Since I wrote Hiding Away At The Back earlier this month, I have been reflecting a bit about my story and overcoming some of the demons that have held me back over the years.
As with a lot of people, my family life was pretty normal if a bit complicated with divorce, new spouses, homes and family. And then there was finding out I have siblings when I was 15 but that’s a whole different story and I don’t think any of this affecting my feelings of worth. It was all a bit fucked up at times but, on the whole, I felt loved, although I do acknowledge it will have had some impact on who I am.
My worth always comes down to how I was made to feel for being overweight. I was a fat kid – puppyfat if you like – and it is the comments from my parents and other family members that have stayed with me. I was put on a diet, I was shamed, comments were made about how pretty I could be if I lost weight, things would always be better if I lost weight.
My dad made comments about anyone who was fat, my step dad was always on a diet and my mum was a small woman who didn’t eat, although she was a feeder. The 80s was also a time of diets, aerobics and diet products so the suggestions were endless, as were the comments about which celebrity had lost/put on weight and wasn’t it a shame when someone had let themselves go by putting weight on? The most memorable comment was about someone who was having cancer treatment: “It’s dreadful but it’s fantastic that she has lost so much weight.”
When I look back at pictures now, I wasn’t even fat, just curvy with hips and boobs. But the language used around me has stuck around in my head and, ultimately, I have never felt good enough.
There is a huge amount of pressure on parents to get it right but the language we use around children and teenagers can last a lifetime, especially when it belittles or shames. Even a throwaway comment to a child can have an impact and I can’t imagine growing up with social media.
This is still a huge issue in today’s society – we have become a culture full of fitness and weight-loss companies, fitbits, and fat-shaming – so the language we use with children around food and weight is as important as ever. It’s not enough to just say “oh, I was joking” and “don’t be so sensitive” we need to think about the words we use, their intention and the impact they may have on someone’s self esteem and worth.
Worth is a huge issue and I have battled with it for most of my life, certainly throughout my adult life and it didn’t make a difference when I did lost weight to a more ‘acceptable’ size, the damage of those words was already done.
I am still feisty and fat – I’ve been an 18 throughout most of my adult life – but I’m starting to find my voice and to see my worth as well.