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Dear You, Volume 3

Published March 11, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Dear You,

Yes, you.  I know you’re reading all of this fat positive stuff, all this self esteem stuff and the general concept seems really wise and kind.  It makes sense to you on the surface, after all, generally speaking, that’s how you approach the world right?  You see everyone has value and is important in the world, and you don’t care about the size or shape of people in the world around you.  What matters is their mind, their heart.  How they treat people and how they behave right?

The problem is, I think you’re struggling with feeling that way about yourself.  You feel the need to be perfect, to be beautiful, to be confident and awesome and amazing right?  But you just don’t feel that way.  You’re feeling things like scared, lonely, unworthy, stupid, ugly, not good enough.  You just can’t seem to get those old recordings in your head to stop playing, all the times that you’ve screwed up, or someone has told you you’re not good enough, or that they think you’re ugly, stupid, worthless.  No matter how much you “get” self esteem on paper, you just can’t seem to grow your own.

Am I right?

Let me tell you a little secret.  All those confident people you see around you that you admire but think you could never be like them?  You are already like them.  Not only because you are taking that step out into the great world of self acceptance and positive self esteem (which is awesome!) but because they feel just the same way as you do.    They feel scared, they feel like screw ups, they feel like imposters, they feel ugly, stupid, not good enough.  The difference is, they know that those feelings are normal to have, and that they’re not always accurate depictions of themselves.  They acknowledge those feelings first, and then they examine why they are feeling them.  They realise they’re usually because of stress, because of carrying around other people’s behaviour and attitudes, because of tiredness, because of worry.  Sometimes they’re chemical – lots of us suffer depression and anxiety.

There are lots of things that you can do to help work through these feelings of inadequacy.  Surround yourself with positive people who value you for who you are in your heart and mind.  Engage in self care – be it a good night’s sleep, a swim or some yoga, a night out with friends, or a long hot bath.  Whatever it is that makes you feel good.  Fill your life with the things that inflate you, not those that crush you down.  Throw away those magazines.  Stop watching TV shows and movies that engage in fat hate or criticism of women over their appearance.  Don’t give media that engages in bullying your time and attention.  There are plenty of other fantastic things out there you can read, watch and do that build you up, rather than tear you down.

But most of all, you need to know this: You don’t need to be perfect.  Or beautiful.  Or pretty.  Or even confident.  You are valuable right now, as you are, with all your flaws and imperfections.  Because we ALL have flaws and imperfections.  Every single one of us.  Perfection isn’t compulsory, nor is it possible.

Start to see yourself as other people see you.  When they tell you they love you, for whatever reason they love you, there is your evidence of your value. Turn off those old recordings from the past.  They are just that – the past.  They no longer matter.  What matters is who you are here and now.  Learn from and fix those mistakes as best you can, and value who you are now.  It’s never too late – whether you are 16 or 96.

Something starts to happen when you do this.  It takes a long time, but you start to see those qualities in yourself.  You may not recognise it when it starts to happen, but you will feel it.  You’ll feel brighter and lighter.  You start to see yourself as the amazing human being that you are.

And you are an amazing human being.  I can see it already.

Lots of Love

Kath

The Power of Community

Published October 3, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Yesterday, I found myself having a moment where it was keenly identifiable to me why the Fatosphere is so awesome.  Now when I say the Fatosphere, I don’t just mean active bloggers and activists, but to me it generally encompasses Fat Acceptance/Activism/Liberation bloggers and campaigners, as well as the readers, cheer squads, sharers of articles and photographs, allies, followers on Twitter and Tumblr… basically, anyone who believes in and supports the rights of fat people to live their lives with respect, dignity and without discrimination or vilification.  So by that definition, you dear readers, are to me what encompass the Fatosphere.

So yeah, yesterday.  I went to the home of the lovely Jen, aka Ilaeria, for a Thermomix demo with my friend Kerri.  Kez and I were driving down and I just had this moment when the awesomeness of the Fatosphere hit home for me.

I met Jen through the Fatosphere.  I think she started following me on Twitter first, is where I first “found” her.  It’s hard to remember, it seems like ages ago but it isn’t really.  Jen says she was my fan-girl at first though!  We met in real life (so to speak, I don’t believe that the internet is any less real life than in person) one day when she came to Brisbane with some friends, and we had lunch then went to see the Valentino Retrospective exhibit at the Gallery of Modern Art.   I was delighted to meet another Fatosphere friend in person, and knew that I’d encountered someone really amazing when back in January and Brisbane was suffering the devastation of the floods,  Jen and her husband Dave came up to Brisbane bring me some home baked goodies after I’d been without electricity for almost a week.  Since then I have come to consider Jen as a friend, not just a fellow fab fatty.

Here we are together, I got Kez to take a photo of us yesterday just for this blog post:

Jen’s so lovely, I’ll even forgive the jersey she’s wearing.

