Skinny vs. Strength

When you are totally consumed by an eating disorder, no one can really make you see the negative changes in your body, physically or internally. In your mind, everything is fine until you are ready to admit, and most importantly, accept you have a problem. I still have trouble grasping what my body looks like in reality rather than the distorted images I have in my head, and even sometimes I will look at pictures (which there aren’t many of because I pretty much avoid cameras like the plague) and can’t see anything different about how I looked at my worst point, now, and 4 years ago.

The weird thing is, when I first got sick, I had no intention of getting skeletal skinny. All I wanted to do was be athletic like I was in college, where I worked out really hard, played a sport, and could hold my own body weight on top of someone’s shoulders…I wanted muscle and definition…speed and flexibility….all the strength of a woman of sport, but in actuality, restriction and over-exercise just made me very weak.

This post is not about the physical weakness that comes from having an eating disorder. It is about the feeling of power that is completely lacking in your life when you constantly have a negative voice screaming in your ear and telling you you aren’t good enough. Obviously this can apply to anyone; I know plenty of women, who don’t necessarily have an eating disorder, but are still stuck with feelings of doubt, unworthiness or shame and guilt, when really they are wonderful, intelligent, kind, people.

So along those lines, the reason I titled my entry today as I have, is because of something I realized in class. Last year I was a total push-over. I hate to admit that, but if a kid told me a sob story I bought into it immediately and gave into their any demand because I felt bad. This might sound ok, maybe even appropriately sympathetic, but many of those who get placed down in CLIIP do not have the best track record when it comes to telling the truth. A good 5/10 times you can almost guarantee, they are manipulating their tales to get what they want, get out of doing something, or to make you have compassion for them so in the future you will be more lenient.

Please do not think I am cold-hearted individual because honestly, I would take every one of these kids home with me to try to give them a better life, or at least provide them with a fighting chance for a positive future, but just going by experience, not all of them have the best intentions. Lets take for example yesterdays incident where I dropped a student off where he was supposed to be, and then he snuck out of the classroom, and skipped class for an entire period….came back to the trailer and acted as if nothing happened…was SHOCKED this morning when we found out and questioned him about it, and then turned it around to make it be OUR faults. That’s a whole nother story, but the point is last year I probably would have said;

“Oh, its ok…there is probably a very good reason you don’t want to go. Maybe somethings going on at home, let’s go to the other room and talk about it…” MEANWHILE, HE’D BE GETTING TO MISS ANOTHER CLASS BECAUSE I WAS TRYING TO SYMPATHIZE, and all he wanted was the get out of doing work!

Anyway, this same student did not want to go to lunch this afternoon when he we were scheduled to go. He told me I would take him 10 minutes later so he didn’t have to see any “annoying” kids in the hall, or wait in line. The old CJ would have said ok, even though I have 13 other kids to consider, a poor girl who was asking me to help her fill out a job application, a printer that’s jammed and a pretty tight schedule to stick to, but today was a new day.

I looked at him and said “No. You are actually going to come now because this is your schedule lunch, for a reason, and that reason is class in 45 minutes.”

He then responded that he just wouldn’t eat because I was a mean teacher and wouldn’t take him when he wanted to go.

After staring at him for a good thirty seconds, I just said, “Fine. Then I guess you’ll eat when you get home, because you do not run this classroom, and I am sick of you acting as if you do.”

Oh my gosh! I walked away thinking WHO AM I?!? How could I say that to the poor kid?! Isn’t he going to be starving. How could I be so cruel?!

But I am not being cruel!!! He does this to me all the time; takes advantage of the fact that I cannot say NO because I want everyone to like me.

Well CJ, guess what?! Not every student is going to like you. Not every person you meet will like you. CLIIP (or life for that matter) is not a popularity contest and by letting one student walk all over me, it opens the door for them all to follow suit, which is exactly what happened last year. Once that pattern is established, it is seriously hard to break, and can make for a very miserable existence….trust me, I am still working on it in my personal life.

