I often live in a state of hyper-vigilance, constantly reading others to make sure my words and actions are not arousing any displeasure. Common courtesy and manners are okay to an extent. However, my internal censor has far too much power; it stifles my authenticity and independence.
My favorite method to reduce “judgment anxiety” is to make myself invisible. If no one sees me, they cannot disagree with my opinion or disapprove of my appearance. I am like the server who fills your water glass without you even noticing or the person who straightens your hotel room while you are away.
If I must interact, I am happy and agreeable. I create a pleasant environment without disturbing those around me. When I do “put myself out there,” I feel self-conscious and fearful. In order to soothe those feelings, I quickly reach for my familiar cloak of invisibility, trying to negate what I have done.
But what if I noticed that the cloak was getting too small?
Over the last year, I pushed through many of these self-imposed rules to divorce my husband. Looking back, I realized that this experience of overriding my ingrained behavior (and surviving) has permanently changed me. Even though I am still desperate to hide, my soul will not allow it. There is no turning back.
“Enough hiding! I will push you out into the open, whether you like it or not. I won’t tolerate this anymore!”
My soul had a sneaky plan to make sure this happened. The more I try to hide, the more I am compelled to eat. And the more I eat, the more weight I gain. I had a “taste” of empowerment and confidence. Hiding will not satisfy me any longer, though I am still afraid.
My cloak now looks like a scarf. I have outgrown it. I am exposed and vulnerable.
Being overweight in our society is the complete opposite of being invisible. It is my worst fear – a physical way of “standing out” that I cannot control. I hear tremendous disapproval in every direction. The shrill voices of the media intensify hatred and disgust by fanning the flames of the “war on obesity.” Obesity provides an easy target for people to direct their general anger about the confusing state of the world. I am now a walking, talking “problem” open to scrutiny.
I have no choice but to make people uncomfortable and to arouse judgment just by being. Yet I do have a choice about how to react to the situation.
I can try to lose the weight as quickly as possible in a desperate effort to fit under that cloak again. This approach will reinforce my shame for not meeting others’ expectations (at least my skewed perspective of their expectations). Even if I am successful, it is not likely to last because I will again feel the restriction and want to escape.
I can accept myself as I am, essentially burning the cloak. If I can truly be unconditionally loving and compassionate to myself within our fat-phobic society, I know I can remove the rest of my limiting beliefs and confidently be who I am.
I have a feeling that many of the people drawn to this site have dealt with co-dependency and low self-esteem. I would love to hear if anyone else relates to my experiences. When you have friends surrounding you who understand, feeling vulnerable is a little easier.