Since I found the Fatosphere, and have become conscious of just how many ways fat people (in general, where I once believed it was just me) are bullied, disrespected, ridiculed and vilified in our culture, I’ve also come to realise that our power is in our community.  Unlike many of the very people who feel it is acceptable to hate on someone simply for their body size (and/or appearance), we Fab Fatties have an incredible community to belong to, with so much talent, kindness, humour, wisdom, style, compassion, support, intelligence… the list goes on… right around us.  Just by opting out of the mainstream attitude about fatness, health and human worth.  The more we explore this alternative paradigm, the more fabulous, interesting, wonderful people we are exposed to.

Of course, one doesn’t necessarily connect with every single person one encounters in the Fatosphere – we’re all as individual and varied as anyone else, so there will always be people who disagree with, don’t connect with or simply dislike.  Don’t feel like a failure if you find that happening.  However you will find lots of other fab folk that you do connect with and it’s AWESOME when that happens.

I’ve found that no matter what is going on, at any time of day, there’s always someone to celebrate with, vent to, discuss things with, lend support when you need it, listen, cheer you on and inspire you.  When we need to gather our forces to take on some fat hate somewhere, there’s always a FA community on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, you name it to send out the #fatsignal to. (Don’t you love that hashtag?  David of Axis of Fat coined it the other day on Twitter – make sure you use it Tweeps).  But best of all, being around people who are working on their self esteem, and who are finding their confidence rubs off on you.  Want to feel awesome?  Spend time with other people who are unapologetic about their bodies and their size.  It’s like an intense self esteem treatement.  And the amazing thing is that you’re giving the same back without even realising it.

And if you can, get along to any fat positive events you can.  Keep your eye on social media, follow locals, Google for events… you won’t regret it.  I find fat positive events give me such a boost and there’s always someone new to meet as well as those you already know to catch up with.

We are so lucky to have such a strong community.  You’re all fabulous, for whatever reason you’re here, part of the Fatosphere, and I thank you.

No Guarantees: A Post for Jackie

Published February 8, 2011 by sleepydumpling

My heart is heavy today.  Very late last night, I got a message to tell me that a lovely friend of mine in the US had passed away unexpectedly.  Jackie was only in her early 30′s, and such a sweet, sweet soul.  I was only chatting with her via Facebook a couple of days ago, mere hours before she died.  Her best friend and roommate came home in the evening to find that she had passed away in her bed.  At this point we don’t know what has happened, but I know she wasn’t feeling well when I last talked to her, but she’d chalked it up to the consequences of a good night out the night before.

I think a lot about her right now, in context to the fat activism I do.  Jackie and I often disagreed on a lot of things around body politics.  Or not even that, it’s like she agreed with me in principle, but was unable to believe them of herself.  I used to feel that way too, I would think that Fat Acceptance was a great thing, and all these fat women (and a few men) were doing amazing things, and were fabulous people, but I couldn’t be like that, it didn’t apply to me.  That did change with time.  Jackie and I used to talk about it from time to time, and I was always hoping that she could see the beautiful woman I saw when I looked at her, but I know she always struggled with that.

Jackie and I had so much in common.  We were both Cysters (women with PCOS) and met online many years ago on a PCOS forum.  I was so lucky to meet her in person when I went to the US, and spend time with her and her friends (one of whom I now consider my friend) and get to know her even more.  She was such a generous soul, she made me feel so welcome, and even though we could only spend a few days hanging out together, we talked so much.  She made me laugh, and she made me think, and she made me cry.  She had the cutest Louisiana accent (though lived in San Francisco) and was one of the most stylish women I ever met.  That girl could rock a frock and a red lipstick like no other.

We have both had difficult times in our past, and both dealt with the issues of our weight, self loathing and food issues.  Our paths diverged somewhat when I found Fat Acceptance, but we still had so much in common.

Jackie did everything that a woman is “supposed” to do about her weight.  She dieted, she exercised, she struggled.  She couldn’t see that she was so beautiful, both inside and out, and she struggled with her self esteem.  I wanted so much for her to see just how wonderful a person she was.  I understand it though, I struggle with my own even now, and I’m well immersed in the soothing balm of the Fatosphere.  Eventually Jackie had weight loss surgery and lost a lot of weight.  She was still beautiful, with or without the weight, she was still intelligent and funny and kind and just a lovely person through and through.  She was one of the most glamorous women I have ever met, always immaculate and fabulous.

And she still struggled with her self esteem.  Which has always broken my heart.

As I sit here remembering her, and all of the effort and yes, hell she went through to conform to society’s ideal of femininity and beauty and “health”, it hits me all over again that she’s gone.  That even after doing what our culture tells us women need to do to be “desirable” and “healthy”, we have lost her at such a young age.  I totally understand why so many women choose this path, because it is sold to us as the only way that we’ll be of any value, and that by getting rid of fat we’re taking preventative measures for our health.  I understand that wholly, that pressure is phenomenally strong, and those of us who fight it have to fight day and night, as hard as we can to resist getting caught up in it.  We are wading against a tide that takes every bit of our strength to resist.

But I can’t help but feel cheated for losing such a beautiful friend despite her trying so hard to do what society tells us is the right thing to do.  I am angry that not even when you do what mainstream culture tells you to do, there’s no fucking guarantee that it’s going to give you a long life or even make you happy.  All I wish right now, knowing that we can never have Jackie back, is that she knows how loved she is.  That she knows how terribly she will be missed.  And that she knows right now that she has been beautiful and valuable and precious all along.

