There are a lot of blog posts, magazine articles, and news stories out there whirl pooling around the movement to ban bullies and body-shamers from all corners of the earth. You would think the concept would be put to rest by this point, but sadly, we live in a world where trolls exist and thrive on putting other people down to feel better about their own insecurities and self-worth.
This week, I read this blog post posted by local fitness studio instructors at Barre East. The post is in response to a piece of hate mail they received from another local woman who tore an article out of the local paper containing their lovely smiles, only to hash-out nasty comments, fling insults, and state false accusations all over the page’s contents. The poor handwriting didn’t say a word about the studio or the Barre practice… oh no. Her words of hate reflected solely upon the appearance of the 2 beautiful women who regularly lead other men and women of our community through fun and rigorous fitness routines that bring out positive attitudes and results (how do I know this? I’ve been to BARRE EAST and saw awesome results -physically and emotionally- in just a month).
I saw the photo that the woman (left unnamed) sent into the studio with her horrid handwriting scribbled across the newspaper cut-out. My stomach churned and I felt sick. I couldn’t believe someone could still hold so much negativity and unjustified hate towards someone they didn’t even know, even after so many have stood up to ban body-shaming across the country. How is it acceptable for one person to think they can openly express such an unjustified and ugly opinion of someone’s self-worth and body-image solely based on a picture from a magazine clipping (that was originally intended to highlight this up-and-coming fitness studio and all of the positive feedback provided by regular attendees)?
Why am I heated? Well… to get raw and real- this issue hits home for me.
For those who don’t know me, I love running and have since I was 13 years old. I was never the fastest runner out there, but I always aspired to run among some of the best.
Since I was 14, I struggled with eating disorders and severe negative body-image. In middle and high school, there were a few specific instances when I heard others call me “the fat friend”, “too big to be a serious runner”, and “top-heavy”. After a few semesters in college, I heard comments thrown around about me and my ability to high jump; saying it was a miracle I could jump that high off the ground based on how heavy I looked (newsflash, muscle takes up space too). I was told I looked like a “line backer” and that my neck’s circumference resembled that of a big rig tire. It shouldn’t be any surprise that not only were my feelings hurt, but my confidence was wrecked and self-worth was at an all time low. ALL BECAUSE OF A FEW PEOPLE’S UNJUSTIFIED, TERRIBLY MEAN, UNNECESSARY COMMENTS.
There are still times to this day when I let the echo of these terrible comments bounce around my head. Sometimes it’s easy to push them aside, realizing they were solely someone else’s own opinion of me that doesn’t truly reflect who I AM as a person. But sometimes, it travels from between my ears down to my heart, making my soul feel heavy. For lack of better words… It SUCKS.
I was instructed once to try and disregard these comments, and instead, focus on the positive things I accomplished so far in my life. I sat with my friend and at first, I had a hard time finding a single thing to write down… drawing the conclusion that who I was was based on the way I looked because that’s what I was used to hearing: people commenting about my outward appearance. I couldn’t think of a positive thing about me… Looking back now, I realize just how confused I was about what made up my worth as a person.
Then my friend reminded me to think of myself as a whole person, not just as a disposable cardboard cutout; To forget what others see when they LOOK at me and instead think about my whole identity. That’s when I started writing things like- I graduated in the top 5% of my class in college, earned magna cum laude overall, and finished 6 half marathons… I was already a published writer, a great cook, a good friend, a devoted daughter, and a supportive sister. I looked at the list and it finally dawned on me- I am worth so much more than a few negative words someone else spews out between their teeth about who THEY think I am and how THEY think I should look in order to fit a certain body type standard and feel significant.
I write this post to simply shine light on the fact that bullying happens… and it happens often and to the majority of people we love. Words contain weight. Never underestimate the power you hold (positive and negative) when you speak to others (and to yourself).
To the bodyshamer that attacked Barre East: I don’t care what you look like, but your words and actions make you seem ugly- on the inside and out. Do I believe you are a bad person? Absolutely not. In my own opinion, I think these words spawn from a place of insecurity, doubt and unhappiness. I wish you the best in what you set out to do in the coming days and hope that wherever you go, you learn that worth, whether it be yours or the other women you share your community with, is not determined by the size or shape of your body. A good part of your worth comes from how you treat others- with respect, love, and encouragement- no matter what we can see in the mirror.