Thursday, June 24, 2010
I'm worth it.
Repeat after me - I'M WORTH IT!!!
Now by a show of hands, how many of you actually, really, truly believe what you just said? I'll tell you honestly, I've struggled my whole life with my own self worth. Only recently am I starting to come out of the dark cloud of not feeling good enough that has followed me around since I started gaining weight as a 4 year old child.
I'm behind on my watching of this latest season of Biggest Loser. I already know who wins - but I haven't yet seen all the episodes leading up to the Finale. So I was watching Episode 13 last night - just after Vicki (Blue Team) finally gets her chance on the ranch after the other contestants have already been battling it out for 12 weeks. As Jillian notes, she's obviously behind everyone else, both physically and mentally. While the other contestants have had the opportunity to break through tough moments, Vicki is still wondering WHY she got so big and is struggling with the "menial" task (according to Jillian) of running sprints. Don't we all at some point? Finally she breaks down into tears and offers up that she can't do the exercise and is doubting her progress and achievements because she has never felt good enough. That her parents should have had a more beautiful daughter. That she wasn't smart enough, skinny enough, popular enough. It is for these moments that I watch this show. I think this will be my last season of watching though. Because on my own personal road to healing and recovery, I have chosen a very different path than much of what that show lauds and stands for and there have been so many times this past season that I am physically revolted by what those people are made to do and believe in order to lose weight. How different from just a year ago when I couldn't get enough of it and spent my days dreaming about how I was going to be on the next Biggest Loser season. Now I wouldn't wish it upon my best friend. But alas, I digress. I was talking about the emotional moments. The true and honest reflections of ourselves in these contestants that we can all relate to at one point or another. That's good television. There's a reason that the producers show us these poignant and touching moments - complete with melodramatic score in the background. Because they are so real. And because all we "fatties" can relate. I related wholeheartedly to Vicki's plight. I too have felt "not good enough".
Welcome to the paradox of being fat. I am fat because I don't feel like I'm good enough, and I don't feel like I'm good enough because I'm fat. So how the heck does one begin to talk themselves out of that conundrum? It's a cyclical, never-ending (to some), downward spiral that is so familiar to most of us, it makes you want to spit just reading it and saying it. I for one was angry with it. I wanted to throw stuff at that paradox and call IT names! And then I wanted to cry about it and throw my hands in the air, call it impossible, and eat a bag of Cheetos to make it go away because it's too hard to beat so I let it beat me. And it beat me over and over and over again until I was worn down, binging and too fat to care.
But when I was done being angry at a situation that looked like it couldn't fixed - after I had let the dust settle a little on my last infuriating binge, I agreed to open it up and look at it again, to slowly break it apart and separate the pieces of it so that there was just enough room to insert my Spark dynamite and blow it up!!!
The aftermath is messy. But the good thing about blowing up a paradox is that you can see all the little, individual pieces for what they are instead of just being part of the larger problem. You can start to clean up the mess - to re-assemble the whole person from the pieces. You can keep what is shiny and good, and throw out what is dingy and bad. This is the stage I am currently in and I love it. I'm finally beginning to organize my life. I've dumped everything out of the big container and I've bought new, pretty containers to put everything back in.
Unfortunately, I can't break down 5 years of therapy in one blog. But hopefully I can offer a little insight to my journey and what I have discovered about my own personal self worth and the conundrum that so many of us find ourselves in when we arrive here.
I've talked a bit in previous blogs about the role food was playing in my life - substituting for relationships, filling the void, making me feel full in more ways than just physical - but I know now that it was a fake full. And we've all heard people say that they lose weight when they find out how to really "meet their needs" without the use of food. But that is a long and painful process that you can't just come up with overnight. Hold a chocolate bar next to your face and ask yourself what you really need and you're going to think you need the chocolate bar - it's that simple. And food is always there. Food is dependable. Food doesn't break up with you. Food doesn't call you fat...it just makes you fat. It's sneaky like that. Personally, if I found out my best friend was sneaking around behind my back to sabotage me, I wouldn't be very happy about it. But this is exactly what happened with my relationship with food.
The problem with letting it go though is that I needed it. I needed it desperately. Not just for the whole "you need food to live" thing, but because I needed it to stay fat.
WHAT? But aren't you trying to lose weight?
Sure - I was trying to lose weight. Diet after diet, I would give it my "all", my "best shot" and then fail. And I would use that failure, and the subsequent re-gaining of the weight to prove to myself just how unworthy I was in life. Unworthy of healthiness, unworthy of happiness, unworthy of love. It fit the mold I had made. I grew to expect this of myself - and thus grew my reluctance to try anything new. Why would I try? I'm just going to fail again. I set myself up to be unworthy because my unworthiness allowed me to eat. Allowed me to go on gaining weight and ignoring my problems. It was my perfect excuse for every failure in life. I can't because I'm fat...I'm fat because I can't. I needed to be fat because that is how I validated myself. The act of eating itself - the contribution to my ever increasing weight-gain - was a validation and it made me feel full and loved and like I was giving myself something positive. Even though it was really negative, it was a positive validation. Being fat gave me a reason to live - but in a very, very negative way.
Meanwhile - in every other area of my life I was growing and achieving and proving my intelligence and worth every single day. I graduated at the top of my class in a double major honours program. I landed a job in my field fresh out of school. I moved up the ranks quickly, proving to myself and everyone else every step of the way that I could do WHATEVER I put my mind to. Everything except my one deep, dark, dirty little secret. I wasn't good enough to lose weight. A glaring blemish on my otherwise fabulous resume of life. She's really great at all of these things - but have you seen the size of her ass?
At one point in my teenage years, my mother actually told me that my father believed that fat people were stupid, because if they were truly smart, they could figure out how to lose the weight. She somehow thought that this would give me the motivation I needed to get skinny. It did just the opposite. After her little confession, I packed on about 50 pounds. Now, I don't believe that that's what my father actually said or believes since he has been an avid supporter of mine for my whole life - but the reason I'm sharing this horrific tale is because it only worked to solidify my own idea that I was "less than" - if my father thought that I was stupid because I was fat, then how could I possibly think any better of myself? And as twisted as it sounds, this was also a validation for me. Even though it was as negative a response to what I put out to the world as the name calling of school kids or trying on a pair of jeans and realizing you need the next size up yet again - it was, nevertheless, a validation that as long as I was fat, I was allowed to fail, because it was expected of me.
I have now learned to detach the failure from the fat. And on the flip side - the success from the skinny. That's what happens when you blow up your ideas about how things work and rip apart that downward spiraling paradox. I know now that I am allowed to try, and to succeed and to fail. And that NONE of that has anything to do with my weight, or with my personal value to the rest of the world. People will not like me less because I have my own opinion. Just because I binge on occasion doesn't mean I'm a failure. I can't just give up because I have a bad day. THAT is not what is expected of me. Because I expect so much better from myself now. I am worth working for. I am worth trying out. I am worthy of health, and happiness and love. And when you convince yourself that you are worth something, doing things for yourself becomes easier. Yes, I will cook myself that healthy dinner I've been meaning to try - because I'm worth it. Yes, I will stay outside to watch the sunset a little longer - because I'm worth it. Yes, I will run that extra mile and push myself as far as I can go today - because I'm worth it. I am done feeding myself validation. I am done seeking positive validation from negative reactions and opinions. I am done accepting the excuse that I can't when I know that I can.
Now repeat after me again - I'M WORTH IT. And this time - believe it.