Heather Hazzan

Heather Hazzan

I don’t necessarily think people mean to be rude when they say hurtful things. I’ve learned what people say about others is more a reflection of themselves rather than the person they are actually talking about and judging—good or bad.

I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty eye-opening, often-times heart-wrenching criticism both working as a model and TV personality as well as off camera in my daily life.

We live in an appearance-obsessed society, and people can be downright cruel, especially if you put yourself out there as a public figure or even just on social media. But the good news is you don’t have to live in fear or be offended or even devastated every time someone says something you don’t agree with or that is extremely painful.

Today is as good a day as ever to step into your power, and make the conscious decision that what you think and say is all that really matters. That way, when criticism comes your way, you will be able to take comments will a grain of salt, knowing who you really are and what you stand for. You’ll also quickly find out how that person really feels about themselves.

Here are seven hurtful things I’ve heard over the course of my career — and life — and how I got over them. Hopefully they can serve as a guide for you to realize you are so much more than what other people say you are. That yours are the only thoughts and feelings that matter.

1. You’re too beautiful to be overweight.
What does that even mean? This comment was really hurtful, and stayed in my psyche for a long time. It definitely fed into the self-limiting belief I carried around that told me I wasn’t good enough. That in order to be worthy, I had to look a certain way, be a certain size and weight, and if I went over that, I was unlovable or unworthy. Wow! What a bunch of BS!

I know much better now, and the ironic thing is when I am practicing self-love and compassion, I automatically make healthier choices all around, and don’t even have to try to lose weight. I have a healthy body weight because I am healthy, which starts with my thoughts about myself.

2. Do you really want to weigh more than your boyfriend?
Does it really matter? I think what matters is how you feel about yourself, and only choosing to date men (or women) who think you are absolutely gorgeous (inside and out). Otherwise, what is the point?

3. If you were thinner, you could totally be a model.

This comment always makes me giggle, especially when the person proceeds to ask me what I do for a living and I casually say, “Oh, I work as a model full time.” I used to clarify that I’m what the industry refers to as a plus-size model so I’d be taken seriously when I told people that’s how I earn a living. But over time, I found the label “plus-size” to be limiting and degrading, so now I just tell people I model.

What does it matter what people think about my shape? I am paid to be who I am, at the size I am. I love my job, and that’s all that really matters.

4. Why are you so much bigger than everyone?
My seven-year-old niece said this to me, and I used it as a learning experience for both of us. She said it so innocently and curiously, and by everyone, she meant the other female adults in her daily life—her mother and grandmother (my mom). Her mother (my sister-in-law) is naturally very thin, petite and probably weighs 100 pounds soaking wet. My mom is a size 6. So at 5’10” and a voluptuous, curvy size 12, I can see why I seem “bigger than everyone else.”

I explained to her that men and women come in all different shapes and sizes, and everyone is beautiful in their own way. One body type is not better than the other. The important thing is to be loving and kind to all people, regardless of what they look like, and respect yourself by eating healthy and staying active, and respect others for their personal choices as long as it isn’t harming another.

5. You’re working on getting rid of that, right? (Pointing to my stomach).
This just makes me disgusted, but it taught me A LOT. Someone who I dated (very, very briefly) actually said this to me. Fortunately, I was able to realize this unacceptable behavior was a reflection of my own inner thoughts and beliefs about myself at the time. That comment cracked me wide open. The truth is it’s not about what other people say or do to us, it’s all about what we allow. I allowed a man into my life and home, who said something so destructive and ugly about me and my body. Never again, I thought, never again!

I got this individual out of my life immediately, and I made some major perspective shifts, starting with cleaning up all the negative self-talk I was dishing out on a regular basis. Enough was enough! I now see that short-lived relationship as a gift. It created the space for me to learn to be kind and compassionate towards myself and set boundaries with people.

Our relationships are always a reflection of what’s going on inside ourselves.

6. Are you allowed to work-out as a plus-size model?
This is definitely the most absurd thing that has ever been said to me about my body. It is laughable, but also sad that someone would even have this mentality. I was talking with a group of people about how much I love working out with my personal trainer, and this woman was confused that I not only wanted to be fit and work out, but that I was allowed.

I can only speak for myself here, but fitness has always been a huge part of my life. I had a 17-year competitive swimming career, earning an athletic scholarship to Penn State. I may not train five to six hours a day anymore, but I am quite fit and healthy. I don’t have a six-pack by any means, but that’s not important to me.

The point is there are plenty of women (and men) who work out and stay active who don’t have “perfect” bodies. Whatever that means. It’s my body, and I own it. I love it.
7. If you lose any more weight, and get too fit, I’m not going to hire you anymore.
This is on the other end of the spectrum, where I am criticized by clients for looking “too fit,” “too thin.” It is not only hurtful, but frustrating because it sends that stereotypical message that plus-size models have to “ be big,” and in these cases, “not look in shape.” Ick!

Many want the fashion industry to be more inclusive of all sizes, yet I am told I’m “too small.” I personally like to represent plus-size models as being fit, strong and healthy. I’m still a size 12, I’ve just replaced harmful body fat with muscle so I can live a long, fulfilling life free of disease.

When you do something positive for yourself, and it’s looked down upon, it’s frustrating. That’s why I recommend setting your own rules and beauty standards, and stay committed to acts of self care. You can’t please everyone, and someone is always going to have an opinion of you. What matters is what you think of yourself. Shield yourself with self-love—that’s the one opinion you can control.

Story originally published on mindbodygreen.com