Saturday, October 16, 2010

MJtBA Part 3: Shifting Perspectives

My life seems to be divided into noticeable blocks of time where I saw the world in one particular way and then something happens and I have a drastically different viewpoint that makes it hard for me to relate to the person I was before. I'm not talking about external things like political, social, or religious views. Even as a child I was pretty agnostic, pro-choice, and (though of course I didn't learn the term until I was older) socially progressive. I'm talking about perspectives about myself which affect how I interact with the world around me.

For example, there was a time in my life when I accepted facts given to me by authority figures completely at face value without examination of their merit. There was a time that I would nervously pretend that I agreed with my peers just to fit in. Or kept secrets about benign likes and dislikes to avoid being made fun of. This letter could have been addressed to me just two short years ago.

I'm not ashamed of any of this. Personal development is a natural part of growing up and it's not surprising that there are situations I've come across even as an adult that I would probably handle differently now.

One of the major things that changed me was having my son. Before my pregnancy I was pretty willing to allow toxic people into my life to run all over me. I knew that these people were bad for me, but it was like I felt sorry for them or like I was obligated to help them along in life because they were misfits just like I felt I was. Plus I will admit I got some pleasure out of being told how great I was for putting up with all the bullshit. Being a martyr is kind of intoxicating. Getting together with my husband definitely started chipping away at that behavior, but it wasn't until I got pregnant that I drew a line in the sand when it came to my codependent tendencies. I can't do that anymore. I'm a mom and I have to be mentally healthy for my boy.

Interestingly though, developing my body image has gone a long way toward easing my fear of confrontation that created a lot of the shenanigans listed above. I'm not overly confrontational or anything. I'd still prefer to keep the peace on most occasions. But I'm genuinely not suffering from the delusion that if I make myself invisible, no one will notice I'm fat.

I think this is a problem a lot of fat people suffer from. The word "fat" is super loaded in our culture. It implies smelly, lazy, stupid, gluttonous, etc. , and it pretty much shuts down any argument because most of us (even a lot of thin people) are mortified by this accusation. It was like this imagined silver bullet just hovering out there waiting on me. I would rehearse a confrontation in my head and get maybe four lines in before my would-be opponent made a fat joke and all was lost as I slunk home with my tail between my legs. IN MY OWN FIGHT FANTASY! Sheesh.

And here's the weird part. I never ever ever ever once in my life ever believed any of those fat stereotypes to be true of other people. I have always been around a wide range of body diversity and I've pretty well always been on the small side of fat. I've never found fat to equal automatically unattractive in anyone but me. I know people who weigh over 400 pounds and live active lives (one of them plays college football and baseball and no he is not all muscle) with friends and romance and families and all the other things Sanjay Gupta wants you to think you can't have while fat. I have absolutely always believed that a fat person can simultaneously be a beautiful person. I've seen it with my own eyes on many occasions. Yet, it's almost like I saw myself as the one and only really fat person on the face of the planet. No one else deserved all the torment and shame heaped upon fat people in this culture. You know, except me and my lazy fat ass deserved it in spades apparently.

It has been hard to shake this mentality and believe things like my husband loves me for attributes that include my body not in spite of my body. Or that no, in fact I'm not lazy and if I were it would be no one else's business because I have no moral obligation to be otherwise. I spent a lot of time afraid of being fat or fatter even when I was thin and that hampered me quite a bit. The notion that I am fat and that is totally fine has made a huge difference in my life. I still have doubts and hard days but I'm no longer afraid of speaking up.

Watch out world. There is no silver bullet, no kryptonite, no Avada Kedavra. I'm free now to be exactly who I am.