Many of the ways we’ve talked about to combat dominant societal beauty standards and, in the process, boost your self-esteem/self-image, are subjective in nature. They involve presenting in a certain way to elicit the desired results: a new way of looking at fat sexuality. There’s nothing particularly wrong with subjectivity in this sense, but when you take subjectivity to the personal level, the one-on-one level, it presents a problem. One commenter pointed this out in a roundabout way by complaining about women who say things like “Well, my boyfriend finds me attractive so that’s good enough for me.” Whether or not that attitude is annoying, it is certainly dangerous. Using perceived attractiveness (to a partner or potential partner) as a means to maintain your positive self-image is cheating on doing the work necessary to promote self-love.

I’m sure we all know a fat girl who feels like crap about her size until she receives some positive sexual attention from someone. Unfortunately, healthy self-esteem is not built on the slippery slope that is random affection from potential partners. If you only feel good about yourself when you’re with a partner to validate your attractiveness, once that partner has moved on (and they most certainly will when they figure out your feelings about yourself are inextricably tied to them), you’re back in the same, leaky, no-self-esteem boat. And by making statements like “I know I’m attractive because my partner finds me attractive,” you’re basically inferring that if you’re not partnered up, you need to take a seat and think about what’s wrong with you that YOU don’t have a partner to tell you you’re attractive. That’s not going to earn you many brownie points with people, honestly.

There’s nothing wrong with reveling in the desire of your partner for you. But I hear so many fat girls lament that they’re not sure if this person finds them attractive, that they worry about getting naked because a new sex partner may or may not be disgusted by them, that they are starting to feel good about themselves because they got a boyfriend, etc. The desire of a partner for you should be the icing on your self-image cake. (Mmm, cake.) Feeling good about yourself starts with feeling good about yourself, it doesn’t start when someone else starts feeling good about you. As I’ve said, self-love is a journey–and a solitary one at that. If you haven’t done any internal work (and I’m not saying that you have to be completely free of negative thoughts about yourself), starting a relationship may only serve as a distraction if you don’t recognize that your self-image is slowly being wound up in their feelings for you. Of course, this kind of thing happens to smaller girls as well, but for fat girls who are already so marginalized sexually, it’s especially important not to fall into that trap.

So in formulating your master plan for the journey towards self-love, just as you would ignore what society thinks about your attractiveness, you also have to ignore what individuals think about your attractiveness. Let a partner be a complement to your positive self-image, and not the key.