For the last three years (2014, 2015, & 2016), I’ve won best presentation in the State of Georgia at the Georgia College Personnel Association annual conference (with various co-presenters).
In 2015, the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) College Student Educators International’s Standing Committee for Women named me Outstanding Emerging Professional.
In 2016, the Georgia College Personnel Association named me Outstanding Graduate Student (Doctoral).
In 2017, Cite A Sista co-founder Joan & I were awarded the Innovative Response Award for Social Justice by the ACPA Commission for Social Justice Educators for creating this very movement.
I travel a lot. I’m published. I’m the youngest person in my doc program (for now) and I’m respected by tons of people I idolize (Hey Drs. Darris Means, Dafina-Lazarus Stewart, Stephen Quaye, Z Nicolazzo, Chris Linder, and many others!).
My name is Brittany Williams and beyond these accolades, I’m a Sister; Daughter; Cousin; Mentor; Friend; Mentee; Socialite Wannabe; Wing Woman Extraordinaire; Grammar Rule Breaker; Word Creator; Aspiring Raging Feminist B*tch; Fashion Connoisseur; Makeup Enthusiast…
And Every. Single. Day. I struggle not to hate myself because of my body.
For the last three years, I’ve battled multiple injuries that have made my love for fitness and working out a struggle. Because I shredded multiple tendons in both ankles, I’m not only unable to run half marathons like I used to, but I’m unable to manage my weight and body size as much as I’d like.
On an academic level, I know that my body and how I look does not negate the wonderful things I do at school and work. I also know that being bigger does not make me any less worthy of love and affection. But every day for the last few months has gotten harder and harder to leave home to do the things I do feel good at because of how I struggle with the way I look. I also struggle to stop making excuses for the way I look (see: previous paragraph for an example).
There are many days I find myself battling inner perceptions that I’m worthless. For a lot of people who know me, such a thing can be shocking. I was called pretentious last year because the truth is, I’m undeniably intelligent and especially so about certain subjects and I’m not afraid of letting people know this. Some would call this cocky but I call it confidence because when it’s true… Well. *sips tea* But somewhere along the way, I’ve come to internalize the idea that things I bring to society are 1) all I’m worth and 2) never good enough because they come from a woman who weighs 218 pounds.
Oh hey capitalism, I see you boo.
I know these feelings and emotions to be steeped in a culture of fatphobia.
I know that what is considered fat culturally for us as Black women looks different but often does not make room for the rolls of fat and saggy skin I’ve accumulated due to my constant flip flopping weight. I also know that my constant obsessing over what I’m going to wear to avoid becoming the next negative internet meme stems from a culture of fat shaming in the name of jokes and internet fame.
I haven’t quite figured out the recipe for undoing this internalized hatred of myself yet and that’s hard to admit. I’m good and pretty much everything I touch…. Except this. Except learning to accept the changes my body is going through and building a better relationship with food to help aid in my overall health goals rather than working towards a specific body image. I also haven’t figured out how to stop eye-rolling size 4 women who call themselves fat when on a very real level I know they’re trying to unpack the same BS I am at size 14/16. Beyond all of this, I’m still grappling to identify what this means for how I look at and connect with other fat bodied people.
Being my size is interesting because I’m not technically obese and I’m not “skinny” or “fit” neither. Few “fat” women (fat in an empowering sense) make room for me and even fewer “skinny” women make me feel included because I’m somewhere in-between for a lot of folks in our culture. Because of my height and body shape, I also end up hearing something entirely else: “you’re not fat but your a$s is,” or “you’re just curvy,” and even “you just have childbearing hips.” Yes, I have an hour glass shape that seems to be in style right now (behind coke bottles anyway)… But you don’t know shrinking yourself and feeling overweight until you’ve paid for a Delta comfort seat only to realize you’re on a plane that’s smaller than normal so your curvy hips keep pushing up the arm rest and the skinny white guy next to you stares at you in disgust before you see him typing on his phone as the plane takes off–
*something something* fat, Black, b*tch.
That ish hurts. Honestly. Truly.
As I go through the motions with my body and try to come to love her for all the cool things she can do rather than how she looks doing them (Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing my body which is funny because it’s already human?); I realize how lucky I am to be in this body because it’s mine. I’m also lucky enough to be surrounded by beautiful curvy women who embrace and love their bodies for how they are and recognize that we’re gonna’ get this workout in and love who we are now as much as we love the ideas of what our bodies can become. To be in the presence of friends who speak lovingly of their fat rolls and whose partners compliment every Black woman he sees simply because he’s learning just how screwed up all of this really is (Hi, Zerotti :-p).
But I know this journey is going to be much more than the people I surround myself with (although it’s half the battle). So I’m going to therapy. I’m spending time with people who make me feel empowered and beautiful just the way I am (Hi, King Julien). I’m also seeing a nutritionist to help me think about building a better relationship with food. I’m also gonna eat the friggen’ Publix cake because anyone who tells me not to can see #TheseAcademicHands I love it and without making excuses. I know that weightloss is not as simple as just working out—I do that and I love the gym. I also know it’s more than micromanaging my food intake with Myfitnesspal. But I’m here today as someone many people perceive to be a bold, confident, strong Black woman to admit that changing my mind is going to be a lot harder than changing my body and they’re both super difficult. Not only do I have a LOT of unlearning to do, but even more relearning than I once thought imaginable.
If you take nothing from my story I hope you take this: You are enough. You’re not alone. Yes, thinking that is normal. No, that fat roll isn’t the end of the world on the beach. And yes, it’s hard to (un)learn to see your body differently, but you can do this.