My relationship with my body has finally changed; I no longer dislike how I look. I’m the largest that I’ve been but I’m not being unkind to myself because of it; I’m not beating myself up; I’m not making up stories in my head about being stared at by strangers because of my size and I’m graciously accepting every compliment. This state of mind was not easy to achieve.
My weight-consciousness began when I was 8 years old. Prior to that, I do not remember thinking about my body type. I was aware of it, but it did not seem abnormal or different from any other person’s body. I definitely did not refer to it as fat, skinny, or any other descriptive word. That quickly changed. I remember being called fat for the first time in the 3rd grade. I even still remember that kid’s name (but he’s irrelevant at this point). From that point on, my body was something I was ashamed of.
Throughout high school and college I learned to cover up my self-consciousness by being stylish. With clothing, a fresh haircut and a little makeup I was able to present a polished façade to the world while internally I struggled with liking my body. Without my armor (fashion) my self-consciousness was heightened. I would even call myself the “fat friend.” Though I said it in jest, it was harmful and untrue. Also, my friends hated when I referred to myself as such; they had never and have never said anything about my weight and they wanted no part in my self-loathing.
The adage, “youth is wasted on the young” is absolutely accurate. Looking back, I can now see that I wasted so much time not liking my body. My body has always been beautiful. It was my thoughts that were ugly. So now, 20 days before my 35th birthday, I’m deciding to rebuild my relationship with myself and my body; starting with kindness and love. I firmly believe that I cannot become healthier or more fit without loving myself first. Hating myself will never make me a better person and any changes made under the guise of self-loathing will not be sustainable. Furthermore, I will no longer apologize for my body type; no more shrinking; no more being bashful. Now, with my new armor: therapy, prayer, scheduled solitude, creativity and trust in myself, I can finally just be me; I can let the world see all of my many facets. I implore you to do the same. Take the time to reflect on your past or perhaps your self-consciousness and make changes where they are necessary and commit to them. That’s called a revision
A few weeks ago after a routine trip to the post office I made a random observation- I realized that I had been approached/hit on by nearly half-a-dozen individuals in the course of a few weeks: at the post office, grocery store, gas station, Target, and the like (not even counting the random Facebook/IG DM slides, although these are weighted less than in person interactions- right? lol ). From time to time with some regularity both women and men shoot their shot with me. I don't say this to brag, actually I am perplexed whenever I realize the a stranger is physically attracted to me. Don't get me wrong I do not think that I am unattractive, I actually think that I am pretty average looking- not ugly, but not an Ebony Fashion Fair model either lol. Even though I am perfectly happy with how I look physically, I am admittedly amazed whenever someone who doesn't know me feels compelled to try to approach me. I do think that I am somewhat handsome, smart, charming, and cool- but I feel like these are characteristics that reveal themselves overtime; they are not instantly noticeable as I stand in line at the post office. To that end, I am always confused when someone hits on me in public... I think, "I'm big, I'm fat, I'm bald (usually a day or two past the 'I really need to shave my head' mark), and I'm typically not paying anyone any attention when I'm out and about. Why and the hell are they trying to talk to me?"
I posed this question to some friends and acquaintances whom I knew would be totally honest with me. I wanted unrelenting and harsh truth. I wasn't looking for "don't call yourself fat!" or "you ain't that big." or "don't say you're not handsome!" I talked to my friends who would tell it like it T-I-S! Of the three people I asked they actually all said pretty much the same thing... First they insulted me (love my friends but that's how we keep each other UMBLE (no H in humble on purpose lol) and then they gave me variations of this basic list: "You ARE handsome, you dress well, you smell good, and you're CONFIDENT." I offered strong pushback on the idea that I'm confident, because I don't really feel that way, but they all agreed that although I may not feel it I certainly project it. I don't know if there is any shade in how they articulate the truth of my confidence, but I'm just going to take it as a compliment.
Dear fellow big boys, it is okay to be confident! It is okay to look at yourself in the mirror and be like- "Dayummmmm I look good!" I think sometimes those of us who are not skinny or seemingly in shape feel the need to bash our looks/bodies because they are not the standards that society deems attractive. Don't do it! It is ok to love the body you have! If you aren't healthy- get healthy! If you want to lose weight- lose it! But don't bash yourself in the process. Moreover, it is okay and admirable to take pride in how you look, dress, and smell. People talk about me because I iron EVERYTHING- "millennials don't iron," I've been told. Well, I guess I'm old because that's not how I was raised. I don't need creases on my shirt sleeves and pants like my granddaddy likes, but I refuse to walk out of the house wrinkled. I refuse to step out in tennis shoes that are scuffed/battered (I have kicks from college that I STILL wear, I just clean them regularly and don't wear them two days in a row lol). Furthermore, I will not venture into the world if my beard isn't oiled and combed and presentable, and my face isn't cleansed, exfoliated, and moisturized. I guess all of these little things give me that silent assurance that is the foundation of my confidence, and I guess others pick up on it even though I'm not doing it for anyone but myself. Maybe that's what true confidence is- loving yourself SOOOOO much and treating yourself SOOOOO well that you transcend needing external validation, and those in your presence observe the aura and appreciate your energy. Whatever it is, I love me and I love how I present myself to to the world- belly and all! lol. So if you want to up your style game- garner a big old fashioned heap of confidence!
