On The Inside

I’ve been fat and ugly my entire life. Want proof?

This is me as a child:

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Me in high school:

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After college:

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And now:

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You’re probably thinking, “What the hell is she talking about?” Let me amend my statement. I’ve been fat and ugly my entire life…on the inside.

I found a monologue in an acting class once that summed up this contradiction perfectly – sometimes people don’t match their bodies. There are some people who are fat on the outside and thin on the inside. These are the people who wear tank tops that are too tight and let their muffin tops hang out without a care in the world, because in their minds, they look fabulous. (More power to them, in my opinion!)

Then there are people who are thin on the outside and fat on the inside. And for those people, no matter how skinny their waist is, no matter what size they wear or how much weight they lose, they will always feel fat.

I’ve been in the latter category since I can remember. I learned how to suck in my stomach so I don’t look fat before I even learned algebra. I’ve always looked at certain foods and thought, “I don’t get to have that. I’m too fat.” I look at thin people all the time and think, “I wish I had their bodies. I wish I wasn’t so fat." 

And the worst part is that I believe myself. I believe these stupid thoughts in my head. My parents didn’t put those thoughts there. They’re not born from a boy who teased me on the playground. I’ve just always had them. Any comment I’ve ever received about not looking good in a dress or needing to work out more just confirmed the condemnation I’ve held to be true my entire life. I am fat and ugly and always will be.

I’ve tried to change how I feel about myself. Exercising makes me feel more beautiful, but only when my schedule allows me to do it consistently. Meditation and finding spirit have helped me tap into self-love, but the moment I’m with a man I like and there’s an attractive person nearby, I think, "Why would he want me when he could have her? She’s thinner and prettier.”

None of it is conscious or deliberate self-talk. It’s just an instant truth for me, like an instinct or reflex. I’ve tried affirmations – “You are beautiful. You are worthy of love. Your body is desirable.” – but they’ve always felt like falsehoods I’m trying to convince myself are true. And they just don’t feel true.

Most people I know would probably be shocked to hear that I feel this way. I walk through the world as a generous, encouraging, and honoring person. When a friend has good news, I’ll be the first person to throw up my hands and exclaim, “That’s amazing! You deserve that and so much more!” If a friend is feeling down, my heart instinctively wants them to feel better. It’s just who I am. I believe in finding the good to conquer the bad. I believe in the power of positive thinking. I stand for love above all else. 

So why can’t I do that for myself? Why can’t I find love for my own body? Why can’t I believe that I’m beautiful?

These are the questions I’ve been grappling with for years. Years I tell you! I’ve given it so much thought but mostly I push the issue into the background because I have more important matters that need my focus – career, home, life. But the thoughts are always there, waiting to be confirmed again and again. 

Then one random day last month while sweating on the elliptical at the gym, I saw a commercial for a mobility scooter company featuring an obese woman talking about the product. She was average-looking with long blonde hair, wearing a simple lavender t-shirt. She didn’t smile at all – presumably because she was saying very important things about her scooter. 

I wasn’t listening to the audio, so I just stared at her talking and thought things like, “She has really pretty hair. And her mouth shape is adorable. I bet she has a beautiful smile. I hope she knows how lovely she is.”

And that’s when it hit me. The complete and total ridiculousness of my inability to love myself. Because I realized that if that if I met that scooter-bound obese blonde in person, I would treat her with respect, find ways to have a joyous conversation, and celebrate what’s great about her. I would operate from a baseline truth that she is beautiful and deserving of love. 

It was time to do that for myself. No more self-loathing and judgment. I was sick of it - and where was it getting me? Nowhere. Time to get a new story.

So the next time I meditated, I visualized that blond obese woman in a mobility scooter and took her into my heart. She became my representation of how I feel about myself on the inside. And by taking her in, I also took in the love I had for her. The automatic belief that she is beautiful, worthy, and desirable.

I meditate on her image in my heart every chance I can get, working to lock in that self-love. And any time I’m feeling fat and ugly, I turn within and look her right in the face and say, “You are beautiful. Anyone who doesn’t see that is a damn fool.”

And it’s working. Slowly but surely, I’m making peace with my fat woman on the inside. Because in the end, it wasn’t about getting rid of her or talking over her. It was about loving her the way I love everyone else – with kindness, patience, and compassion.

I’ve been fat and ugly my entire life, but now I’m learning to be okay with that. My fat and my ugly are worth loving. We’re going to be just fine.

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Teresa | Los Angeles, CA

Teresa Huang was raised to be a doctor but born to be an artist. A genuine graduate of MIT, she gave up problem sets and thermodynamics to become a writer, actor, and producer. Her parents are still scratching their heads.  Teresa worked as a staff writer on NBC’s Knight Rider

 remake, writing lines for the talking car, and recently created and developed the one-hour drama The Big Kahuna with CBS Television Studios. Her original pilot Children of Eden was a Finalist in the Script Pipeline TV Writing Competition. She is also an active member of the storytelling community in Los Angeles, having told her stories at The Moth, Tasty Words, Word Salad, and Tales by the Sea. She recently released her first short story collection Heartborn, available at Amazon.com.  As an actor, Teresa has made numerous television appearances, including Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds, LOST, though she is best known for playing Kimmie, Eddie Izzard’s assistant on The Riches on FX. Stage credits include A Chorus Line (Seacoast Repertory), Putting It Together (Speakeasy Stage), Asian Pacific Tales (East West Players), multiple touring productions with the hereandnow theatre company, and several shows at the Disneyland Resort. She has also studied improv at Second City and performed the one-woman showThe Yellow Dress all over the country.  Follow her on twitter @teresapalooza.

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