As some of you may know, over at Libero Magazine we've started a movement called #StopFitspiration (you can find out about thathere) and, as is evident in my previous post. This past week, however, the criticism was turned on me personally. And they brought out the big guns: they called me fat. More specifically, they said (in a nusthell): "No wonder, just saw the author and she's so fat! Clearly she's just jealous of us and that's why she's against what we do." Yep. Oh, and the next day it continued with stuff about me and McDonald's and sitting on my ass etc etc. But that's not what this post is about...A funny thing happened to me amidst all of this; I'd always known that criticism breeds insecurity in it's recipient, but what I hadn't realized before was that it can breed pride as well...
This was the first time I’ve been called ‘fat’ since entering into recovery. Let me just clarify something: no matter who you are, it sucks to be called names.And it really sucks to be called fat. But when you are someone in recovery from an Eating Disorder (no matter how far along you are in your recovery), being called fat opens up a whole other can of worms (sorry for the cliche…) Suddenly, that evil voice inside your head takes on physical form – in the presence of your Bully (because, let’s face it, that’s what they are), and all those words you’ve had bouncing around in your head, those voices you’ve literally been trained to ignore, take on physical form as well – either verbal, or in written word. You weren’t trained for this. You weren’t prepared for this.
And then it becomes hard to differentiate between the two: is that ED talking? Because it came from real people. Is it really a lie if it’s coming from a source other than ED? Like Demi Lovato says, “I thought: They’re strangers, they have no reason to lie to me – so they must be telling the truth…”
And it’s not just ED. We all have voices in our head that tell us we aren’t good enough, that play off our insecurities and further intrench them, that spew out lies day in and day out (psst! listen to Jon Foreman’s “Against the Voices“) – and when others’ words seem to match up with these voices, well that just brings them to life.
See, I don’t really talk about this, but one of my biggest fears has always been that my appearance will inhibit me from achieving my goals: to encourage/support those in recovery. Not because I’m insecure about my body, but because people who are struggling from an Eating Disorder have a skewed perception of what ‘healthy’ should look like. So I’ve always been afraid that people would look at me and think, “Well, if THAT’S what recovery looks like, then I sure as HELL don’t want it!” And on this night, with that one tweet, it felt like my biggest fears had come to life…
And so my insecurities grew rampant. And I became terrified; because for someone recovering from an Eating Disorder to be called “Fat”, well, that’s what relapses are made of…
I won’t go into details about how I fought off ED, because I talk about that in the video posted below and it’s a bit ‘off topic’ for this site. But I will say this: I was triggered, I was tempted, and I was about to give in. And then I realized something. I realized that you can’t control your feelings – and you shouldn’t; feelings are just feelings – what you can control is how you respond to your feelings. So, yes, I was hurt. Anyone would be. And I couldn’t control that. BUT I could control what I did next.
And so I came to this decision:
Just because they hurt me with their words, that doesn’t mean that I am going to now hurt myself. Because at some point the cycle has to stop. And so I decided it was going to stop at me.
So I let myself feel sad, and even a little angry, but I didn’t let the insecurity that their words bred push me to the ground. Instead, I got up and kept going…
Here’s the thing, when you are under attack – call it what you want: ‘dark forces’ ‘fate’ ‘Mother Nature’ ‘Michael Jackon’s Spirit’ etc. – you don’t just get hit once and then you get back up and the attack stops. Nope. Typically it doesn’t work that way. And over the last few days, with the failure of Insecurity’s attempts to take me down, another opponent appeared – I could sense it right away- Pride.
See, pride can inhibit us just as much as insecurity, or maybe even more – I’ll have to get back to you on that…
People always say that you know you’re doing something right when people start rising up against you. And this is true. If we weren’t getting any criticism for #StopFitspiration, then we’d have to wonder if there was even a need for the movement at all. However, accepting the ’roundabout compliment’ that criticism provides can very quickly transform into what I call a ‘celebrity complex’: WOW! Look at me! People I don’t even know are taking the time to talk about ME. I must be doing something pretty amazing – look at all my ‘haters’! You know, Christina Aguilera has a lot of critics. So does Mark Zuckerberg. I’m in some pretty good company…
Suddenly insecurity is replaced with pride (or possibly breeds it as a form of self-protection?) and you are deemed just as preoccupied and useless as you could’ve been by thinking you were the ugliest scum on earth. And the voices in your head – they’ve won. Just in a much sneakier way.
I’m afraid I don’t have anything ‘profound’ to conclude this post with. But maybe just to encourage you to do a little self-reflecting: Are you letting criticism sink in? Are you believing the lies and letting them take root and breed insecurity? Or are you possibly giving in to the other extreme: becoming puffed-up and proud because of ‘all your critics’?
Remember, like I said before: words are just words. And in the same way that we shouldn’t let them tear us down, we shouldn’t let them raise us up too high, either. And how you respond to them, that is in your control.
Remember that the next time someone calls you [fat]. I know I will.