This morning my daughter bravely told me that one of the kids at school called me fat. She was so scared that it would hurt my feelings. She told the other kid that she was offended. I was very proud of her. I was also grateful I’d already had a conversation with a friend of mine about this very issue earlier this week, so I was prepared to help my daughter navigate this tricky discussion. Thankfully though, I have done my own emotional work on this topic; therefore, I was ready to engage without reacting with anger or sadness. Let me explain.
I feared being called fat my entire life. It was the root of my eating disorder (I was anorexic/orthorexic/exercise bulimic and less than 115 pounds for more than 15 years). It was a deep awareness that the contract of my marriage was based upon me looking a certain way. It was seeing myself through a male lens that expected me to be small. It was a craving of the attention I’d receive if I was considered attractive to men. It was allowing boyfriends and partners to constantly comment on my body, including what they liked and didn’t like…and even allowing them to say things to me like “don’t ever get fat.” As I have entered my 40’s, I am still shocked at the things I allowed men to say to me over the years.
But the rabbit hole goes deeper. In my former life, there was something worse than being called fat. Being sick, and unable to maintain my break-neck level of performance, was much worse. There was an unwritten time limit for being sick. If the limit was hit, then relationships were at risk. I learned to use my bootstraps to pull myself back together. After sustaining a life-changing traumatic brain injury (TBI) bootstrapping it was no longer an option. I had to face my worst fears of all — gaining weight, being, sick, disabled and unable to work. And yes, I lost my marriage in addition to a few other relationships, but I gained something more important: I found myself.
In the years since the TBI, my life has changed completely. I’ve had many opportunities to face my own issues with feeling worthy and lovable regardless of my health, ability and physical appearance. It’s been a very humbling journey. Through it all, I’ve learned that I’m fundamentally lovable. We all are. There is absolutely nothing that I (or anyone else) has to do to be worthy of love. For this lesson, I am deeply grateful.
Right now, I’m sick. I have limitations. Yes, I’m fat and swollen and I don’t look like myself. I’m on high dose of prednisone for an undiagnosed autoimmune condition in addition to adrenal insufficiency. I am also healing from a neuromuscular condition that has leveled me over the last year. I’m currently taking in the antibodies of thousands of people through IVIG treatment — and it’s working! But yes, my body shows that I am sick. It’s exactly the same as if I had lost hair due to chemo treatments. I’m healing and I’m willing to surrender to the wisdom of my body in the present moment with gratitude.
I have finally released the need to control other people’s perceptions, as they are a reflection of who they are, not a reflection of who I am. And that is freedom.
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