How I Learned To Take Up Space In A World That Tells Me I Shouldn't

by Minerva Siegel

As a plus size woman, I’ve always been acutely aware of the physical space I take up. I exist in a world that wasn’t made with people my size in mind. More broadly, in our culture, taking up as little space as possible is seen as expected and polite. Women especially are encouraged to shrink themselves and give others the right of way in public, whereas men are free to man-spread on busses and dominate walkways, etc. The idea of taking up less space as politesse has plagued me my entire life. I used to feel as if my entire existence was rude, or as though I owed the world an apology for my fatness.

Multiple disabilities, a hormone imbalance, and a deep love of carbs has led me to live a 300 lb life since I was 12 years old. My fear of occupying too much room in the world used to be absolutely crippling. Over the years, and with a lot of hard work, my mental health has improved, and I’ve come to have a much more positive relationship with my body as a result. I’m no longer a slave to my size. In fact, I’m a boudoir model, plus size fashionista, and body positive activist. I own the space I take up. I realize now that I have a right to take up space. I am no less gorgeous, lovely or valuable because my body has more mass than others. The transformation of my self-perception has been magnificent, but getting to this empowered state was not easy.

I used to feel like I was too fat to live a good life.

Photo by Cayan Ashley Photography

I used to be terrified of flying, not because I was afraid the plane would crash, but because I was afraid I’d take up too much space on the plane and make strangers around me uncomfortable. I used to feel self-conscious and miserable sitting at tiny desks in school. I used to avoid theme parks and even vacations with family and friends, because I didn’t want to deal any obstacles my size would potentially present. Clothes shopping was a dreaded event, because I was well acquainted with the mortifying feeling of being too big for garments. At my lowest point, I wouldn’t even let myself date, because I felt I was too fat to be loved.

I kept telling myself that my life would start when I lost weight. I’d stand in front of the mirror to pinch and prod at different parts of my body I didn’t like, examining myself critically. Once this tummy is flat, I’ll date again, I’d tell myself. I’ll go on that vacation next year, when I’m thinner. No one wants to see this body in a bathing suit. Not only was I my own biggest bully, but I was constantly putting my life on hold for some nebulous, elusive time when I’d lose weight. I used to absolutely hate myself, and even dealt with bouts of suicidal thoughts because I felt like I’d never live the life I wanted to in my fat, disabled body.

Now, I’m Thriving!

Photo by Cayan Ashely Photography

I unabashedly ask for seatbelt extenders on airplane rides. I drive a tiny little Smart Car and don’t worry about the space I take up inside of it. I cram my big butt into the tiny seats in movie theatres without letting it make me self-conscious. When I go clothing shopping, I don’t burst into tears when garments don’t fit. I even have sex (with the lights on!) without worrying about being too big to enjoy it or be enjoyed. I’m no longer letting my awareness of the space I take up in the world stop me from living my life.

So, what sparked this change? I’m still 300 lbs, but I feel like a completely different person. I used to keep dreaming of the life I’d live “when I lose weight.” I realized one day that life was passing me by. Life doesn’t stop just because you’re self-conscious and scared. I was missing out on so many things because of my crippling awareness of my size. It wasn’t my body that was preventing me from living my life, it was my perception of my body.

I Made A Choice To Stop Bullying Myself

No more pinching and grabbing parts of my body and thinking mean thoughts about them! No more itemizing myself and obsessively wishing certain parts were different. When I forced myself to stop the nit-picking, I started seeing myself as whole. It felt as though the sunshine had broken out through storm clouds. After a while, I convinced myself to start complimenting myself more. Where I used to beat myself up mentally, I grew positivity instead. My brows are looking great today, I'd think sheepishly, examining them in a mirror. It felt silly at first to think nice things about myself, but it eventually became a life-changing habit. Soon, simple compliments morphed into empowering matras, like, I'm fat, fierce, and fabulous! I'm allowed to take up space!

Before too long, I stopped being mortified and embarrassed about my size altogether. I own my body. I love it, I care for it and nurture it in ways I didn’t when I was full of self-loathing. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and I have an amazing and fulfilling life, all at a solid 300 lbs.

The Average Woman In The U.S. Is Plus Size.

Photo by Cayan Ashely Photography

Plus size bodies are everywhere, and they're allowed to take up space. Fat babes have a right to be here, too. Our fat-phobic society hides behind its hatred for fat people by yelling that we’re unhealthy, so we shouldn’t be accommodated. You know what? I am unhealthy. I have multiple incurable diseases, disabilities and chronic illnesses. My health and physical abilities shouldn’t determine how well I get treated, how much I’m respected and valued, or how much space I’m allowed to take up. Fat babes deserve not only to be tolerated, but we’re owed spotlights, adoration and fanfare just as much as anyone else. Never allow your self-perception to stand in the way of living your best life. You matter at any size. Never shrink yourself to make others more comfortable. Sit back, relax, and feel free to let your beautiful body take up space. You deserve it.