Fat in a Swimsuit

Published January 1, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Well, whaddya know.  Guess who fell into a big pile of self loathing in the past 24 hours.  Yup, you’re looking at her. (Ok smart arses, you’re READING her!)

Yes, it still happens.  As positive and as confident as I get, sometimes it just happens and there’s no rhyme or reason for it.  Yesterday, I wrote my previous post for the New Year’s Revolution, was feeling good, and spent considerable time posting body positive messages to my Tumblr until midnight rolled around and it was 2011.  I was feeling good.

But then, in preparation for going to the beach with my friend Kerri today, before I went to bed I decided to pull out my swimmers and pack my stuff up ready to go again.  I got a pair of new swimmers on sale the other day, so I planned to wear those.  I tried them on (I knew they’d fit, but I wanted to make sure the straps on the shoulders were the right length) and looked in my full length mirror… and it hit.

In hindsight, it’s because the top half of the swimsuit had NO bust support.  Which meant that my magnificent rack of doom had nowhere to go but down.  And it was uncomfortable, no – PAINFUL.  But instead of doing what I should have done, which is cursed out the manufacturers of a size 26 swimsuit, it became a spiral of self loathing.  I hated my breasts.  I hated my belly.  I hated my thighs.  I hated my back.  I hated my chin.

I agonised over that damn swimsuit and my body for a good hour.  Eventually I decided to put it away and wear my old swimsuit (which I only bought last year) which also doesn’t have adequate bust support in it, but I can wear a bra under that one and it isn’t visible.  I can at least know my back and chest aren’t going to hurt because I’m properly supported by a bra.

Just an aside, who the hell makes a size 26 swimsuit without adequate bust support and thinks that’s ok?  Who do they think is going to wear this?  Ok not every size 26 woman has big breasts, but wouldn’t it be better to have too much bust support than none at all?

Swimsuit designers, manufacturers and retailers, here is what I want.  I want a two piece swimsuit, the bottom half doesn’t matter that much, briefs, skirt, shorts… whatever, I prefer the shorts but will wear the others.  But the top half, I want a HALTER necked tankini style top, with fucking UNDERWIRE and proper adjustable halter-neck so that I can fit the damn thing properly, and not have my boobs dragging my back and shoulders and chest down.  I want one that has REAL support, like a proper bra, but is made of decent swimsuit fabric, in cute colours and prints, and I want you to put a reasonable price tag on it.  Not $300, but under $100.  If my size 12 friend with B cup tits can get this, why the fuck wouldn’t you be making it for people with bigger breasts?  SERIOUSLY.

Anyhoo..

Off to bed I went last night, feeling crappy.  I woke up feeling crappy.  Yes, in the midst of all the body positivity of the New Years Revolution campaign, all my talk about giving up dieting and self loathing and so on, it hit me.

Because it does.  It doesn’t just go away overnight.  It doesn’t go away at all really.  And no matter how immersed you are in fat acceptance, body positivity and surrounding activism, it still whomps you on the arse unexpectedly at times.  Some days you just can’t avoid it.

However, now that I’ve got through today, I think it’s a good thing that it happened to me when it did.  Because then I can share with all of you that it still happens, it still sucks… yet we survive.  We go on.  We keep going with this body positivity and fat acceptance stuff… because it really, truly does make it better.

Because of being part of fat acceptance, I was able to take a moment this morning, acknowledge that I felt crappy, and then consciously ask myself what I could do to try to make myself feel better.  The first thing for me is music.  I made sure I was armed with a couple of songs on my iPod that I know just lift my mood.  The second thing was to pop online and go through my Tumblr stream.  Sometimes, I need to hear those body positivity messages too.

Most importantly, I knew that the best thing I could do was put my damn swimsuit on (with bra on underneath), grab my stuff and get my arse out the door.

Kerri picked me up, I put my happy song on in her car, and I spent the day with my friend who makes me feel good about myself.  I went to the beach as planned, chucked off my sarong and went and got in the water.  I swam and fell over and laughed and got sand in places where sand should just not be, I swallowed great gobs of salt water, I talked with my amazing friend about life, the universe and everything, I let the power of the ocean take over and spent a good hour and a half being hammered about in warm salty water.  Then we went and got changed into comfy maxi dresses (I wore this one), headed up to Australia Fair, got a decent feed and wandered around the shops together.  I saw a dude who was so smoking hot that he took my breath away, our eyes met and we had a flirty moment.  Kez and I talked some more, laughed some more, shopped some more and then had a ridiculously flavoured coffee before heading home, salty, sandy, sunburnt and sleepy… but feeling great for having spent the day hanging out together.

When I hit the shower as soon as I got home, I realised I didn’t hate my body any more.  I was angry at the damn swimsuit manufacturers/designers/retailers for not providing me with adequately made swimsuits.

This is how it works my lovelies.  Through giving up the dieting and trying to change your body to something it is not, and focusing on caring for yourself, building up your self esteem, working through the tough bits, immersing yourself in positivity, surrounding yourself with people who build you up, not tear you down and living your life to it’s absolute fullest, you get through the bad times.  You learn to be able to put in place the strategies you need to get back on track.

