Saturday, June 29, 2013

Youth: We all know it's wasted on the young.

Please disregard the hair and shoes.
Okay the whole outfit!
It was the 80's after all.
Even so, that waistline would be awesome to have today!

It did not help my imagined fear I was fat at all when well-meaning persons would say things to me about my weight.  Inadvertently, two of the men in my life who should have been the most supportive of me also became the most destructive to my self-esteem.  Things were said to me growing up that perpetuated my belief I was fat.  I know they thought they were being helpful at the time, but they were not.  If I was eating a candy bar, for example, one would say, “Should you really be eating that?”  (Oh, and if you think that was a matter of him being helpful because he wanted me to make better eating choices based on his own, um, yeah, no.  Not so much.) On more than one occasion, I was asked by the other if I knew how beautiful I would be if I just “lost five pounds”.  At the time these things were “helpfully” and “lovingly” being said to me, I weighed somewhere in the high 120’s; was around 5’1” tall; and wore generally between the sizes of six and eight.  Man.  I wish I was “that fat” now.
I suppose it helped even less my two best friends in high school were, in my humble opinion, absolutely gorgeous.  They both had slender frames inches taller than mine.  Regardless of any other factors, I always felt inferior even though I loved them and I knew they loved me.  I could even fit into many of their clothes, but I never felt comfortable with the way their clothes framed my body.  They just never seemed to look as good on me as they did on them.  With the constant internal comparisons and the constant inadvertent external degradation, I was doomed.  The neurosis (that often borders psychosis) in the teen female mind consumed so much more energy than it ever should have.  I had lots of good times as a teenager don't get me wrong.  I didn't walk around as a solemn Goth girl who was moody and miserable with life.  On the outside, I was generally a pretty happy teen with a nice smile.  But on the inside, I hated almost everything about myself.  Wasted emotions.  Wasted energy.  Wasted time.  Why did I waste so much being so self critical?
So, I had an imperfect body.  There must have been something good about me/my life.  Right?  Well, let’s run through a list of a few things:
·         I was an A/B student who graduated with honors and a 3.6 GPA in high school.  (This at a time when honors courses and AP courses were just coming into regular use in high schools.  When I transferred to my high school, many of my fellow students had already had the opportunity to begin taking high school courses in the 8th grade.  I was not given this option at the school I previously attended.)
·         I was involved in many extracurricular activities through school including my prized appointment as an editor two years in a row for the school paper.
·         I performed community service frequently through my church youth group often working with the homeless and the poor.
·         I began babysitting at age 11 for numerous families, and was the youngest ever camp counselor at our church’s camp.  I also watched nursery in the church for several years.
·         I began a “real” job at age 15.  (Since the age of 15, I have only been “unemployed” for about two and a half years in the last 23.  Over two years of that by choice after the birth of my first child and the adoption of our last two children.)
·         I always had an amazing group of friends.  (To this day, I’m still friends with many of the friends I made in high school.  I love them like sisters and they’ve been with me through so much across the years and across the miles.  I’m fortunate to have kept these wonderful long-term relationships for almost 25 years; a couple of similar long-term relationships from college for over 20 years; and some long-term friendships from my current career that have spanned over the last decade.)
·         Then there were the boys.  I almost always had a boyfriend.  Some were good choices, and then there were those that weren’t so good.  I never seemed to lack options for dating.  Although I generally wound up being the broken hearted one, I broke a few hearts back in the day, too.
·         Family.  Dysfunctional as it was on the whole, my family has always been extremely important to me.  I always had a large extended family surrounding me.  Regardless of divorce, 99.9% of the time I knew I was loved.

As I lay it out like that, it seems like a pretty impressive list.  I look at it now and I think, “Wow, she was one well rounded kid with a lot going on.”  Sad that back then none of those things, singly or combined, could squelch the overwhelming belief that I was less than others.  The most obvious derivative for the abyss of my teenage self-loathing?  Ah, must be the old tried and true parents divorcing gig.  That was cause for a lot of pain to be sure.  Honestly though, more so than any other issue in my life, a negative self-image and distorted view of my body led me to more unhappiness than anything else during my teenage years.  And more drunken nights and bad choices in college stemmed from my broken self than I care to admit.  
But I will.

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