I just got back from a long weekend down in DC visiting family. So I only just now got to read the most recent set of PostSecret postcards. And there is one that I just have to say hit me like a wonderful “Oh My God that’s ME!” bomb. While I didn’t write or send this card; it could have been from my hand.
I LOVE the way that this card so well combines the tentative steps forward taken towards self confidence (“kinda hot”) with the angry distinct refusal to continue with the self hatred and destruction of self-esteem that has been such a part of this person’s life for so many years.
I also love this card because it is a beautiful and timely reminder of just what it is that I’m doing here. Namely that I’m working to undo and rebuild my own self confidence as I creep towards my own 30th birthday this fall.
I say this was timely because after a long weekend with my family I can’t help but feel myself struggling to climb back up out of the crazy and twisted depths of food despair that I’ve been enmeshed in for 4 long days. I certainly know where I get my hangups about food; that’s for sure! It was nice to spend the time agreeing to NOT venture into topics of political concern; about which we are all of vastly differing opinions with little ability to discuss topics without devolving into shouting matches.
What wasn’t nice was being at the mercy of people who think a cup of coffee counts as “breakfast” and that eating brunch, followed by popcorn at a movie, followed immediately by dinner is at all normal or even desirable. Likewise I found it frustration just how prevalent the constant push for each and every person to endlessly list out their least desirable qualities, to innumerable the many ways in which they fail to meet current beauty standards or behavior expectations was. The snide way that “Look what you’ll have to deal with” was thrown out there to my husband in reference to my mother was only partially stopped by my response, “You mean that he’ll have to deal with me when I am beautiful, intelligent and cute? Thanks!” How detrimental it felt to be surrounded by people who not only feel heart and soul that being fat or not conventionally attractive/thin means that you’ve somehow fallen short of your potential.
The many food and body-hating habits, actions and words, that I was exposed to again this weekend did not fully drain my reserves of self-respect or my understanding of my own rebuilding self-esteem. It did, however, push them to the limit. I can see how easy it would be to be sucked back into that negative quagmire spiral of self-hatred and food fears; that odd roller-coaster of food avoidance countered with food overload. Those days spent harping every few moments about some negative aspect of one’s body or eating habits or exercise habits, trying to either defend or deride them are thankfully mostly behind me.
Yet these few days with the family environment in which I learned such behaviors brought the memories, almost visceral in nature, come crashing back with a vengeance. And I won’t lie. It was difficult not to get sucked back into conversations about how salt would be the evil upon which my sinful life and enduring fatness would forever be hinged. Or talks about how great it is to exercise but that we must always need more (you know, because if you’re not thin; ipso facto you are not doing ENOUGH). So I can truly appreciate how difficult it can and would be to build up your own self esteem enough to feel that you could even get to the point of thinking and even writing down “I feel kinda hot”. For me the negative environment of food conflictions and body-loathing as par-for-the-course that I re-visited this weekend was a very harsh reminder of just how difficult it IS to break out of ingrained cycles. And is one of the reasons that this PostSecret card hit me so strongly this morning.
Crap self esteem? 20 plus YEARS of crap self esteem?? Who needs it? As the card writer asserts: Fuck That!
So I say, even if all you CAN get to is the point where you can write or even think “I feel KINDA hot”; celebrate that achievement for the truly miraculous thing it is in this world. As I think this grinning photo from a great trip to Medieval Times down near DC this weekend (one of the great moments of the weekend, food and body hang-ups aside) shows; I think I can say that I too feel pretty hot. And not just “I’m in DC and it is a million f-ing degrees with 110% humidity” hot either. Oh, and for those interested I’m actually wearing this dress in a coral pink color which you can just barely see a bit of under my left arm in the photo.