But most importantly, you don’t miss out on all the good stuff, like spending the day at the beach with a dear friend, because you’re too filled with shame and self loathing to put on a damn swimsuit.

Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got to go shake more sand out of uncomfortable places.

Switching Off

Published October 31, 2010 by sleepydumpling

I need a little vent or something is going to fester and really become a problem for me.  Ok, regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a performer.  Not on a stage, like you would immediately think of a performer plying their art, but in life.  Life is my stage, and the world is my audience.  I’ve not always been like this, in fact it’s only really grown to be who I am over the past few years.

My performance of course is being a visible, nay, outlandish fat woman.  It’s being colourful, wearing over the top clothes and accessories, my bright pink hair, my visible tattoos, my outgoing personality.  I love that part of my personality and a lot of the time, that’s who I am and it’s where I am usually most comfortable.

But I am finding the pressure to perform that is coming from others is actually detracting from my love of performance for myself.  While the world is my audience, it’s not for them that I do it.  I am finding that people are coming to expect me to be “on” all the time, which is simply not possible, and it leaves me feeling a sense of obligation to be something, which is not what I believe anyone should have to carry.

On Friday, I wore an outfit to work (pic here) that was a brown top, camel coloured skirt with a few leopard print accessories.  I loved it, but got very tired of people saying to me that I looked “Boring today.” or “This isn’t how you dress.”  It IS how I dress, when I feel like dressing that way, and I dress how I choose for me, not to amuse others, so if someone finds it boring, they need to go amuse themselves elsewhere.

It’s the same as my personality.  Most of the time I’m loud, raucous, full of laughter and goofiness.  But occasionally, I need to come back into myself and spend some quiet time just existing, without having to be in performance mode.  However when I do, I’m plagued with people asking me if I’m ok, if something is wrong, or suggesting I’m in a bad mood.

I know it’s because people love the performance side of me, and I’m so blessed to have people in my life who accept me as I am, and allow me to be the performer that I am.  But it becomes a vicious circle that the more others expect me to be “on”, the more I feel the need to retreat, and then the more they pressure me to come back to “on”.

The tutu is becoming a bit of a problem.  I love it.  My friends love it.  So they want me to rock it all the time, every time I mention I’m considering what to wear, the response is “The tutu!!  Wear the tutu!!”  Which makes me feel my dressing is not for me, but to entertain others.  It can’t be like that, it has to be 100% for me, or it doesn’t work.  I am not a performing monkey, dancing for applause.  I perform because it is who I am, not because it makes other people happy.  If it does make other people happy, then that’s an awesome bonus, but ultimately it has to be for me.

So here’s what I, and probably a lot of other natural performers, need from the people in their lives.  When we say “What will I wear today?” the answer isn’t every outlandish item they own.  The answer is “What do you feel like wearing today?”  9 times out of 10, we will answer with what we’re feeling like wearing, and then feel free to suggest the item from our wardrobe that you know and love that fits that feeling.  But don’t fall into the whole “Dance, monkey!  Dance!” thing that is the default response most people have when they are talking to a loved one who is a performer.

I love you friends, just as you are, whether that’s the outlandish, loud, extroverted ones, or the ones who are contained and introverted, or any of you that sit somewhere in between.  I love that you accept the part of me that many people reject or ridicule.  Even those of you that I make nervous with my extroversion accept that side of me.   But I need you to love me as I am, whether that be the performer or the contained.

OOTD: It’s Just TuTu Much!

Published October 25, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Today is my birthday, and my lovely friend Nadia (you can find her over at Niddie’s Nest) made me the most fantastic tutu I have ever seen.  She brought it in to work this morning in a HUGE fabric bag that she made just to carry it, and I was so astonished at it’s awesomeness I think I was speechless for about half an hour.  I know, me, speechless!  That never happens!

This afternoon Nadia and I had fun doing some OOTD shots in the stairwell at work.  Mostly because this man climbed past me and my massive tutu four times!  In the end we asked him if he wanted to be in the photo, or wear the tutu!

So here are my goofy photos of me in my tutu:

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My camera isn’t very good, I think it might be reaching the end of it’s life. Time to buy a new one methinks.

I posted this photo on Facebook and Twitter earlier today:

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And I’ve been astonished at the number of fat women who have piped up that they would like a tutu too.  I say, make one!  Get a friend to make one!  Then put it on and pose like a goof in the stairwell at work, or somewhere else that tickles your fancy.

All my life I’ve dreamed of having a tutu.  When I was a little kid, I watched ballet on TV and while I didn’t dream of being a ballerina, I wanted the outfit.  They were so pretty and feminine, and everything I didn’t feel like.  As a young woman, I would see fashion shoots with tutus in them, and long to own one, but I thought I was far too fat to dress like that.  I told myself I could only have it if I lost weight.  My body won’t lose weight, so for a long time I believed that I could never have a tutu.

