Sunday, January 8, 2012

It never ends, so it's not worth caring about

My husband and I were riding the train home together from work last week and stood somewhat near an older couple (around their late 50's or early 60's) who was seated. Bear in mind that I live in a non-English-speaking country when I say that they sat there openly discussing fat Americans in their native tongue. This discussion included the husband making hand gestures to indicate a large and bloated body.

If you want to see how I look now, the picture attached to my previous post should provide a pretty good idea. Yes, I'm still fat, but hardly gigantic. I'm 5' 4" and the last time I weighed myself, I was 175 lbs. My face is actually quite thin for my weight. In fact, I've been told by multiple people that I have the sort of face that the locals "envy" because even though thin bodies are common here, many women feel they have "big" faces. I don't agree with this conclusion about their faces, as I think this is merely a genetic facial shape difference and not any sort of "fatness", but I've been told many long for a more angular, longer face. My point is that people aren't going to be thinking I've got the look of a "fat person" from my face (which is masked in the aforementioned picture). What you don't see in the photo is actually the thinnest part of me.

It's important to keep in mind that my face is an issue in this situation because I was wearing a winter coat and scarf. The only visible parts of me were my face and from mid-calf to my feet. Since I wasn't wearing tight pants, one could not tell my leg size very well. However, based solely on the vague shape of me in my coat, these people were remarking on my fatness.

The lesson I learned from this wasn't that I am still fat and therefore open to mockery, but rather that there will always be people who need to elevate themselves at your expense such that they will find something to mock or deride. This couple couldn't even see the really fat part of me (my hips, belly and thighs), but were speaking poorly of me anyway. If I had been thin, my guess is that they'd have found something else to deride us about. Of course, they figured my husband and I didn't understand what they were saying because it is so often the case that they arrogantly believe their language is beyond us (this is a common conceit here), but they weren't talking for our benefit. They were talking to make themselves feel superior to us. 

One of the ways in which I finally convinced myself to start walking when I first started changing my life was to tell myself that what I did for myself, exercising to help my back pain and gain strength and stamina, was more important than anything others said about me. At nearly 400 lbs. and needing to stop every 2-3 minutes because of the agony of my back pain, this was something which took a great deal more strength than standing on a train listening to a sad old couple make fun of fat Americans. I just had to throw away caring about how they reacted to me. Each time I was mocked, made fun of, pointed at, stared at, or treated in a de-humanizing way, I repeated to myself that it was more important for me to do what was good for my body than to hide from cruel, judging eyes. I didn't really feel it at first, but after saying it enough times, I believed it. Now, I deeply, authentically and truly don't care what they say about me. It's not the, "they suck so who cares about them anyway" response that people have when angry. It is actual apathy with no emotional component.

Though certainly it is a lot easier now to brush off such bad behavior than it was at a much higher weight, the principle is the same as is the motivation of people who say such things about others. What you do for yourself to improve your quality of life is the top priority and you can't allow what others say to stop you. You have to convince yourself that your progress toward whatever your particular goals are is more important than what others think or do, because the truth is that it absolutely is. 

It isn't about dismissing them though. It's not about telling them to f*ck off. It's about telling yourself that you are valuable. This distinction is very important because hating back isn't going to make you love yourself, but deciding to act in your own best interest will. It's about saying you matter and what they say or do does not with a much heavier emphasis on your value as a person each time you say it to yourself. By focusing on you and your needs rather than on diminishing your detractors, you not only gain strength to endure such comments, but a better sense of your self-worth.  


oh_mg said...

A brilliant post, thank you for sharing this. I know what you're talking about, having experienced a lot of weight-related name-calling first hand. It's hard not to let it break you, but you're right - as we value ourselves more, it becomes harder for their words to wound us. They still sting, but with decreasing power.

screaming fatgirl said...

I think it's a lot easier for me to let it go now than it was when I was 300-400 lbs. (which was over the last 20 years or so and really most of my adult life). I was a lot more vulnerable then because I hated myself so much and everyone reinforced it so often.

You're right that I have experienced a nearly life-long bombardment of this behavior. I couldn't walk out the door without this happening for a long time. Perhaps the respite I've had from the daily barrage has helped, or perhaps I really don't care as much anymore.

Thanks for your comment!