…Have I compared myself to others or tried to “keep up with Joneses” today? Have I given myself a moment just to daydream? Have I had a moment of gratitude for all that I have? Have I stopped contemplating all that I lack for at least a little while? Have I truly, madly, deeply lived today?
And one more question: have I really seen myself today? If you asked me what I looked like as a girl, I would say I was always fat. But if you look at pictures of me from that time, I’m not waifish, but I’m still fairly slender. Narrow shoulders, small breasts, a tiny waist, flat stomach, and hips that flare more like eggplants than the watermelons I lug around these days. In other words, I was somewhat curvy but I was far from fat. But I’d been made to feel ugly often enough by my parents during those days, and in those days once I hit junior year of college and really did start to gain weight, that the story I tell myself is that I was always fat, always the ugly sister.
I wonder what effect it would have had on my issues with overeating and body image and self-esteem if I’d had a clear picture of myself to begin with. Or if the narrative I was told about myself focused more on my strengths–intelligence, humor, leadership skill, ability to work on a team, empathy–than on the things I wasn’t so good at, or that I had to work a little harder at.
We all carry around a narrative about ourselves. Some of it we make ourselves but a great deal of the story we tell about ourselves has been–consciously and unconsciously, explicitly and implicitly–told to us by other people. In the ideal situation, the distance between what we tell ourselves about ourselves and what other people tell us about ourselves is minimal. (Let’s face it: we can’t be purely objective about ourselves, and possibly we can’t be purely objective about others either.) But in a case like mine that distance is Grand Canyon-sized. I’ve learned to get a truer picture of myself by, despite what Public Enemy says, learning to believe my hype.
But I still need to check in. To look around the actual evidence of my life and see what it reveals about who I am. True, it reveals that I’m a lousy housekeeper, but if I look at what I’ve accomplished in my 9-5 and with my poetry, and if I look at the quality of the people in my life and the quality of sustained relationships I have, it affirms that every time that old narrative starts running in my head–I’m lazy, not worthy of love, not good enough, voiceless, blah blah blah–I’ve got exactly the proof I need to shut it down. I just need to remember to ask the question before I get too far down the rabbit hole of that old story.
Speaking of being overweight…
To be continued…