Earning the right to live

“Most of us seem to believe that we have to EARN the right to live.” ~Patsy Nevins

This quote, in a comment for this post by commenter Patsy Nevins, has really struck a chord with me and been jingling around in my mind ever since, demanding its own post on the many ways we, as human beings, struggle to feel we must work to earn the right to exist.  First though, a bit of blog-style basics; then I’ll get back on topic I promise.

It seems that my post yesterday really struck a chord with many folks.  Not only does my little WordPress Dashboard show an amazing SPIKE in blog views but the comments were really very interesting: very pensive and many thoughtful things were and still are being said.

If you’re new to the blog: welcome! I enjoy discussions and look forward to your take on any of the self-acceptance issues I bring up. If you’re just stopping by to tell me I’m Obese and therefore lazy or undeserving of basic human respect; not only have you missed the entire point of this blog but you are truly reinforcing my decision to send all new comments to the moderation queue for approval first!  It is one thing to disagree with points I make; quite another to spew hateful bile all over my Internet Home here.  But as long as you’re not part of the latter crowd then we won’t have any troubles!

If you’re a long-time reader (as long as can be said for my blog at least): welcome back today!

With the “basics” out of the way above; let’s address the main point of today’s musings: how often many of us feel pressured (by outside forces or even our own internal self-flagellation) to PROVE that we have the right to be around; the right to breathe and take up space on the planet: the right to live life without being constantly harassed.

Take a quick glance through any news site online or click through a few commercials on TV (heck if you’re a fan of print then flip through a magazine or newspaper).  Now click or flip through again; only this time take note of the sheer volume of advertisements, op-ed pieces and reports on “studies” which are bent on telling you you’re never perfect.

You’re not pale enough, smooth enough, smart enough, rich enough, happy enough, working out enough or eating just right.  Or you just don’t weigh enough/the right amount.  After all, everyone can benefit from a simple 10% decrease in weight, right? When does that end? Do people not realize when reading such declarations in an ad that such things apply to EVERYONE? That this means the suggestion is for Every Single Person to lose just “10%” of their weight in order to enjoy Life’s Bounty?  Not just a Headless Fatty or some Other Person; this means YOU, everyone.

Yet that moves beyond even the confining restrictions of the BMI: saying 10% means no matter WHAT you weigh: YOU ARE NEVER DONE LOSING.  When does the need to change; to conform stop?  When do you finally WIN?  When does a life lived in peace and happiness and acceptance without the judgments of others thrust upon your body? When does life finally become your prize for all that “hard work”??

So many of us already know what it feels like to diet or exercise in an attempt to gain that coveted feeling of acceptance.  Working out becomes some sort of rite of passage.  Beyond the sweat-filled doors of fatigued tribute to the gods of slavish exercise in the name of Thin lies the promised land of Normal, Accepted, Well-adjusted Human who Finally Deserves to Live Life as they Want to.  Cutting calories becomes a similar payment for entrance into the Yea! Everyone Leaves me the Frick Alone Finally club. Yet, as many of us who have traveled these paths for so long without lasting success already know, the process is never done.  You never quite GET to the finish line.

This sort of pervasive attitude that “No matter what, you’re a work in progress” is what I feel makes so many people so insecure (and what possibly triggers so many of the defensive lashings against Fat Folks like myself who stick to their guns to declare “No.  I will no longer pay homage to the lords and ladies of Diets, Weight Loss as Happiness and Exercise as Punishment for Fat.  You can certainly continue to do so but it will never get you where you want to be emotionally so stop trying to drag me down with you”): and who can fault them/us?

How is it possible to find the level of confidence we’re supposed to be presenting to show our best face to the world; when that same world is constantly reminding us that no matter what we may do; we’ll never QUITE be “enough”; we’ll never REALLY PROVE that we’re doing everything just right.  Add in a few cases of folks just up and changing the rules on us and it’s a wonder anyone can make it through a day without at least once asking themselves, even subconsciously “Do I have the right now? Have I done enough to deserve good treatment, a happy life, basic respect?  Am I good enough?  Or at least not That Bad anymore???”

