“As a young girl, when I looked in the mirror, so many thoughts raced through my head: ‘Why do I look like this?’ ‘Why is my body different than hers?’ ‘I feel ugly.’ Growing up I have always been fat. As a child, growing up in a fat body was hard. Seeing the opportunities your thin friends got and you didn’t, being bullied daily for how you look, and just feeling hated because society decided your body was undesirable. I hated my body for many years. I truly felt I was/never would be good enough for myself or anyone else.
I finally started seeing myself represented in the media through movies, television and social media. The first person I had ever seen look like me was Nikki Blonsky in Hairspray. As a young girl this was everything to me. Seeing how highly she thought of herself as a fat woman, how carelessly she did things and how she found love. I believe this is what sparked my interest in my self/body love journey.
Along the way I found other fat women preaching self love on YouTube: LearningToBeFearless, Loey Lane, and Sarah Vargas. These women really helped guide me and pave the pathway for my body/self love journey.
Through these times, I was in school dealing with constant bullying. One memory that sticks out in my mind is from grade four. I was standing in a line outside of my classroom waiting for the teacher. The grade five kids walked by and one of them was giving us high fives. When he reached me, he said, ‘Gross, I’m not giving her a high five. She’s fat.’ Anytime I would get comments like these I always get a feeling of my heart dropping to my stomach, my face becoming hot and my brain scattered.
Once I entered middle school, the bullying died down a bit but was still happening. I remember one day being outside of the school with my best friend. We were with two of our guy ‘friends.’ They then started throwing ice at me and calling me a ‘fat b*tch.’ Things like these really stung, and still affect me today.
However, every summer I would go away to camp for a week. This felt like a get away from all the nonsense that I had to deal with as a child. This camp took part in who I became as a teenager. I went to this camp from ages 7 to 16. Through these years I had so many laughs, made so many friends and created so many fun memories. My mother went to this camp when she was a child, so it always felt even more special to my heart. Over the years I created a lot of great bonds with the counsellors and still have those bonds with some. They even broke me out of my shell, and I started singing in front of people. Which was something I never would have done. This camp gave me all the confidence I need to conquer the world.
When I went to camp, I never had any experiences with my body, good or bad. Which was good. It made me feel normal. No one pointed it out, even if it was in a good way. I just felt like I was existing. I always felt supported and loved. I really never had any negative experiences there.
Summer 2016 was a very sad time for me. It was my last summer at camp as a camper, although I didn’t feel the need to be too heartbroken because I had many counsellors convince me I would get in for CIT (counsellor in training) the following summer. I wanted nothing more to be able to give other children the experience I had and to help them grow into confident outgoing individuals.
To become a CIT, you needed to participate in something called ‘CIT Weekend’ which is going to stay at the camp for the weekend and do fun activities with all of the other people trying out. I was super confident in how I performed on my weekend. I was authentically myself; I was loud, bubbly, and outgoing. I made some friends over the weekend and had some previous friends try out with me.
It had been almost a week since CIT Weekend and me and my friend were sitting patiently on the phone together waiting for our call. She got hers and told me, ‘I got in.’ I kept telling her, ‘I haven’t got mine yet. I’m nervous.’ But she assured me I would be fine. Sure enough, my call came in a few moments later. I will never forget the ‘unfortunately’ he sighed before giving me the bad news of not being accepted. I was truly heartbroken. I cried for weeks. It felt like the worst heartbreak ever. Honestly, I still get upset sometimes.
It had been a few months and the summer passed. Back to school I went. I had ended up seeing one of the girls I tried out for CIT with, and being young teenage girls of course there is always gossip. I started confiding in her and telling her how hurt I was about what had happened. How I didn’t understand why I didn’t get accepted, because I thought I performed amazing. She informed me, ‘I know why you didn’t get it, they told us.’ Automatically, my heart sank. I nervously asked, ‘Why?’ She then explained that the person who ran the camp didn’t think I would be able to do physical activities such as running, swimming, climbing, etc. She then stated that all of the people who did get accepted made jokes about me all summer. I was the only person who didn’t get in. Even the girl who couldn’t make it to CIT Weekend got in. At first all this information didn’t really register in my head. I was confused and hurt. This brought me back to feeling small, worthless and not good enough. For months I wondered, ‘Why me? Why would she think those things about me?’
It wasn’t until I indulged myself further into the body love/positivity movement that I had realized she discriminated against me because of my weight. For months this aggravated me. I knew people could dislike me, call me lazy, and even hate me because of my body. Although I never knew I could be denied a job. It hurts to realize I didn’t get my dream job because of my appearance. This really opened my eyes and made me see the world for what it truly is. I realized I was never the problem. It was everyone else. The way they let society take over their mind.
Sometimes I still get upset about this situation, but I then I realize if it wasn’t for this situation and many others, I wouldn’t have the drive I do today to make a difference in the world. I am a strong and beautiful person. I am grateful for my fat body. This body has been with me through every moment and has held me up, as well as kept me healthy and strong.
Just because I am fat doesn’t mean I can’t run, jump, swim, or be active like a thin person can. My weight doesn’t determine my physical abilities. It doesn’t determine my health, beauty, or who I am. This situation sparked a huge fire in me to make a difference in this world. Not only for fat people, but for other oppressed people as well. Situations like these helped me make a difference in myself and try to make a difference in others as well. I started a TikTok/Instagram page called ‘FatGirlSociety.’ This page is full of beautiful fat woman loving and cherishing their bodies. I started this page with my friend Julieann to help uplift marginalized bodies and make a difference. My biggest goal in creating this page was to be that representation for young children that was hard to find for me as a little girl. We have had so many young people, teens, people of all ages asking us for advice, and it fills my heart with joy to be able to help them. The first young girl who reached out to us made me so emotional. ‘There is a stereotype to be small at my age. I love that you guys not only show me how to be myself and be proud of who I am but you show others how to love themselves,’ she wrote to us. There is nothing I want more in this world than to help someone else feel beautiful in the skin they’re in.
I want anyone who is reading this, yes you, to take a breath. Look in the mirror. Tell yourself, ‘I am beautiful,’ ‘I am worthy,’ and ‘I am loved.’ Remember to always appreciate the body you have. It is beautiful and you are worthy of love no matter what. I still have hard days and that’s normal. Everyone does. Just try to remember who you are and all you have worked for to become who you are today, to keep that drive going. You all deserve love and happiness just as much as I do. I believe in you.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mercedez Ryan from New Brunswick, Canada. You can follow her journey on Instagram and on TikTok here and here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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