But do you know what?  I deserve to own and wear a tutu if I want to.  So do you.  To hell what anyone else thinks.  So what if I look like an idiot?  I love my tutu and how ridiculously huge and foofy it is.  It’s my body, my life and my wardrobe that it’s going to live in, not anyone else’s.

If there’s an item of clothing you’ve always longed for, be it a tutu, a bikini, a biker jacket, knee high Go-Go boots, tight jeans, whatever it is, go out and get it.  Find one that fits you that you just love to look at.  Get one made if you can’t find what you want in your size.  Put it on and rock the damn thing.  Surround yourself with “inflaters”, the people who boost you up, not shoot you down, like my friend Nadia, who will support you in having fun with clothes.  Strut.  Laugh.  Dance.  Wiggle your arse.  Have silly photographs taken of yourself and post them online.  But most of all, LIVE.

You deserve it.  Yes, even YOU.

It’s Not The End of the Road: Or Why I Still Promote Fat Talk Free Week Among My Friends

Published October 22, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Yes, I know Fat Talk Free week is problematic.  Yes I know that it’s really aimed at and practiced by thin, affluent, young, white women and that it’s likely that it often leads to the suppression of real talk about fatness, fat acceptance and body positivity.  But I still promote it amongst my general circle.

Why?  Because not everyone is on the same page of the body acceptance book.  It would be fan-bloody-tastic if everyone was well entrenched and able to recognise that while it has useful elements, it also has problematic ones, and we need to keep those in check and question them as we go along.  But people are not like that, generally speaking.  Every day, I hear, read and see people around me who loathe their own bodies or those of others, are afraid of bodies that are different to theirs, who indulge in diet talk and fat talk, that are so deeply entrenched in the cultural norm of body loathing and fear that the concepts of acceptance and positivity that are so important to me, sound so radical, so unheard of, so “out there” to them.

I want them to leave that place of body loathing and fear, but as much as I push, and push, and push, they have to want to move to that way of thinking.  I can’t force other people to change, but I can encourage them to think.

Just as an example, I have a much beloved friend, who, no matter how many times I tell him that it is perfectly acceptable to refer to me as fat, can’t, or won’t, do so without following it through with “blow softening” superlatives.  Fat is just such a dirty word in our culture that so many people are deeply, deeply resistant to ever seeing it as anything other than a vicious insult.  It would be fantastic to wave a magic wand and change that, but it doesn’t work like that.

So while I do endeavour to introduce the people around me to as many clear messages about fat acceptance and body positivity, sometimes it’s just not getting through at full blast, and instead, I have to think of other ways to present the message.

Since I started practicing fat acceptance, I’ve watched the people around me slowly change their thinking around the word fat.  I’ve seen people who were very judgemental about other people’s bodies, their taste or dress sense, and their looks re-think their attitudes towards the judgement of others.  Admittedly, not everyone around me is doing so, some are absolutely resistant to the idea, but most of the people who care about me truly are listening to what I have to say and thinking about how their attitudes, words and deeds affect others.

Fat Talk Free week isn’t what I would recommend to most people who are open to learning about fat acceptance.  But to those people who are outside of the fatosphere, even that is a radical concept.  If I can get them thinking twice about that comment about the size of their butt, or calling some fat person on the telly “gross”, or judging others about what they wear, then I’ve achieved something.  If I can get folks changing the subject away from diet talk at the work lunch table, or think twice about a comment that they might pass on someone’s body in front of their children, then there has been some value to making them aware of Fat Talk Free week.

I consider it a stepping stone on the journey to body positivity.  Never the destination, but a step closer to where we need to go.

Special Guest Post: Kerri aka Katagal

Published October 12, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Well I have a very special guest post tonight, from a dear friend of mine, Kerri, who you will find over at Katagal Kapers.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about intersectionality, and how body policing extends across size, shape, colour and physical ability.  I’ve been talking to various friends of mine who identify as being bodily “different” to the imposed cultural norm in some way or another and wondering how their experiences of self esteem, confidence and the attitudes of others compare to mine, as a fat woman.

I decided that I would love for Kerri to share her story around confidence and self esteem first as a guest blogger here on Fat Heffalump, because in the years I’ve known Kerri (about 10 I think), I’ve seen her bloom and blossom from someone who was barely heard from in most situations to a confident, outgoing, strong woman.  I think in some ways our respective growth in confidence is what has brought us together as friends – we are close in age and have been colleagues for over a decade, but have grown to become good friends over the past few years.  I’m not sure that it’s a coincidence that we’ve also both grown more confident and stronger of self esteem at the same time our friendship has grown.

Kerri is a dear friend, valued colleague, cycling buddy (she wishes she had a bike as beautiful as mine), conversation partner, confidant, constant support and a bloody good cook that I am honoured to have in my life.  She is a true inflater in life – she always leaves you with your spine just that little bit longer, your head held just that notch higher.

Kerri has given me permission to share that she is hearing impaired, and wears hearing aids (the most awesome little bitty items of technology my geeky self has seen that ISN’T made by Apple) in both ears.

