Fat is not an insult-it’s who I am. And I am worthy.

Today I came across an article called My Boyfriend Loves Fat Women. It really struck a chord with me. I have felt so many of the feelings that the author has felt. One of the quotes really got to me:

 As a fat woman, I have been taught that there is an order of operations for love: First, you get thin; then, you can date who you want. Until you do the first thing, the second thing is impossible.

Until recently, as in, like, two years ago, I was truly unaware that people could be attracted to fat people. Really. I have heard for my entire life that fat people are not deserving of love, that I would never find love unless I became less fat, and that no one could ever be attracted to a fat person. Therefore, I have walked around for 23 years on this Earth thinking that I needed to be something different because no one would ever want me. Jeez. No wonder I’ve struggled with my self-confidence.

In this article, the author describes a similar situation. She thinks that by winning the affections of someone who is, shall we say, NOT fat, that she has beaten the system. She has overcome. She even states, “In my mind, I had done the impossible.” Suddenly I realized: it’s not just me. Other fat people have felt the exact same way that I have: that we are not capable of finding love because that is the message that we have always been told.

How TERRIBLE. Shame on us. And I say “us” because I do fall into that category myself. I have told myself that. I have had thoughts about fat people myself. I have judged before I have known what was going on. I am a contributor to this problem.

I have begun to surround myself with more body-positive and fat-positive images. I have recently begun following EffYourBeautyStandards on Instagram and have become an admirerer of Tess Munster. Tess runs the site, and, as you may have heard, has become the first plus-sized model to be signed to a major agency. One of the things that Tess has to clarify over and over again is that she is healthy. She works out with a trainer and eats healthily. She just so happens to be plus-sized. And she has SO much confidence. She’s gotten a lot of backlash because people believe that having plus-sized role models “glorify obesity.” Newsflash: FAT PEOPLE CAN BE HEALTHY. Shocking, I know. But one of the lies that society spreads is that fat people are always unhealthy and that it is not good to be fat. In fact, a lot of people believe it is the WORST thing to be fat. Everyone is always afraid of it. I can’t tell you how many times a day I hear “I ate this today. I am gonna be so fat.” or “Ew, gross. I feel so fat today.” or “I’m gonna be fat and eat all of this!”

I always struggle with what to say to these comments. First of all, many people who say this are not fat. Second of all, it’s like people are subtly saying “Fat is bad and I don’t want to be it, but I’ll continue to act this way because I know I’m not actually fat.” How insulting to people who actually are fat. Because let me tell you from experience: I can do all the right things, eat right and exercise and blah blah blah, and at the end of the day I will STILL be fat. It’s just me. Could I work to become more healthy in my daily habits? Absolutely. And I know I do need to work on it. But I know I won’t ever be a “skinny” person. And that doesn’t mean that I won’t be healthy. Nothing is guarunteed when it comes to health. Someone who could be considered healthy just by their appearance can suffer from heart attacks. Like so many other things, you cannot base how someone is just by how they look. And yet, we continue to do that with fat people AND tell them that they’re disgusting, lazy, and worthless. This is not okay.

It’s made me think a lot about my work in student affairs and how I’ve let this affect my life. I’ve spent far too many years thinking I’m not good enough. This has definitely translated into my work. I’m always afraid that people don’t like me, that my words and ideas don’t matter. On my worst days, I think I’m going to be fired over nothing. Part of that is because I really want to do my best, but part of that is also because I’ve always believed my best is not okay. Sometimes I think people don’t think I’m capable, that I can’t handle certain things. I fear that my colleagues think I’m not a good role model for students. I wonder if students whom I discipline or who don’t like me call me “fat” behind my back because to them, it’s an insult with a capital I. And I feel for the students who are overweight, and I wonder what they go through on a day-to-day basis and if it’s anything like what I’ve gone through.

So many of us in this field have made a commitment to being healthy. And that is wonderful. But with that, we also need to make a commitment to destroy the stigmas of health and fitness-one of them being that fat people absolutely cannot be healthy. If people want to lose weight, they should do it because they want to, not because they feel they have to in order to be able to fit in or be considered worth something. And we should also be open to considering the fact that fat people could potentially actually be healthy despite their size. We should make health more personal. It is a person’s own business of whether or not they are healthy-we shouldn’t be telling other people they need to do this or that in order to be healthier. You can say and share what you’re doing, sure. But no one should be shaming anyone into being what they consider to be healthy. And for the LOVE of ALL that is good-please stop using “fat” as an insult, even towards yourself. By doing this, you are telling people who are fat that they are themselves an insult. You therefore cannot fully help your students that are fat, because you believe that they have something wrong with them. They may have NOTHING wrong with them. It’s not for you to judge.

As for me, I will no longer continue to believe that I am not worthy of love, and that no one will ever be attracted to me. I know this is not true. I will continue to work on my confidence. I love my job, and I’m good at it. And I will work towards achieving justice and equality for my students of every shape, size, and color, because we all deserve to believe we have a place in this world.

