What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Michelle. 

F-A-T. Three letters that make up one small word. It’s a word that you don’t really want to admit as a descriptor of yourself. But it’s also a true description of who you are.

There have been moments when it has felt like the only defining characteristic about you.

When you spent a year of high school dreading walking into geometry class because of the classmate who always greeted you as the “yellow submarine” and referred to you as an “elephant.”

Or when you’re watching a television special about obesity in children with a college friend. Your friend comments that she “can’t believe anyone would ever get so fat” as a teenage girl shares her struggle. That teenage girl on TV weighs 25 pounds less than you do.

And when more than one guy has seen your appearance and decided not to pursue getting to know you any further. One of those guys even blatantly telling you, “I don’t date fat girls.”

It can feel like FAT is all you are. And feeling that way influences all you do.

You avoid mirrors, because maybe if I don’t see myself then I won’t remember how unattractive I appear to others. You wear oversize clothes in hopes that you’ll somehow just be lost amidst the fabric.

Forget about shopping with friends. You say you just don’t enjoy shopping, or that you’re not looking to buy anything right now. But truthfully, there is nothing in the store that will fit you. You have to go to the special plus-size store for that.

You miss out on lots of activities with friends because you don’t wanna’ just be the fat girl who can’t keep up. You claim you don’t feel well when you’re friend decides to celebrate his 30th Birthday by hiking in a nearby park. But really, you just can’t handle feeling like the out-of-breath loser who is slowing everyone down. And you’ve found yourself sitting on the sidelines too many times to count, telling others that you’re just not interested in participating. Thinking, ‘Maybe if I’m not out there taking part in things, people will forget I’m fat.’

The problem with that is that people also forget everything else you are. You’re no longer smart or funny or interesting. The fact of your weight may be overlooked, but unfortunately, so are you.