You see when you have negative self-talk constantly telling you you’re weak, it diminishes your worth and makes you have a very small voice. I don’t necessarily mean volume, or being too quiet, but it convinces you that what YOU have to say is not nearly as important as what everyone else has to say…what YOU have on your schedule is not nearly as pressing as the schedules of others…and YOUR needs are not as important as the needs of those around you. But this is NOT true. YOU/I deserve the same treatment, and have the same rights as everyone around us, the difference is, I was too afraid to believe that.

When I first entered treatment and they taught me the “assertiveness formula” I wanted to laugh in my therapists face. No one phrases things as:

“When you do ____________, it makes me feel ____________________, because _______________. And what I need from you is _____________”

Ok example…Pretend I am speaking with my sister…

Lindsay, when you do not clean up after yourself, it makes me feel used and like a personal house-maid, because as an adult, you should be responsible for yourself, so what I need from you is to please take care of your messes.”

Now obviously this sounds weird and awkward, so when you are in real-life situations you do not have to use the exact words listed about, but the same point should come across….

State what the person is doing that makes you feel angry/sad/taken-advantage of/betrayed/whatever other feeling you may have. Give a valid reason why, and make a request as to how this problem can be solved.

Pretty simple right?

WRONG. I thought this idea was preposterous! If I said something like this I would be making Lindsay’s life more difficult. I would be a *itch and she would totally hate me!

But that is so not true!!! If you say it politely, assertively, as opposed to being aggressive (Ex. “Lindsay pick up your s*it because I don’t like cleaning up after you. If you don’t do it I will throw the dishes at you!”) then you are being completely reasonable!

So after getting over my initial skepticism, and using this a few times in family therapy, I started to buy into its value, and then it kind of becomes second nature. But it quickly disappeared as I let ED back into my life. He does that you know, takes away a lot of things that are important.

Now that I am on a much better path, I find the assertive, more confident CJ to be coming back. I have noticed the students who had me before take this as me being different or “meaner than last year,” when really, it is me gaining strength, and ultimately becoming a better educator…maybe an even more respectable person.

So, would I rather be skinny (where the kids say I have a hairy face from the lanugo that is attempting to keep me warm), or strong?

That seems like a pretty easy question to answer…

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12 thoughts on “Skinny vs. Strength

  1. As a school counselor..I can completely relate. My first year I was all like “wow I just want all the kids to like me” so I let a lot of nonsense slide right by and some of the kids were just downright disrespectful. After a few months of the bullshit, I started cracking down and became quite the rule stickler. When a kid would come to my office, instead of “ooh whats going on whats wrong”, i was saying “where is your pass, did you get permission to come down here”. Thats how you need to be with these kids because they will certainly try to fool and manipulate you!

  2. I love this post -know why? because I thought – feared – it was about weight and exercise…but it’s about something so much better!!! I love it. You totally did the right thing. We have to look out for ourselves at a certain point. I don’t think your a bad person at all for saying that to a kid. Honestly – I have major trust issues now – after being manipulated for so many years, etc. it’s hard not to be “paranoid”.

    I seem nice at work – but when something happens that pisses me off or messes up my client’s day – watch out! 😉

  3. I have definitely become a tougher teacher over the years. Just like you said, being firm doesn’t mean you don’t like the kid. Most of the time, you have to be tough in order to help them.*

  4. I’ve been realizing in my later 20s that I cannot please everyone and need to just do things for myself (be it standing up to others, seeking new opportunities at work, exploring better workouts and goals). 🙂 I’m proud of you for standing up to the students. It amazes me how kids talk back so much to teachers now. When I was in school, no one ever did that or if they did it was HUGE deal and the kid got in so much trouble. Keep being strong, girl!

    • thats what I said! Im thinking, “i am not that old! I only graduated like 7 years ago what the heck changed!!!!” the kids who talked back to teachers when i was in school were the losers and now its like every kid!

  5. I’m not a teacher, but I do like this post. I like how you related all your work experiences to the ED and everything. But yeah, you do have to be firm in a job like teaching, my best friend teaches high school math and she tells me some crazy stuff, you really can’t get into the habit of letting the kids run all over you and being a pushover to their voices, or to things like ED voices.

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