When I originally asked her to post I had this in mind, and so I’ve also asked her a couple of “interview” questions to go with her post, since I think they not only give an insight into her feelings about her confidence and how others treat her, as well as leading into her story about confidence and self esteem, but also show Kerri’s phenomenally positive, optimistic personality, which is one of the things I love most about her.  She also challenges people’s perceptions and attitudes, which is to me, such a radical act of activism that she lives every day.  What a woman!

So let’s start with the mini-interview:

FH: Do you think your hearing impairment was ever behind your shyness or lack of confidence?

KB:  It probably contributed a little because I could never be sure that I was hearing conversations or general chat correctly so I didn’t participate for fear of looking silly – I still did on innumerable occasions within family gatherings or close friends but that never really mattered but looking daft in front of strangers did up until I started to do storytime and now I don’t care.

FH: Do you think you’ve ever faced any discrimination because of your hearing impairment?

KB: I don’t believe I have ever been discriminated against because of my hearing, well I can’t recall a situation there may have been but I don’t hold onto stuff and usually forget it ever happened if it has.  I rarely ever tick the box saying I am a “woman” or “hearing impaired” or anything of those exception boxes for conferences or anything like that.  I’ve never expected my work to pony up special equipment for me ie phones, although with the VOIP rollout I did ask Helen (a colleague) if they were going to have bluetooth capability and she then went to marvellous lengths for me to see if we could maximise the bluetooth component of my new aids but it wasn’t to be, but we sure gave it a good crack.

And now, without any further ado, Kerri shares her story on her own self esteem/confidence journey.

Curlicue

Well I think I’ve made it in the world of blogging for I have been asked to guest post in a dear friend’s blog around the issues of confidence, self esteem and body image.  Three things I was very late in life in obtaining but once I got them, my life changed radically for the better.

I never had any issues with my body per se.  I was raised in a standard nuclear family with a mum who was always dieting and eating low fat foods but I don’t remember absorbing that issue, its only recently that I have been reflecting on this that I realised that Mum was always on a diet of some kind when I was small.  I was an average kid and skinny pre-teen largely due to surgery I had that prevented me from eating for about ten days and I dropped kilo’s inadvertently, that only reappeared when puberty hit.

My Dad was always praising my body as strong and tough and it was, one classic moment was when Dad said “Jeez love you’re built like a brick shit house” and he meant it with love referring to how strong and sturdy my body was from wrestling obstreperous calves and horses and other large animals.  I have to admit when I was about 15 that statement gave me a few pangs of worry but commonsense eventually prevailed and I realised he meant it with love and pride that he had a strong daughter.

I don’t remember hating my body at any point or even parts of it.  I remember wishing that some parts would be bigger i.e.  My boobs and longer i.e. my legs occasionally but overall it was my body, this is what I was born with and therefore I live with it.  I have always been pragmatic about my body and will happily wander around naked in a safe environment (alone in my own home for now).  I have no issue being naked in front of a lover who commented about how relaxed I was standing and wandering around naked, but the body to me is a shell and not the true value of a person.  To me trusting someone enough to feel safe enough to have sex with them is the big one, so being naked is nothing by then.

However with issues of developing self confidence and self esteem, they came along with a lot of hard work on me.  I am reasonably reserved and more a wall flower than most people would realise when faced with unknown situations but I have pushed myself hard to get past that and had many internal debates between my shy self and my common sense self.

The huge turning point in my life came when I was 27 still living with my grandmother and I had NO social life, and I do mean NONE.  I was sitting home alone (my grandmother was 72 and had a male companion and was out) watching a program about dancing, it featured a company called Le Step and the director Mick French was being interviewed, he said 3 things – singles were welcome, two left feet were fine, and little to no co-ordination was required.

I was sold, I phoned up and found the next class and I went to the very next class.  I was shaking with nerves and sick with fear but something inside me just said this is it; this will make your life explode.  I made myself go to every class I could and it was about six weeks before I stopped feeling nauseous with fear and anxiety.  I would put my professional library mask on so that I could be civil and able to speak with people.  I went 3 times a week for about six years and it gave me great legs and excellent stamina.  I have made some awesome friends from it and have very fond memories of weekends away in “mixed” company and developed the confidence to talk to men and dance with them sometimes in a very close and personal way but I developed trust in them to do the right thing as Mick kept a tight rein on his dance school and men were expected to behave civilly or he would boot them out in a no nonsense way.

My instinct is something I trust in implicitly, when it tells me that yes this is right and to go for it I do because it has never failed me.  I have often done things way out of my comfort zone because the instinct has said ‘do it please, you won’t regret it”.

After dancing for about six years, I was starting to feel bored with it and was looking for a new challenge.  I live about a 3 minute walk from a Martial Arts Dojo.  I’ve always loved the philosophy of Martial Arts.  My Dad did Tae Kwon Do for years and enjoyed it immensely and other people I know did it at school and of course the original Karate Kid movie had me sold on the idea from the outset.  However, I’ve always been uncoordinated and clumsy, so I thought martial arts weren’t for me.  But after living so close to the dojo and checking it out as I walked my dog, I yearned to learn Karate, but thought it also to be too macho as well.  But talking with my friend Dawn who is a black belt from years past, she advised to check out the age range and if there were lots of kids, women and older folk then it was a good family dojo and to give them a go, so I did and I haven’t looked back.

