Increasing self-esteem from a plus-size woman's perspective
The following article was written by a plus-size woman whom I had asked to comment on an old video of mine (no longer online) about self-esteem/(body) confidence. It is by far the best advice you can get I think on this topic. I publish it here as-is without any edits.
This topic of ‘How to increase self-esteem for plus-size women and (SS)BBW’ is something I feel strongly about.
In you video, you suggest looking at yourself through the eyes of an FA, as a way of confidence building. In order to be able to do that, one should date an FA. I agree with you on this, but only to a certain extent. Allow me to elaborate (and bear with me): I'm a 26 year old BBW (or somewhere between BBW and SSBBW as I got told recently). And I've dated quite a lot of men and have always found myself to be the exception to the rule with them. Meaning that I was the heaviest, or only plus-size woman they had ever been with. The connection I had with those guys, always was personality based. That chemistry would then grow into a physical chemistry, but the main driver was always our connection on a personal level.
Recently however, I've been dating a self proclaimed FA (I never refer to him as such, because he obviously is so much more than an FA). Our paths just crossed. And this has been a whole new world for me. I'm glad to say that our initial connection was definitely personality based. We met online and had amazing chemistry personality-wise. We met up, and instantly had physical chemistry as well. He was delighted to see that I was actually somewhat heavier than he thought I was based on my pictures. Dating him, and being intimate with him, is a whole new world for me. The way he looks at me, the way he spends time exploring and discovering my body and certain body parts that would be ignored by non FA's (like my belly, or my fat upper arms for instance) is amazing. His hands.. It's like my body is a wonderland to him (to quote John Mayer). Like he wants to explore every inch of it. Every curve, every stretch mark, every dimple, everything. The way he says “oh wow”, under his breath in full amazement every time I straddle him on the sofa while we're hugging and kissing and he feels all my weight pressed up against him and on top of him - as though every time was the first time. Come to think of it: every time he looks at me, it's like he's looking at me for the first time in awe and amazement. Or when he grabs and touches and caresses my belly. Or my upper arms. I love those little glimpses I get of my physical self, through his eyes. He always makes me feel as though I am the most beautiful and attractive and hot woman he has ever seen. Even though I know that he looks at other women all the time, and appreciates them for their beauty and physical features. And even though I know that some of my physical features don't live up to his preference. I can never tell by the way he looks at me or touches me. And I love it especially because he seems to love those parts of my body that I, admittedly, have covered up in the past with other men or cover up on a daily basis when I go out still (such as my upper arms, or my belly).
So yes, seeing yourself through the eyes of an FA is (or: would be) effective in terms of gaining self-confidence. BUT it should be complementary to building confidence, not THE way to build confidence. It should strengthen the confidence you already have, not establish the confidence in the first place. Allow me to elaborate: I think that if you, as an insecure plus-size or (SS)BBW, were to get involved with an FA, you make yourself dependent on him. You depend on him, and the relationship, and his validation of you and your body/beauty, to become confident. And what happens if (and when) it ends? (And chances are it will end due to the imbalance and dependency). You'll very likely fall straight back into the insecurity because your confidence was never innately yours. And now you can add the break-up to that list of negative things you tell yourself everyday. The confidence you thought you had, was created by someone else. It was never truly there. You just thought it was. You were depending on him.
I believe one should always derive confidence from oneself, by oneself, for oneself. I'm confident. But I haven't always been. There have been times where I've been challenged to rise above certain people or situations and remain confident. Several instances in particular which have been extremely hard. My father for instance, was ashamed of me. Due to my weight. The one man in the world who is biologically and genetically programmed to think I'm beautiful, felt I was ugly. He could not be proud of me. In spite of my academic accomplishments, or my musical talent or the fact that I am a loving, kind-hearted, funny, giving and sharing person, he was ashamed of me. I overheard him telling my mother that he was. And because he was ashamed of me, he refused to come to any high school events I had. While he would always go to my brothers' events. And very recently (last year) I worked for a company owned by a lady who kept commenting on my weight and my size and shape. She kept urging me to run during my lunch break (office was located near a park). She also criticized my hair and my clothing. When she hired me, I was exactly the same weight and size. For one year straight I had to hear about this almost every day and I had to live with those looks of contempt and disdain. This definitely affected me. I had spent years reeling from my fathers comments and regaining self-confidence only to be kicked back to where I was then, when I was 14 and living at home. I know that she -my boss- was very concerned about her own weight. She was constantly on diets. She urged her own daughter (who was nowhere near being even plus-size) to diet all the time. I know that she projected her own insecurities on to me. And I know that for most people who will criticize your weight it's because it makes them feel a little bit better about themselves when they can judge someone else. Be it on their weight, their financial situation, the clothes they wear, what car they drive etc. But hearing something everyday, all day, for a year long and having no other input on the topic whatsoever (except for the my friends who'd obviously disagree with her), is hard. It takes a toll on you. And very briefly I lost myself. But I rose. I regained confidence by realizing that her entire demeanor said so much more about her, than it could every say about me. After an entire year of insecurities and not knowing what to wear and how to wear my hair, I spent time looking at myself in the mirror and pointing out all the things I like about myself. And I left the company, which was way overdue and has helped a lot as I was now no longer surrounded by her negativity all day everyday. Instead I was surrounded by so many loving friends who had only wonderful things to say which created space for me to be positive about myself. Realizing that negative thoughts will never lead to a positive life.
