Friday, October 07, 2005

Who I am

I'm going away to Marrakesh for a while tomorrow and will only be back online later on next week, so I thought I'd try to leave you with something interesting to get a bit of debate going on in the comments hopefully. Problem was, I didn't know what until I read Beverly's comment on my last entry, which really got me thinking.

Isn't it interesting what kind of personas we can adopt when the people we're with don't know our past histories? So, what I want to know is, were you truly being yourself, or were you being the girl you always fancied yourself to be, were she not buried under a layer of fat?

I'd be interested to hear other opinions on this, but I'll start you off with my thoughts.

For me, I never thought about what life would be like to be thin. I never consciously thought "I'd do that if I was thin" or that I'd be a certain sort of person. I wasn't thin, and there was no point on dwelling on what might have been unless I was truly willing to put my heart and soul into doing something to achieve it. I've always taken the view that I live very much for today, in the body I'm in, and I don't complain about things unless I'm willing to do what it takes to change it.

I was never dramatically unhappy with my weight. Not really. Maybe I should have been then I might have done something about it sooner, but maybe doing it this way is better in the long term because the harder I have to work at sorting the problem out, the more ingrained the habits I pick up while doing that will be. I don't think I even realised how my weight coloured my personality and my perception of self. Being fat was who I was, and I didn't think that being any other size (even if I considered that possibility) would change that. I've always had a lack of confidence, and I appreciate now (and probably always did) that it is linked to my size, but I suppose I thought that I'd never be a confident person, no matter what.

The confidence seems to have come in a couple of ways. The first is quite straightforward, if I can do this, I can do anything. Of all the things I've ever tried to do in my life, this is the one where I never dreamed I'd succeed at all, let alone to the extent I have done. If I can run 10k, lose 5 stone, wear a size 14 then what else can I do? And linked to that is the realisation that I'll never find out unless I try. So it's time to take the plunge. I'm finally going to try scuba diving (three years after getting easy access to free lessons and equipment). If I don't like it I don't like it, but if I don't try it, I'll never know. The same with Spanish (it's all paid up now), if I don't go I won't know how useful it is, will I?

I'm far better at taking a compliment as it's meant now. Before, I'd shrug off a compliment as unmeant, or unmerited. I got lucky, or it's sympathy. Now I know I've earned them I can get the confidence boost that comes with them.

The other thing is that I now see myself as far more of a blank canvas to be different people. Dressing up, if you will. When I go shopping I try on clothes in styles I'd never have considered before (OK, styles that weren't available before anyway, but I wouldn't have worn them if they were), and even if I never leave the changing room in them and don't buy them, I can see myself being a range of different people. Before, and I've blogged this or something similar before, my way of thinking was that a fat girl with nice clothes is still a fat girl. That doesn't hold true for everyone, I know, but that was how I thought. Now that I'm not exactly fat, or not obese at least, but not properly thin I kind of feel that my body's more neutral, and that I can dress up, put on a personality for a night, and try it for size. Really trying to explore possibilities to find out who I'm more comfortable being. Confidence comes from that in a way, because the clothes do change my way of seeing myself, and my expectations of how people will react to me. It's playing a role, but maybe I need to do that for a while to find out which role is really me after all my messed up fat inspired thinking.

That comes back to the old "fat" thinking. No matter what I said or did, I thought that people would still judge me for being "fat". Maybe it's rubbish, but if you think that way then you think that way, with justification or not. Now I can think that people listen to what I say, not stare at me wondering exactly how much I had to eat to do that to myself. So I'm willing to say it.

At one point I thought that I didn't stop myself getting so fat to hide, to try to make myself invisible. But I came to realise that there is no hiding when you're fat. Not really. Because even if you can hide your emotions or your hurt beneath the fat rolls, you can never hide the fat itself and it becomes who you are and defines you far more than whatever you were trying to bury.

So I really don't know whether there's a specific personality that's "me" any more. Every second, the person I am at the time is "me", whether it's the underconfident fat girl or the trying on a role for a while slimmed down version. A precious stone has lots of different sides, all reflecting the light in different ways, and that's the way I prefer to see it. There are different parts of me, one might be more visible at any one time, but it's one complete entity. The good and the bad. Just me.


Blogger kathrynoh said...

Firstly, I have to say I love how you can just say that you are going to Marrakesh. I love living in Australia but the one thing I envy about people living in the UK is that they can travel so easily. I have friends living in London atm and they make me so envious with their popping to other countries for the weekend.

I think it's great that you can explore all these new personalities. At the moment, even though I've lost a lot of weight, I know I struggle with seeing myself as a thinner person. When I go out with friends, I'll pick random strangers and ask if I'm fatter or thinner than them. It isn't about fishing for compliments but because I have no concept of my size in the world now.

I think one of the beauties of losing weight is that you get to explore who you really are. The clothes thing is a prime example - when you are overweight it is hard to have a clothing style that isn't "fat girl" (well unless you want to become a full on goth or something).

You make a great point about confidence - it doesn't come from being thinner but the achievements and successes that come with losing weight. Our relationship with food is such a basic one in our lives, as is our relationship with our bodies. If we start viewing these relationships in terms of celebrations and results for efforts put in, then of course we are going to feel a whole heap more confident.

10:58 PM  
Blogger B said...

See, I'm just the opposite. I've always fantasized what my life would be like as a thin person, but I've been morbidly obese all my life. And I'm definitely a "what if" type of person.

It's interesting, being as self-aware as you are now, how little you realized the impact of your extra pounds had on your personality and life throughout the years. But the fact that you are now purposefully trying and doing things that you, as a fat girl, assumed you had no right or privilege to, shows the depth of the incredible progress you've made within yourself.

It's true, what you said about the fat not hiding the person, rather defining him or her. We may use it as a shield, but ultimately, it will only destroy us, physically, psychologically, and emotionally.

The way I see it, you have a clean slate now. A chance to shine and polish each side of this precious stone, and allow the woman you are meant to be to sparkle and dazzle in the light.


2:55 PM  
Blogger K said...

I think I may always have been a multiple-faceted person (although I've never been much thinner than this as an adult). Although there are clothes I wouldn't wear with the body I have now, there aren't really activities I wouldn't try. I'm lucky in that respect.

Sometimes it's bothered me that I don't have a coherent "look", a style that really reflects me. And that as a result of this, I have far too many clothes, because a lot of them don't go with each other. (This is without counting the things I like, but didn't have enough confidence to wear once I got them home, or that I think I'll wear once I lose some weight.)

What Kathryn said about being goth struck a chord, because I've always sort of envied the people who knew who they were sufficiently to commit to one style and be that way all the time.

As a teenager I'd have liked to dye my hair red, or black, but I didn't have the nerve. Now it would be too big a deal because everyone who knows me, knows me as a "natural girl" and it would excite too much comment. Does that make any sense?

And my natural hair colour is OK. Maybe when I go grey.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Lei said...

Thanks for a very thought provoking blog on a very important topic. Most of us struggle with our weight one way or another; some struggle with being overweight, others with being underweight. Our weight affects us in so many different ways. Kudos to you for optimizing yours!

I've found your blog so inspiring that you're the featured blog of the week at the Genetics and Public Health Blog. You can read the entry here:

Exercise and Blog of the Week: Adventures of a Born Again Gym Bunny

All the best! Hsien-Hsien Lei, PhD

2:42 PM  

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