Last year in Montreal my friends and I were at a cocktail party for a work thing. As we stood in line with drink tickets waiting patiently for whiskey gingers the bartender starts to ramble talking to me. “I know who you look like!” Rox and I stare at him, me waiting for some random Black celebrity that I look absolutely nothing like. “Precious! You look like the Precious!” I was flabbergasted. Rox was appalled. “No, she’s much more beautiful.” We received our drinks and walked off. “You don’t look like her.” Rox assured me. “Oh I know. We are just both big Black women, I get it.” Yet, I was left with an uncomfortable feeling I was unprepared for but namely the thought, “am I really THAT big?”
Gabourey Sidibe represented the uncomfortably big woman and always sort of a marker for me of “if it ever gets that bad THEN there is a problem.” It wasn’t until recently when I read an article about how only the hourglass body shape is ever represented for plus-sized women that I began to question my thinking. It is possible that she is my size or even smaller and simply has a different body shape. Perhaps because I have the figure portrayed in the media I’ve bought into the idea that my fat is good while hers is bad. Not only was I part of the problem (the general public criticizing and shaming another woman for her body) but I was part of my own problem for believing myself to be somewhat of an exception in a world where people prefer rules.
As the result of self critique and doing my own “work” I’ve come to a place of even greater self acceptance. Who knew this was even possible? That’s a joke. I’ve stopped (every time it happens and I notice it at least) apologizing for myself to myself for my body. As if it is some condition that must be accepted in our contractual agreement. Gabourey was quoted as saying, “One day I decided that I was beautiful, and so I carried out my life as if I was a beautiful girl. I wear colors that I really like, I wear makeup that makes me feel pretty, and it really helps. It doesn’t have anything to do with how the world perceives you. What matters is what you see.”
At the time I heard her but it was not until recently that I listened. Previously believing I was pretty for a big girl, I can now simply hold the space that I am pretty, period. In fact, I am beautiful.
There is nothing I could ever do to lose the love of my Self. Self as synonymous with the God that dwells within me. No, I am not perfect and flaws I have too many to name, but those chips those cracks those imperfections make me who I am without wax, sin cera. I do not need to wait for some other moment at some other time to love myself. I will do it right now. Before I lose weight and even if I never do. Before I put on make up, and in the days when I do not. Before I curl my hair. Before I brush my teeth or floss or even swish with mouthwash. Prior to necklaces rings and ribbons I will love myself. Fiercely.
There were times I avoided the camera. Avoided being the subject of memories because I had no desire to remember myself as I was. Uncomfortable in my own skin, I lived as though my stomach was a shackle. I do believe it is why when a man I went on a date with told me I looked different (and darker) in person, I was so struck. Because I’ve been working a long time to see, really be, see and like and accept who I saw in the mirror. Not just from certain angles. Not just with the right lighting; but as often as possible working towards always.
So today when I looked at Gabourey’s picture I said “maybe it’s because we both have full cheeks.” The comparison did not hold the same poison, resulting in the same sting. My acceptance of me resulted in acceptance in general. She is beautiful in her own way and I in mine. And once I learned that, like really learned it–not just cognitively but etched the lesson into my bones–it became less and less important how anybody else felt. Not only that, but I became a better vessel for the diving calling to love one another as God loves us, which is fully wholly and without condition.
I’ve known that happiness was an inside job for quite some time. What I am now learning is that everything is an inside job. Including beauty. Pretty is as pretty does and intends and believes. And to that end, an excerpt from my all-time favorite quote which seems to be relevant for most things most occasions: We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.”
And now looking back, it seems that perhaps Marianne Williamson knew that the thing that would plague us most is feeling unworthy insufficient and less than, and that the cure for all of it was a Return to Love. It’s beautiful how love is always always always the answer.