Fatsronauts 101: Fat in Public

[Content Note: Fat bias; body policing.]

Cat's guest post put in mind of an email I received recently from a young woman asking for advice on how to get over the fear of going in public when you are fat, knowing that people are negatively judging you as "worthless and gross." Below is the response I sent to her, which I thought might be of value to other fat people, many of whom struggle with this same fear.

I have so been in that place where I've got huge anxiety about going in public, especially wearing certain things, because I'm afraid of how people will look at me and judge me. And let me first say that I still feel that way sometimes! One of the most difficult parts of self-acceptance, at least for me, has been giving myself permission to feel anxious sometimes, and recognizing it's not because of some inherent flaw in me—it doesn't make me any less strong or awesome because I have a reaction to pervasive fat hatred and judgment. It is simply an indication that I'm human.

So my first, and maybe most important, piece of advice for you is to go easy on yourself. There's nothing wrong with you for not feeling brave every day. There's something wrong with a world that necessitates our having bravery to participate in it.

The way I've overcome it, to the extent that I have, is to recognize that there are always going to be people who look at me because I'm worthless and gross because I'm fat. And OH WELL, lol. I can't control how other people see me. It doesn't matter what I wear or how I move or where I go or what I say—there are always going to be fat-hating dirtbags who can't see past my fat.

And once I really internalized that feeling—I can't control their bigotry, and I'm not responsible for it—I realized that I don't care what people who are bigots think of me. I don't value their opinion. Let them hate away. It's their problem, not mine.

I am sooooo self-conscious about my upper arms, of all things. Too fat to wear no sleeves—that's what I always thought. And then one day, a couple of summers ago, I was SO HOT, and I took off the little jumper I was wearing over my super cute tanktop and just went sleeveless while I was running errands. And immediately, a woman (another fat woman) passing me in a parking lot said, "What a cute top!"

I almost burst into tears, because I realized that for all the people who might be thinking, "What is she doing wearing no sleeves with arms like that?" there were also people who were thinking, "Cute top!" Or maybe even, "Hell, if she can go sleeveless, so can I!"

So I try to remember not to let the haters dictate my movements and decisions. I remember instead that there are people who don't care. Or will notice my top when it's not half-covered by a sweater in summer. Or will be inspired to love themselves a little bit more. And that gives me fuel.

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