BY Ruth Lesmana | Writer
I have this friend …
From a very young age, she had always struggled to accept and love her own shape.
“You’ve gained weight!”
“Be careful, don’t eat too much …”
“You’re not as skinny as you were when I first met you.”
“You don’t need to eat that.”
“You’re so big now! Not fat … but big and strong!”
At first, she didn’t really understand why people felt like they had the right to make such comments. She grew to believe that these observations meant she wasn’t good enough. That she fell short of society’s standards, and the standards of those she trusted.
So she wore baggy clothes that would cover up her curves; and pants or shorts that would help to tuck everything in. She preferred to stay under the radar in order to draw less attention to herself.
Over time, this friend of mine began to accept herself for who she was; but also to heed the concerned advice of those who loved her. So she, along with the help of her friends and family, began to change her lifestyle. She exercised, she changed her eating habits, she listened to herself to develop healthier habits. Her curves and folds began to minimize, and although they still exist, she could see the differences developing in herself. But still, sometimes … she felt less than others.
She also began to notice that she wasn’t alone. That throughout her life, the hurt, tears, feelings of inadequacy that she felt – were mirrored by many others. As if not being ‘skinny’, or having fat or curves showing through clothes meant that they weren’t beautiful. As if not being curvy, or having certain bones or muscles showing through meant that they weren’t ‘womanly’. Funny that, huh? Who can win, with standards like that? Who can feel accepted, with values like that?
Nonetheless, my friend eventually realized that she was capable of many good things, and that their comments weren’t appropriate standards of measurement. That just because people voiced those opinions or tried to change her, that she was her own master. That within her, there were many more important things to be concerned about rather than her shape.
This friend of mine …
My body …
Has taught me many things.
She has taught me that I am strong.
That I am capable of continually improving and become a healthier version of myself, when I choose to do so. That I am capable of working hard and to the fullest, as long as I take good care of her. That I am capable of setting a good example for others, so that they too can live confidently and with acceptance of their own bodies – instead of listening to condescending voices. That the shape of her gratitude, compassion, humility, and attitude; were the qualities worth prioritizing. And most of all, she has taught me to own her, and not allow anyone else to have any say in what happens to her.
“It’s not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.” – Warsan Shire
It’s taken me a long time to love and accept my friend for who she is. But I’m glad that I have, because she carries me.