When I was thirteen or fourteen, my mother took me to the mall to get some new summer clothes. I managed to corner her in Abercrombie & Fitch. She kind of hated that place, so of course, I was desperate to shop there. I knew I needed tank tops, jean skirts, and flip flops. Everyone was wearing it. Cue eye roll.
I saw this tiny, white, tank top that I really wanted to try on. It was tighter than anything I’d ever worn before. I felt so confident in it. I don’t remember how much begging I did, but my mom finally caved and I was off to enjoy my weekend in my new favorite new top.
So I was in the lobby at the cinema in Oklahoma. I was there with three or four of my friends and I was feeling so good about myself. This summer was going to be different. My two front teeth were finally symmetrical and grown in–it took a while. I didn’t have a bowl cut, I was athletic and happy. I was cheering at the time and I was always moving. My skin was clear and my braces were off. I felt trendy and unstoppable. When the boys walked in, I stepped forward and waved. I had zero chill.
“Oh my god, Devon. Look at your arms.”
I genuinely remember thinking this boy was going to compliment me, but after studying his face I steeled myself for the blow. He wasn’t flirting. He was going to humiliate me.
“They’re massive. Gross! They’re bigger than mine. Wow. Look at this.”
A numb, crawling feeling washed over me while everyone laughed. I muttered something about his arms and melted away. I sat through the movie, I sat through pizza afterward, but when I went home I cried in my mother’s arms. I never wore that tank top again.
From that day on, every time I look in the mirror, every time someone snaps a picture of me, every time I get dressed, I stare at my arms and I hate them. I wear sweaters to cover them, I avoid having them exposed at all costs, I even crop them out of photos so I don’t have to see them.
It’s so easy to pick up these insecurities as we go through life, huh? An offhand comment from a spouse that hits just right. A coworker who makes a jab and tells you to lighten up. Or even a parent that catches you at your weakest moment and knows exactly what to say to make it worse.
These things happen and they suck. All of us, at one time or another, have been embarrassed, have been humiliated. And most of us have embarrassed and humiliated other people, maybe on purpose, maybe unintentionally.
The reason why this is important when it comes to weight loss is that those voices are usually the ones we give the most attention to when we look at ourselves, when we try to grow. I’m sure you can’t recall all the times someone told you how cute you looked or how beautiful you are, but I bet you can remember when someone called you fat or ugly.
The bad news is that even when you are at your goal weight and have your “perfect” body. You still feel it. You still remember. That’s part of the beauty of the human mind. It feels like you don’t get to choose what replays in your mind the most. Some of the most amazing moments I’ve had I can’t remember clear enough, but some of the most awful things that ever happened to me are just sitting there in HD. Ready for my viewing pleasure in the blink of an eye.
Recently, while reading Siddhartha by Herman Hess, I had a small but important ‘aha’ moment about my journey. Every second I dwell on those thoughts, every time I force myself to become smaller out of insecurity, out of fear, I’m losing. I’m losing time, I’m losing happiness, I’m losing me.
You are not the sum of what has happened to you or what you have experienced. You are so much more than that. Your life is precious and wonderful, and it’s so short! It goes by so fast and we spend so much time dwelling on the past or putting expectations on the future. We lie, cheat, drink, lie, and self-destruct just so we can get away from the bad in or around us. It’s a crazy waste when you think about it.
I’m making a choice not to do that anymore. I’m making a choice to be present every second I possibly can, to be grateful, to watch my husband smile, to push myself forward; to learn everything there is to know about this crazy universe, to stare in a mirror and find myself as beautiful as the beauty I see around me, to not give the people who hurt me power over me. No matter my size, no matter my situation, because what matters is that I am happy, and the good news is that happy is a choice.
Definitely the more cheerful choice if you think about it.