Note: This is my own opinion, observation and reflection on how I'm working through the understanding of issues emerging in the body-positive moment.
I’m starting to notice an unsettling trend emerging in the body-positive space. It seems innocent enough, calling out the acts of fat-shamers publicly, but I’m not so sure it’s helping get the point across that larger people are just as capable, deserving and worthy as anyone else.
A few posts have emerged within the body-positive thought-leaders chiding people that look to fat athletes, fashion bloggers or anyone else of size as “an inspiration” for doing what they are doing. Most notably, I saw many fat-positive writers take down the Facebook message titled “To the Fattie Running…” saying it seeped of “condescension” despite the ending turning out much kinder than one would assume from the headline. Some found it inspiring, others, hateful. I personally didn't think too much about it as it used nasty words to get the point across, but I was also able to get past that and read between the lines. I won’t break it down, but you can read for yourself and decide how to feel.
People began attacking the anonymous author...attacking anyone that looks to a fat person as “inspiring” ...and to be honest, the whole tone felt negative and the opposite of what our work is about, which is dignity and empowerment.
But this hyper-vigilance against feeling offended leads to one thing: burn out.
It’s a fact: people have stigma, judgments, opinions, bias and it sucks. But you’re not above it either, we all harbor some kind of unfavorable view that is less-than-loving. But it’s our own responsibility to work through that ourselves, in our own time and way. The more we share our stories, we invite others to either accept or reject...that's part of it. We fail the minute we try to control how people feel about body-positivity, and I see this need to control emerging.
When I receive negative comments about my work, my first urge is to get hostile and angry…but that’s my ego. I’m meeting their cruelty with my own. And how can I call myself part of a movement that wants to de-stigmatize body-shame while in the other breath, go on and shame another person for what they do? It doesn't make sense to me.
And it also doesn’t make sense to me to tell other people what they can and cannot find inspirational. Inspiration is one of the hallmarks of humanity – when you see another person doing something admirable, you’re moved to a higher-level of awareness and empathy. Inspiration gets lumped into any act that people wish they could do themselves, but that's not appropriate use of the word. Don't confuse inspiration with desire - they are very different emotions. Inspiration is about connection; desire is about possession.
When a thin person sees a fat person running, I don’t assume they think “Oh look at that fat person running..how inspiring!” I think they more deeply interpret the courage of someone putting themselves out there, doing what they want, and not letting their shame keep them closed off. This is way more about the viewer; not the viewed.
When people tell me my story and work inspires them I say "Thank you!" and encourage them to share their own story...to find inspiration within themselves too, as well as those around them. It's abundant - it's everywhere. I even asked my legally blind husband what he feels when people learn he is disabled AND is able to do nearly everything under the sun.
"I feel humbled because I never thought someone would find me inspiring."
Don't take that away from people; the capacity to feel and be inspired.
But I also understand this is how I’ve architected my world-view, largely informed by years upon years of spiritual reading and practicing self-awareness and from 1.5 years of coach training and listening to my own inner-guide above all else. I honestly believe that pain is fear, and negativity is a cry to make sense of a world that feels against you.
It’s beyond exhausting trying to be right all the time. And it’s beyond fruitless to feel like you must have the final word on a topic, subject or issue. And I see that emerging within some voices of the body-positive community. There is only so much blame was can give to others until our own voices become contradictions.
There is a place and a time for anger, outrage and standing up against blatant hate and discrimination. And I value the work of those who championed this worthy cause, as I am a benefactor of their devotion. But I feel the body-positive movement has reached a cultural tipping point in our favor of initial goals of greater societal inclusivity. People are really starting to get it! Now more than ever, we can work as one to include ALL people of diverse gender, race, ability, size and shape to say "Your body is a good body, too."
I just felt I needed to share my thoughts, and my opinions, because it’s been rising in me. At the end of it all, I am someone named Rachel who is moving through this world soaking in all I can learn and share about what it takes to love yourself and become the person you feel inside your heart.