I don’t necessarily think people mean to be rude when they say hurtful things. I’ve learned what people say about others is more a reflection of themselves than the person they're actually talking about and judging — good or bad.
I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty eye-opening, often heart-wrenching criticism both working as a model and TV personality, as well as off-camera in my daily life.
We live in an appearance-obsessed society, and people can be downright cruel, especially if you put yourself out there as a public figure or even just on social media. But the good news is you don’t have to live in fear or be offended or devastated every time someone says something you don’t agree with.
Today is as good a day as any to step into your power and make the conscious decision that what you think and say is all that really matters. That way, when criticism comes your way, you'll be able to take comments will a grain of salt, knowing who you really are and what you stand for. You’ll also quickly find out how that person really feels about himself.
Here are seven hurtful things I've heard over the course of my career — and life — and how I got over them. Hopefully they can serve as a guide for you to realize you are so much more than what other people say you are. That yours are the only thoughts and feelings that matter.
1. "You’re too beautiful to be overweight."
What does that even mean? This comment stayed in my psyche for a long time, feeding into the self-limiting belief I carried around that told me I wasn’t good enough. That in order to be worthy, I had to look a certain way, be a certain size and weight, and if I went over that, I was unlovable or unworthy.
I know much better now, and the ironic thing is that when I'm practicing self-love and compassion, I automatically make healthier choices all around and don’t even have to try to lose weight. I have a healthy body weight because I am healthy, which starts with my thoughts about myself.
2. "Do you really want to weigh more than your boyfriend?"
Does it really matter? What does matter is how you feel about yourself, and only choosing to date someone who thinks you're absolutely gorgeous (inside and out). Otherwise, what's the point?
3. "If you were thinner, you could totally be a model."
This comment always makes me giggle, especially when the person proceeds to ask me what I do for a living and I casually say, “Oh, I work as a model full time.” I used to clarify that I’m what the industry refers to as a plus-size model so I'd be taken seriously when I told people that’s how I earn a living. But over time, I found the label “plus-size” to be limiting and degrading, so now I just tell people I model.
What does it matter what people think about my shape? I am paid to be who I am, at the size I am. I love my job and that's all that really matters.
4. "Why are you so much bigger than everyone?"
My 7-year-old niece said this to me, and I used it as a learning experience for both of us. She said it so innocently and curiously, and by everyone she meant the other female adults in her daily life: her mother and grandmother (my mom). Her mom (my sister-in-law) is naturally thin, petite, and probably weighs 100 pounds soaking wet. My mom is a size 6.
So at 5’10” and a voluptuous, curvy size 12, I get why I seem “bigger than everyone else.”
I explained to her that men and women come in all different shapes and sizes, and everyone is beautiful in their own way. One body type isn't better than another. The important thing is to be loving and kind to all people, regardless of what they look like.
5. "You’re working on that (points to my stomach), right?"
Someone I dated (very, very briefly) actually said this to me. Fortunately, I was able to realize this unacceptable behavior was a reflection of my own thoughts and beliefs about myself at the time. That comment cracked me wide open. The truth is, it’s not about what other people say or do to us; it’s all about what we allow.
I got this individual out of my life immediately and made some major perspective shifts, starting with cleaning up all the negative self-talk I was dishing out on a regular basis. Enough was enough! I now see that short-lived relationship as a gift. It created the space for me to learn to be kind and compassionate toward myself and set boundaries with people.
6. "As a plus-size model, are you allowed to work out?"
This is definitely the most absurd thing that's ever been said to me about my body. It's laughable but also sad that someone would even have this mentality. I was talking with a group of people about how much I love working out with my personal trainer, and this woman was confused that I not only wanted to be fit and work out, but that I was allowed to.
I can only speak for myself here, but fitness has always been a huge part of my life. I don’t have a six-pack, but that’s not important to me. There are plenty of women (and men) who work out and stay active who don’t have “perfect” bodies (whatever that means). It's my body, and I own it. I love it.
7. "If you lose any more weight or get too fit, I’m won't hire you anymore."
This is on the other end of the spectrum, where I'm criticized by clients for looking “too fit” or “too thin.” It's not only hurtful, but it's frustrating because it sends that stereotypical message that plus-size models have to be "big" and not look in shape. Ick!
Many want the fashion industry to be more inclusive of all sizes, yet I'm too "big" to be considered a non-plus-size model, but sometimes told I’m “too small” to work as a plus-size model. But it makes me feel good to be strong, fit, and healthy. That's how I want to represent plus-size models.
I’m still a size 12; I’ve just replaced harmful body fat with muscle so I can live a long, fulfilling life.
When you do something positive for yourself and it’s looked down upon, it's frustrating. That’s why I recommend setting your own rules and beauty standards and staying committed to acts of self-care. You can’t please everyone, and someone is always going to have an opinion. What matters is what you think of yourself. Shield yourself with self-love, for that’s the one opinion you can control.
Photo by Nicole Le Bris Creative