Other People's Comments about Myself that I've Too Long Believed

Friday, November 30, 2018

I recently finished Rachel Hollis's Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be - & I absolutely hated it. More on that to come in my November reads post, but it did get me thinking about what lies I've been believing about myself.

I want to be very clear: If you are one of the people who said these things to me, please don't feel like this post is an affront or an insult to you. It is not. I know that, for the most part, none of these things were said in cruelty or with malice. We can never know what we say that will stick with other people in the long-term, what will make an impact.

These are the things that have made an impact - & that I am trying my damndest to let go, some of them decades later.

"You look so funny when you dance."

A friend told me this when I was approximately 8 years old & we were rocking out to the B-52s while wearing our favorite Power Rangers T-shirts (yeah, we were weird kids). I was devastated. I'd taken dance lessons my whole short life, & while I was under no illusions that I was particularly talented at it, I did think I was a decent casual dancer, & hearing otherwise broke my heart.

Following that comment, I didn't dance for nearly two decades - no joke, not even for fun or as a joke. In recent years, though, I've discovered that I looooove to dance at weddings & don't give a flying you-know-what how dumb I look. It's fun as hell.

"You look nicer on the weekends than you do for work."

A coworker (whom I adore) said this to me not long ago on an emergency weekend video call. I'd just rushed back from being with friends, & I was dressed normally - jeans & a sweater, hair down, eyeliner on. Lately, though, I haven't been dressing up much for work or wearing makeup often, & when she said this, I started to feel bad, anxious. Do I look gross at work? Does it seem like I don't "try"? Should I be embarrassed of my workday appearance? Am I letting myself go?

But I keep reminding myself: I don't owe anyone a particular version of my face - not during the work week, not on weekends, not ever. If the version of my face that you see is one with makeup, so be it; it doesn't mean I value you or our meeting circumstances any more than when you see me bare-faced. Period.

"You don't seem to be holding back when it comes to food."

This is one of the most hurtful things anyone has ever said to me, & it was said in such a cheerful, casual, off-handed way that I did the aural equivalent of a double-take to be sure I'd heard it right. I was sitting in an NYC courtyard with a friend, discussing my recent weight gain - at the time, I was at my heaviest - when she commented on my Instagram.

Even now, years later, I think of this statement whenever I'm about to post a photo of something decadent online. How will it cause people to judge me & my body?

There's no way around this, really, because overweight people - women, especially - aren't given the benefit of the assumption of health. Like, just because I post a photo of a pizza doesn't mean I ate a whole pizza (but also, maybe I did). As I try to become healthier & make better choices, I remain aware of the judgments that come with my outward sharing of my decisions - & I decide when I do & don't care enough to post. 


"Fat bitch."

A nasty bouncer - himself an overweight man - said this to me on New Year's Eve 2012 when I was freaking out about my cell phone being stolen. Even now, I don't know why, but it stuck with me - like, really stuck with me. I still think of it when I'm feeling bad about myself, when I'm feeling fat or unattractive or unlovable or in any way equating my body to my worth.

For me, there's no way around this one, either - I can still hear his angry, spitting tone, the way he looked me up & down in disgust - but I have to remind myself that I am more than my body, that fat does not equal gross, & that one man's opinion of me (a stranger, no less!) is by no means the basis of my self-worth.

"You should wear higher-quality clothing."

A friend said this to me years ago, back when I was making a whopping $22,000 a year & trying to manage a life in Washington, D.C.  At the time, of course, all I could afford (& even then, barely) were clothes from clearance rack at Target. A wealthier friend with a slimmer body & a much better sense of style told me my cheap clothing made me look cheap - & larger than I was. She was probably right. 

I couldn't afford to buy better clothing, but I could try to disguise how cheap my clothing looked - which is why I started wearing nothing but black. These days, I still largely shop at Target, though only because I like it, & I still wear a lot of black, but again - because I like it, not because someone else says I should wear it to, like, look thinner.

"No one's ever going to love you, & you're going to die alone."

This one came from an ex, many years ago, & even though I knew it was unlikely to be true, it stayed with me for a long time. At the time, I was in the midst of a fairly severe mental breakdown, & I was deeply unhealthy; I'd treated him terribly, & I was fully deserving of this horrible insult.

Because of that, I don't blame him at all for saying such a mean thing to me - but it also set the tone for me to be terrified & mistrusting of relationships for years to come - like, right up until Mike. But, um, can you look at this photo below, please? So clearly not true.

What lies about yourself have you believed? How are you moving on?

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