Five months before I wrote my first post for Compared to Who?, I spent a summer at home in Uganda with my family. Which included three and a half months of drinking water, no cookies, late night talks with ginger tea, laughing hard, and taking long uphill walks. When my friends picked me up from the airport, they said I was “skinny.”
Now, I was not skinny, have never lived in the same neighborhood as skinny, and will never be skinny. But all my clothes were too big for me and it FELT GOOD.
Inspired by my new look, I was using the treadmill in my basement, dialing back my consumption of Mountain Dew Baja Blast, and eating salad with a straight face. I wasn’t comparing myself to random girls on Facebook at 2 am. I was the smallest I’d been in two years, and this fact made it easier for me to be positive about my body–hence the joyous, triumphant tone of “Dear 2017.”
I was so happy with the progress I had made in my body image issues, and was so excited to tell my story to help other women. I probably had a smug, holy look on my face as I visualized everyone who would be “encouraged” by my “testimony.”
And, then the low . . .
After the excitement of being published wore off, however, I was shocked to discover I was honestly bothered by the thought of people on the Internet reading a post about me with my full legal name and the word “fat” in it. I squirmed as my friends shared the link on Facebook, and as their friends liked and commented. I mean, I liked that they all said they loved my poem, but I started wishing I had written about ANYTHING else other than how I felt about my body.
I wondered if I’d overshared. I almost emailed Heather ten times since this January to tell her I couldn’t be a contributor for Compared to Who anymore, and she needed to get someone who had their stuff together.
The Struggle is Real
It shames me that in the same world where people starve, are blown to bits, sleep in cardboard boxes, and battle cancer, I’m deeply concerned about how I look in a pair of jeans.
It shames me that I won’t talk to that girl who started going to my church’s Bible Study because she looks like a model for a granola commercial.
It’s dumb that I worry about how I look to people when I ride my bike. It took years for me to wear hats because I thought they would make me look bigger. I had to take a picture to hype up Christian student retreat yesterday, and I made my friend retake it five times because I didn’t like the way my t-shirt was folding over my stomach. If I notice there is another overweight person in one of my classes, I’ll pick a seat on the opposite side of the room from them because I don’t want people to see us together. I have refused to befriend people because they are skinny, pretty, have small non-flaring noses, and know how to use liquid eyeliner. Until a year ago, I went to embarrassing lengths to not eat in public.
I’m so ashamed that this is still my struggle. It makes me defensive. It makes me weary. It makes me want to hide. It makes me feel stupid. It makes me sit in my room and wonder if I’ll die alone. It makes me wonder if anyone actually loves me, and if they do, how long will it be before they find out I’m really not worth it after all? It makes me eat.
I am so TIRED of living like this. I am so TIRED of being a prisoner of society’s definition of beauty, of people’s opinions, fitness fads, and scale numbers. Today I feel defeated. Today I’m not in the mood to write a cute, chirpy poem about identity in Christ. Today I feel fat and ugly.
Whether I feel like it or not, I need to refuse to keep letting insecurity lead me into idolatry (what else would you call a constant preoccupation with self?). If I get to a place where I spend less time and energy focusing on my hips and worrying about my skin and obsessing over my hair, I will have more time and energy to work at making myself decrease so Christ can increase. I can share the Gospel, live the Gospel, ask for grace from God to get better at living the Gospel, achieve dreams, take naps, tear down walls, eat cheeseburgers, read the Bible, practice compassion, build bridges, write poems, be loved, offer forgiveness, go to church, learn Spanish, blurt humiliating things in public, apply the Bible, make friends, be humbled, lose friends, wear sparkly nail polish, be discipled, have adventures, ride bikes, overcome sins, write to my mother, create awkward silences, graduate from college, disciple others, make mistakes, make macaroni and cheese, be honest, be real, listen to 80’s music, and climb mountains. It means I have more time and energy to LIVE.
That’s why this fight is important.
Sharon-Rose Piwang and her three three jazzy-awesome siblings were raised in East Africa by a superhero mother. Her closest friend used to be Jo March from Little Women, but she’s getting better at friendships with humans. She likes purple, napping, cheeseburgers, poetry, libraries, housecleaning, imagining she’s in Glee music videos, trying to be dignified and mysterious, writing about herself in third person, hyphens, and long list-sentences. She is a follower of Christ who is extremely glad the Gospel means she doesn’t have to pretend her Christian walk is more cute and less messy than it is. Read Sharon-Rose’s posts here.