“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.