This morning as I was trying to shake off the morning funk, I clutched my cup of coffee and scrolled through my Facebook feed making small comments here and there about the things I was seeing. A girl I went to school with years ago was going off about how she's "had it with everyone" and how they could go (...) themselves. Perhaps everyone knows someone who does this on Facebook, airs their issues vaguely on a forum so that others ask what is going on. This particular person does this every few days or so, interspersed with posts about how drunk she is or will be and how much fun she is having, all with horrific grammar/spelling. One of the posts she wrote was about how she was outside somewhere and some kids made a comment about her weight and she was really hurt by it. My husband I were talking about some friends we know who were in a big financial mess, mostly due to buying a house they weren't prepared to afford should their luck turn, which it did, and now they are our age and feeling really stuck in a really negative situation that seems impossible to get out of. To make matters worse, neither spouse is truly happy or supportive of the other, the marriage is not good, the house situation is not good, the kids are witnessing it all and learning what marriage is like from their parents who fight and bicker and put each other down all the time. So my husband and I were discussing being stuck, or the deceptive thinking behind the belief that we are stuck in certain positions in life.
It is true, we all have cards we are dealt that we have no control over. We are born to our parents, who are in a certain financial situation, and have certain personality and set of coping/parenting skills and who have a past that likely continued to affect them after having kids. Some of us have real disabilities in life, physical, mental, emotional. All of us have challenges and some have extraordinary challenges, but we also all have choices. The minute we start to view our situation in such a way that we feel we are trapped, or a victim of catch-22, or a victim at all, then we are choosing to ignore the fact that we have choices and that we have control over our lives, now and in the future.
When we look at the situation that I mentioned with the overweight girl getting teased by some strangers she didn't know, there is an immediate emotional response to that, whether you sympathize, empathize or feel that the strangers were justified in their actions. I would venture a guess that many overweight people have faced some form of being put down in their lifetime, and most of us would rush to her defense and say that she is a human, she deserves respect and I agree with that, but what happens after we come to her aid? Does she take our kind words of defense and move on with her life or do the harsh words spoken by these strangers linger in her mind? What about the boys who said the mean thing to her, are they still thinking about it a month later? The truth is this: she might feel hurt, wronged, like in 20 seconds of time, they stripped her of her dignity. But it wasn't the boys who took her dignity, she gave it to them because she made an unconscious decision to agree with what they were saying about her, and to base her own opinion of herself on their judgement. We have a choice in our opinion of ourselves, we can choose to not base our self-worth on such external crap as what we look like or how many expensive items we can buy. We have the power to define who we are inside of these bodies, to celebrate the mind the creativity, the emotions that make us who we are when no one is around. We have given the power away because we've been swept up in the propaganda of what we believe skinny women have that we don't.
Thinking about this as I walked tonight, I became a little more aware of what happened with Elliot, and what is happening with Tim too. I am giving them the power to define who I am by my interpretation of their actions. When I was seeing Elliot regularly and he was responding to me, I based my opinion of myself off my interpretation of his actions toward me. When he was acting attracted to me, I figured I must be some hottie to have someone so attractive interested in little ole me. After he figuratively stood me up, I felt really unattractive and less energetic, older and fatter and less worth being around. It isn't pretty, but it's the truth. Part of me knew that this over-emotional reaction was absurd, but that was the initial emotional response I had to the situation. With Tim, our history goes back twenty years now, to the time when we were both single and I was desperate for his attention and approval. Now that we are both married, I told him I want to see him one last time before I move 2,000 miles away and he cheerfully accepted. He has suddenly been on Facebook more, liking and sharing many of the things I post, commenting and posting similar things, etc. It made me feel good until a few days ago when he shared a post that's been going around Facebook lately. It is a picture of a naked woman from behind, swimming and it says something to the regard of how many industries would be out of business if women suddenly woke up and realized they love their bodies. Another of my male friends posted this too and I respected him so much for the sentiment as he has an overweight wife, has always been more attracted to women who are not thin, and has a daughter he adores. I respected the post when Tim put it up too, but when one of his other female friends commented on how absurd it was that the photo was of a woman that societal norms would deem extremely attractive (and naked, but tastefully so) Tim commented something to the affect of that if he was younger and single he'd be thinking about swimming (with that girl in the photo). I had an immediate emotional reaction to that. He has never pretended to not be the kind of guy who cares about looks, we have discussed it many times to my dismay, but I guess I would have assumed that he would have matured since we used to talk about it 15 years ago. And maybe he is just being brutally honest, I respect that. But why does it bother me so much? I turned it over in my head as I was walking. Because I don't look like that; because that's what he likes/finds attractive/ attributes beauty and worth and attraction to, and I am not that. In short, if that's what is beautiful, I am ugly. I am short and not skinny or even "normal" by society's standards, I don't have long, flowing hair and a perfect butt. So my assumption is that he will not see my worth because I don't look like that, so I am not worthy of his acceptance and attention. I know him enough to know he doesn't feel that way. He is allowed to be attracted to a beautiful woman and still find worth in others. It doesn't affect who I am if I know who I am. That is the key in everything. If you know who you are, others' actions won't be able to make you feel any certain way. You already know who you are, why would their opinion change that? If I already knew my worth, the Elliot things wouldn't have bothered me. If I already knew my worth, the Tim thing would only affect me positively. If I already knew my worth, I wouldn't beat myself up for eating a bowl of chips or for skipping a workout when I have a headache. None of these things should have any power over my emotional state, but they do. That's how I know I still have work to do on my mind. We can work and work to change the outside, we put so much of our emotion and energy into what we believe about our exterior and the external world around us, but the true key to our happiness lies in knowing ourselves. Knowing who you are and what that means, and living it despite any real or perceived judgments around you, means taking back the power we all have to make choices about how we want our next chapter to be written. We are only trapped if we truly believe we are trapped with no choices. Everyone has choices, some might not be easy to face, but we have more power than we know. If we hold it instead of giving it away, no one can touch us.
"She figured out, all her doubts were someone else's point of view." From the song "She" by Green Day