Friday, June 6, 2008

It's Who You Look Like, Not Who You Are

It's a game we all play: making snap judgments about what people are like based upon their appearance. Smart, stupid; sophisticated, simple; preppie, yuppie, hippie, druggie, all the various and sundry "ies"; the way they dress, the way they wear their hair, the way they carry themselves, the way they speak all give us clues as to what combination of qualities they possess.

But sometimes we get it wrong.

I've been wondering a lot lately how often I get it wrong, because I've been acutely aware of how different my inner self is from the outer shell to which the world has quick visual access. I present, I know, as a frumpy, significantly overweight, middle-aged woman. This is so distant from who I feel like on the inside! Yet it's how all strangers and many acquaintances see me. How could they not? There it is.

And yet, inside I feel bohemian and artistic. I feel earthy and worldly at the same time. Inside, when I work out, I get results. Inside, I'm a good mom who always knows what to say. Inside, I am a world traveler and a patron of the arts. I wear clothes that express these things. They look good on me. I don't so much mind the age that I am - every age can be beautiful. Inside.

Outside is another story. First of all, society in general makes a very quick judgment when it sees someone who is overweight, and that judgment is: worthless. Usually followed by, if it's even given a second thought: lazy, sloppy, hedonistic, stupid, the list goes on. This is not paranoia, either. People would rather die than be fat. We see this through the epidemic level incidences of anorexia and bulimia vexing not only our young women, but people of both genders and all age groups. We see this through multi-million dollar businesses that promise to get (or keep) us thin. We see this through the rise in weight loss surgeries. We see this. My comic heroine, Gilda Radner, once, in her Rhonda Weiss persona, rather prophetically stated, "It's a proven fact that most guys prefer skinny girls with cancer to healthy girls with bulging thighs".

So let's say you're very evolved and you get past the fact that I don't wear a size 6 (or 8. or 10). You're still not likely to see all that other inside stuff. (Which, I'll admit, sounds pretty wonderful - maybe I need to take a moment to get over myself...). Travel and the pursuit of the arts was put on hold (I refuse to say abandoned) in the interest of raising a family. No regrets there. I can get back to it. The Greek Islands aren't going anywhere. And I'm a decent enough mom. I make mistakes, like we all do, and I apologize for them and move on. As for appearance OTHER than the weight issue... I suppose that's the one thing I could work on. There aren't a lot of clothes out there in my style, size and (probably most important) price range. (add work to travel and the arts as things I put on hold to raise a family) But I bet if I worked hard enough and made it a priority and perhaps dusted off my sewing machine, I could pull some things together.

So, my resolution is to try to stop judging others on superficial qualities. Maybe in so doing, I can learn to be a little kinder to myself.


Chris said...

Good gracious girl. If the message is repeated loud and often enough, we eventually start to believe, right?

It really does take a strong sense of self to overcome the constant criticism of society and the persistent criticism of our own selves.

What really helped me get past the fact that I most likely will never be a size 6 or 8 and some days a knowing what my body can and will accomplish. A marathon (mostly walked, still hard and painful), a half marathon (running), HAVING A BABY... All these things demonstrate that my body is capable and STRONG and it does not matter that you can see my newly-acquired post baby muffin top.

BTW, I broke the 260lb barrier on leg press -- that means I can leg press 100+ lbs my own weight. And guess what? I still have tummy rolls. So in the end, someone can mock me for not being supermodel thin, but I can kick a hole through concrete.

Tammy said...

I won't even tell you what I could leg press before this accident put everything on hold... it was impressive (blushes).

2 years ago I was living the gym rat life. I went faithfully 5-7 times a week, usually for around 2 hours. I worked with a wonderful trainer once a week. This went on for 10 months. I lost 50 pounds but only one jeans size. This was my first frustration. The second came when, after a long hard winter at the gym, I headed back out to the park the first nice day of spring and not only had my time not gotten better, it had gotten worse. Grrrrr. Then the final straw came when I tried to get my garden started. I'd been working so hard in the gym and felt so strong and capable. One afternoon doing weeding and tilling and I was so sore I could barely move for 3 days. I went into serious "what the hell good is it all anyway?" mode and cut waaaaaaay back on the gym obsession.

Since then it's been hard to get back. My ortho just cleared cardio (stationary bike and walking - no running, no elliptical) and lower body, so I'm hoping to go a couple times a week for lower body and stationary bike and hit the park a couple times a week to walk.

But, yeah, my year as a gym rat taught me that I'm never gonna look like one. I was told that a lot of people that year found me "inspirational". Are you cringing? If SHE can do this, surely I can. Yikes.

mujeradelmundo said...

you gave me tears and chills while reading this one...for things Ive felt and could relate to and that realization that we all somehow fall short-not in the size we wear but in the judgements we all make..much needed wake up for all