I have had an interesting convergence of experiences lately which has led me to thinking about exclusion. First off, a few things have happened which have me feeling a bit unwanted in Fat Acceptance. Secondly, I have been editing the section of my book on the conflict between death fat and in-betweenies and how both sides can feel left out. The Billboard Project has been bringing up memories of shaming and bullying from childhood. Then, in listening to Golda Poretsky’s Body Love Revolution Telesummit" – amazing stuff! – I heard Marilyn Wann talk about exclusion.
It finally dawned on me what I was feeling: that old fear of being excluded. Growing up as the fat nerd with no social skills, I felt left out so very often. Whether it was being picked last, not invited to the party or being bullied, I had so very many experiences of not being wanted as a child that I can be thin-skinned as an adult. In the Telesummit, Marilyn noted that many of us feel this way, so we can be sensitive to such experiences in the Fat Acceptance.
When I figuratively walked into the Fatosphere, I felt included. Here are my peeps! They understand me. They know what I have been through. Suddenly, I had a place where I belonged, and, feeling like I belong is such a wonderful sensation. No one was looking at my body and saying, “we don’t want you here.”
The Fatosphere and Fat Acceptance are loving communities. We accept anyone who is willing to honor the boundaries of the community (like no body snarking), even thin people. We build each other up. We support each other. We remind each other that we are worthy. And that is the kicker, because, as Marianne Williamson says, “love brings up everything unlike itself.” In other words, by loving and being loved, by accepting and being accepted, our fears and wounds will come up to be healed. And so, my fear of being unwanted has once again surfaced.
Now, I have a choice. I can run from this fear and let it fester inside me, trying to avoid having it triggered yet again. That running would mean me leaving FA and hoping to find another accepting community where, chances are, that fear will once again be triggered. Or, I can face it and work through it.
What does facing the fear of exclusion look like? I can only speak for myself, but for me it means making a choice. It means choosing to support Fat Acceptance and the Fatosphere even when I’m feeling outside the circle. It means slogging through the controversies, again, and sticking around any way. It means recognizing that I will not like everyone in the community, and they won’t all like me. It also means we can set aside those differences to work towards a common goal. It means doing my best to make sure others don’t feel excluded; yet allowing them to heal from their own wounds, even if I find watching that healing painful. As a child, I was powerless to do anything about feeling excluded. As an adult, I get to make choices.
When I made that choice to be part of this community whether I felt included or not, a sense of freedom overwhelmed me. Now, it will not matter what others do or say – I have made a choice to be included. Now, even if some people have issue with me, I can support the community. I can take part in Ragen Chastain’s Billboard project or Marilyn Wann’s STANDards. I can always choose to be supporting, whether I feel supported or not.
And the result – today I feel like a part of this community; I feel like I belong. Maybe, just maybe, inclusion comes from our own actions rather than others actions towards us. Maybe, just maybe, if we choose to act inclusively we will find inclusion for ourselves. And maybe, just maybe, that old fear doesn’t have to mess with my FA identity any more.
So, how do you deal with feeling excluded?