©2019 by Sarah Tottle.

  • Sarah Tottle

You Were Always Going to be the Pilot, Never the Passenger



I received a message from an old teacher from secondary school recently. He was my tutor during my final years and always provided endless entertainment, stories, and humour during our Business Studies classes. But, not only that, his life experience made him wise and he was deeply empathetic towards his students. His message simply relayed that he was proud of my achievements, that I was always self-driven, and that he knew I'd go far. But, one particular phrase stood out: "you were always going to be the pilot, never the passenger."


You Were Always Going to be the Pilot, Never the Passenger


I loved that, from an early age and despite my life circumstances at the time, someone believed in me. They saw my potential even before I'd begun to dream big dreams. They saw leadership where I'd seen doubt. One lesson was this: we cannot let life's circumstances define who we are, nor should we define others based on their temporary circumstances. We have to believe in others; see their potential and let them know.


There are so many doubters, haters and naysayers that we need to be the folk that speak potential. Life is filled with people that overcome insurmountable odds and that achieve remarkable things despite the doubts of others. Don't be defined by others and certainly don't let others limit you.


One of my struggles as a woman is to embrace ALL that I am and to really feel comfortable with this. I am at ease now and love being me, but for so long, I struggled with the fact that people had pigeon-holed me or put me in some stereotypical box based on how I looked. It's amazing that society finds it so difficult to accept that individuals can be multi-faceted beings. We can be girly-girls, but love adventure; we can be exercise junkies but volunteer at a night shelter; we can love hair and make up and serve our community; and, finally, we can be blonde and smart. Who would have thought?


It's a lot of pressure to live up to when you're attempting to gain the approval of others. My school years were spent constantly studying. I graduated top of my school year, but the achievement came at a mighty cost to my own wellbeing. I was obsessed with being perfect, nothing short of A*s in my exams. I needed to be skinny, tanned, toned, good at everything. It became an obsession. But, I realised that I was trying to gain acceptance from everyone but myself. 


It's an amazing feeling being liberated from the expectation of others. It finally hit me when I simply just didn't care what others thought. As long as my actions were congruent with who I am, my integrity as a human is shown, and I do the best I can, I am content. After all, we will never please everyone. You can be the juiciest peach in the world and there's always going to be a person that hates peaches. 


Is Fat Really A Feminist Issue?


Several years ago, I attended a conference in London. The theme was body image. The speakers were all ardent feminists. Their discussions centred around women and body image with a mocking concern for the young women of the day. 


The heinous acts these young women had committed were to wear skinny jeans and knee high boots, and, shock horror, to be a size 8. They lacked agency and autonomy- products of society- these women quipped. I sat down, looking at my skinny jeans and knee high boots that were covering my UK size 8 frame. Was I, a graduate with a Masters degree, a product of society? The patriarchy? Did I simply lack agency to make my own decisions on how to dress? 


The very fact of the matter is, I was (and still am) happy with myself and my choice of attire. I certainly don't think I'm a non-free thinking individual because I keep my body trim. Shouldn't we, as women, embrace every size, not just the size that fits the narrative we're trying to sell? Is fat really a feminist issue? I think not. Can't we just embrace all women?


If we are to really align ourselves with the body positive movement, we have to stop this nonsense of defining who fits the narrative. All women are beautiful. No matter what they look like, no matter what body type they have, and no matter what choices they make in terms of how they look. 


If we really embrace the body positive movement, we really need to stop defining who is beautiful. It's an oxymoron and certainly ironic of a movement that purports all women as beautiful, yet simultaneously argues that only those that are large fit the bill. 


Women have freedom to choose how they define beauty. If they wish to wear make up, eat healthily, maintain a size 8 figure, do their hair, then so be it. But that woman should still be a part of the paradigm too. Or, perhaps, it's time for a paradigm shift.


As a woman, I love the fact that I can defy stereotypes. I see myself as smart, as savvy, as a girly girl who simply loves dressing up. But, actually, I am much more than that. I am adventurous, I love sport, I enjoy action movies, and my wit is sharper than a supermodel's cheekbones. I am that multifaceted woman. Just like many.


Fat is not a feminist issue. Femininity is. 

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