Watching "Dumplin'" reminded me to love myself first
I read Dumplin' in 2016 and the book was so beautiful, so revolutionary to me at the time, that I wrote about my feelings on the book for Bustle.
In 2018, Netflix released the movie adaption of the book, also titled Dumplin'. I've watched it probably four or five times, as it swiftly rose through the ranks and became one of my favorite adaptations (it can't be favorite #1 because that honor will forever belong to the 2005 Pride & Prejudice).
When I sat down on a recent Saturday evening to watch the movie, I didn't expect it to be revolutionary. After all, I've already had my moment in the sun with this story. I was falling in love with these characters long before the movie was even announced. What could it have to offer me today, in 2022, that it hasn't already given me?
A lot, it turns out.
Y'all, I cried my way through this rewatch. I cried when Willowdean mourns; I cried when Willowdean's love interest, Bo tells her he thinks she's beautiful.
But mostly I cried at this line:
You got to see it in here first, baby girl
Okay, looking at it laid out like that, it doesn't feel as emotional and impactful as it was in the moment. That's a line about beauty, and love, and the speaker (for the life of me I can't remember who said this) is reminding Willowdean to find herself lovable and beautiful in her own heart.
Now, you'll never find me saying something like, "You can't be loved if you don't love yourself first." I think it's entirely possible for others to offer and show love to someone who loathes themselves. We see it in Dumplin' but I also see it in my own life, as everyone from my best friends to my therapists have shown me care and affection when all I've had to offer myself is distaste.
However, I do believe that you cannot believe the love given to you until you have it on your own.
Speaking from personal experience, when I'm filled with self-loathing and despair, I don't believe others when they say nice things about me. Whether it's that I can write well, tell a good story, or am beautiful, their words bounce off me and fall into the dirt. And all that's left are my own worst thoughts.
I have struggled with so much hate for my body over the years. Like I said in my 2016 article for Bustle, I'm not just overweight, I'm technically obese. I wheeze when I breathe, struggle to go up more than a flight or two of stairs, and the thought of someone seeing my body in its nakedness, rolls and all? Of someone so much as touching my stomach? It leaves me terrified. It makes me want to don a burlap sack and just wander around in my shapeless potato bag and ensure that no one sees me.
This is why Dumplin' hit so hard when I watched it recently. Because I'm so intimately familiar with Willowdean's self-hatred. And I so desperately want to achieve her eventual self-love.
Right now, I'm so far from that goal. But I hope to get there sooner rather than later.
I just need to remember that it starts from within. I cannot look to outside forces to give me self-love.