Please Don’t Tell Me I’m ‘Confident’ For Being Sexy While Fat

A comment like this is backhanded ― an insult disguised as a compliment.
Please don't judge my curtains.
Please don't judge my curtains.
Courtesy Of Alison Stevenson

I’m a self-described “fat slut.” This manifests largely in my enjoyment of posting half-naked photos of myself on Instagram.

It started small three years ago, with a photo barely showing only the outline of my tummy. I was always down to send sexy photos to the random, thirsty dudes who’d inevitably ghost me after a few dates, so I figured, why not let the world see them instead? Fast-forward to today and my account is full of half-naked photos of myself. Better yet, I’ve even taken to the stage with the body-positive strip show I co-founded, Thicc Strip. I see myself as a sexually free and empowered woman, and it all started with these photos.

Part of why I do it is for selfish reasons. Obviously I like the attention, and to be sexual on my own terms. However, I also do it for other people, especially women. Those of us who dare to show ourselves being happy and feeling ourselves in our fat bodies get all kinds of comments and reactions. Some are harsh, but those harsh reactions mean nothing when compared to the words of gratitude.

When someone tells me that my photos helped them love and embrace their body, I realize that something special is happening. These comments always outweigh the negative comments, most of which are from hateful, angry-at-the-world men whom I would never let talk to me in real life, let alone touch me. (So telling me you’d never fuck me is literally a blessing, thank you.)

However, in the middle of the reaction spectrum between hate and love lies a strange sort of gray area comment. It goes something like this: How are you so confident? I wish I could be confident like you! Your confidence amazes me. Every time I post a photo, I anticipate this appearing somewhere in the comments section or via direct message.

On the surface, it doesn’t sound rude at all. In fact, it sounds like admiration. My confidence is impressive and envied. However, below the surface, a comment like this is actually hurtful. Why? Because I know you’re not thinking the same thing when a thin person posts a similar scantily clad picture. Their confidence is not startling. Their confidence is deserved without question.

A comment like this is backhanded ― an insult disguised as a compliment. How do I do it? How do I manage to not be ashamed of myself with a belly like that? With back rolls like those, and stretch marks all out there? In other words, intentionally or not, you’re insinuating I’m still too ugly to feel good about myself. What cheat code in this game of life did I figure out in order to gain confidence without losing weight?

I had to reteach myself self-esteem.
I had to reteach myself self-esteem.
Courtesy of Alison Stevenson

Let’s backtrack, actually. What even is confidence? Confidence is, essentially, appreciation of one’s self. Being dumbfounded that I appreciate myself is actually pretty rude, isn’t it? It’s continuing to normalize the notion that inherent self-respect should only belong to a certain type of person. Framing my exhibitionism as an act of courage keeps beauty standards fixed the way they are.

And look, I get it. I know that many of those who want to know where the hell my confidence came from grew up in the same world as me: in a society that made anyone who didn’t belong to the thin ideal feel like crap.

As a millennial who grew up right before the internet was about to take off, let alone be accessible on a dang cellphone, my childhood all the way up to my mid-20s was filled with mainstream media, medical professionals, and my own family pushing the notion that being thin was the answer to all my problems. I’d be more beautiful, healthier and more successful if I wasn’t fat. It took me a long time to unlearn the damage this caused. I had to reteach myself self-esteem and fight harder to prove to people it was OK for me to have it.

In more recent years, the rise of the body-positivity and self-love movements have flourished on social media. I can see how for many, this sudden boom can be jarring. After years of being told you’re not allowed to feel attractive, suddenly thousands of people who reject this belief are telling you you can. I didn’t know how to handle it myself at first either.

Maybe I take my confidence being questioned a little too personally because it takes me back to a younger and more confused me. A girl who inherently did not hate how she looked, but was constantly being told that she should. I didn’t understand why I had to change my body to suit other people’s needs, but since all the systems in place were telling me I was wrong, I had extreme doubts about myself and my perception of myself.

So, how did I get so confident? Truthfully, for me, it took a lot of pretending. I faked my confidence for a good while, until eventually it became more and more real. My insecurities shed with each new photo I posted. I stopped positioning myself in angles that hid my stomach, and slowly revealed more of myself. My true self. I didn’t want to be another girl on Instagram who takes to Facetune and slims her waist to give herself the ideal hourglass figure, then posts it as an example of “loving my body.”

They say black is slimming...
They say black is slimming...
Courtesy of Alison Stevenson

Sometimes, it’s still hard for me, but I push through the doubt and I post the photo anyway. Power through. That’s the best advice I can give.

You don’t have to have it all figured out before starting the journey. That’s what the journey is there for. Anyone who tries to convince you that they’ve achieved the maximum level of self-confidence possible is a straight-up liar. There’s no such thing as always feeling good about yourself all the time.

The good news is, we are our own worst critics. Yes, that is good news, because it means once you go ahead and do the thing you’ve been putting off out of fear, you’ll realize that the reactions you get are nothing compared to the reactions you were anticipating.

I think it’s safe to assume that we’re all guilty of saying things we didn’t realize were offensive or potentially harmful. This is just one of those things that I hope people will be more aware of before they post on social media platforms. Think more deeply about why you wish you had my confidence, and what is stopping you. Think harder about how your comment will come across. When questioning my confidence, are you being sincere or patronizing? Is this something you’d ask any seemingly confident woman, regardless of her body size?

I am not a life coach, or an activist, or any sort of real authority on body and fat acceptance. I’m simply a fat slut who takes more and more pride in her body every day, and wants to do so without my pride being analyzed, or treated like some sort of glitch. Instead, a simple compliment will do. Better yet, a fire emoji will suffice.

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