I've always had the puppy fat, and it didn't bother me until, when I was about 9, my body became a target of bullying. So I started hating myself. My mum kept telling me it was puppy fat and it would go, but it didn't. I was teased. I was called ugly. Kids jeered at me from across the playground. I hated myself. I still recall, with perfect clarity, reading a book when I was 10. It was one of those 'feel good, be happy with yourself' books, about a girl who had an eating disorder, lost a lot of weight, realized that she was still teased and came to appreciate her friends she had more, but the message that gave me at 10 is, not matter how you slim or diet, you'll always be the fat girl on the inside. I gave up, then. I remember thinking to myself, well, if I'll always be the fat girl and even if I lose the weight they'll all hate me, I might as well just accept that I'm ugly.
My mum also used to say to me "You can't be clever and beautiful." I wonder what she meant by it by now, maybe she didn't even think about it, but I got into my head that it was true. The pretty people were dumb, I was clever, but I couldn't be pretty too. If I was going to be clever then that was all I could be. For years I used my intelligence like a shield to hide my body. I hated my body as a teenager. The teasing never really let up. I truly believed I was disgusting and repulsive because of my fat, and that made me over-eat. Comfort eat. I was going to be the fat ugly girl anyway, might as well.
I made a few attempts to lose weight in my teens. My mum would encourage me, tell me how easy it was, drag me to see the doctor about my weight, pack me of to the gym to work out with the express purpose of becoming thin, and nothing happened. I was still picked on, still teased, still an undesirable, still craved food, but now was miserable in my free time too and had guilt whenever I skipped on going to the gym.
The first time I got a glimpse of what it was to love my body was when I was 18, and someone else did it for me. My first relationship. How could I be disgusting when someone wanted to touch me? How could I be repulsive when they kissed me? The relationship didn't last but it did teach me that there were other ways to think about my body. It was still another year before it really kicked in. My mum had always taught me that as a fat girl, I had to dress like a fat girl. Had to hide my body with big, covering clothes because my body was shameful. She still does tell me habitually I’m wearing clothing which she thinks is too tight. Anyway, a year after the end of my first relationship, I walked into a shop and looked for something sexy. Something that showed off the good bits of my body, as I'd just about managed to convince myself I had some. And I found a top, and I felt good in it.
I made a conscious decision not to hate my body anymore. That was three years ago, when I got that top, when I looked in the mirror and told myself I was beautiful for the first time, that I could have both brains and beauty. I've been telling myself that for three years now and I almost believe it. I believe it in myself, but I don't think it's true of others. I know I'm beautiful, but I instantly presume nobody else finds me to be beautiful. And there are still days sometimes when I feel ugly, disgusting, when I drag myself to bed and cry. But I do my best. I hate how, even when I try to teach me to love myself, I still can't convince myself that other people do. Maybe, in time, they will. I have an amazing group of friends who tell me regularly how beautiful they find me and how much they love me, and I do the same back to them. I'm learning not to take every rejection of love as a rejection of my body, there are other reasons people might not want to date me and it doesn't make me undesirable. I'm learning to see the beauty of my figure, I'm learning to crawl out from the oversized tops my mum says suit me so well, I'm learning to not be ashamed of myself.
I can only hope I can keep it up, because it feels like a battle to love me, and I don't want to lose the fight.