Why I Stopped Measuring My Worth by the Men Who Would Date Me

by Doris C. Agwu

I am big. I am black. I am a woman. I am a big, black woman. Society has tried to teach me that this means that I have 3 strikes against me and that I should be out. But that is not what this is about. This is about how I tried to seek validation through the types of men I dated. From successful attorneys to reputable doctors, it seemed that I mentally told myself that I needed to date men of value in order to increase my value.

Oddly enough, self-esteem has never been a direct matter of concern because, even though my weight has always been an issue, I still receive positive reinforcement from other people. Whether it’s when I’m in line at the grocery store and the woman behind me tells me that I have a gorgeous face, or whether it’s at the coffee shop where the barista is praising my outfit. I, admittedly, am no stranger to compliments; however I always felt that any attention to my weight overshadowed all of the compliments I’ve ever received. Since I was a young girl, I was constantly being told that I was beautiful, smart, funny, clever, very poised, and any other positive description that can be given to a young lady. However, the majority of those compliments would always be followed by the word, “but.” “You are so pretty, but you’re overweight. If you could lose weight, you would be the perfect woman.” “You’re gorgeous, but you know, you would be even more gorgeous if you lost some pounds.” This made me feel like I was never quite good enough. It was as if I was running a race, winning, and every time I got close to the finish line, the finish line would continue to grow farther and farther away.

However, as I get older, I’ve been able to realize that when I would say a man was not my “type,” I really meant, “That man is not good enough to counteract the fact that I am a big black woman.” I like to think of myself as open-minded and adequately confident, but quite frankly, I wanted to date a man who would overshadow my weight, the same way my weight overshadowed a lot of my compliments.  For years, instead of trying to actively lose weight, I dated men that were extremely well accomplished, educated, and very attractive. I liked them. I even loved one. But the reality was that, for the most part, I was more in love with the idea of who he was. I was more so focused on what being with these men would say about me. I wanted to prove all the people wrong who implied I would remain single forever because of my size. I immaturely thought that dating a man who appeared perfect on paper would shut the mouths of all who gave themselves permission to dictate my life. But I was sorely mistaken.

Instead of silencing those individuals, the choosing of these exemplary men, who didn’t always treat me the greatest, seemed to spark more criticism. It then became, “The new man you’re seeing is perfect. You better start losing weight before you lose him,” or “You and him make a terrific couple, be mindful of your size. You may want to start working out so that you can keep him.” Although, none of these people meant any harm, we all know that words mean things. The feeling on inadequacy would always creep back in and instead of feeling that a man was lucky and privileged to be with me, I started feeling anxious. I started panicking, feeling as if one bad move on my part would ruin a relationship. And most of all, I was hurt. My feelings were hurt. I would silently question why a man even bothered to date me, which would become evident in my behavior and cause disruptions in my relationships. But, instead of tears, I found myself sacrificing a lot in relationships and walking on eggshells to ensure that I did everything to keep my man happy. But alas, a lot of good things come to an end. I think Solange Knowles said it best, “some things never seem to f**king work.” So, when I would no longer be seeing a particular man, I would be slapped with “Maybe if you would have lost some weight, he would have stayed.” Obviously, these were just words from people who were genuinely concerned about whether or not I would die alone with no man to love me because clearly that is the absolute worst thing that could happen to me, yes? Even if I went broke, wrecked my car, accidentally burned my house down and stubbed my toe while trying to make it out alive, being single would make matters a million times worse, right? At least this is how some people try and make me feel.

Older and wiser, I’m happy to say that I no longer feel that the men I date fully define my worth as a woman. Of course your partner is always an extension of who you are, somewhat of a representative; but now I’m championing for happiness, chemistry, compatibility, friendship, and love. I’ve become much more comfortable in my skin and I have decided to seek my own truth. I’ve embraced my size while taking an interest in fitness instead of trying to make up for it by the men that I date. Dating is hard enough, no need to exhaust and complicate it with trivial attempts at creating a mirage to satisfy others. Being a big black woman doesn’t make me a casualty, it is not a handicap, and it most certainly is not something I should be ashamed of. I can be a big black woman who is happily in love, no matter what my man or I look like because happiness looks great on everyone.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Doris Agwu is a Health professional and educator that manages an allied health department at a University. Outside of work she enjoys the company of her beautiful, black sisters discussing love, career goals, and fears. As a woman who doesn't consider herself a writer, because she doesn't want to take away from those who are true to the craft, she still enjoys playing with words.

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