I have been training for 3 years now and am at purple belt grade, the next grade will be brown and then the big one – Black Belt!

Karate has had a massive impact on my life, when I first started we had to complete these written modules as part of our early grading.  One of the modules dealt with fear, what do you fear and why?  So I had to really think about it, at the time, work was requiring all staff to undertake storytelling and I would have rather crawled naked over broken glass then read to a bunch of ankle biters.  So this was on my mind, the module required me to reflect on why I feared this thing and really gets to the guts of it.  Once I really thought about it and progressed my way through the module, I realised that I had no grounds in that fear and stunned the bejesus out of my colleagues and my boss by volunteering to do story time and I rocked it!

Since then the development of my self confidence has seen me progress steadily in my career, I was stagnating because I was scared about pushing myself out of my rut as a Band 3.  Karate made me look at that, I am now a Band 5 for the moment and have even acted as Band 7 successfully.  I have had the courage to allow a couple of men into my life personally and had short term relationships, they weren’t terribly successful but I have at least had the courage to give it a whirl and work out more clearly in my mind what I want out of a relationship and if indeed I actually want one.

I give Karate and dancing full credit in revealing me to the world.  Dancing gave me the confidence to wear sleeveless tops and tight fitting pants, when I realised that women of all shapes and sizes wore these things and no one howled them down for it.  Karate has given me the confidence to walk down the street and project myself as a strong “mess with me at your own peril” kind of woman.  However, I know the whole time that this confident strong chick has always been inside me, she just took a long time to reveal herself.

I look people dead in the eye now, it is empowering, and people find it confronting to be looked straight in the face.  I hold myself up high and square my shoulders and project my confidence out there, it works.  Someone gives me a hard time, it’s never for too long, as I turn and face them dead straight in the eye and stand tall.  I am a work in progress and I am always looking to improve myself and make the most of my given opportunities and live my life well!

Curlicue

Thank you to Kerri for her post and I hope you’ll leave her a comment below, as well as checking out her own blog at Katagal Kapers.

Do You Want To Be That Person?

Published August 21, 2010 by sleepydumpling

I’m upset tonight.  And I need to get it out or it will just fester and make me angry, which will then just move into depression, and I can do without that shit.

Again tonight I’ve been confronted with another piece of ridicule towards a complete stranger on the internet.  I know, I know, it’s not like it’s a rare thing on the internet right?  There are hundreds of websites devoted to posting pictures of complete strangers for the purpose of ridiculing them.  But sometimes it just gets too much for me to just ignore, to just scroll past or click through.

Every day, when I go to Facebook, or Twitter, or Tumblr, or various other social networking sites, people who I care about, people who are my friends, share posts of the kind that just rip my heart to pieces.  You know those sites, I’m not going to link to them.  The ones of people at Walmart, or people’s party photos.  There’s one about people’s fashion/clothing choices.  Another about “ugly people”.  There’s one about weddings as well.  All those sites where users can upload pictures they’ve taken on their cell phones, or worse, that they’ve stolen off someone’s Facebook or Flickr, just for the purpose of ridicule.

I don’t go to those sites because I find them offensive.  I also know what it’s like to have been the victim of that sort of bullshit.  I’ve had my photo taken in public and shared around for the purpose of ridicule.  I’ve also had pics stolen off my Facebook (before I locked it down) and my Flickr, that were put on websites where people ridiculed me for being fat, being ugly, not being feminine enough.

But the really heartbreaking thing is that I don’t need to go to those sites.  Because people I know, people who care about me and would NEVER dream of posting a photo of me like that, share pictures of strangers for the purpose of ridicule, right there on their profiles.  I know, I know, “Unfriend” or “Unfollow” you say.  But what do I do when it’s people I care about?  And LOTS of people?  If I unfriended or unfollowed every one who does it, my Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and such would be almost empty.  Because so many people do it.

I saw this post on Tumblr the other day (and reblogged it) because it really struck a chord with me.  Yes, it’s about a fat person.  But the issue is not just about fat people.  It’s about people who dress “weird”.  It’s about people who look “funny”.  It’s about guys who aren’t “masculine enough” and women who aren’t “feminine enough”.  It’s about anyone who is outside of the norm.  All of those people are at risk of having their photo secretly taken or stolen from their own site for the purpose of ridicule.

It makes me think of the Doors song, “People are Strange”:

People are strange when you’re a stranger
Faces look ugly when you’re alone

Because that’s how it is, isn’t it?  When you know someone, you see past the outside shell.  You see their sense of humour, or intelligence, or their kindness.  You see them for who they really are, complex beings that have strengths and weaknesses, and when you know them and/or care for them, you don’t see the things that strangers might notice as first impressions.  But when you’re a stranger, when you don’t know someone, you don’t have that depth of perspective, and there’s that disconnect to their feelings and thoughts.

How many times have you met someone and then as you got to know them, suddenly discovered or grew to realise that they’re wonderful, that they’re beautiful, that they’re awesome?

People who are strangers do look different, foreign, other.  It’s human nature, because we don’t have any emotional or intellectual connect with them.  But just because they are anonymous, doesn’t give anyone the right to ridicule them, not even with the anonymity of the internet.

