Last week, I had a weirdly cathartic moment watching a Yankees vs. Red Sox game. The game was at Fenway, and I noticed that each time Alex Rodriguez walked to the plate, he was greeted by a roar of tens of thousands of people booing him.
I realize that a Yankee getting booed in Boston is nothing new. Yet, I started to think about how strange it must be to get booed just for doing your job really well. Whether they hate his personal life or the Yankees or whatever, most people would agree that, at least based on the numbers, Alex Rodriguez is one of the greatest players in the history of baseball, right? And yet, he pretty much gets booed in every away game in every stadium across the country.
I had actually decided to watch that game that day because I was feeling really fed up. I had just received a couple of really fat-hating comments on my blog, and an email from a woman who thought my work was too “women-centric.” Watching the game was a little retreat for me. And yet, I found myself feeling good as I watched ARod get booed. Not from schadenfreude, but because it was really inspiring. Seeing him get hit after hit, despite the booing, reminded me of this really important lesson.
Haters gonna hate. That’s just what they do.
As a proponent of Health At Every Size and a fat activist, I know what it’s like to push ahead despite the presence of vociferous haters. The more my work gets out there the more hateful comments I get, the more angry emails I get, the more funny looks I get.
Whether you’ve just been dabbling in body acceptance or you’re a full-on fat activist, you’ve probably experienced similar things. And because none of us have a $30-million a year contract to keep us going, I think it’s important to look at how to keep going in the face of haters. How do you stand in your commitment to being at peace with your body when the “common wisdom” (a wisdom which is paid for by the $60 billion a year diet industry, among other industries) is against you?
1) Your New Mantra—“Haters Gonna Hate” —I’m a big proponent of using really positive affirmations strategically to change internal thought patterns, so “haters gonna hate” is not the kind of mantra that I’d usually recommend. I do find, however, that “haters gonna hate” is an extremely powerful phrase to use when hatred for your choices is coming your way. It’s a reminder that there will always be haters—people in your life who like to denigrate what you’re all about—and it’s pretty much their job to hate. So if haters are hating on you that’s just what they do, and you can let it go. You can, then, really focus your attention on people who love what you’re about or are at least open minded about it, instead of taking that haters’ hate to heart.
2) The Alternative Is No Alternative—If you’ve already started to experiment with body positivity and Health At Every Size, it’s pretty much impossible to go back to full-on body hatred and the belief that you should “do something” about your weight. It creates extreme cognitive dissonance to sit in a Weight Watchers’ meeting fiddling with your points tracker and flagellating yourself over gaining .4 pounds when you’ve been reading body positive blogs all weekend. It just doesn’t work, at least not for long.
3) Being A Revolutionary Is Never Easy —Being body positive in a world where teenagers are getting botox and Dove is pushing deodorant that makes your “unsightly” underarms look prettier is not easy. You are bucking an entrenched system that tells you that hating your body is the right way to feel and that feeling that way is for your own good. This sort of revolution is the kind that “has to be believed to be seen.”* We have to outpicture for ourselves a world where people’s bodies, no matter what their size, are treated with respect and love. Not only that, we have to “be the change we wish to see in the world”** by actively being positive about our bodies, refusing to engage in negative body talk, refusing to engage in diet talk, wearing clothes that make us feel good rather than hide, and having conversations about why the pathologizing of fat hurts us all. This can be an extremely tall order and cause tension—but it’s necessary tension. We might not always do a perfect job at it either, but that’s okay. If we want to truly change the world we have to be easier on ourselves about being uneasy.
Feel free to let me know what helps you when the haters start hating.
*I’m quoting a U2 song here (“Walk On”). I really wanted to quote Emma Goldman or Martin Luther King, Jr. and I somehow went with Bono.
**Gandhi quote! Yes!
Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness. She counsels women and men throughout the country on how to get off the dieting roller coaster, give their bodies what they really crave, and love their bodies and themselves. Golda's counseling and activism work have been featured on CBS's The Early Show, ABC's Nightline and Time Out New York. For more support with healing your relationship with food and your body, get your free copy of Golda's Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining by clicking here.