On a recent sunny afternoon, a group of friends and I gathered at the park and began asking women how they felt about their bodies, first by asking them, “Do these pants make me look fat?”
I didn’t know what would happen. Would they say no … or yes? Would they be willing to talk to me about their own body image or would they back away slowly?
Going into this experiment, I knew the word “fat” was loaded — it’s used as a proxy for everything from ugly to unhappy and more. In fact, the threat of that one little word led me to starve myself through my second year of high school. It took me many years into adulthood to disarm my inner critic, who had sharpened the word “fat” into a pointed stick to motivate me to exercise to the point of injury and deprive myself of nourishment.
Given my own history, I knew talking about “feeling fat”, and what it means when we ask, “Do you think I’m fat?” could trigger major responses in us, including shame and fear. But I found in our interviews that asking the question creates a little oasis of vulnerability between the questioner and the listener, and we learned a lot about how we understand concepts like self-worth, belonging, confidence and more.
As one of our interviewees says at the end of the video, “Sometimes it takes a stranger… to remind you, ‘May I see my own beauty.’” So can you look in the mirror today and say to yourself, “May I see my own beauty”?