 

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The Developer in Me

Recently at a RA In-Service, we began talking about our Strengths (based on StrengthsQuest).  We broke out into our staff groups and were asked to share with each other the Strength that you really identify with.

My Strengths, in order, are Positivity, Empathy, Developer, Includer, and Consistency. When I first took the test two years ago I thought…okay, this makes sense. I’m definitely an optimist, and I love making others happy. Empathy and Includer relate to my love for people and my passion for treating them all the same, which also fits in with Consistency. But I did not really know what Developer meant. Once I read the description and looked back on my career, I thought, wow. This is really cool. It is the Strength that I have grown to admire the most about myself.

My StrengthsReport reads:

“People who are especially talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements.”

I feel as though this is the reason why I’ve gone into Higher Ed and why I love it so much. I can see what my students can be before they even realize it, and sometimes they just need a little push in the right direction. I love being able to say I was the one who helped a student realize their true path, since I admire and appreciate those who have helped me in my path. I love helping students figure out what they’re meant to be. My StrengthsReport also says that I enjoy when my words of encouragement push other people to excel. This is so me, to a “T”.

The only problem with having the Developer skill is that I place the needs of others ahead of my own way too often. My report states: “By nature, you sometimes throw yourself into your work even when you are personally inconvenienced.” It is, unfortunately, very true. I sometimes feel like I’m not doing my job if I don’t go out of my way to help a student. However, it’s important for me to realize that A) I can’t help everyone and B) I need to take more time to myself and not devote so much time to others. I love helping people, but I should not be willing to put my own health and sanity at risk for them. For me, there is just no better feeling than knowing I’ve helped someone…but I should realize that I can’t help others if I’m not in a good enough place or if I’m not helping myself.

A few days ago I recieved a message from one of my former RAs asking for help in her graduate school search. I was thrilled that she reached out to me and was happy to provide her with information. She then posting a status on Facebook thanking me and our former supervisor for helping her. It’s situations like that that absolutely make this job worth it. The fact that I can keep connections with former students and am able to help them even while living on opposite ends of the country makes me the happiest I have ever felt. It’s just the Developer in me.

 

The Importance of Being Happy

As previously mentioned in this blog, I had a really hard time adjusting to my last institution. It took me a long time before I felt comfortable there. But, also like I mentioned, I learned a lot. I grew. I now understand what I do and do not want in an institution where I work.

Recently, I was hired at a new institution. I was anticipating a similar transition. However, to my surprise and delight, it has been smoother and better than I could have imagined. I feel at home here. I’m excited to be here. I am looking forward to all of the different possibilities this institution has to offer. And, I have good work life balance for the first time in what feels like a very long time.

I’m so happy.

It could be because I have been so stressed out for so long. Trying to graduate on top of completing my assistantship, my internship, and job searching was absolutely exhausting. To finally be settled into a professional position where just a few months ago I was wondering if I would even have one is a relief. But, truly, it doesn’t matter why I’m happy. It’s just great to know that I am and feel it.

Ever since I’ve arrived here, I have felt confident, self-assured, and feel like I belong. I have noticed that I am more productive, more willing to go out of my way to do different things, more willing to jump into different aspects of the position. I have already begun to see the benefits of doing so, and I feel like it’s because I’m truly and utterly happy.

Imagine what we could all do if we were happy most of the time. It’s unrealistic to think that I’m always going to feel this way-there will be hard times, and I will face challenges. However, I feel like if we capitalize on the times that we are happy, we will be able to navigate the difficult times easily. I don’t need to be happy 24/7 but when I’m in a good mood, watch out world! I feel as though a lot of times in this field, we capitalize on the things we are doing wrong, and the things that are going badly. We are a very reactive field. My top Strength from StrengthsQuest is Positivity which means that even when bad things are going on or something happens, I try to look for the positive angle and see what needs to be improved from there. I think I need to learn how to better use this strength so that I can channel my “happy energy” like I’ve been doing this week!

In the beginning…

I’m about to graduate with my Master’s in Educational Leadership, and so lately I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting…especially with the many job interviews I’ve been having. So what better way to start my Higher Ed blogging journey than with the story of how I got here?! Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

(I wish this would scroll like the beginning of the Star Wars movies.)

IN THE BEGINNING….

There was little old me.

Well okay, I wasn’t old. Or little really. But I was younger! I was nineteen, to be precise. And I had just decided to make the wonderful decision to become a Resident Assistant. It was a decision that would change my life as I knew it. Up until that moment, I had been set on becoming a second grade teacher. I had already declared my major and was completing classes in my degree, and that was what I thought I’d be doing. I hadn’t made it into the classroom yet, but I just knew I’d love it. I enjoyed children, and I loved helping people. If anything, the RA job would be great experience to put on my resume…and to help me pay for room and board. But what I didn’t know is how wrong I was.

