It’s no exaggeration to say that My Mad Fat Diary is one of my absolute favorite shows to ever exist. The series is set in the 90s (in Britain – Lincolnshire, to be exact) and the music alone will leave you drowning in pleasant nostalgia, but what really made me fall in love is the painfully honest look at protagonist Rae’s life as a teenage girl struggling with body image issues and a mental illness.
That being said, looking into a mirror isn’t always easy. The show can be hard to watch at times, precisely because no work of fiction has ever hit on so many of my deepest insecurities or reminded me so vividly of my own painful experiences growing up.
But that’s what’s so good about it – MMFD has this wonderful ability not only to go there, to plunge deeply into the painful topics some of us would rather not think about, but they do it all with humor and grace and heart.
When I first discovered the series on Youtube, I stayed up all night watching it. I had to pause it periodically because I just couldn’t believe a TV show was actually talking about this stuff, all the parts of my life that most people know nothing about. There were tears. I cried for the old me, who was just like Rae and who didn’t have anyone to trust with the most vulnerable parts of herself. I cried tears of relief because watching the show and reading the comments and joining the fandom made me realize that there were other people out there who struggled with the same things I struggled with for so many years.
But most of all, I cried because of the reminder that I didn’t know I still needed: that I am worthy of love, just as I am – mad and fat and beautiful just the same.
Unfortunately, we still have to wait a little under a week until season 3 premieres (who else is counting down until June 22nd?). In the meantime, I though I’d share some of the life lessons this gem of a show has taught me.
1. No one is solely a villain, no matter how much they may seem like it.
Everyone is messed up. Everyone has stuff. I pretty much hated Chloe for like the entire first season. To be honest, during some scenes, I still do, mostly because in her I see every mean girl pseudo-friend from my adolescence who tried to break me down while never letting the smile drop from her face. But I eventually realized that she’s so much more than that – most people are. She can be a huge jerk sometimes but she’s human and trudging through messes of her own. I try to remind myself of this of this often, remind myself to be compassionate, to be understanding, to forgive the Chloes of my past -even while deciding that the past is where they should stay, because it’s important to note that recognizing that everyone is human does not mean you’re obligated to keep associating with those who drag you down (I’m looking at you, Liam).
2. Friends before everything.
Rae shouldn’t have left Twix out in the cold like that (back in season 1), especially since the rave turned out to be a crappy night for literally everyone in the gang. Still, what teenager hasn’t been a crappy friend at some point? It hurt to see that plotline unfold but I appreciated the realism of having Rae too focused on her new life to remember to maintain relationships from her old one.
And like ok, if you ditch your friend she probably won’t literally die, but it’s exaggeration for the sake of illumination. Don’t get so wrapped up in yourself that you forget to help others. Sometimes putting your own problems out of your mind and helping others is exactly what helps yourself, because it reminds you that there’s more to life than whatever drama seems to loom so large in your life.
3. Annihilate the idea of leagues.
Arguably one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is that individual worth (especially as a woman) should not be tied into how many people want you. That if someone is deemed more attractive by society’s (pretty darn narrow) standards then they’re worth more than you as a person. Screw that. You’re a whole person worth so much more than just one part of yourself. So, this is my feminist mission: to encourage others to destroy the idea that their worth is something easily measured by a glance in the mirror. You have a lot to offer in this world, and you are worthy of love – anyone’s love.
4. Don’t reject yourself because you’re afraid of others doing the same.
Never has a scene resonated with me as much as Kester’s wonderful “people can accept you for who you are or they can fuck off” speech. It still makes me cry every time I watch it, because before I first saw it I hadn’t realized that rejecting myself was what I had been doing for so much of my life. It’s time to expect people to like me, and I hope whoever’s reading this does the same.
5. Being fat doesn’t mean life can’t be great
I’ve been trying to learn this lesson my whole life – that the size of my hips and the softness of my belly isn’t a death sentence for my overall quality of life. I’m trying to learn it every time I watch TV and am reminded that I am so far away from what society considers the ideal woman. I’m trying to learn it every time I go somewhere and feel so different from the other women there. When I’m in a dressing room and things don’t fit and I feel ugly and misshapen.
Your size doesn’t have to rule your life in a negative way. Embrace who you are, stop worrying about your thighs, and live your life doing what you enjoy. Love yourself first and good things will follow. I promise.
6. You have to love yourself. You just have to.
It’s kind of the whole point of the show, huh? And it’s so so true. You have to love yourself. Whatever it takes, however long it takes – you have to make it the utmost priority in your life. I know you can do it though. Chances are, you’re a lot stronger than you think.