If you were able to get beyond the unfortunateness of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke’s thing-that-I’m-loathe-to-call-a-performance at the VMAs, you might’ve caught Mary Lambert, on stage with Jennifer Hudson and Macklemore.
Well, in digging around a little bit to figure out who she is, I came across this, and thought it was something worth sharing.
I think it’s hard, as a weight loss blogger, to not only avoid writing about the topic in a myopic way – Eat less! Move more! – and not only try to avoid self-deprecating talk, but also to avoid encouraging it in the comments where I do my best to dialogue with you all. So many people come to spaces like this with the intention of “losing weight so that I hate myself less,” that any talk of “body love” or empowerment or compassion or uplift – things all denied to fat people, same as they’re usually denied to Black women, poor women, non-blonde women, non-straight-haired (or, depending on where you live, non-natural-haired) women – is immediately met with shock, disgust, and resentment. You’re fat/Black/poor/different, you’re not supposed to love yourself.
I think differently. In fact, I think that the only sustainable and healthy way to live is to do so through the filter of self-love. It is not an easy fight – holding your head up high while everyone else wonders why someone like you could even dare. For some, it isn’t even possible. With family potentially beating you down, raising you under their own biases – “Oh, you’re too dark,” “Oh, you’re too fat” – some of us will have to come out of the battle for self-acceptance bloody, kicking and screaming in order to simply be successful.
And I’d be remiss in talking about “self-love” without bringing up this essay from Clutch a while back, from an author (who, ironically, snarked on my site – assumedly because it is, in fact, a weight loss site – when I went on MHP a while back) who basically craps on the idea of self love, and for good reason:
That’s everyone’s problem, right? That we just don’t love ourselves enough? No. The reality is that we don’t all have equal access to self-love, just like we don’t have equal access to anything—from food to education to fresh air.
What you look like, how you grew up and what resources you’re working with directly affect what you can reasonably be expected to do, including loving your appearance. A thin, light-skinned black woman with light eyes and enough money to keep the straight weaves flowing and the pores cleaned out cannot, in any way, understand how hard it is to “just be comfortable” with yourself when you’re fat, dark-skinned, pimply, visibly disabled, obviously gay or trans or a part of any of the other groups of people that we all actively oppress each day. If you’re some combination of more than one of those groups? Lord help you in any quest for mainstream affirmation of “loving yourself.”
Now, I am absolutely not suggesting that people who aren’t mainstream beautiful can’t love themselves and be happy. I’m not inviting everyone to a “woe is me, little dark/fat/nappy-headed/acne-riddled/etc” pity party. I fit into a lot of those categories and I don’t hate the way I look—some days I even love it.
What I’m saying is that this constant, flimsy, one-size-fits-all push for acceptance is thin. It’s weak. It’s annoying at best and insincere at worst. Instead of telling me to love my “flaws,” stop telling me they’re bad and undesirable in the first place. My fat? Tell me that stuff’s amazing, don’t tell me to love it out of one side of your mouth and then diss women who look like me out the other side.
I don’t disagree. I think that it’s obviously silly – and, in some ways, oppressive – to pretend that the only thing preventing someone from being happy with themselves is to pretend it’s because they don’t love themselves enough, and ignore the fact that we do actively deny people the space to love themselves and choose, for themselves, what’s best for themselves.
Basically, I think any self-love talk should also be coupled with advice for people to stop demeaning others. I can want what I want for myself without having to denigrate people who make a different choice, especially since their choice has not a damn thing to do with me. I think that’s the most important thing, here.
Learning this process is hard: learning yourself, beginning to fall in love with what you learn, thinking critically about the choices you want to make for yourself – how else can you protect yourself from injury or harm, physically or otherwise? – and then benefitting from this process… why deny someone else the opportunity to experience what you have?
And this circles back to Lambert’s song – our bodies are fallible and flawed. Learning who we are, what we’re capable of and what’s best for us – be it a 170lb weight loss, or a 10lb weight gain – is a journey that isn’t healthily borne of shame… so perhaps we should start doing what we can to give people the space to make it happen on their own… on their own time.