I have strong memories of being a kid and always being the ‘new’ kid. I moved around a lot as a youngster, primarily due to my parent’s jobs which means I went to a lot of different schools. As a result, I was always the ‘new kid’. This label is my first real memory of the idea of a notion of separation between myself and others. I was never in one place long enough to really make solid friendships and as a kid, despite the obvious catalyst being relocating in a time pre-social media and easy mobile phone contact, I often felt I was the issue.
Flash forward to my teenage years when I started going through puberty, it became apparent to me very quickly that my body was extremely different from other women in my family (who are naturally slender and petite), as well as the teen idols of that decade. My body was short, my hips wide and my bust not so big. I recall losing weight due to infection complications from an appendix infection/removal op and my parents making a massive deal about ‘keeping that weight off’. That the comments and adoration from people showed me that the less space I occupied, the more celebrated I was. I was set up from a teen to feel like my body was inherently ‘wrong’ in so many ways. But how does this tie into my new kid’s feelings?
My final year of my 20s for me was a mentally and emotionally turbulent one. Behind the scenes I’ve done a lot of work behind closed doors, challenging myself to really look at myself as a whole. Who I am not just outside but also inside. This self-reflection recently bought me to a realization about how my brain processes my own self image struggles and how that impacts my feelings of others.
That realization is the ‘them’ and ‘me’ categories that my brain has been sorting for years behind the scenes, without me realizing. That I’ve been conditioned to see the unrealistic expectations that my physical body cannot be as one group of people and myself as a completely different one. The irony of this is that I often feel alone in my group….even though I have no doubt at all that I have many others in this group with me. This segregation in my head drives the negative self depricating voice that can often ring so loud over everything else: you can never be like ‘them’.
Those that follow me from my weight loss blog days will remember that my losing weight was never easy for me. Maintaining a continuous weight for me is not easy. I can eat ‘the right way’ and be active and my weight will not change. It’s felt in some ways like I’ve been penalized most of my teenage and adult life for my body still not being good enough, even at my smallest. That I should somehow feel apologetic for aspects of my body society deems undesirable. Genetic things that aren’t necessarily easy for me to change or alter. I also don’t want my entire life to revolve around my relationship with gravity. I find it exhausting and emotionally distressing.
I was raised in a family of naturally slender people. Its just their build, their bodies and in some cases health conditions that make them so slender. People that can drop weight with ease and barely any effort. This isn’t their fault of course but being bigger in this sort of environment during those teen years really cemented this ‘them’/’me’ idea.
So how did this come as a realization? Well, I found myself after the past 12 months thinking of what it must be like for ‘them’. Those elusive people who can lose weight easily. Whose bodies function normally. Who find being active and balancing this with life an easy thing. That seem to be so adored and propped up because they reach goals so easily that they feel like not just mountain but mountain ranges for me. People who seem to just fit simply because they physically take up less space on this planet than me.
But the reality I came to as I turned 30 is that no one really is in this ‘them’ group. We all live in a world and culture that tells us daily that we aren’t good enough. That we still could be better physically. That there are still changes we could make. As a result many of us struggle with self esteem issues. Issues with food. Issues with our relationship with our bodies. This them and me mentality is flawed and isn’t actually real. It’s a thought process that we’re told to adopt daily by being told we aren’t enough.
I’m also slowly coming to understand and appreciate that taking up space…..isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Why is it we are told that by being less…that we are more. And that this mentality definitely feeds into the notion of competing with each other, which I absolutely detest.
So I’ve been actively stopping myself from thinking this way. I’ve been focusing on reminding myself that my value doesn’t come from how much or little space I occupy. I’ve been working and looking at ways to heal my relationship with food and my body because honestly spending so much time comparing myself to others and putting myself down is exhausting.
I just wanted to share these thoughts, to perhaps let others know who may have similar feelings or self-sabotaging going on that they aren’t alone. Many of us can feel like this and it’s important sometimes to do a mental check-in and remind ourselves of that.