I want to write about THE PHRASE. I first heard it from a friend of mine about two years ago. She heard it from her therapist. I did an internet search for THE PHRASE and was surprised how many others knew about THE PHRASE. I was a bit embarrassed. As a therapist and retired University Professor, that with so many hits, it had taken me this many years to hear THE PHRASE. The search revealed that some people first heard it at a twelve step meeting, others from a life coach, and others from a teacher or a parent. Admittedly I didn’t devote an enormous amount of time researching who first coined the phrase. (If anyone out there knows, I’d love to know).
If this is the first time you’ve heard THE PHRASE, chances are the Narwhal Factor will kick in and you will start hearing it everywhere you go.
If you HAVE heard THE PHRASE before, perhaps you can understand why I was so dazzled with how such a simple phrase could convey such a complex dilemma that humans find themselves in all too frequently. The dilemma of repeatedly trying to find something we want or need in the wrong place.
Meet THE PHRASE:
For many of us that struggle with the negative consequences of self-destructive habitual thoughts and actions; despite being intelligent, insightful and determined individuals, we continue to find ourselves in similar situations over and over. Despite our intentions, resolve, and misery this Ground Hog Day Phenomenon is uncanny. There we are again; standing on the customer service line at the local Ace Hardware Store asking the clerk behind the counter which aisle the milk is in? It’s as if Scottie activated the transporter beam without us hearing the coordinates or hearing him say, “Energize.” When we are finally “beamed back” to the mother ship, we feel stupid, weak, and or hopeless about EVER being able to change.
We couldn’t find a grocery store that sold milk if we tried.
But at the risk of sounding like a hopeless optimist, I fervently believe that beginning a journey of self acceptance when you have been accustomed to hating yourself for not living up to another person’s expectations takes a huge amount of self-love in the first place. The decision to love who you are in this moment without enrolling in an UBER MAKEOVER BOOT CAMP, whose motto is, “IF YOU REALLY LOVED YOURSELF YOU’D CHANGE,” means that you have a seed of self acceptance already planted deep inside of you that still loves you. It may be holding on for dear life, but it is there.
We don’t become self-loathers in a vacuum.
That’s not a profound statement, certainly nowhere nearly as profound as THE PHRASE, it’s just true. If we weren’t thrust into a world where all of us were valued for looking a certain way, there would be so many happier people around. There would be so many less women thinking, “I HATE HER,” when they saw another woman who was thinner or larger breasted, or younger than they were. There would be fewer men thinking, “My abs aren’t as defined as his, and I don’t have as much hair as he does and I‘m younger than he.” The competition and jealousy that result are divisive separators because of the formula that physical perfection=success=feeling loved and lovable.
But living in a vacuum is an unrealistic ecosystem, unless you are on the Holodeck (what is it with me and Star Trek today???) And it would be lonely after a while. We are, for better or worse, living in a society with people, YAY! Some of whom suck, Boo! (hey vacuums suck!)
And while the concept of finding a safe “all bodies are beautiful and maybe someone may even care about what I’m thinking instead of what I look like haven where people can dance around naked and not feel ugly or not lovable because of their butts or thighs” sounds like a lovely respite, (and sign me up), the truth is, we are going to have to be around people who may have Very Negative Opinions of our body shapes and sizes, whether we are too tall too thin too fat or too short.
So what to do to start building up our self/size acceptance in this world where Size-ism is an accepted form of discrimination and division?
One small step is to “stop going to the hardware store for milk.”
If you go to Thanksgiving Dinner every year knowing people will tell you that you are eating too much or will comment on your body and it feels bad to you and you are shrieking inside your head, “Scottie Beam me up.” You are at the hardware store looking for milk.If you refuse to buy clothing that fits you because you are waiting to be a “normal” size and then sit at home hating yourself. You are at the hardware store looking for milk.If you get on the scale every morning and let the number on the scale dictate to you how you will feel that day…Just buy a pair of freaking pliers and get out of the hardware store.
I think that at the beginning of the self/size acceptance process you need to nurture that small seed of self love inside of you. You need to go to places that have what the seed needs…rich soil of friends that have loved you at every size you have been, warm gallons of rich sweet milk of people
Each person’s journey is different one and each moment presents its joys, challenges, progress and setbacks. And if you feel like it I’d love to hear from you blog readers out there some examples of how you used to or still go to the hardware store for milk and or how you started going to a place where you knew you could get what you needed or wanted instead.
I know that many clinicians treating people with Eating Disorders are often challenged in helping their patients consider starting from a place of self acceptance as an option at all. but I also know that most of the people in the Size Acceptance/Size Diversity community couldn’t really step on the road of becoming activists until they figured this step out first. And after a while, they were going to the customer service counter to find out where the oak tag and permanent markers were so they could make protest signs demanding equal health care for people of all sizes….but that’s another blog for another day.