Self-respect and acceptance has a lot to do with truly finding comfort in who you are RIGHT NOW.  Yet with so many forces around us convincing us that no matter what who we are RIGHT NOW we always have work to do; how do we even GET to feel comfortable with who we are?? It is a vicious cycle of “I’m not good enough.  I’ll work harder.  But I still need to give at least 10% more.  So I’m STILL not good enough. I’ll work harder…..”  Round and round and at the end who has won?  You’ve worked into a lather, may even lost that weight…and still you’re told that you have further to go… And woe befall the fat person who is feeling lazy or like eating out in public: the have sinned against the Church of Thin and need constant reminders of how they should be pushing themselves to look even MORE hard working than their thinner peers.

Perhaps this sort of physical martyrdom mentality we all seem to internalize is a throwback to puritanism (you don’t complain, God gave you these trials for a reason; you must endure without complaint and try to do MORE) that is really damaging to a lot of minds and therefore bodies as we each try to push to do things we really shouldn’t/can’t without causing ourselves harm; just to prove that we are invulnerable; not mortal.

Maybe it’s thanks to folks like Richard Simmons who love to tell us that we should live with the mantra “No pain, no gain!”  But I disagree.  Pain is pain.  There is no gain in forcing yourself to levels of pain in an attempt to find acceptance.  Because no matter how hard you may push yourself to prove you’re not One of THOSE Fatties; you’ll be told you’re a liar or, at best, be seen as Still a Work in Progress.

This is the sort of thinking that needs to be changed.  None of us need to EARN the right to live.   We need to turn the focus of our anger from people we feel aren’t doing enough to deserve basic human dignity and instead blast the folks who benefit from convincing us all that, no matter what: we are Never. Quite. Good Enough.

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12 thoughts on “Earning the right to live

  1. This is a great post, April, & I am very honored to have inspired such wise & passionate writings. You are learning vital life lessons at a much younger age than many of us manage to do. It is only recently that I have started to feel as if I am deserving of life, love, happiness, respect…just as I am. It didn’t even need the culture & the media, though they certainly inflicted great harm & pain. I was born plain, disabled, near-sighted, with a strong tendency to be round, to two of the sickest, most abusive human beings to ever walk the planet, so, for me, that “I am never good enough & never CAN be good enough” feeling was fostered from birth, the constant refrain that I was defective, &, from my father, the heavily reinforced message that I LITERALLY did not deserve to live…indeed, he actually attempted to remove me from the earth.

    But even those, especially women, who did not grow up with that still have been given the message by the entire culture…&, in many cases, more subtlely than I was, by parents & siblings, even loving ones…that they are never good enough….just NEVER ENOUGH period, except, of course, that we are TOO MUCH physically.

    Thanks again for speaking up & trying to help us recognize that we are good enough & do not have to EARN life. And, if I am a bit long-winded in comments, it is partly that I naturally love to talk & write, & partly that I was silenced, humiliated, & ignored for so damn long!

    • Patsy you can always feel free to be verbose here! Not only because no one deserves to be silence but because your words quite often encourage me to continue to seek out and propose ways that we should all be working to accept ourselves and others AS we ARE.

  2. So True ! You hit the fat nail, on the fat head. Being “less than” is such a part of our culture now, even the skinny girls are being given a hard time. Not that I feel a bit sorry for them (sorry… but I just can’t) even though it would be the grown up thing to do.

    • Thanks Twistie. And rowdygirl it does seem to be a pretty pervasive part of the norm now for EVERYONE to feel they need to improve; regardless of how they actually rate on the arbitary scale of Fat-Thin crafted via BMI. Personally I feel sorry for all of us as a part of an entire system that thrives on telling all of us that we will never, never be “enough” of anything to deserve the happiness so glibly offered right next to articles decrying how awful those spots of cellulite or age or non-pale-non-youthful-non-perfectly smooth areas of our bodies are… Happiness is something we only get if we reach that “Zero Change Needed” level. Unfortunately it seems our Graph of Change is a Normal Distribution and never WILL reach zero…so no happy for anyone at the end of the day…

  3. (stands up and applauds)

    I literally have nothing to add. This is absolutely…I’m speechless with the clarity and passion and accuracy of it.

