In my senior year of college, I signed up for a 100-level Speech class called “Interpersonal Communication.” Admittedly, most of the attendees of this class, including myself, were taking it as an elective. The teacher was an eccentric 60’s era lady who talked about things like the dangers of pesticides. It was a slack-off class. No, really, I know that it probably makes me look bad to say that, but it’s true. I’ll admit it: I never bought the book for that class, and I never read any of the readings unless you count reading someone else’s book really quickly during our “group discussion.”
It was also one of the most memorable classes I ever took in college.
It changed my life.
On the first day of class, we sat in a circle, took out blank notecards, and wrote down our initial observation/thoughts about the people in the class. We hadn’t spoken to them; we didn’t know who they were. We wrote down our first impression. The professor gathered these notecards and gave each of us the stack of cards with our name on it – we read everyone’s first impressions of us…
Out loud…In front of everyone. And people were VERY honest on these notecards.
They were not about my weight. Not a single one of them.
They were not about my being worthless.
They were not about my imperfections.
They did not call me ugly, they did not say that I talked too much, they did not call me fat or point out that my jeans were so tight that I had that weird creasey thing that happens sometimes on the upper thighs. They didn’t point out that my clothes didn’t fit, my glasses made me look weird, my eyebrows needed to be plucked…
I remember how shocked I was with the first impressions that most people had about me.
They were positive.
They were about my smile, assuming me to be friendly, and saying that I came across as a happy person.
People implied that they’d want to get to know me more. And these were NOT my typical friends. These were athletes, popular men and women…these were people who I always felt were above me and could never want to actually get to know me.
That was the first time in my life that I ever questioned whether or not the things I told myself were really true. That was the first time that I ever realized that…maybe…just maybe…I was wrong about myself, and those things that I always thought people were thinking about me…were actually only the things I thought about myself.
That was when I began analyzing the lies I tell myself. I can’t share them all here; that would take about a billion pages. But, I’ll share some. You can add your own to the list.
Lie #1: Everyone sees my fat first.
Truth? Everyone sees their own weight before ever seeing mine. Do some people judge my weight? Probably. But usually the only reason people judge anyone’s weight ties back into their own personal issues.
Lie #2: My weight determines my value.
Truth? My character, especially how I treat other people, determines my value. I’m going to write a whole other blog on this lie. It’s a big one; it’s the MAIN one, really.
Lie #3: I am too fat to be loved.
Truth? I am loved and WORTHY of love no matter what my appearance may be.
Lie #4: I am too fat to eat in front of people.
Truth? Everybody eats. It is not something to be ashamed of; the vast majority of people are not paying attention to what you’re eating.
Lie #5: Gaining Weight = Failure; Losing Weight = Success.
Truth? I might need to write a whole blog about this one, too. This one is the biggest pitfall to every diet I’ve ever tried (and there have been many). The truth is that my successes and failures are NOT determined by a number.
Let me say it again very clearly.
If you’ve ever given up, thrown in the towel, and walked away from a diet – You Have Not Failed
If you’ve ever gone on a binge – You Have Not Failed
If you’ve ever gained all the weight back PLUS some – You Have Not Failed
There is no such thing as failure in a weight loss journey. There are ups, downs, and straight lines on the scale; each of them is only one thing: A Number.
Likewise, success is something far apart from a number. Success is when you decide to try again. Success is when you go to your weigh in even though you really don’t want to. Success is when you run in the rain. Success is when you set your mind to something and do it. Oh, and by the way, not succeeding…is NOT failing.
These are lies I told myself for years. These are the lies that kept me from loving myself and from being happy. I still catch myself lying to me sometimes, and I have to stop myself and remember the truth.
As for those first impressions my classmates wrote about me? I kept them. I still have them somewhere in my stash of things. I used to take them out and read them to remind myself that I cannot know what others are thinking. And that, frequently, they are not thinking about me what I am thinking about myself.
Except, of course, when I’m thinking “Hey, self? You’ve got a great smile.”