The comments had been rolling before I really paid attention to them:
“None of these outfits will work. I’m gonna look like total crap.”
“Even an XL won’t fit? Seriously? Why did I even say I’d go to this event?”
Then the bullying got worse.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me! I could never squeeze my fat ass into that.”
That's when I started paying attention. I couldn’t believe what I heard. I wouldn’t spew this kind of crap on my worst enemy. And yet, there I was, spewing it on myself as I surfed the internet, searching for an outfit to wear to an upcoming 60’s party. You know, the 60’s. The era of super-skinny Twiggy, mini-skirts, pencil straight pants, or the dreaded muu-muu (If you don’t know what that is, you have to Google it. Worst. Dress. Ever. Yet perfect for my body type. Ugh!!)
I kept looking at page after page, wishing I could find an outfit that would instantly take fifty pounds off. Instead I shook my head in frustration and heard myself again.
“Ugh, those lucky, skinny bitches. They look good in everything.”
Then I felt even worse for bashing them. It wasn’t their fault. It was mine. And I knew it. Frustrated, I leaned back in my chair and felt a sudden urge to go to the kitchen. Just one spoonful of peanut butter, I thought. Or something chocolate. Anything chocolate. My mouth craved it. So did my emotions. And lately… well... If I’m gonna be honest, for the past five years… I’ve given in. A lot. And it has caught up with me in a big (no pun intended) way.
I sighed deeply. “What am I doing?” I asked myself out loud. I’ve spent much of my life as the queen of positive self-talk. But this kind of stuff? These horrible declarations? They’re borderline cruel. And it’s not just us “more to love” women who do this kind of crap. Pick a flaw, any flaw and there’s a pretty good chance you’ve said some unkind things to yourself, too.
Starting here, starting now, stop! Let’s make a pact to speak kindness to ourselves the way we would to our best friend or teenaged daughter. Change the conversation with yourself. When I did that, mine went like this:
“No wonder you want that comfort. You’ve had a hell of time the past five years. So many family crises. Deaths. Loss. It’s been so much. I can see how you got into these habits.”
I nodded my head. My eyes started to water.
“Is it helping?” I asked myself. “Does eating make things better? And what’s the trade off for the momentary satisfaction?”
I shook my head. No, it’s not helping. And no, it doesn’t make things better. It just feels good for a minute. And then it feels bad. And the trade off? Most importantly there's my health. Beyond that, I can wear only ten-percent of my wardrobe and when I need a new outfit, shopping leaves me feeling like crap. And don’t even talk about a bathing suit! Oh, and with a fifty pound surplus, photos suck. I hide behind people, using them as camouflage, and I do everything I can to get the skinniest angle for my profile pictures (NOT easy!). Oh, and not swimming because... hell no! Worst of all, there's feeling like I'm not being good to myself.
“Can you let go of this way you’ve been coping? ” I asked myself with kindness, the way I would speak softly to a dear one who was hurting. “Can you do something else instead?”
Yes, I nodded.
“What? You need a new habit so what will you do instead?”
I don’t know. Chew gum. Pray. Walk. Do pushups. Pet the dogs. And NOT talk to myself the way I just did. The way I never used to. The way that gives my inner critic room to be destructive instead of constructive.
"Sounds good. You have to move forward in a new way. You deserve it. Now get going and do it!”
So I put up sticky notes that say, “No,” in my vulnerable places… the pantry, the cheese drawer, the peanut butter jar, and the kids’ snack drawer. I have my list of things to do instead of eating to pacify. And I’m asking myself an important question:
“Who do you want to be in this?”
It’s a question for every one us in every context of our lives. Be careful in answering it though. This doesn’t mean who your spouse wants you to be. Or society. Or your friends. Who do YOU want to be? In your self care? Your eating habits? Your exercise habits? Your marriage? Your parenting? Your friendships? In good times? In bad times? In the way you treat yourself and others?
Who do YOU want to be?
Make a conscious decision about this. Then set yourself up for success with strategies to back it up.
I want to be someone who loves myself as much as I love those around me, a woman who will care for herself as much as I care for those around me. I want to hold myself accountable in a firm, but kind way. I want to push myself, but not belittle myself.
Be kind. Be tender. With others and yourself. Beginning today, be who you want to be. And whatever your imperfections, love yourself along the way.
By the way, I’m now looking forward to that 60’s party, albeit with a bit of lingering self-consciousness, but without an ounce of self-bashing… or the dreaded mumu.
Peace and love, Underdogs!