A few months ago I experienced something most writers dream about: I wrote a blog post that went viral. Not just viral in my social network – viral on an international scale. Viral on a “Holy crap, Rosie O’Donnell just tweeted me and how the heck do I want to respond to this interview request from the Italian media” scale. It was a bit overwhelming to say the least.
If I’m being perfectly honest, it happened by accident, not by design. I, like thousands of other people, read some comments allegedly made by Abercrombie + Fitch’s CEO several years ago that had resurfaced in a media story. For whatever reason, the story inspired me to sit down and get honest – in a very public forum – about a struggle I barely speak about even with those closest to me: my struggles with weight and body image.
As I mentioned in the original letter, it has been a lifelong battle. Big-boned. Plus-size. Thick. Curvy. Voluptuous. Padded. Pick your adjective. Over the years I learned to deal with it in different ways. I learned to ignore it. Compensate for it. Deny it. Dress it up. Cover it over. I crashed dieted and binge exercised, but nothing seemed to work. Like everyone who struggles with something physical, I wear my battle on the outside for the world to see. There’s no running from it, because there is no hiding it. And that Wednesday afternoon as I hit the “publish” button, I decided it was time to try simply being honest about it.
In the wake of the story many, many people reached out to me. I received a flood of comments and emails from people of all sizes, shapes, ages, races, sexual orientations and walks of life, sharing their personal stories of bullying and body image with a total stranger at the other end of one blog post. By the time things started to calm down, I walked away with a new understanding of the human heart. Despite what people look like, despite the perfect lives they may project on Facebook, we all have secret spaces in our lives. We all have struggles. We all have challenges. We all have insecurities. And very few of us feel we have a safe space to get really honest about them. People are longing for a connection. People are longing for someone to stand up and start the conversation that allows us all to air it out.
As a writer, the greatest reward of all is discovering that your words have resonated with someone. The alleged comments that sparked the post were simply an opening in the conversation that allowed me to share my story. The message I hope people end up taking away from it in the end has nothing to do with brands or target demographics. We are all works in progress. We have all overcome something in our lives. We all have a story to tell. Chances are, someone out there needs to hear yours.