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Here's a (probably very bad para...

Posted Sep 22 2008 10:59am

Here's a (probably very bad paraphrase) of an Eleanor Roosevelt quote: No one has the power to make me feel insecure except myself.

Ok, so I know I don't have it exactly right, but it's the spirit that's important, and I've got that right...

I thought of that quote when I read Super Egg's comment. I reflected on the millions of times my clients have had things said about their bodies, their weight, their food or exercise... and how lousy it feels to be on the receiving end of such comments.

I also remembered one of the first posts I wrote for this blog, one about having gone into the bank, and someone who worked there remarked (after finding out what I do for a career) how she'd "just like to get anorexia for a few months, just to lose some weight." My post was about how appalled I was that someone could misunderstand an eating disorder so profoundly, how she could have such a superficial and glib view of a devastating illness.

It's important (for all of us, not just those of us who suffer from eating disorders) to remember that people make all kinds of comments, for all kinds of reasons. Many, many times, things people say have more to do with them, their world view, their own issues and/or perspectives, than the person they are commenting to.

We live in a society that is fixated on being "thin" and what we've "determined" that means (thin = good, not thin = not good). Because of that, members of our society are constantly trying to achieve "sufficient thinness," and end up being envious of people who appear to have succeeded at that goal (and often romanticize those people's lives- think those people have "perfect" lives). So, Super Egg, if you are thin, restrict (or, as someone who doesn't understand what an eating disorder is will say: "have discipline about your food and weight) your eating, or any other behaviors that seem to "propel you towards that sufficiently thin milestone" you'll frequently find someone "admiring" those behaviors, telling you about their admiration, and often being jealous about it.

This is a sad fact about the culture we live in. And it makes it all the more difficult for people who suffer from eating disorders to see how ill they are and to begin to turn their disorder around toward recovery. Time after time when I'm trying to explain to someone that she's in danger medically, she'll say, "but everyone at school says I look great." And that's probably true in a lot of cases. And it is SO not helpful.

I get very discouraged about this, and mad that I can't change the world. What I can do, however, is to remind myself, and help others be aware, that we need to take a broad view of what people say to us and why they may be saying it.

Super Egg, the power you have in situations like those you mentioned is to remember what you know to be true (and ask people who you really trust, if you forget) and work to stay true to that knowledge, no matter what someone is saying. This is particularly important if the person commenting to you is someone you don't know very well, or someone who doesn't know or understand you well. In general, the less we know the commenter, and the less they know and/or understand the real us, the more the comment will be about them and their experience, and less about what is real for us. So, in general, the reverse is also true: the more the commenter truly understands us and knows us, the greater the chance the comment is really about us, the greater the chance the comment holds some truth, and the more we should listen and keep an open mind about what is being said.

I hope this makes sense and goes some distance toward answering your question, Super Egg. Please ask for clarification, or ask further questions if I didn't get to what you were asking about.

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