On a journey to ‘find herself’, the newly single model realised some startling truths about being in a toxic relationship and how to pull yourself free
American plus size model Tess Holliday made waves in the beauty industry when she featured on the cover of Cosmopolitan UK in 2018.
The model has been a long-time ambassador for body positivity, pushing for diversity in the modelling world and starting social media movements like the viral hashtag #effyourbodystandards.
Now, she is facing a new hardship: becoming single after a seven-year relationship. And while the breakup has taken a toll on her mental health, she has realised some important things about herself and her toxic, former relationship.
Holliday shared some selfies of her body on Instagram, with an encouraging message to all the women of the world struggling in an unhealthy partnership.
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When I posted a few days ago that I was single, I wasn’t expecting the reaction that followed. (Mostly bc I’ve talked about it before, but I suppose never as blunt as that post) I obviously know that I’m a public figure, & y’all see what I choose to share, which isn’t always indicative of real life. So I understand that to some of you, it was a shock. I’m always honest & transparent with y’all, but at the end of the day, I’m a human being, & deserving of respect. Even though I got overwhelming support that day, there were still a lot of people that said pretty hurtful, judgemental, & unfair things, and I’m not going to lie, some of them really got to me. So I snapped these photos that evening, for just myself, because I wasn’t feeling my best, but now I want to share them. I’m a fat, queer, single working mom, who is finding out who she is again after being in a relationship for nearly 7 years that wasn’t the healthiest. I stand by what I said, women shouldn’t be responsible for rehabilitating men (plz follow @femalecollective @risingwoman @kingsophiesworld @elwingbling for more info on this, all of their work helped me immensely the past year), & women often get blamed for not doing “enough” to “save” their relationships. Guess what? We don’t have to carry that. We are only responsible for ourselves and our actions. I feel more empowered & happier than ever, & only got to this place by fully understanding my own worth. So yea, if you read all of this, thank you. Please give that same energy to sharing my previous post about getting justice for Elijah, because that is way more important than my love life. Love you all, and we are all in this together. #chooseyourself #effyourbeautystandards #radicalselflove
“I’m a fat, queer, single working mom, who is finding out who she is again after being in a relationship for nearly 7 years that wasn’t the healthiest,” the influencer said.
“I stand by what I said, women shouldn’t be responsible for rehabilitating men. Women often get blamed for not doing ‘enough’ to ‘save’ their relationships.
“Guess what? We don’t have to carry that. We are only responsible for ourselves and our actions.”
#preach! Her followers commented with messages of support, criticising society for its unrealistic pressures put on women.
It's not your responsibility
“A partner's emotional, mental, or financial stability should never be our responsibility,” said one comment.
“Yes! That glow of escaping a toxic relationship and finding your self worth!" said another. "There is nothing like it! It’s okay to love yourself more.”
Holliday went on to share empowering female Instagram accounts she follows to keep herself motivated, inspired and focused on positive self-thinking.
One the accounts, @kingsophiesworld, run by UK artist Sophie King shared a thought-provoking piece on how women are constantly “blamed” for being in an unhealthy relationship because they “ignored the red flags”.
“Some people blame men mistreating women on women ignoring ‘red flags’. People imply that the fault lies with women, for being too ‘gullible’, ‘naive’ and ‘stupid’,” she said.
“However, the reality of why women ignore ‘red flags’ is a lot more complex [...]. Women don’t ‘fall’ for men’s bullshit, men lead them on through lies and gaslighting.
“When you’re experiencing such manipulation first hand, it’s very hard to see ‘red flags’ from an outsider’s perspective.”
The blame game
King explained that the blame for a bad relationship is often shifted onto women and these 'red flags' reveal themselves when men's behaviour changes over time.
"‘Men change when they find the right woman’ becomes ‘I can’t believe you thought he’d change’," she said. "‘Be forgiving!’ becomes ‘what a doormat!’.
‘Don’t hold people’s past against them’ becomes ‘it was obvious they were a bad person’.”
She then goes on to say that society has taught women to self-blame when things go wrong in their relationship and while we should try and recognise red flags, “it’s still the perpetrator's fault regardless”.
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You are human, you are wired for connection. We aren’t meant to go through life alone. No matter how much you heal or what spiritual practices you follow, no amount of self-love can replace needs for touch, affection, and the warmth of connection. Any of these desires listed can be taken out of balance. If we self-abandon to win love, hold back our truth in exchange for affection, or prioritize external validation over our own inner-voice then we stray into lost territory. But the lesson is not to eradicate these needs all together and become “needless”. It is to learn how to love ourselves enough to let love in . To trust that it’s normal and ok to be vulnerable with the people we do life with. What are your questions or thoughts about this? @sheleanaaiyana
“You should never be motivated to work on your expectations and boundaries based by shame and fear,” King said.
Holliday agreed with this perspective and realised that she shouldn’t be blaming herself after her own breakup.
She had to stop and reflect on herself positively to realise her own self-worth outside of a long-term relationship. And only after that process has she been able to see herself in a new and healthy light.
“I feel more empowered and happier than ever,” the model said, “and [I] only got to this place by fully understanding my own worth.”
Feature image: Instagram/@tessholliday
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