“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘This Is My Story,’ 1937
Oh Eleanor, how I wish it were that easy…
I have a major problem worrying about what others think of me. I wasn’t always like this but in my adult life, mostly after college, I felt so awkward and out-of-place that I constantly feared my peers were talking about me, thinking I was boring, or not good enough. Lately I had been doing better with the anxiety, because lets face it CJ, you are not that important that everyone in the world is spending their time discussing you, but I was walking down the hall of the high school, taking some of my students to their yearly nurse check-up, and I couldn’t help but overhear these nasty teenage girls make comments about me.
“Ew…there’s that skinny teacher I heard about. She’s so gross…does she think she looks good like that?”
First of all, no. I don’t think I look good like this! I actually feel like I look like a praying mantis or some other odd-looking insect because my arms are always up trying to keep me warm and my legs are just not strong like they used to be…but that’s beside the point.
As I stood there waiting for my CLIIPers to finish their vision screenings, I kept trying to listen to hear more. The girls kept staring at me and then laughing like I was some sort of freak, and it really hurt my feelings. I thought I was past all the high school drama and b.s. of mean girls, but apparently I am not, and I’m sad to admit that it still hurts just the same.
Now I know I shouldn’t care what three fifteen year old adolescents have to say, but I can’t help the emotions it brought up…
I was thinking, for the rest of the afternoon, about why this stupid scenario meant so much to me and I think I’ve come to two conclusions:
The first was about my youth and growing up as the “ugly duckling.” My own family told me I needed to trim down when I was not even 10 years old, and in school I got called a whale for breaking a chair (the screws were loose, ok!).
As I hit the dating age, my lack of confidence was solidified when I was the friend that intercepted all the requests for my friend’s phone numbers, or their invitations to dances, but no one really ever wanted to be with me.
And looking back, that’s ok because when I went to high school I grew up a little bit, matured physically and came into my own skin, finding a wonderful boyfriend, having a ton of friends in a variety of different “cliques” and being involved with almost everything academically and in the extracurricular department I could. I felt like I was a well-rounded person.
I did have some problems in my secondary education, when girls wanted to talk behind my back, or there were rumors spread about me that were so ridiculous I couldn’t believe anyone even listened to them. But regardless of their nature, it still hurt.
Even today I am pained by one comment in particular, where someone called me a “bastard child,” and claimed they understood why my father never wanted me. Talk about a blow to the core. I don’t actually know if I ever told anyone about that experience, but it does feel good to get it off my chest.
So because of my past, I don’t think my immense desire to be accepted ever went away. I have mentioned this in other posts but when I first came to CLIIP, I just wanted the kids to like me. I didn’t do a good job at disciplining them AT ALL, because I was worried they would think I was a “mean teacher.”
Who cares if they think that! Its my job to make sure they understand there are rules in the world (hello, laws) that just can be broken because they “feel like it.”
By overhearing the remarks of these three females, it brought me back to my past…reminded me of some darker years where I felt so insignificant, or inferior to the rest of the girls I knew.
And I suppose as Eleanor Roosevelt states, no one SHOULD be able to make me feel this negative about ME. I shouldn’t listen to their unconstructive remarks about my physical appearance or body, but instead I should think, “I might be changing someone’s life today,” or, “I am a good-hearted person.” In my opinion these are much more important attributes than my disgustingly scrawny legs.
The second feeling today’s situation invoked in my mind, was more familiar because it’s a pretty recent, and at one time was a very frequent, occurrence.
Ryan and I like to travel, and do things outside the world of our small town where most people know of my health issues and addiction. But when we leave this “comfort” zone, people don’t always respond well to someone who looks a little different.
When we were in NYC last spring for a cultural festival, the entire day Ryan was quiet and irritable. I kept pressing him, “whats wrong, are you ok, aren’t you having fun?”
The answer was no. He wasn’t really having fun because misery loves company and people were making unnecessary remarks under their breaths, as we walked by. I was pretty oblivious to it at that point because I saw nothing wrong with my behaviors or how I looked, but he could only stand so many months of people telling him his wife “needed to eat a cheeseburger,” or hearing, “don’t you take care of her, she looks so sick!” Things of that nature were pretty common in his world.
As a nurse I think he took major offense to these things because health is very important to him, and something to value, while I was so being so careless and throwing it down the drain. It also made him feel inadequate as a partner, and husband, even though everything I was doing was beyond his control. You see, in the depths of my disorder, no matter what anyone tried to do or say, I would find a way around it…early morning workouts, perfecting the volumetric meals without any calories; I was a pro! But even knowing this, it still didn’t make him feel any better when people would make hurtful remarks.
The final straw was on our cruise this summer. We went to the fitness center the very first day to enter a raffle for free spa treatments. Wouldn’t you know it, one of the prizes being given was 5 sessions to BOOT CAMP! Its pretty remarkable that I never win anything, and yet guess who won the boot camp that burned “up to 700 calories an hour!!!” You guessed it! I won…and the woman next to Ryan decided to say, “sure, give it to the anorexic girl who doesn’t even need it!”
She didn’t know he was with me, because I was by the raffle table when they called my name, but she must have figured it out because she apologized profusely for about twenty minutes. Unfortunately, it was too late to take it back.
You don’t have to worry…I turned in my pass to boot camp and traded it for Pilates, but even without the strenuous exercise, I tried to keep covered up by the pools because we couldn’t go anywhere without whispers and stares.
Did I really look that bad?! DO I really look that bad?!, that these mean-spirited teenage girls felt the need to make fun of me while I was standing three feet away?!
I really do need to work on reframing these instances because they should serve as motivation, rather than cause despair. Perhaps I should eat more than my meal plan requires so these scenarios will dissipate faster, but as Eleanor Roosevelt said on another occasion,
“Great mind discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people…”
I should not feel bad because one group of girls thinks I’m ugly or disgusting. I know I am a beautiful person on the inside, and that beauty continues to grow on a daily basis. Not to mention will outlast flawless skin, perfect hair or a rocking body, any day!
My husband always tells me confidence is the sexiest part of a woman, and I’m hoping by facing these situations head on, and analyzing why they invoke such negative feelings, will help me to remember to choose my words carefully since I know the pain they cause, and of course to bring my sexy back!
It’s worth a shot 🙂