Sometimes you can’t win. When you’re overweight, the only message you get from the world is that you’re ugly and should lose weight.
Once you have lost weight and become more attractive, though, you’re accused of trying too hard. “Relax,” other people start saying, “it’s the holidays. Have a piece of cake. After all, you wouldn’t want to get too thin.”
Argh! Even when you finally do what other people have been telling you to do—lose weight and become more attractive—they turn around and say you’re still doing it wrong.
This is really about their needs, not yours. When you’re overweight, you’re visually unappealing to them, and they want that to change—the way they’d want to swap out an ugly painting. They’re treating you like a decorative object.
When you’re doing what you need to do to feel better about yourself (eating right and exercising), you’re holding up a mirror to them. They don’t like to be confronted with their own failings, to see the ways you’re succeeding and they’re not.
Sometimes, these comments are so discouraging that it makes you want to give up on diet and exercise altogether. Better to stay fat—to stay in familiar territory. You might fear losing weight, or fear becoming more attractive, because you fear attracting attention.
But why should you or I treat someone else’s needs as more important than our own? You’re the one who has to inhabit your body, and you deserve to love yourself (which means doing what you need to do to feel good about yourself!).
Indeed, everyone deserves to love themselves for who they are. If the people who are trying to tear you down could see that, they could stop trying to get what they want from you (“love”/attention/reassurance/a confidence boost) and start giving it to themselves.
I recently found this wonderful blog post, Afraid to be Beautiful, by a woman named Leslie Riley who realized she’s more comfortable looking silly and goofy than polished, grown-up, and alluring. Other people would tell her “You’re so brave for posting those [unattractive] photos of yourself,” but she realized it wasn’t brave, because it was actually her comfort zone.
Why was she more comfortable looking unattractive? Because it was a form of protection; because, as she says, “No one wants to hurt a goofball. But lots of women find their ‘inner mean girl’ and start a ‘who does that bitch think she is?’ dialogue when a beautiful woman walks in the room.”
What would really be brave, she realized, is letting herself be beautiful regardless of what other people may think.
(She added two photos—one goofy, one sexy—to illustrate, and the difference really is striking.)
One thing that stuck out to me, though, was the way she said she was claiming her beauty and power “Not out of arrogance… but out of service. Because if I’m scared to do it, someone else is too. And maybe seeing this post will inspire her to claim her own utter freaking AMAZINGNESS!!”
Which is a lovely idea on the surface (and she definitely has inspired me!).
But why do we always have to justify our actions by talking about how they serve others?
I wish she would acknowledge instead that you don’t have to do these things (acknowledging and embracing your own beauty) in service of others.
Simply wanting to be beautiful is enough! (Enough of a reason to let yourself make an effort and appreciate the results.)
It’s okay to be “selfish” sometimes (in doing what you need to do to feel good about yourself). It’s okay to be “vain” (in putting effort into your hair/nails/outfit/makeup/nutrition and exercise/what-have-you). It’s okay to serve yourself first!!
By honoring your own needs and loving yourself first, you are doing others a service, by modeling how to behave. But you’re not doing it because you want to serve them; that’s just a side effect.
Really, it’s not about them at all.
It’s about YOU—and I think that’s a beautiful thing!