The Overweight Stigma: are you selling OR sharing yourself to get past it?

We live in a world where we want things to be pretty and tied up with a pretty bow. When a person doesn’t fit into that “mold” of looking the right way, things get a little sticky.

The world is not kind to overweight people. The world is cruel to the obese. It may not have been like this for everyone, but I when I was obese everything that I could control in my outward appearance I would. My hair was done most of the time and my clothes were of the highest standard. I felt like I needed to do this because I was already fighting a losing battle.

isn't it cute
Side note: I randomly found these pictures in my flickr and I can’t believe I’m sharing them. It’s kind of embarrassing but this January 28, 2009!

I wanted to fight against the overweight stigma. But wait? What is the overweight stigma? Simply put, that’s the negative attitude that may be projected onto you due to being overweight or obese. It’s not fun being ridiculed or made fun of for being overweight. It’s not fun carry around the anxiety of trying to fit into a chair and watching other people’s reaction to that action. It’s not fun having people point out all those things that go on internally due to your size. It’s not fun being discriminated against for a reason, especially due to your size.

The stereotypes do exist. Some people do believe the overweight and obese are lazy, smelly, sloppy people who have nothing behind them. That doesn’t mean a person doesn’t have feelings and sometimes I think people forget that.

I felt like I was always operating at a deficit because I was always trying to get people to know me. No matter what, I would be the black overweight girl. Never mind that I’m energetic, intelligent, creative and determined…none of that mattered because I was obese. It was an uphill climb to even break past that point.

I feel like I developed the habit of selling myself instead of sharing. It was a constant job interview. I wanted people to know that I was more than the “fat” girl. I spent so much time trying to sell myself out of those stereotypes and probably missed a lot of opportunities to let people know me. But then again, I don’t know if I really wanted people to know me. The only thing I really wanted people to know was that I was more than a “fat” girl.

I spent so much time selling myself in the past, it’s hard not to do it now. I overcompensated to get people to like me. I overcompensated to get people to see me as “normal” so it’s really hard to back out of that. There are moments when I have to stop and just look around to regroup. The weight loss has taught me many things, but most importantly it’s taught me self worth. The great thing is I am still the same person I was three years ago and I know that I’m worthy. The change didn’t come because my body changed, the change came due to watching how people treated me differently because my body changed.

To others I became more approachable, more friendly, more acceptable. But I know I’m still the same woman who hates attention, hates talking about herself for extended amounts of time, is shy in new situations and scared to meet new people. I didn’t change, the way the world treats me changed.

I’m not really sure if I’ve articulated this right for you to understand. I fear that I’ve only begun to tell a story. The truth is all overweight people know most people cringe when they walk in the room. We always know when you’re looking at what we have on. We know that it sometimes makes people uncomfortable. But please know, people are much more than that size clothes they wear or how comfortable they are sitting in a restaurant booth.

It may be too much to ask people to STOP judging others, but it’s not too much to ask people to be more mindful of their thoughts, words and actions. It’s not easy for anyone in life!

And for all those people who understand my words here, please know you are a valuable person in this world. Spend less time selling yourself to world to make up for those imperfections and truly share your gifts out there. When we are selling, we’re putting up the façade to spare our feelings. When we share, we’re opening up new doors for ourselves and the others around us. It may not make a big difference but it’s one more door opened in some close-minded situations.