I was so excited by how these issues in my life were unfolding before me:
1) I had pneumonia that pointed me to unresolved anger.
2) The anger finally had a voice, and uncovered the anger at the injustice of my family viewing me as the “fat one”.
3) Still in search to find a new truth that when found will completely alter my perception about this injustice.
I was on a roll… so it was only right that the next negative feeling would surface.
I was thinking how this injustice had affected my life. How holding this belief that “I’m fat” colored everything I did. I recalled how the feeling I was overweight affected how I met friends. I constantly compared my body to theirs, and in my mind, always lost the competition. I was often jealous, wishing I was the one that the boys flirted with, not my cute & thin best friends. It totally affected how I interacted with boys, and later men.
The judgment that was placed upon me as a child, I carried into my adulthood. It was active everyday, in most every way I can think of. It had become more than just a judgment against me, it had morphed over time into my identity. Therefore, it was always with me because it had become ME. And who you are affects all interactions you have with people, regardless if they are a cashier at a drive-thru, a co-worker, your best friend or spouse.
I felt sorry for myself. I felt I’d missed out on “what could have been”. This was very painful to let myself feel. But, I went there, deep into the feelings of anger, blame, regret, sadness, etc. I knew if I dismissed the feelings, they would only resurface again later, so I should explore them now, and give them expression.
I remember a story my girlfriend has told me a number of times. And with each time she told me the story, it felt like a dream; I wished that her perception was accurate, but knowing how much she loves me, was just telling it to me in the light that would uplift me and make me feel good. She was a part of a cast of about 150 actors heading to Moscow to perform a Passion play for which I was the costume designer. We were on the plane and it was night. There were a handful of us that couldn’t sleep, so we gathered around the exit door which was in the middle of this huge plane. The way she tells the story, I was the center of attention of all of these men. When she saw the crowd gathered, she wanted to join in, but had to push through a crowd of men to reach me. She goes on to say how we were talking and telling stories, and how every man hung onto my every word.
Over the years, as I spoke critically about myself in reference to the lack of male attention I received, she’d retell that story to illustrate how attractive I am to men, but I just couldn’t relate. I knew her unconditional love for me had affected her perception of me, and I wished she was right, but I knew she was not.
In a recent phone conversation with her, we were on this topic again because I was explaining the journey I’ve been on regarding weight loss and my self-image with regard to my appearance. And she told me that out of the blue, her husband who has probably only seen me on 3 occasions (because they live in another state) brought me up in conversation. He commented how beautiful I am physically, and how very proportionate my body is. Now, I can’t begin to figure out what possessed him to even say that, but as she told me, I cried. I thought that was the nicest thing I’d ever heard. And his perception of me was something that I felt compelled to roll over in my mind to try to understand. I decided to tell myself “I am beautiful” right after that conversation. I realized that if her husband could see this about me, I ought to accept it too. So, with about 80% belief, I decided to focus on the idea that “I’m beautiful.” At least, it felt better than the alternative I’d been saying about myself.
I know I’ve met people that regardless of their body size, I found incredibly beautiful because I was seeing the REAL person. So, maybe my girlfriend’s husband was thinking about me from that perspective, the REAL Wendy. Now, I’m not trying to infer he wasn’t talking about the external Wendy at all, but that the internal Wendy that he saw overpowered the essence of the whole of Wendy. So, I pondered that for awhile until that became a distinct possibility.
Another friend has often told me that I’ve never taken a bad photo, and that I’m so photogenic. I’ve thought he was off his rocker every time he’s said that. I don’t think I’ve ever really liked a photo I’ve taken. I always thought the photo either captured me from a bad angle showing the fattest view of my body, or captured a facial expression that showed off my fat jowls or whatever! I thought he was crazy, and definitely dead wrong!
I again fell into the negative feelings, recognizing now that my body-image was so distorted that I couldn’t be trusted to see myself as I really am. I held onto this one for awhile. This was painful to realize. I compared myself to an anorexic that was barely 80 lbs and on the verge of death due to malnutrition. And when Oprah asked what she saw when she looked in the mirror, her response was that she saw herself as FAT. The audience was as shocked as I was that anyone so thin could not see what we saw. We saw her as skin hanging over thin bones, but HER perception of herself was HER REALITY. It’s the image she saw. And because her image was so distorted and her beliefs were so real for her, she was held prisoner by complete untruths.
