(Be Prepared for a lengthy post)
I have tried not to write about this for a long time because it tires me just to talk about it. You’re going to have to strip off the bandaid at some point though, so here goes.
So the 4th year blogging anniversary is coming up in November. Much like birthdays, anniversaries and New Year’s Eve, we tend to take stock of the year/s gone by. It’s a cause for celebration, reflection. It can be a helpful cautionary tale. It can be a source of motivation. Lots of mixed thoughts and emotions there.
I made a decision about a month ago: that I was going to take a semi-hiatus from blogging. From November 2016 to January 2017. You have to stop and take a break when you clearly are not being as clear-headed and creative, clouded by happenings that have stopped you in your tracks one too many times.
Personal life aside, it also is no walk in the park to be a blogger. No job is easy and this one certainly does have its many wonderful opportunities. But I am going to open up about the reality and what you don’t typically hear about. Blogging is an excellent smoke and mirrors game, if you know how to play it and want to play it. Some of us don’t want to though, I certainly did not sign up for that.
What propelled this confused space into a place to speak about my existence as a plus size person was a wonderful A-ha moment. The clothes I have worn, the posts I have written, the people I have gotten to know – my goodness if I could have saved those moments and feelings in a jar, it would be a colourful, energetic foam of joy bubbling forth.
My honeymoon period of blogging between 2012-2014 was wonderful. But I did not always feel welcome as a newbie. Some people were naturally skeptical of my intentions since I was new. The sad thing however is that some people still are skeptical even though I have been around for 4 years now. There are some who observe your work, but dislike you and do this cat & mouse game of following-unfollowing you on social media. They follow at first because they think “Ah well she’s putting out good work” and then they unfollow because “but I don’t really like or want to know her or want to give the impression that I like her”. I’ve seen this cat and mouse game play out so many times it makes me chuckle.
Then you have the – oh she’s got a decent following now so maybe she’s worth something. Here’s the deal: I may have a decent Instagram following, but I have 600 plus followers on my blog. I don’t see that as success. I want people to read my work, not just like a picture. I want to contribute so much more as a writer and activist, instead of stay in the public eye. I want to improve upon my writing and other skills, not just bank on what I’ve got going for me. People have tired of blogs now but this is the space I really feel comfortable in so I’m going nowhere.
It is sad that someone has to be someone who rubs shoulders with major players in the field in order to be appreciated. There are so many talented bloggers out there who quit because of this problem. Because they have been subject to the “You can’t sit with us” mentality by their peers. And as a person who advocates compassion and empathy with body positivity, I find that really saddening.
Blogging has taken such a toll on me. I constantly worry about new outfits for the blog, how to stay relevant, how to advocate to as many ppl out there about how they can be changing their lives by being kinder to themselves and their bodies. The fact is, my location does not help one bit. Singapore is a very fatphobic country, like many countries out there. There are blogging communities out here that will not give a shit about me because I am fat. Newspapers and magazines will not talk about me because I am a fat body positive advocate. Fashion week will not have me because they do not compute how a fat person can be fashionable enough for them. There Are plus size figures and advocates here who just do not want to get to know one another or they work in cliques. I tried reaching out to one or two bloggers about how much I loved their work and to find solidarity when I first started and I did not even get a reply. I tried applying for blogging positions out of Singapore, namely in the most popular blogging association in India, and they did not come back to me with a reply And they still ignore me to this date. Indian media is just the same. The Organisations that have actually interviewed me or spoken to me in Singapore and the region have been very refreshingly body positive or at least they were trying to understand it. But there is a massive snub that exists because I am not slim, politically correct or favoured by big names/companies.
For these reasons, I turned my attention online and blogged anyway because I wanted to do my bit even if it reached one person. The good news? People started to pay attention. Now let me affirm that this is not a pity party post or a bid to gain attention. This is a spotlight I am shining on what bloggers refrain from talking about.
All of this trying to network but not getting anywhere because who cares about some fat pipsqueak in Asia, is tiring. I don’t reach out to companies for sponsorships, for paid posts, for collaborations. It has happened organically – they have watched my work and reached out. Am I saying there is something wrong with putting yourself out there and speaking to these companies or people? No. But I will not do it, that’s just how I am. My merit is my work. If you like what you read or see, that’s great.