P.S. I also need to say that being a big guy does not mean unattractive. We all need to remember (including me) that just because there is no six pack doesn't mean that we aren't attractive, and that people won't find us attractive. There are plenty people in the world (including those whom society would call stereotypically attractive/sexy)
I used to be skinny. Well... I used to be skinnier... slimmer, smaller, less round than I am now. A few years ago I ran into my middle school principal who said, "wow you used to be a tall bean pole..." Translation, "dang you big!" I used to be skinny, well skinnier than I am now and for years I couldn't forgive myself for gaining so much weight. I used to beat up on myself, speak unkindly to myself, drown myself in whack oversized clothes in an effort to hide my lumps, clumps, bumps, and humps. I even used to wear a t-shirt or tank-top in the pool because I was embarrassed by my stomach and man boobs. For years I was ashamed of my body and thought that I was unworthy of being fashionable or considering myself cute or just plan worthy of not being ashamed of my size.
When you are big like me (I prefer the word STURDY - LOL ) it is really easy to internalize all the the external messages that you see and hear just living your regular life. The hip (usually "affordable") trendy stores in the mall are out of the question for most sturdy men. For years I've only been able to purchase hats/ties/scarves/gloves and other accessories from stores like Banana Republic, Express, Forever 21:Men (is that a real thing or did I make it up? lol), and until recently Target. There were other stores that I could find my size in; however, once I washed those items once I couldn't squeeze into them again. Moreover, there is a new trend for clothing subscription services that use a person's style profile and sizes to ship monthly items to clients-- of course most of the popular subscription services stop at XL or XXL sizes. I need another X- a strong XXXL not a soft one lol. Furthermore, not only do most companies to affirm sturdy men like myself, but those who do often do us a disservice by catering to a old, boring, "safe" style. There's a midwest department store (it shall remain nameless in this post) that has been selling the SAME sweater vest, plaid shirts, and pleated pants since I was 16 years old (when I started Shopping on my own). It's like they think that all big dudes are supposed to look like a middle age high school chemistry teacher. Until recently, I had the most luck consistently finding dope cool threads for big sturdy brothers in big cities like NYC, ATL, and the DMV area.
In addition to dealing with the frustrations of trying to shop in the same stores as everyone else, but sometimes the words and sentiments of friends, associates, and church people can annoy and cut deep. "Wow... you seem to be doing well- You're certainly eating well.." "You've gotten big!" "What happened? (while simultaneously poking or grabbing my round stomach)" and the one I hate the most "who's feeding you?" ***UGH PEOPLE ARE SO FREAKIN' RUDE!*** It is as if they think that I don't know that I've gained weight. For a long time being called out in this way caused me to feel so ashamed and embarrassed that I simply did not want to go to public places, ESPECIALLY if I thought that I was going to run into someone who I haven't seen in a while. I allowed the negative words of others cause me to isolate myself from the world in an effort to prevent myself from having to hear more negativity.
For years I internalized the messages from stores, insensitive individuals, and the media (I mean really do we ever see big men without their shirts on television or in movies? If we do they are usually being made fun of). I convinced myself that my size was my greatest failure in life. This sentiment only caused me to further isolate myself and actually caused me to turn to my favorite drug- FOOD. Of course this only caused me to become more not skinny lol.
Eventually I learned to love and appreciate every ounce of my sturdy frame. I have also become healthier over the years by trying to eat cleaner, eat less meat, and exercise more- but all of this in the name of health and not trying to be skinny. Moreover, I have stoped shamming my own body. As much as I love to swim I now flop my big self in the pool sans shirt and sans shame! Furthermore, I take the time to find clothes that help me feel confident and attractive and I step out into the world everyday loving every ounce of my big o body. Trading in shame for unapologetic boldness has been an amazing transformation and I want to share some of the things that I learned along the journey with my other big brothers! We deserve to feel just as good as everyone else. We deserve to wear clothes that make us feel attractive and confident just like everyone else. We owe it to ourselves to free our hearts, minds, and bodies from shame, guilt, and fear.
Sturdy Brothers Unite!