I do think that people encounter people like me and somehow get the impression that I'll look down on them if they have body shame. Like, they find it hard to understand that despite the fact that I celebrate my body and I'm a fat activist, I still struggle. As if I become hard to relate to when I'm not wallowing in body shame or something.
This is actually something I think about a lot. I imagine people look at me and think I am an extremely fat accepting individual. And I am. I had a unique journey to FA in that I was exposed to FA and very strongly believed in before I was fat myself. I very unintentionally found myself in position to be a testing ground for my own adopted ideals. I'm extremely grateful for all this as I think it saved me from a lot of the body shame most people experience in our society. Which is all to say that I, myself, consider myself to be unusually fat accepting sometimes.
I still struggle with body shame every day of my life.
In the past I have seen people justify abandoning fat acceptance because they have those feelings of shame. The truth is all of us do. That is why having a community is so important because we really do need to share our strength. Every last one of us. I don't think I'd be speaking of turn to suggest that ever fat activist you see blogging or organizing is someone who very much needs the community of FA on a personal level. The most gung-ho of us still struggle. What we are talking about is not perfection. We cannot afford to make perfect the enemy of the good. No one in FA will scorn someone for having doubts or for dealing with self-loathing because all of us deal with the same things. What we can do is share our strength in responding to internalized body shame.
The way I've always looked at it is, "Accept that you will feel the shame, but do not accept the shame." We can't fault ourselves for not being perfect, but that's not an excuse to not keep striving for it. We recognize our limitations without letting the limits define us. We choose to be defined instead by what is possible in our lives. The body shame will be there, but it will not defeat us. We may never do away with that nagging doubt, that lingering shame, but what we can do is control what we do about those feelings. We can control what we become because of them. Do we resign ourselves and let the shame win? No. That is what we can do. We meet this challenge and we push on and I believe that this is something we can all do.
So, can you be in fat acceptance and still feel body shame? Absolutely. I'm not sure there is anyone who doesn't at some moment in their lives. What defines you is how you choose to act on that shame. FA is about how we act in the face of the shame. Its not defined by some perfect ideal of living free of shame, but our choice to not let that shame win. In time, things can get better. We can all be on different places on the journey, but so long as we share a destination we are striving for, we have the bonds of community. We are are all moving in that direction, and THAT is what defines us. No one is keeping score on where we are on that journey and in a lot of ways it doesn't matter because the pitfalls and risks we face as individuals are the same as we all face. There is just no meaningful hierarchy for that. Whoever you think is super-fat-accepting is far more like you than you think, but let that say something about YOUR potential rather than their limitations.