This is going to be a tough topic to tap-dance around so if you have a difficult time accepting personal responsibility or if you’re one of the people who would rather lay blame for personal emotions at the feet of “society”, this probably isn’t the post for you. You’ll probably be better off searching for inspiration elsewhere. It’s not that I refuse to recognize “society” as a contributing factor, I’m just not one who places “society” very high on the importance list, certainly mountains below that which I can control. For instance, “The dog ate my homework” would be way easier for me to use than “society made me feel bad about myself”.
With that out of the way, someone whom I care deeply about recently told me about a “problem” she had that kept her from going to the beach on a recent vacation of hers. She didn’t go down to the water because she felt “self-conscious”. She is, as you might guess, not a small person but she’s not all that big either, so the fact that she had a tough time going down to the water at a beach really threw me for a loop. It broke my heart. I told my wife about what we’d talked about a while later and explained my thoughts about the matter… She suggested that I say something because it was a good point and I did… That’s why the abridged conversation is ending up here.
Being overweight is a type of prison. Put simply, one can’t participate in many of life’s activities, whether due to lack of range of motion, the inability to sustain the activity over a length of time… Let’s just say there are a number of issues there. A perfect example would be having to sit out of a family hike on vacation. This is a form of prison. The person isn’t trapped by walls or bars, just their own body.
Then there’s “I’m self-conscious” and this is a little more insidious than not being able to hike around the block (let alone a couple of miles over the Appalachian Trail or something of that nature) and because of that, it’s worse. Like putting yourself in prison, a second time. Anyone can blame feeling self-conscious on something outside of themselves and with a little willful suspension of disbelief, that might even work for a small period of time. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that one can only BS themselves for so long before it finally catches up and simply stops working. The problem with that line of thinking is that, using myself as the example here, I can’t control what society does any more than I can make the wind change direction. If you’ve heard of the serenity prayer, it’s pretty simple. Other people, places and things are what I need the serenity to accept, the things I cannot change. I am the one thing I need the courage to change, and I need wisdom to know that this is as tough as it gets. Therefore, if I’m going to know peace I have to do it through changing me. Anything less is an exercise in futility.
Here’s an experiment to prove what I wrote is true. If you are of the self-conscious type, go to the beach, strip down to your swim suit and walk confidently down to the water. Let a spouse or friend know exactly which people thought that you were ugly. On the way back, stop and ask them, each one, if they even noticed you on the way to the water’s edge. I’d bet only 1 in 4 even noticed you in the first place. Then ask those same people if they think you don’t belong in the water because of your weight. You should be able to see where this is going. Eventually you will have to realize that you are projecting your thoughts and fears onto other people and then blaming them for confirming what you feel.
You feel self-conscious because of the way you believe other people perceive you. It’s not them, it’s you. You are putting yourself in that prison and there isn’t any societal shift that’ll save you from that.
Don’t react. Take Action.
When we take action, we break the bars of the prison.
All too often we put off doing something that will be good for us because we’re afraid, whether over results or any number of things… Maybe we’re getting up there in years so getting started hurts a little (I’ve heard this one dozens of times), maybe we just don’t know how to start or to keep it going. Maybe it’s just hard.
Whatever it is that’s holding you back, the answer is not “out there”, flitting about, it’s not in someone treating you better, it’s not in “society”… It’s within you. To take a page from my other program, the answer is “one day at a time”. I won’t overeat today. I will exercise today. I won’t eat sweets today. If we can maintain this, just for today attitude, tomorrow never comes and before you know it, you’ve been living a changed life for 8,130 straight “I won’t, just today’s” in a row and you’re wondering where all of the time went and how you ever lived the way you used to.
I know this works. This is my experience, with drinking and staying fit and remaining tobacco-free. “Just for today” is a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card. Use it.