Was it possible that I could have such a distorted view of myself, that I too have been imprisoned by untrue beliefs? Was my girlfriend right? Did she see a reality on that plane I could have experienced and really enjoyed, except for this distorted view of myself? Was I really physically beautiful? Was I really photogenic? And the tide began to turn…
I’d been waiting for someone in my family to see my comparison of my sister NOT fitting into my THIN clothes as the WAKE UP CALL for them to recognize the truth, and apologize to me for mis-judging me. Well, I can see now, that ship has sailed. Thank goodness, I don’t have to assemble all of my family members both dead and alive to all agree with me anymore. I have seen the error of my previous thinking. I am beautiful and I’m fabulous. And it was the distorted perception that mis-colored the experiences that I could have had.
So, now I was really pissed, thinking about all the pleasurable experiences I had missed with this distorted thinking. For so many years, I thought I was unworthy of a decent man’s attention because I was overweight. Mom specifically told me growing up “Men like THIN women”. And I believed her, although I wanted desperately to prove her wrong. And there were so many other thoughts of regret for what I felt I’d missed, but I didn’t feel the need to drag myself down any further with my pitiful memories.
Thinking again about my girlfriend’s version of the plane story, I was considering the possibility that if one of those men WERE attracted to me, I don’t believe I would have been able to recognize his signs of interest due to my belief that men could not be attracted to me unless I was thin. (Ironically, this was one of the few times in my life, I had lost weight and had a firm body from regular working out, but I wasn’t as small as a size 8, so I wasn’t “thin” in my perception.) So, then I wondered how many wonderful men I’d know, may have thought I had blown them off?
I recall a guy in my early 20s, who was my closest confidant although I was dating someone else at the time. Bert was always there for me, even when Doug was being a jerk. Then when Doug & I broke up, Bert disclosed how he’d been in love with me that whole time. I was in shock; I completely missed the signs. And because I could really only attract men that would be in alignment with my distorted self-image, I fell for Doug who was only too eager to remind me of how I should lose weight. Of course, Bert, was always appalled when I confided in him what Doug had said about my weight. And of course, I didn’t return Bert’s feelings of love because he wasn’t in my energetic range of attraction. He wasn’t on the same energetic wave length my distorted self-image was on… so here was one of the decent guys I wished for, but couldn’t really have.
I discussed the subject of my distorted self-image with my husband of 9 years. I asked him to recall our relationship when we were first dating and to tell me what it was like for him in regards to what signals I gave him to let him know I was interested in him. And he responded, “You gave me nothing”. He said the only reason he thought I was interested was because of certain things I’d say. One of which was saying that in my dating history, I’d had many first dates, but rarely did they go to a 2nd date, so he figured I must like him or I wouldn’t have continued to go out with him. So, I then asked, if I didn’t give him signals indicating my interest, why didn’t he just move on. He said he saw something in me that he really liked, and felt I was worth pursuing. I cried… not only for the sweetness of him believing I was worth pursuing, but for the pain I caused him for not having the ability to show him how much I was truly falling for him. That is an experience I felt he deserved, and instead, he was flying blind without a net. But, I’m so glad he’s the kind of man that was willing to take the personal risk, and go for it!
I knew I was beginning to hit the limit to how much regret and self-pity I could deal with. I was feeling an incredible feeling of waste. I found myself going down a self-destructive path. I began to focus on “what my life could have been like” if I hadn’t had this distorted thinking. And there were so many “what-ifs” – I couldn’t stand thinking about it anymore. And bottom line, I sensed I’d gotten all I needed from exploring this negative point of view, and it was time to stop lamenting over it.
So, I felt the need to be deliberate about were I focused my thoughts. I know there is a healthy time to allow myself to feel into negative feelings. But, that is when you feel they are taking you on a ride into a better feeling place. But, with the path of “what-ifs” before me, I knew, I was headed toward more pain and self-pity and certainly not in a direction that would take me into a more hopeful place. So, I re-centered myself with the intent to look for thoughts to focus on that would move me from where I was to a where I was headed.