I don’t know where to begin honestly. I’m already in tears and I haven’t even formed the first thought yet.
My journey in this here body has been a rough one. I’ve had to hurdle over so many obstacles to get to the place where I’m at now.
You know what? Let’s start from the beginning…
I’ve always been chubby. Always. When I was born I was 9 pounds. I remained a chunky baby, grew up to be a chunky toddler, child, adolescent, and now, young adult. With my size came the incessant criticism from all fronts; whether it was done civilly or cruelly, someone always had something to say about my weight.
Growing up, I was always being taunted and bullied for my size which took a toll on how I viewed myself. I remember being a freshman in college and thumbing through my old journals from middle school and realizing that I was depressed as a child. Day after day, I came home, sat in my room, opened my journal and just scribbled away about how someone called me a “fat bitch” or about how the girls on the bus insisted on poking, pinching, and knocking my head while calling me a “stank fat ass.”
This happened every-fucking-day. I just wanted to curl up in a ball in a corner somewhere. I tried my best to not be seen or even heard but that never stopped the insults from coming my way. I wanted to disappear. I dreaded going to school. I wanted to die at times and I use to think “What would the world be like if I wasn’t here? Would anyone care? Would my classmates cry if I just decided I wanted to end it all? Would that make them feel bad for hurting me?”
It was to the point where I didn’t even think I was worthy of anything. I hated looking in the mirror. I hated taking pictures. I hated everything about me. I would even laugh along when people would say fucked up shit about me at school. I didn’t know what else to do or say when I deep down believed what they were saying about me was true.
If you were to tell 11 year old me that 21 year old her would still be the same size but was happy with herself, 11 year old me would laugh. But.. It’s true.
And I wish I could give you a list with steps 1,2, and 3 on how I got to this place, this place of peace and contentment but I don’t. I can’t. This was a journey that I never knew I would take.
But you know what I can honestly say saved my life? Art. Those nights where I stayed up writing in my journals kept me alive. Those days where I came home and banged on my piano because I was angry kept me calm. Those days on the bus when I would crank up the music on my mp3 player to drown out the kids yelling obscenities at me kept me vaguely sane–but sane nonetheless. The only place I felt alive, free, and beautiful was on a stage. On stage, lost in another world, was where I felt fearless and not a victim. I felt like I could conquer the world. I was untouchable.
My talents in the performing arts, in a unique sense, helped me build confidence. That confidence on stage somehow began to manifest itself offstage. In some weird way my confidence in the performing arts began to make me see my worth. I began realizing that I did serve a purpose on this here earth.
And that, my friends, is when feisty Candace began to develop into who she is today. Once I started gaining confidence in myself and my capabilities, I started to stand up for myself. I began barking back at people. I began standing my ground and demanding respect by any means necessary. I didn’t tolerate anymore bullshit. By the time I graduated from middle school, the bullying had simmered down because I now had gained a voice and was nothing to fuck with.
From there, my confidence started to grow even more. It’s safe to say that my confidence grew from my skills, talents, and intellectual capabilities and not necessarily from my outward appearance. I still wasn’t secure about my body. I still didn’t want to go to the beach. I still hated summer because it meant I would have to dial back on layering and clothes so that I wouldn’t get a heat stroke. I still couldn’t look into the mirror and could honestly say that I loved my body.
I would proudly showcase what I was capable of in terms of my talents and skills but showcase my body? Nah. Honestly, my insecurities with my body manifested in different ways. Sometimes I would project my insecurities onto others, even my own friends. At one time it came in the form of slut shaming. One time one of my friends posted a picture of herself in a bikini (She wasn’t at the beach. She was at home but she wanted to showcase her body.) on Facebook and I commented with “?????” Subconsciously I had guise my envy of her body with fake concern about how she was presenting herself to the world. I didn’t realize that until now in the present.
I then realized that being jealous wasn’t the way to go. It was petty and it didn’t make me feel any better about myself. So, I started to compliment other women all the time. I tried to look for the good in other women and I did my best to let them know. I noticed that by doing this, by helping others feel good about themselves, it made me feel better about myself.
When I was in high school I would go to Bible study with my friend every Wednesday night. One night at Bible study, body and self image was the topic at hand. I began to cry and my youth pastor took me to the side and told me that every time I was feeling bad about myself to say Jesus’ name until the negative thoughts went away. She told me to think about how Jesus viewed me and about how he loved me so much that he died on the cross for me. I took her advice and I started to do that. “I look ugly… ugh. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” I would do that multiple times every day. Now, I’m not religious anymore so I don’t do this any longer but I must say, it did help me tremendously at the time.
I started trying to appreciate my body in different ways. I tried to focus on the good. I started to like my smile. I grew to love my hair. My nose was kinda cute despite that I had contemplated getting nose surgery for a minute. Yup, my thighs were fat but they kept me warm at night. I paid attention to how my body took care of me. If I cut myself, my body would heal itself. If I got a cold, my body would work to get better. I realized my body loves me so maybe I should show some love back.
I’m not at the point where I can say I’m completely body positive. You may not get a lot of #body posi pics out of me in a while. I can’t say I’m at the point where I can honestly say with no hesitation that I’m in love with my body. I haven’t reached that pivotal point. I’m still on this journey and I have yet to reach the promise land but dammit, I’ve been walking and I’ve gotten far and I’m so fucking proud of that alone.