Now I’m not trying to be holier than thou.  I’ve seen people and thought they looked weird, or dressed odd, or whatever.  In the past, I made the mistake of voicing that – never to them, but to my friends.  But I’ve learnt the hard way, through personal experience, it’s not cool.  It’s not the right thing to do.  I try to ask myself now “Is this person hurting anyone?”  If the answer is no… then it’s none of my damn business how they look.  The second question I ask myself is “How would I feel if I knew someone was judging me like that?”  It forces you to have a good hard think about your attitudes towards other people.

It’s also the problem of the culture of the paparazzi fed media too – because photographers stalk celebrities for candid shots of them, which then get splashed all over magazines and the papers and the internet, there is this mentality that everyday people can just whip out their camera phones and take a shot of someone any time they like too and do what they like with it.  It’s not ok.  Just because someone is in public doesn’t make them public property.

What I ask is that for anyone who shares these kinds of pictures on their Tumblr, their Facebook, their Twitter, or any other website, do you really want to be that person?  How would you feel if you suddenly met the person in that photograph, and saw how seeing their picture up being ridiculed on the internet made them feel?  Would you feel good about your part in that?  What if it was you?  What if it was one of your loved ones?  Would you feel ok about seeing them hurt by the actions of strangers?

I know how I feel.  Strangers might be strange.  But they’re still people.

Handing Back the Hate

Published April 26, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Yesterday I got an email from a friend (you know who you are *waves*) terribly upset because she’d been yelled at by some douchebags in a passing car again, and wanted to talk to someone who knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of such bullshit.

My heart hurts for her, because yes, it happens to me pretty regularly, and I know how it can really pierce through to a very vulnerable spot.  I remember the humiliation, the hurt, the shame, the tears, the shock very clearly.  And I remember just thinking “Why?  What do you have to gain from being so hurtful to me, a complete stranger?”

I sent her an email telling her what an awesome friend she is, and how the opinion of random douchebags on the street is no reflection on her as a person.  But I know it’s still hurting and that her self esteem has taken a pretty full on hit.

The thing is, knowing why someone has to randomly hurt a stranger doesn’t help.  Even if you were given the opportunity to ask knowing that the answer you would get would be honest (and let’s face it, douchebags are not really forthcoming with the honesty huh?) the answer wouldn’t be enough to you and I, to those of us on the receiving end, to justify being targeted with such hate and humiliation.  Because usually, it’s such a pointless reason that we can’t imagine someone would hurt another person for it.

My friend asked me how I stopped it happening to me, and how I got to the point that it doesn’t hurt any more.

It doesn’t happen any less to me now that I have stronger self esteem and confidence.  It still happens pretty much on a daily basis.  Sometimes it still hurts for a bit, usually with the shock, you know?  Though why I still feel shock when it happens, I don’t know.  You’d think I’d be used to it by now.

But what has changed is me.  I’ve found a resilience I didn’t know it was possible to have.  Though I didn’t just lift up one of the sofa cushions and there that resilience was, I had to learn a lot of lessons and practice.  I still do, believe me, I fall off the resilient wagon from time to time.

Plus any of you who blog will know, having a presence on a blog as a fat woman is always target to trolls and douchebags.  Thank God for WordPress huh?  It cleans up so many of them so effectively.

A valuable lesson I learnt is that when someone treats you badly, it’s not your fault and it’s not your baggage to carry.  It’s not about you, you’re just the whipping girl/boy they’ve singled out to dump their baggage on.  You’re not the one that is flawed or broken… THEY ARE.

I have an analogy I like to use.  I was sharing this one with another friend recently, it’s a little more blunt than most therapists and other professionals would express it, but it works for me so I’m going to share it with you.

When someone is hurtful to you, think of that hurtful behaviour as a big steaming turd.  I told you it was blunt!  Think of the hate, or anger, or nastiness they are slinging you as a big steaming poo.  Now ask yourself “Did I do anything to earn this big steaming turd?  Was I nasty or rude to this person?  Did I say or do something to them that would have hurt them?”  Usually the answer is no, because hey, they’re a random douchebag right?

When the answer is no, as it usually will be, think to yourself “No, that is not my big steaming turd.  I didn’t produce it.  It’s yours.” and metaphorically hand it back to them.  Refuse it in your own mind “I am not taking on your shit.  It is yours to carry.”  Imagine yourself handing them back that big stinky poo, on the end of a shovel so you don’t get any on yourself, and washing your hands of it.

It works.  In two ways.  Firstly you hand back all the hate, negativity, anger, prejudice and bad behaviour to the person who owns it.  And secondly, I always get a giggle out of thinking of some douchebag standing there with a bit stinky turd in his or her hand!  If the douchebags of the world knew what I was thinking about them!

It’s wrong that we have to deal with this.  It’s wrong that we have to suffer through people treating us badly for whatever reasons – but it happens and you can only deal with it as best as you can.

Feel free to try my method – if it works for you, I’m really happy to have shared it.  If not, have you found another method that helps you get through douchebaggery?

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