Skinny shaming is a thing. Sincerely, a not skinny girl

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© Steph Jael

 

This one has been on my mind a lot lately. As a person that publicly promotes body positivity, I often get asked… “Can you skinny shame?”

In my opinion, yes. Yes, you absolutely can. And to be honest, two or three years ago I would have said something very different.

As Facebook feels the need to show me “memories” from the past (please stop), I’m reminded of many unpleasant things. I’m reminded of how bad my use of punctuation was, some of my humour, and even some of my beliefs. Most recently, one of the reminders was the whole “real women have curves” meme. As I looked over at my precious Hannah, long and slender, I felt immediate shame on behalf of my old self.

I often feel like I am teetering the line of being a “chubby” and “not chubby” person. By no means am I thin, and in some contexts, I may not even be average. I have fat deposits, a soft stomach and a broad frame… and I’m just not little. Thinking back to it, I shared the post because I finally saw something that validated my body as it was. After a lifetime of media and public opinion contributing to my shame, I finally felt empowered and represented. I was allowed to love my curvy body. But at what cost? At the cost of shaming someone else’s body?

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© Steph Jael

“Real women… eat a cheeseburger… get on a treadmill” … It’s all the same thing.

To be honest, I have heard more commentary on my (thin) partners’ body than I have my own. She is stared at in public when she eats, she is greeted by people about how skinny she is, and she (like many) feel unable to vocally promote “body positivity” because of her thin frame. And why is that?

Why is it that if someone calls me fat it’s socially unacceptable, but in the same breath can tell a thin girl to eat a cheeseburger?

Why do my self-love posts have more weight (pun intended) than hers?

“Real women have curves/eat a cheeseburger” is the same as “get on a treadmill”. Which is the same idea as attaching sexual orientation to hair length, or gender to body parts, or any concept onto any physical attribute. The point is, this kind of verbiage inadvertently sends the message that you’re worth and experiences are only as good as your body parts. That you are your body, and that your (very real) emotions aren’t valid.

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© @hhannahht

The pendulum swings

I believe it was Mark Twain that said something along the lines of, “whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” Historically (unlike racism, or sexism), privileging of certain body types varied. During times of Famish, to be “thicker” implied wealth. Whereas in the early 90’s, “heroin-chic” became the coveted thing. Fads have always changed. That’s kind of the point. I think it’s our way of anchoring our self-worth throughout these changes that we ought to address.

I find when people become aware of an error on their part, they often feel so much shame that they go running in the opposite direction with their new opinions. They feel so much guilt and shame that they go out of their way to be “extra aware”. We then adopt the notion that to “give privilege” we need to take it away from someone else.  To empower one, we must shame the other.

But what we often forget is, oppressing one group to uplift another will never – and I mean never – create sustainable empowerment. Taking from one to give to another will only ever lead to a continuous pattern of imbalance. And how long until the pendulum shifts again?

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© @hhannahht

Attack the societal belief, not the person.

I think it’s important that just because societal structures are designed to endorse some people and not others that it doesn’t mean that we should forget the human component. I think we should remember that people of privilege (and in this context, thin people) still feel. And often, these feelings are similar to our own.

Many of my thin friends feel just as insecure about their bodies as anyone else. They struggle to find pants their size, they are dismissed as body-positive representatives and are often made to feel as if their beauty is contingent on their body… just like, anyone else. To tell a person that their feelings are invalid (for any reason) only serves to take the same pain you feel and project it onto another. Why not let the pain end with you? Why not do something magical by empowering everyone to love the skin they’re in?

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She’s thin. I’m not. We are both beautiful.

In a world that is designed to pit women against each other, people against each other, it’s important to buy into those hopeful notions of empowering one another. At the end of the day, we’re all people, and we’re here for a short time. We’re all trying to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, and get as much out of this life as we can. Why not help someone along that journey a little faster by sharing your light?

In short, as a not skinny person, there is such a thing as skinny shaming. And really, it’s not necessary. There is no shame in loving the body you are in. And there certainly is no shame in the thin, fat, short, tall, red, blue person beside you loving theirs either.

Thin is beautiful.

Curves are beautiful.

Self-acceptance and love are beautiful.

 

All of my love,

-Steph Jael

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Depression is a gift reserved for the resilient

At the end of last year, a beloved high school principal within our city took her life. The news made headlines, and we all wondered how someone so happy could have been in that much pain. The news of her death stayed with me for weeks. Not because I wondered why… but because of the fear that one day that could be the fate of someone I know – someone like me.
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© Steph Jael

Few people know this about me: I have depression. When I was 15 I was officially diagnosed, but the effects of it started long before. I was in denial for quite a while, and I can’t really say when it began, or what brought it on. However, I can say depression has been a passenger on my journey for well over a decade now, and it still rides back seat as of today. I would go on to have many sleepless nights, lose many days from my life, and drive a wedge between myself and anyone who cared for me. And during those moments, I can’t say that I cared. Depression has a funny (or very unfunny) way of distorting reality. I would often convince myself that my absence would go unnoticed, or worse, improve my loved ones lives. I would feel extreme guilt for not being able to pull myself out of it. And then I would feel infinite sadness watching my partners face as she realized this illness would take another day of ours together. More guilt ensues as you wonder how or why someone would ever choose to love a person that can go that far down… But she does. And many people do. Just as many people love you. More than any of us could ever realize.
You, my friend, are worth being loved. And to get you started, here are 3 things that I would like to share with those who are also suffering:
 
1. You may always have depression. This isn’t something you need to change.
Growing up, when I would overcome a depressive episode I would exclaim that I was healed. I was finally free. Then another one would come sometime later, and it would feel worse than before. I felt extreme guilt, I failed. I failed at being happy. But know this… You did not fail! You, my friend, managed to find your way out of the darkness for even just a little, and you will find your way out again. Accepting the high’s and low’s can be comforting. You know it’ll pass. Just as your happiness will pass. I have found that accepting depression as part of my makeup has made it easier to identify and cope during darker periods. Suddenly, in the midst of those moments they don’t seem so monumental.
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© Steph Jael

2. Seek help while you’re happy. Or at the very least, not depressed.
Many people love you. They’re (understandably) worried. And when they see just how much you’re hurting it’s easy for them to internally panic. They become quick to offer solutions, most which seem to be “talk to someone” or “find help”. They mean well, and they aren’t “wrong” to suggest these things. However, for me seeking help during an episode is entirely futile. I have zero energy and it takes everything in me to not be self-destructive. Seeking help requires clarity and stamina – and in these moments, you are on life support. During a depressive episode, I view it as “my job” to keep myself comfortable. To find a reason not to go further down. And if I do go further down, to wait until I have it in me to come back up. I will treat the burn as soon as I put the fire out. Please don’t feel bad if you have to do the same. 
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© Steph Jael

3. Depression is a gift for the resilient. 
Not long ago I read the following quote:
“Grief never ends… but it changes. It’s a passage. Not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness. Nor a lack of faith… it is the price of love.”  Let that sink in. Grief… your grief is the price of love. Your sadness has a purpose. Whether it is to allow for beautiful art or in connecting with another human being hurting as much as you are – your suffering is not in vain. Your pain has the opportunity to be a catalyst for something bigger.
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© Steph Jael

I know it hurts… your pain is valid. But, if nothing else please know this; you hurt as deeply as you do because you love equally as deeply. Your depression is a gift because you brave soul, are resilient.
All of my love,
– Steph Jael