I’ll admit, my first year as a RA was a little rough. I made a common mistake of first-year RAs, and basically told my floor “If I don’t see it or hear it, it’s not happening.” Eeep. Bad. Very bad. That statement basically declared “I’M A PUSHOVER” and boy, did they take advantage. I struggled that year with keeping my floor in line…but the strength of the connections I made with the residents and my staff members really surprised me.

I knew I would make new friends on staff, but I didn’t anticipate my new friends “replacing” the ones I had made my first year. My first-year friends were great, don’t get me wrong…but my old roommate ended up transferring, and the rest of my friends wanted to do what some college kids choose to do…drink and have “fun”. At that time I was not in a position to lose my job, so I could only hang out with them when I either was not on duty, working the desk, or when they were not making choices that would put me in jeopardy. So I ended up bonding with my staff members. They were a really great group. Many of the older ones took me under their wing, and the rest of us bonded because we were new. There were many ups and downs, but I remember coming out of my first year thinking wow…this is actually fun!

Even though I had made strong bonds with many people, I knew that my relationship with my residents needed to be different the second year. I decided to come in for my first floor meeting and laid it all out for my residents. I was honest, and told them I would be holding them accountable for any policies broken. But I also told them that I was there to help and that my door would be open whenever I was around. Based off of feedback from my first year, I also told them the first night would be tough as first-year students and if they felt homesick to come talk to me. Well. At the end of the year my residents told me that they did not like me that first night and said they thought I was way too strict…but I also know that I had residents come to me that night and say they needed to talk because they were homesick.

That really describes my relationship with my residents that year. I got to know them, but I did what I said and I held them accountable, and in the end I think I had a really strong bond with most of my residents on that floor. They got to know me as a person and I have really fond memories of hanging out in my room at 2 in the morning, watching a movie and eating pizza with them, or hanging out and talking about life in the common room. They were a special group, and I am glad I can now call some of them my best friends. They’re graduating this year, and I could not be more proud of who they grew up to be!

While my relationship with my residents was stronger, my relationships with some of my friends were failing. It was a product of a lot of different things, one of them being my own insecurities. I wasn’t really sure who I was or who I wanted to be. I began to question a lot of things going on in my life. I also started going into the classroom that year…and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. This should have been a big sign of what was to come, but at the time I had no idea.

That summer for me was a time of reflection and of change. I really thought about what I needed to do to be happy, and started to do those things. It was the best that I had felt in a very long time. So I started that year on the note, with some of my old friendships dissolved, ready to finish out the year.

I quickly discovered that something still was not right. I made a lot of new friendships, but I was working two jobs while also going into a classroom three times a week and I felt spread way too thin. I was miserable, because I really did not like the classroom I was in and really felt robbed when my friends could hang out and I had to go to bed because I had to get up early the next day. Right around Thanksgiving, I got sick, and it really threw me off. I felt like I couldn’t catch up with my work or my programming. Everything was suffering, and because of the summer I knew I needed to do something about it to get back my happiness. Towards the end of the fall semester I had a breakdown and knew I needed to give something up. I didn’t want to give up my two jobs, because they were my only source of happiness lately. I felt better when I was working or talking with my residents…and I also didn’t want to let my staff down. The only thing I could bear to give up was…teaching. It was a shocking moment for me when I realized it, but now it really makes a lot of sense. Hindsight, as they say, really IS 20/20.

Luckily my alma mater required education majors to have a concentration area, which was essentially another major, which I had already completed all the requirements for. I knew I could graduate, but the question is what would I do for my career? I had been toying with the idea of working in Housing while I got my Master’s in Education…but now I realized I could do Housing, or Student Affairs, full time! It was perfect, and it seemed like a no-brainer.

The next semester was filled with applying to graduate school after graduate school, hoping and praying I would get an assistantship. Through a Higher Education interest group, I received a scholarship and decided to go to the Oshkosh Placement Exchange to interview for assistantships. I went by myself, and what. A. Trip. It was overwhelming and I was honestly ready to go anywhere. I interviewed with schools across the country, and thought I had a few leads. I pursued a few of those but with no luck.

I was starting to get nervous when I received a call from my current institution asking for an interview for my current position as an Assistant Hall Director. I had interviewed with them at the conference but they hadn’t stood out at the time. As I did more research I was like…WOAH! This school has everything I was looking for! It was medium-sized, Division I athletics, in metropolitan area in the South. How did it pass me by the first time? I wasn’t sure. All I knew is this was it, this was definitely where I wanted to be.

I passed that interview, and went on to the next one, and then the next thing I knew they were offering me the position! I was ecstatic…but then I needed to get into the school. I bit my nails off my hands and worked my butt off for two weeks but I applied to the school…and got in. It was official! I was moving to start my new career.

To be continued….*StarWars scroll*