The Stifling Nature of the Phrase "But You're So STRONG"

I have made it my mantra ever since my last suicide attempt, now almost 2 1/2 years ago, that vulnerability is strength. I tell myself that, I tell my friends that, it informs my writing. It's a concept that's very precious to me, because for a long time I felt very trapped by my own perceived strength. Big Girls Don't Cry, etc etc. When I said I was having a hard time, which was usually a very gentle, not-wanting-to-alarm-people way to say "I am having suicidal ideation pretty much nonstop right now", the #1 response I would get back then was "but you're so strong!"

It is probably not a surprise to my regular readers that I am actually a ball of anxiety and self-criticism. I have absolutely considered what my life would be like if I got surgeries to make my body acceptable, if I medicated myself more heavily to take the edge off my constant state of mild panic. I have tried to break up with my partners because I know they can do better and I worry I take up too much space, in every sense of the word. I spend a fair amount of time punishing myself for not being more.

I am also incredibly sensitive.  I notice when people say "omg, we should TOTALLY HANG OUT" at a party and then they don't contact you again til the next party. I notice when someone only talks to people who they want to flirt with, and when that means conventionally pretty and slender. I notice when I'm snubbed at events as a guest or as a performer, and frankly it's one of the reasons I've withdrawn from a lot of the performance scene here in the Bay. Am I being overly precious? Perhaps, but it's telling to me that friends of mine who have intersectional awareness have also reflected that this happens to them, too. There is a hierarchy of friendship, it seems, and if you're fat, or disabled, or Black, or trans, god forbid a combination of those things, you're probably being shunted to the bottom of the pile, much like with dating. It's painful to witness, and I spend a lot of time gaslighting myself because I don't want it to be true.

And this all comes back to the stifling nature of being seen as "strong". I think I'm a pretty strong person, not least because I bear witness to my humiliation and devaluation every day and I'm still alive.  But in order to maintain that strength it feels like a disappointment to say when I feel hurt, or when the weight of the world's scorn is just too much. In addition, I think people forget that I'm actually severely socially anxious and need them to approach me sometimes, and I think they forget that no, I don't get a lot of flirtation or offers to hang out that actually manifest. Being "strong" or seeming "confident" doesn't mean I have my shit together any more than the rest of you. I know some folks in my communities frown on the practice of being open about feels on the internet, but for me it's important to hold myself accountable to letting myself be vulnerable, as well as reminding people that even strong people break down.

It's nice that people tell me I'm pretty, but it's a whisper against the constant roar that is the diet industry, the fashion industry, the medical industry, the sex industry, even my own friends. I don't know how to explain that to people who don't have it to the same extent. Like, yes, we're all given shit about how our bodies aren't good enough, but fat women are told regularly to kill themselves for being fat. As a fat porn performer and sex worker, I have been told that I deserve to be murdered for how my body looks. It's hard to be "strong" in the face of that, but I feel like I have to be defiant, because people look up to me. It's part of why I feel so strongly that showing fat, diverse bodies in feminist porn is so vital, because with every feminist company that still maintains that thin, cis, white body norm, they are actively hurting other women who get hurt enough. Being "strong" isn't enough to combat this, we need solidarity.

I guess it's because I'm so vocal I'm told how strong I am.  That loudness isn't my strength, though, that's a cry for help. My strength is in my waking up alone every day, putting my clothes on, getting through the work day, writing things like this. Being angry at the world is just protective.

Categories: anxiety, assumptions, best of, body stuff, community, fake it til you make it, feminism, love is a dog from hell, media, parties, personal, support

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