This is it, everyone. The very first edition of “Big Questions with Zach Miko”. I’m like a kid in a candy store, but the store is the internet, and the candy is your questions. Chubstr is so important to me and to so many people like me, and I am so honored to become a contributor. This column is for everyone ever afraid to ask, everyone too embarrassed or self-conscious to talk about how they truly feel. This is for my 16-year-old self, and my 60-year-old self. This is a space where I will do my best to help in the tiniest way I can. So, let’s get to it!
Anonymous: My boyfriend is a big guy and always makes comments about his body in a negative way. I’m a big gal myself, but I’ve been working on my self image for years and have come a long way. How do I nudge him in the same direction?
You are already nudging him without even noticing. Body positivity and positive self-image are utterly contagious. I don’t know how long you two have been together, but I promise you even if it’s only been a week, he notices a difference in you, and you have already planted the seed of the possibility of your boyfriend learning to accept himself.
It sounds like right now your boyfriend is falling into the ever too common trap for big people: self-deprecation. Bigger people of all sexes can fall victim to this, but I have noticed it is particularly entrenched in hetero males. We were raised by society to believe insecurity equals weakness, that our emotions are not valid, and we are weak if our feelings can be hurt by other people. But, it does hurt, it always hurts, not because we are weak, but because we are human.
What a lot of big guys do is try to “beat them to the punch”. I was always the first one to make a joke about being fat, about being a giant or a freak, or a monster because I believed I was protecting myself. I believed I was taking away the power of a would be attacker by saying something horrible about myself before they ever could. I finally realized I wasn’t taking away their power, I was confirming it. I was not only giving my bullies permission to say terrible things, but I was reinforcing the messaging in my own heart that I was worthless. We believe self-deprecation is a survival tool. It’s a slow acting and corrosive poison that eats away our own self-worth over time.
Depressing, right? It doesn’t have to be; I promise you. You already planted the seed. Being a positive role model may not open the door to his love for himself, but it definitely undid the latch at least. Your job now is to call him out every time he attacks himself. When he says something like:
“God, I’m so fuckin fat”
Your response will be “Ok. Is that a bad thing?”
He’ll say, “Yeah, babe, I’m huge.”
And you’ll say, “what’s wrong with being a big person?”
At this point his brain will be short circuiting a little. These questions go against everything he has told himself his whole life, not to mention what TV, fashion and movies are telling him. He might continue self deprecating, with something like “Big people aren’t as attractive.”
To which you respond “I’m big. You find me attractive.”
You need to help him unlearn all the negativity that comes with being big, the way you have begun to unlearn it yourself. Your boyfriend probably hasn’t had anyone in his life telling him that he is beautiful, attractive, desirable, and deserving of admiration. So tell him that, loudly and often. Each time you call him out on being self-deprecating, remind him of this.
It will not happen overnight, but you can chip away at the wall to self-acceptance he has spent his whole life building up. Above all, continue on your own journey of self-love, honor yourself and continue to grow. You can’t help him by sacrificing yourself. Guide him, challenge him, love him. And if he tries to use the excuse that he needs a male perspective send him to @ZachMiko and @Chubstr, we will provide him plenty of examples.