cosmo and Vogue with Ms. and Fatshionista, and keep working on internalizing emotionally what you’ve already accepted intellectually.
As for your sister, I have a sister myself, and I appreciate your desire to be a good role model for her, as well as for your friends. All I can say is, resist the urge to participate in Fat Talk as a form of bonding, keep preaching the gospel of HAES and modeling it as best you can, and keep reading for the readers’ advice in the comments. Readers—what advice can you give Barnardgirl?
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