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Journey to self-love
LeaderVoice: I was a chubby kid
"I was strongly woman identified and loved "girly" things, but felt I did not have a right to them as a girl who was not pretty or sexy in a traditional way."
-Katie Spencer

by Katie Spencer

I grew up as a chubby kid, a big tall awkward teenager and fat young adult. I had been dieting since I was 9 years old. I was constantly on a diet and always felt shame about my size.

As a tall woman and as a woman who took up a lot of space physically, and personality wise, I felt conflict often about not fitting a feminine ideal, even if I didn't believe in it as a budding feminist. I was strongly woman identified and loved "girly" things, but felt I did not have a right to them as a girl who was not pretty or sexy in a traditional way. Fat girls are not allowed to be sexy. I could not see any other options for myself other than chubby best friend, or to diet and get myself to a socially acceptable weight and then be allowed to be sexually desirable. I was trapped.

The process of undoing the body hatred I was experiencing began with exposing myself to body positive messages and talking to other women about my feelings about my body. I had to unpack the years of body shame, fat hatred, misogyny and cultural messages about women's bodies. We all live in a world where fat hatred and body hatred is the norm. Creating a world that is body loving and body supportive takes intentionality. My journey to self-love started with allowing in the message that I could be OK, that I was beautiful, to choose to see myself as amazing and powerful and gorgeous just the way I am in this moment.

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I started talking to my friends about my feelings about my body. I started to speak up about my history of dieting and trying to be something other than what I was. To actively develop compassion for ourselves leads to growing compassion for others. When we realize that the way we speak to ourselves and criticize ourselves is connected to how we speak and criticize others, we interrupt the cycle of policing not only our own bodies, but policing those around us. And this allows us freedom to let those around us to grow and change.

Katie Spencer, PhD, is a staff psychologist at the Center for Sexual Health, in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. www.fm.umn.edu/phs/

LeaderVoice: Tell us about a principle or practice of your leadership experience that might strike a chord with other women. 
Email your 450 personal essay to editor@womenspress.com.

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