Actress Beanie Feldstein has a request: “Please stop complimenting me!”
No, she’s not being humble or self-deprecating. She’s genuinely uncomfortable with all the compliments.
Feldstein has been in the spotlight recently, not only because of her role in the Broadway musical Hello, Dolly! but also because of the release of Lady Bird, in which she co-stars with Saoirse Ronan. “[W]ith all of these insanely wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experiences happening, I have been a little confused lately,” Feldstein wrote in a personal essay for Refinery29. She notes that while she doesn’t mind the attention, it’s what people are paying attention to that’s bothering her. “Everyone keeps commenting on something that I haven’t thought about in years: my body,” she revealed as a part of Refinery29’s new campaign highlighting the 67 percent of women who are plus-size.
Her friends, family, and even therapist have been saying things like, “Beanie, you look amazing. You’re half your size!” And it’s taken Feldstein by surprise.
“Now as I write this, I am trying not to get vegan chocolate chip cookie crumbs on the page, so it is safe to say that I did not see this coming,” she admitted. “Also, I will say it is not a drastic change, maybe one or two dress sizes. Most importantly, losing weight is not something I was even trying to do.” She credits the weight loss to “dancing [her] tooshie off eight times a week” in the Broadway musical. “I am not thinner because I was trying to be, or because I felt the need to be. Just because my body changed, doesn’t mean I wanted it to.”
Countless women out there would kill for this achievement. In fact, some almost kill themselves in an attempt to lose weight, as 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime.
So, why is Feldstein so dismayed by the attention brought on by something so many people want?
“Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I really struggled with my weight,” she recalled. She was pushed into programs like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig because family, doctors, and society were telling her that she needed to be thinner. “It affected me deeply. I despised trying to lose weight and I resented everyone that made me feel like I had to. Finally after years of turmoil (just thinking about shopping for my bat mitzvah dress still gives me hives), something started to change.” As it happens for many, pressure fell away as she neared the end of high school. “[B]y the time I started college I felt truly comfortable with my body.” She recalled finally feeling chubby and “chill.”
“After years of pain, I had finally found such a beautiful peace, one that most people, no matter what size they are, don’t have.” But those blissful days have come to an end. “[A]ll of those ‘compliments’ took that away from me. After years of finally not feeling judged by myself or others, all of a sudden I felt so seen,” she wrote.
She understands that most of these comments are coming from a good place. “[O]ur society has determined that being smaller is better,” she pointed out. “And the act of change, in this case losing weight, is a social signal to those around you that they are allowed to comment on your body.”
She’s not trying to hate on losing weight. “All I am saying is I don’t want anyone to feel that a change in appearance is an open invitation to comment on someone’s body — even if they believe they are being kind.”
“I do hope that on a more interpersonal level, we can attempt to stop commenting on each other’s bodies,” she wrote. “Because sadly, I am here to tell you that even well-intentioned compliments can be upsetting. In my case, that brought to the surface feelings about my body that had taken years to work through. And it is not how I want to continue.” She concluded by asking the public to help her find her way back to the peace she used to feel, by ending the conversation about her body.
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