It's DAY EIGHT of the Confidence Blog Carnival and today Ragen Chastain is talking about worthiness that she felt from being a fat athlete and realising this was problematic.
Every day for 11 days there will be a brand new blog post on the topic of Confidence written by some of the top powerhouses in the body positivity, health at every size and confidence arena.
Written by Ragen Chastain
This piece is part of the awesome Body Confidence Blog Carnival that Victoria Welsby has created. When I first suggested the topic, I was planning to write about it in the abstract but shit has, as they say, gotten real.
Two weeks ago I got sick with some kind of stomach virus. Just as I started to feel a little better it was time to travel to a friend’s wedding (Mazel Tov y’all!) and I came home with a nasty cold/sinus thing that makes is hard for me to breathe, and makes me weak, tired and dizzy.
Normally this would just suck, but currently I’m in the last four months of a two year journey to complete an IRONMAN Triathlon, and so this has meant a bunch of missed or incomplete workouts, and workouts completed when I’m definitely far from at my best which is the last thing I need right now. This is a journey that I started specifically because I’m not good at endurance athletics and I wanted to push outside my comfort zone. It’s not been an easy journey for me physically or emotionally and, as with nearly everything I do, it has been accompanied by daily bullying and harassment by internet trolls.
Earlier in my life this situation would have found me with my self-esteem down around my ankles. And in truth, I probably wouldn’t have even tried something like an IRONMAN because I tied my self-esteem and self-confidence to things like athletic success and the fear of failure (and all the subsequent troll rejoicing,) and how devastating that failure would be to my sense of self – might have stopped me before I started.
But on my journey to fat acceptance and body love I learned something that changed everything: I can love my body no matter what. I can have high self-confidence no matter what. I can have high self-esteem no matter what.
It’s not magic, it’s been a long and difficult journey to get here because, like everyone, I grew up in a society that is steeped in sizeism, healthism and ableism (as well as racism, ageism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and more.) A society that tries to tell us that we’re not inherently good enough or worthy, that we must always and forever be “proving ourselves,” including and especially if we are fat. A society that tells us that we should judge ourselves and others based on things like body size and health and physical ability.
In fat activism community this is often called the “Good Fatty Bad Fatty Dichotomy” and it’s absolute crap, but I bought into it hard. I would say things like “I’m fat but I’m healthy, here are my numbers…” or “I’m fat, but I’m active” feeling like I was allowed to like myself “even though” I was fat, because I was “healthy,” because I was achieving athletically.
This wasn’t about telling the truth about weight and health – which is important so that people can understand their options. It was not about creating a space for fat people to have the right to choose to be involved in the fitness world without shaming, bullying, stigma, or harassment – which is also important because of the double-edged sword of being a fat athlete where some treat you better because you’re involved in fitness, and other people throw eggs at you. This wasn’t about any of that, it was only about tying my self-confidence, my self-esteem, and my self-worth to outside achievement, and to things that weren’t entirely within my control. And that was a terrible idea.
The truth is that health is not an obligation, barometer or worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstance. The truth is that we should all have the opportunity, but never an obligation, to participate in fitness/athletics/movement at any level we choose. The truth is that we don’t have to make our self-confidence, our self-esteem, or our self-worth contingent on our health, our participation in fitness, or anything else. The truth is that the trolls can (and will) yammer on, but we don’t have to care what they say. The truth I realized for me is that I am the only person who can decide how I feel about myself and my body. The truth is that we are worthy, no matter what.
Ragen Chastain is a speaker, writer, and internationally recognized thought leader in the fields of self-esteem, body image, Health at Every Size, and corporate wellness. She is a sought-after college, corporate, and conference speaker, she blogs at danceswithfat.org, and is the author of Fat: The Owner's Manual. Ragen is frequently featured as an expert in print, radio, television and film and is a champion dancer, marathoner, co-founder of the 6,000 member Fit Fatties Forum, and currently training for her first IRONMAN Triathlon.