I’m Samantha. I’m a 27 year old fat ginger. I am also a mother, a teacher, and a human being. And I would like to share a story with you, as well as some encouragement.
As a chubby child/teenager, I was constantly confronted with fat shaming from not just friends, but family members. I was consistently told by parents, and grandparents, that being overweight or fat meant that I could never be attractive. I was told such as ‘Don’t you want to be pretty?’ ‘Don’t you think you should lose some weight while you can?’ ‘Nobody is going to want to love you if you don’t lose some pounds.’ ‘Have you gained weight?’
On top of that, I was blessed with true Irish heritage- I was porcelain white, covered in freckles head to toe, and had bright ginger hair. And as I got into puberty, a severe case of acne combined with eczema. My red hair, my extremely fair skin and the conditions with it, on top of my weight, made me a target for bullying, teasing, the butt of jokes, and there came a point where I realized that nobody believed it was a problem but me. When teased about my acne or eczema, my family told me to wear makeup to cover it up. When it was my hair, my mother suggested I dye it. When it was about my weight, I was actually told by my grandmother ‘Well, they have a point.’
I realize that many people didn’t have this degree of things happen to them. I assume that most parents don’t tell their middle-school aged kids to dye their hair when made fun of. But I know that some kids do go through that, because I was one of them. Some of us are taught all our lives that everything about us is wrong. That we can and should change to be more accepted, not just by society, but by ourselves.
There was a statement I heard a lot. ‘You’re going to be so unhappy when you’re older if…”
“…if you don’t lose weight.” “…if you don’t make an effort to fit in.” “…if you don’t try harder.”
And you know, I was unhappy. But I was unhappy not because I was fat, or ginger, or had acne. but because I had been taught that being fat or ginger or having acne meant I couldn’t be happy. That I couldn’t be beautiful, or sexy, or loved, or even healthy so long as I was being myself.
It took me a good part of my independent adult life to realize that my weight, my hair, my skin…I was defined by none of these things. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am smart, and I know enough now about body shaming in any form to call it out when I see it, even among those who I’m closest to.
The fact that nobody seemed to think the shaming, the bullying by my peers was a problem…including parents, teachers, principals…well, honestly, that’s what worries me. There were points in my teenage years when I seriously contemplated taking my own life because of the psychological, and occasionally physical attacks on who I was. There are kids out there right now who feel like that, because of similar reasons. Body hate is unacceptable, in any form, at any age.
I realize this is a bit of an expose, but I felt it was something that I needed to share.
To those of you who went through, and especially to those of you who are still going through any amount of what I did…I want to give you some encouragement. And even if you don’t believe it now, remember it, and revisit the idea occasionally. It’s the most important thing that I have learned about life so far.
No matter what anybody tells you, the only person who has a say in what is good for you, healthy for you, important for you…is you. You should stay as true to yourself as you can, and no matter what, always remember that you deserve to be happy.
It took me 27 years to learn that. I hope that sharing my story will help some of you learn it that much quicker.