I did reach out to a plus size retail company once for a blogging and sponsorship opportunity – crickets, all I heard was crickets because my follower count was not substantial enough for them to care about someone like me. So I left it at that.
I work very hard at maintaining a good standard with my posts – be it on the blog or Twitter, Instagram, Facebook..wherever else. I have no help, I do this on my own. Day and Night. My photographer is my Husband who, bless his heart, obliges me. I don’t have a PR rep. I learnt how to apply makeup for my fashion posts. I learnt how to stand tall and keep my Chin up while people gawk at my size as I pose for the blog. I learnt how to make the distinction between my different areas of work – plus size fashion blogging, fat body positive activism, as a south Asian voice, as a woman of Colour, as a feminist, as a psychotherapist, as a mental health advocate. I stay up nights to speak with friends and followers who live across the globe because they mean a lot to me. I work through holidays, I get no breaks.
I have lost friends since I started blogging. That pain you feel when people you have known for so long come to misunderstand you and assume that you think you’re some big shot and you’re living a fake life with fake friends online. This ‘fake’ life has not been a walk in the park. These ‘fake’ friends understand how it feels to exist as a fat person, a blogger, a feminist. When I lost my circle of friends early this year, I did not want to continue blogging because it just made me so sad that this was what they thought about my work.
This ‘fake’ life has real trolls who will tell you you’re going to die next week and that they hope you will get a heart attack. People will come forward Everyday thanking you for the work that you do because they relate to what you’re saying. People will come forward Everyday to tell you that You should die for being fat and confident.
There has to be some sort of a balance you can strike, because if you don’t, you’re going to be sad and anxious all the time. This is what I am hoping to achieve in my next year of blogging. I am not going to quit, because this is Important to me. But I have to draw a line between my work and my quality of life.
I also have to be accountable for the mistakes made, the people I may have hurt in the process. I used to be a part of a weekly fashion blogging group but I had to pull out. I did not have the guts to tell them that the reason I did so was because some of the time, I could not afford what the weekly challenge required. Until now, I struggle with my finances because I worry about being relevant as a fashion blogger and so I buy new outfits every month but then I don’t get to do important things like buy stuff for my home or go to a specialist for a health issue or go on a holiday.
I’ve not gone on a holiday in 2 years. We can’t do so right now because our oldest dog is not in the condition for us to leave him with dog sitters. But aside from a holiday, I have other priorities like my home or my health. The hubster sees me frowning more than smiling and crying more than smiling because I feel angry that I am limited by his work time to get blog shoots done in different locations aside from that damn white wall near the dumpster below my block.
We work so hard and sacrifice so much because we want to make sure that our work means something. But it is upsetting when you’re underrepresented, given the cold shoulder and when you are given some attention it’s thanks to being angry at Instagram for revoking my basic right as a person posting on social media. Why does negativity sell so much? While there were thousands of you who were proud of my stance, do you see what I mean when I say, why couldn’t this have been about a really happy happening for me, a fat woman of Colour?
I thank my lucky stars that I have made some firm friendships in these circles because I would not be writing this without knowing they will have my back. I also thank my lucky stars that you will be sweet enough to tell me to get all the rest and solace I need.
I have made my fair share of mistakes as a person and a blogger but I don’t think that I deserve to lead the life that I am living. I have not been writing articles that I promised, and I have disappointed friends and colleagues as a result..because I am at a loss for words most of the time now.
People keep telling me “I’m sorry you’re so sad this year” and I feel bad that that is how I am projecting myself. I have lost my faith in the communities I am a part of, even if I do have friends in the communities. I do not trust them and am afraid of getting closer to people, even though some people are really genuine and sweet.
I do not want to remain in the clutches of this sad space where I don’t know my place as a blogger or a person. I am facing my demons head on now. It’s time to make changes.
What does this mean for my life as a blogger? It means I’ll be taking a break for 2 months effective from Nov. I may post once or twice but that will be the extent of it. I will return with renewed vigour, more genuine smiles and a different outlook on blogging.