aka When did you first start comparing your body to others?
aka How to say buh-bye to shame.
I weighed 11lbs 2 oz when I was born. Yes, you heard right. Eleven pounds!!! That’s 5 kg worth of baby, just 3.8 pounds short of a stone. For you mom’s out there, you’re probably wincing in pain right now. I know my mom was.
If you have no point of reference for how big a baby that is, here’s a clue.
I was not a baby, I was a pumpkin.
I was born 2 months after my cousin on my dad’s side, who, unlike me, was not born into the Squash family but the Legumes. She was a string bean.
We grew up like sisters, except from our baby pictures you would’ve thought I was the older one.
So I don’t know, I’ve been comparing my body since day 1?
I was always the ‘bigger’ one. I was never fat. Those words were never in the conversation, but she was called skinny and thin, and those words were never used about me.
As we got older, it was clear my cousin had inherited the recessive skinny gene that was given to my dad and her. She kept shooting up like a beanstalk, and me? I guess I was just average.
In all families we assume roles. Sometimes about our body, sometimes about our behaviour, our grades, or athletic ability.
In my family, by the time I was 12 or 13, my cousin was the tall skinny one, my younger sister was the one that was good at soccer, and I was the smart good kid. (Note, we were all smart and good kids, but somehow I was given that badge.)
The only comments about my body were reminiscences of me as a baby. I was famous for my cheeks. I get it, they were cute 🙂 And don’t you just want to pinch them!
But for whatever reason, I internalized this to be a negative. Combine ‘those cheeks’ with being told I’ve got a ‘round face’ as a teen. All I wanted was for high cheekbones and a pointed chin. But no, I was ’round face’.
I have a vivid memory from when I was about 7 or 8 years old, I was at choir practice. It was summer in NYC so we were in shorts. I remember the shorts I was wearing; Bermuda style, turquoise, pink and purple. I looked down and saw the chair filled with that bright plaid pattern. My thighs spread out across the chair. I looked around at the girls sitting next to me. Their thighs didn’t do that.
Why? What did they have that I didn’t have?
That question, ‘what did they have that I didn’t have?’ That was the first grip of shame. Thanks to one of my clients, it’s now lovingly called ‘Mr Dick’.
Mr Dick visits all of us. He finds a way to make us think that we’re different, and not in a good way.
Different because we are lacking.
She is taller, thinner, faster getting to the soccer ball, has shiny patent leather shoes with bows (instead of functional but not so pretty orthopaedics to support flat arches). Her thighs don’t spread their wings when sitting down. She goes to Catholic church not Christian church. She’s allowed to watch PG13 movies not 1950’s classics.
Mr Dick says, ‘If you had those things and were like her, then you’d be enough.’
He says, ‘Clearly, there’s something wrong with you because you are not like her.’
Want to know the funny thing here? As self-conscious as I was that I wasn’t the tall and skinny one, my cousin was just as self-conscious that she was.
Moral of this story: No one is immune to body comparisons. Just because someone else has the body we want, doesn’t mean they are happy with the one they have.
Here’s an idea, maybe, just maybe, we could all just be happy with our own bodies?
So what does this have to do with eating disorders, bulimia and being our quintessential self?
Well, if we start to believe the pack of lies Mr Dick dishes out, over time, they become part of our identity. They blemish our view of our quintessential self.
And then we respond in one of two ways:
We either carry that burden of an identity that doesn’t really fit but we’re convinced is who we are, and we hide. We withdraw because we don’t want others to notice.
The easiest way to hide? Physically. Either disappear (lose weight) or cover yourself up (put on weight).
Or we think, ‘Wait a second! I don’t have to be that person any more! I can be who I want to be! I can have those bony cheek bones if I want. I can be skinny if I want. I know how to change myself into who I want to be.’
So we work the system to put out a more acceptable version of ourselves (burn more calories, lift more weights, get rid of the food, get a tummy tuck, boob job, nose job, where’s my thigh gap?)
To be honest, it doesn’t just happen with our bodies. Sure, that’s an easy one, but I’m sure you can think of a time where you’ve been like, ‘hmmmm… something’s not quite right, they’re hiding something here’, or you get that ‘whoah! dude! You’re trying way too hard!’ kinda vibe.
We’ve all experienced it, probably even done it. It’s at the extreme end of the continuum where you’ll find the disordered eating and body image people living.
So what’s the 3rd option here?
Learn how to respond to Mr Dick and politely tell him to go shove it.
Dear Sir. I know you want me to believe that my stomach is not flat enough to look good in a bikini. And I know you might have some friends who agree with you. However, I happen to like wearing a bikini. I like feeling the water wash over by bare skin. It makes me feel like a mermaid. And I’m super grateful for how my stomach is there for me me all day long. Whether I am sitting down, standing up, running, swimming, or doing down-ward facing dog, my stomach supports me. And so I, in return, will be giving it some sun, just like a mermaid. So, back off dude, your opinion doesn’t count here. Sincerely, Me.
When you hear shame talking,
- Recognize it. Acknowledge it (otherwise, it turns into this cranky kid that keeps screaming until it gets your attention.)
- Find what’s true and real for you. Get down with your quintessential self.
- Be grateful for whatever part of you Mr Dick is trying to tear down.
- And then it’s thank you and buh bye.
Some things to think about: What early memories do you have of your body? How have they become a part of the DNA of your identity? What does Mr Dick keep trying to tell you? How can you say buh bye?
Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media, use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so I can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like yours shared there.
Feb Food Fun giveaway! Want more tools to overcome shame and be your quintessential self? Join the True You Project community and you’ll receive Your True You Journey, an 8 week self-coaching e-guide that will give you the tools to navigate through the mud and peel back the layers covering up your True You. Visit www.thetrueyouproject.com.