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June 12, 2022

Living Large in a Skinny World.

If you’re a woman of size, it can be hard to live in a skinny world.

I know—because for most of my six-plus decades in this world, it’s one of the challenges I have faced. I have hated myself, punished myself, and starved myself in an effort to become someone other than myself.

In my imagination, I am tall, willowy, graceful—but then I look in the mirror…

As I watched a video I recently discovered about a plus-sized ballerina being shamed, I cheered for Lizzy, I cried with her, I raged on her behalf, and I loved her. (Mostly, I raged.)

What right does anyone really have to judge? To tell someone what they can and can’t do?

As a teenager, I thought I was enormous. Looking back now, I realise that I wasn’t even really overweight. Just a curvy girl with a pretty face. The question constantly in my mind was, “Can I wear these jeans, this bikini? Can I wear…?” As if there was a law saying “fat girls aren’t allowed to do/say/wear…fat girls must know their place.”

Lizzy wanted to be a dancer, and she took on the world. She dared to go where fat girls fear to tread. She had so much courage—she needed it to be able to follow her dream. Following your dream is something that most of us in the Western world consider a right. In truth, it is a privilege given only to those of us who have a place to live, enough to eat, and freedom from existential fear.

Rights and privileges come with responsibilities. The responsibility to be kind to others. To not bully, mock, or humiliate anyone for simply trying to exercise their right to be themselves. To help others cherish their dream, and keep it safe. To know that words can hurt, and to therefore use them with care.

I challenge you to watch this video of Lizzy without a tear coming to your eye. Without discovering any unsuspected prejudices in yourself. Without challenging any beliefs you may hold. Watch it all the way to the end. Watch it beyond the end, where Lizzy talks about the making of it.

I wish that I’d had just a fraction of Lizzy’s courage when I was young.

It’s taken me six decades to be comfortable in my skin, and to wear my body with grace. This video is so important because it gives a voice to women and men of size. It needs to be okay for people of all shapes and sizes to live in their bodies. Everyone needs to know that their bodies are not a crime or a mistake. Every curve tells a story. Every extra doughnut comes from a place of pain.

There is so much pain in the world at the moment. Let’s listen to Lizzy and allow listening and understanding to replace blame and hostility.

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