So when I got home, I went into the bathroom and locked the door. (Remember, this is around second grade - so 7 or 8 years old.) I got a washcloth and I scrubbed at my nose until I thought it looked like that. Maybe if I scrubbed hard enough, I could wipe away all the jokes about the song, “a boy named Sue”, or words like chunky and chubby, or the sooey call. The man at Isaly’s calling me he the day I got my short hair cut.
I woke up the next day and hurried to the mirror. Did it work? Did my nose peel overnight and make me look tan and happy and skinny? No, it was a giant scab. I looked like I’d been in a fight. I can’t remember what I told my mom I’d done. I know I didn’t tell her the truth; that I’d rubbed the skin on the bridge of my nose raw because I didn’t like the way I looked compared to the other girls.
Fifteen years later, I was in college and out with some girlfriends. It was the eighties, so I wore big sweaters with shoulder pads most of the time, which was awesome. But there were girls who were so tiny, compared to me, in their faded jeans and t-shirts, and they got a lot of attention from boys. I burned with envy, just like I had in second grade. Why can’t I look like that?
We would often stop at a 24 hour diner called Lucianno’s after a late night of bars and dancing. I remember on this night I got chicken parmesan and spaghetti, with lots of Italian bread. I got so full I felt sick, but worse yet I was in a full-blown meltdown. If I kept eating so much, I would never be thin, and therefore I would never be happy. I was convinced of this: thin = happy.
So I went home and found the syrup of ipecac my mom had always kept on hand in case of emergency. This was a fat emergency! I couldn’t take having all that food in me, so knowing making myself throw up never worked, I took a dose of ipecac. It took two hours for it to work, but when it did, it didn’t stop. I puked for hours. I hated myself that night more than I think I ever had.
I’ve never told anyone either of those stories.
Before, I probably would have felt too ashamed. But now, after a lot of healing, I am beginning to understand. I feel compassion for that younger, so darn insecure version of me. Here’s what I’ve learned since the first (and last) time I ever tried to get thin by throwing up:
~I learned to receive forgiveness and grace for all the twisted thinking of my past. And I learned to have compassion for my brokenness. I had to share my story and trust that I would be understood and loved.
~Comparison is part of our programming. I used to think I had to stop measuring, but then I heard a powerful message about comparison. The problem isn’t that we compare, it’s what we compare, or measure ourselves by. My mistake growing up was the deep connection I had made between skinny and happy. I kept trying to control and measure my weight or my skinniness or lack of it. But skinny will never mean happy.
~I had to make a shift to things that really matter. Do I understand my worth, regardless of my weight and appearance? Do I know who I am? Not through the eyes of the world, but through the eyes of the spirit? Am I living out my soul’s purpose with confidence that I matter? Those are the questions I ask myself now. And that is what I ask of the women I work with. Not to compare our journeys with one another, because remember: we are all on the same path, just at different places on the path. But rather, to encourage each other to measure the right things and work on the things that matter. Skinniness doesn’t matter and it doesn’t make us happy. The changes we each make to bring our lives more in line with the Truth are what bring health, fitness and happiness.
The really interesting thing is we are all worth the same. Hear me. We all have the same worth.
Physical appearance cannot change it.
Percent body fat cannot change it.
The number on a scale cannot change it.
Age cannot change it.
Relationship status cannot change it.
Having children or not cannot change it.
House, car, paycheck, bank account cannot change it.
Health status cannot change it.
Worth is immeasurable. We are already accepted and loved completely, at any size and shape. The hard part is receiving that and knowing it so deeply that nothing can ever make us doubt it again. That is where the soul must sit. That is the prayer. To live a life that honors the infinite worth that is already you.