So I have been challenged plenty a time to remain confident. The two instances described above are just two examples. Other than that there are always the people on the streets that will look at you, and some might even comment and make fun of you. Just the other day I was walking home late, and this group of teenage boys (obviously drunk) started laughing among each other, as they clearly and loudly were making comments about me. I have always risen above.
How? By realizing and knowing that I am a person, first and foremost. I know that I am a loving, caring, kind person who has a lot to offer. I am also a daughter, a sister, a friend, a lover and so many more things. Nowhere in that list, do I define myself as a BBW. I'm fat. Yes. There's no denying that. But it doesn't defineme as a person. Just like my brown eyes don't define me. My curly brown hair doesn't define me. My shoe-size doesn't define me. I choose not to define myself in those terms. I choose to define myself as a well-rounded (no pun intended) person instead. My weight definitely is part of that. I've always managed to find a way to derive confidence from myself, by myself and for myself. And because I love me so much, I can honestly say that I love every inch of me. Of course there are a couple of things that I'd like to change about my body, but none of them involve losing weight. Except for maybe twice a year when I see an AMAZING outfit I can't wear because it doesn't come in my size. Other than that: I love my body. And all the clothing that does come in my size. And I know everybody can derive confidence from themselves.
How? Think about it: if you're (somewhat) insecure it's probably because you've been told, either by society, guys (that you've dated or have had a crush on) or by so-called friends or even family, that you're not beautiful, or that you'd be ‘more beautiful’ if you'd lose some weight. Or because you compare yourself to society's standards; society's definition of beauty. Again: outside factors. It's due to outside factors, and outside input, that you're not confident (enough). If you hear something often enough, you'll believe it.
So instead of pointing out all the things you don't like about yourself, try to make it a habit to DAILY point out at least three things you like about yourself. Physical or non-physical. Do this every day. And surround yourself with only positive people who don't only love you (as I'm sure family always does), but are also constructive and positive and loving in their behavior and or comments towards you. Realize that you are so much more than your size or your weight. You are a person. As such you are unique. Celebrate that. Celebrate your uniqueness. Tell yourself how much you love your smile, or your lips, or your hair, or you neck, your eyes, your feet, or even your fingernails or your ears for all I care. However small the body part, celebrate its beauty. Then tell yourself how you love your voice, your sense of humor, or your kindness or the fact that you can bake the best brownies this world has ever seen, your wicked guitar skills or your rad photography skills. Derive confidence from yourself by yourself and for yourself.
And hey: if that doesn't work there's another way that works for some. ‘Fake it 'till you make it’. Just pretend you're confident. Pretend you love everything about yourself. Specially when surrounded by people. You'll find that people will respond very differently to you if you come across as confident and positive (not arrogant) than when you come across as insecure and negative.
Don't ever rely on people to get confident. It's natural to need some kind of validation of others in life. At work you'll likely need it from your manager or co-workers because we all need to hear that we are appreciated or are good at something and when you crack a joke, you want someone to laugh etc. So you can ‘rely’ on people to strengthen the confidence you already have. But not in a way where you need them. Where you depend on them for it. Where you feel lost without it or without them. Derive it mainly by yourself. And always, always, do it for yourself. Not because you want to get a relationship or a date out of it. Not because you want people to validate it all the time. Do it because it will make you a happier and more secure person. You will inevitably attract people if you exude confidence in who you are as woman; both physically as well as personality-wise. Be you. The fabulous you that you are.