I’ve always been a little…thick. I think the only days where I was somewhat skinny were probably the first few days after birth. After that, my fluffiness was never far behind. I’m sure my mother would disagree but alas this is my story not hers.
In school I don’t remember being teased a lot or bullied. Perhaps it’s because early on I realized that humor and self depreciation was a good defense mechanism. If I kept them laughing, I was liked, and if I was liked I wasn’t a target. And when that didn’t work I could always beat them to the punch by making a joke about myself before they got a chance to. This strategy, of course, was nowhere near foolproof.
I can still recount some of the little digs and jokes that I experienced with unbelievable accuracy. like when I was in kindergarten, I remember a boy putting a ballon under his shirt and saying “Hey, look at me. I’m Ashli”. In 8th grade, I can remember a friend telling me that my music teacher made a joke about me being able to disappear into a hidden box while playing the Wicked Witch in the school play. The convo went something like “We should have a box that Ashli can melt into to stay hidden. The teacher responded “Yeah, if she can fit”. That’s right the ridicule didn’t only come from children. Adults were probably the biggest offenders.
Unfortunately, the hardest blows normally come from your family. Veiled in their belief that their words are helping you or are harmless jokes, they often know how to hit you right where it hurts. I’ve heard it all.
“I told you her arms are getting a little thick.”
“Someone with thighs like yours shouldn’t be wearing something like that.”
“..because fatty over there ate it all.”
“You’re starting to look pregnant. You should do something about that.”
Some words said while laughing or with faces of concern. Others said with a total look of disdain. But all felt uncomfortable, wrong and it all hurt.
It took me YEARS to understand and forgive this behavior. I learned that most of it was coming from someone else’s own trauma. Their own defense mechanism. With others it was learned behavior from some other wounded person. The reality is that the old saying hurt people hurt people is so true. While not an excuse of what was said or done to me, understanding helps me know how to move forward and accept me for me.
Initially I looked for apologies. I wanted atonement. I wanted them to feel the embarrassment and pain I felt. I wanted them to be ashamed and feel guilty. What I eventually realized was that for many of the memories it would never come. I had to find forgiveness and healing all by myself. Many of the culprits had long since left my life. Some I hadn’t talked to in years and others I had no faith in their being receptive of my experience or associated feelings. For the few who were still in my life I’ve been able to have some hard conversations. Tears have definitely been shed. A lot of tears. But, I was able to get through it and understand who and where people are.
Today, it’s not at all perfect but I love the place I am in my life. I still get wounded by others words but I recover. I do so by reminding myself who I am. I remember that people’s words should never be louder in my head then my own. I’ve set some boundaries to protect my wellbeing. The main one being that the topic of my body is only to be discussed on my terms. You don’t get to “suggest” or “help me” because I won’t be asking you to. And most importantly I know that the beauty of who I am begins and ends with me. The sum is always greater than its parts and my body is a beautiful part to the unbelievable sum of who I am.