  4. I love this post, you can really feel the convection in your heart. I love the fact that you stand up for yourself and others. Once again you have made a wonderful post and a VERY good point.
    What is skinny enough? It seems that it is never enough and meanwhile people strive so hard to be like everyone else thinks they should be, that they loose all sense of who they are.

    In turn they forget all the wonderful things that make them special. It seems like the hope to be a Barbie or Ken has diminished the true beauty that, I feel, lives in all of us. Very good post, very inspiring.

  5. Ironical isn’t it? Feeling like you’re less then perfect when in fact you are more than perfect?

    My mantra, since a few years, is: No punishing myself. Only love for myself from now on. Which is not easy, because everyone feels miserable from time to time, and yes society does rub it in our face that we’re not perfect. Truth is, perfection is boring. Our flaws make us interesting.

    And besides, a lot of “flaws” are not flaws at all, they’re just original aspects, things not everyone has. Which doesn’t mean they’re bad at all.

    Loving yourself is not an easy thing to learn, I’m not nearly there by a long shot. But I think it starts by accepting that you’re not like everyone else, and that’s ok.

  6. Being an original is the best thing you can be. We need to embrace our ‘flaws’ & come to realize that they are not ‘flaws’, but unique gifts who make us who we are. It would be a far poorer, sadder, & blander world if we all looked as if we came off an assembly line. I am not a robot, I am not a Stepford Wife, I am a special, beautiful, one-of-a-kind human being & there never has been, nor will there ever will be, another exactly like me. It has taken me a long time to fully realize & accept this, but why should I want to be a third-rate imitation of someone else when I can be a first-rate ME?

    I watch little tv, aside from the Weather Channel, the occasional cooking show, & some animation I love (I like animation much better than live action), I seldom watch movies (except again animation or something like Harry Potter) & I read a lot, mostly fantasy (Terry Pratchett in particular) or good, meaty, character-driven mysteries or fun cozies, usually set in Maine, where I live. Cutting way back on commercial tv has done wonders for my body image, self-esteem, & overall progress in fat acceptance. There is very little in television or movies which is body positive & fat accepting. I think that the last straw for me was when I saw a commercial for the new Oxygen (Oprah Winfrey’s network, what can we expect?) show called, “Dance Your Ass Off”, featuring a beautiful fat actress named, if I recall, Marissa Janet Winokur, all about fat beautiful (& some who only THINK they are) dancing to see who can lose the most weight. As I said, I don’t watch much, but I do know that this young woman has done some positive fat characters & this whole thing saddens me. I won’t that either, for the same reason that I refuse to watch any diet/WLS commercials or blurbs on ‘medical’ shows or cable networks about the ‘obesity epidemic.’ I am trying to concentrate on positive things, trying to collect what little fat-positive literature I can find, & maintain a strong sense of myself. Mostly what the media does is reinforce the idea that we must constantly, as I said originally, EARN the right to live, that we must buy PRODUCT & try to make ourselves over in order to do so. If I am lucky, I may have another 20 or 30 years left, & I will not buy into that dysfunction any more.

  7. Obviously, I mean ‘fat people’, guess the typo came from my reaction the one & only time I saw much of the commercial before clicking the remote, that the people they showed were beautiful as they are.

    Also, I want to add that even trying to watch cooking shows can be a minefield & I frequently turn them off, since they tend to often be so loaded with words such as ‘healthy’, ‘light’, ‘waistband-friendly’, ‘figure-friendly’, with even someone as food-loving & generally Bacchanalian as Paula Deen calling some recipes ‘sinful’ or bemoaning the fact (mistaken, btw) that her favorite fruit, the banana, is somehow ‘fattening.’ As I said, truly fat-positive or enlightened tv is scarcer than the dodo bird.

    • Patsy I really have to agree with just how refreshing it is to not watch as much mainstream media. For me it is simply a matter of watching what we like without the commercials (taping ahead of time) and it makes a WORLD of difference mentally to watch something you enjoy without being interrupted every 3 minutes with “Buy our NEW product that will Make You Better!” being shouted at you!

  8. Pingback: So, just who am I trying to impress anyway? « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

  9. Pingback: No. I DON’T give a shit about your “Weight Loss Diary”. Let me explain… « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

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