By Arline Rowden ©
I’ve felt like a victim in life, blamed others, held onto resentments and stayed stuck in the pain that I was feeling. I tried stuffing feelings and distracting myself with activities. In therapy, I tired emoting, which I was told would release the emotions. I tried forgiving people. And I accumulated more hurtful experiences through the years.
Eventually, a teacher helped me to look at life in a different way. He shared that we need to accept and learn from life experiences in order to release emotions. I don’t feel it means that we excuse the behavior of the person who hurt us or that it minimizes the pain experienced. Holding onto the pain was hurting me.
By understanding human nature, especially instinctive nature, I have been able to change my perspective in many situations. When a person is in emotional pain, they often do or say something mean spirited. And it’s often directed at someone younger, smaller or weaker and at someone who just happens to be there when they can’t stand the pain inside anymore. They are triggered by something inside of themselves more than by the person that they targeted.
Recently, I went back and reviewed all that I’ve learned about this subject when I needed to explore another issue in my life. It is a core issue for me in this lifetime. It’s around weight/body image and it’s connected to my life as a woman. I started to remember so many issues that were connected. One of the first was when my mother took me to our family doctor because she thought I needed to lose weight when I was 12 years old. The doctor gave me a 1,000 calorie diet and diet pills. I did lose weight but the next year I grew 5 inches. So that might have taken care of the weight issue.
When I look at pictures of myself thru the age of 18, I wasn’t fat, but I wasn’t thin like my older sister, Sharon. My mother’s motivation to have me lose weight was based on Sharon being prom queen and we were going to see her being crowned at the prom. My mother wanted me to have a cute new outfit for the occasion. Appearance was always important to my mother, as it is for many women.
The prescription for the diet pills was open ended and I could have it refilled without ever going to the doctor again. I took them off and on until I was 21 and then just discarded the bottle. I had taken them not just to suppress my appetite but to give me more energy for the farm work I had to do. As a result, I hurt my back when lifting heavy hay bales.
In my sophomore year of high school, I managed to lose 20 pounds and yet didn’t feel as though I was thin enough. I continued to gain and lose weight for most of my life. I never felt thin enough to ever stop dieting but would give up, go off the diet and gain back weight. Then about 20 years ago I decided to not ever go on a diet again and stopped weighing myself. I just focused on staying in the same size clothes. I have one pair of white slacks that I don’t wear a lot that I bought in 1999. I would try them on every year to see if they still fit and they have every year.
There were many times that people said mean spirited things to me about my weight/body and the world reflected the attitude that as a woman you had to be thin. I was very resentful towards many people and the world in general around this issue. In a way, staying “fat” was my way of saying F.U. to the world. And in the business world, I realized that I had to do a lot more than men in order to achieve success. I could share more examples but most women have their own stories of discrimination.
A few months ago, I decided to shift to a healthier way of eating but not focusing on losing weight. I am exploring what I needed to accept in order to begin to heal this core issue. In order to resolve this resentment issue, I needed to change my perspective about the people and the culture that I felt had hurt me. I came back to the understanding that when someone is in pain they often say or do mean spirited things to try to relieve their pain. I’ve been working on accepting that by admitting that when I have been in pain in the past I’ve done and said mean spirited things to others. Cultural attitudes take time to change but I can stop participating in believing that I need to be thin to be okay. It’s a work in progress but I feel I have a start on resolving it.