February 1, 2015

What We Believe Shapes Us

Lately I've been saying I'm on a health journey, but in a lot of ways this sounds kind of funny. Life is a journey regardless of our health. But when I say I'm on a health journey, what I mean is that I'm more focused on my health than I might have been in the past. Maybe calling it a journey is fitting because I was at point A. and I'm trying to get to point B.

Also, it sounds better to say I'm on a health journey than I'm on a health kick, on a diet, or 'shedding for the wedding.' And while part of me is really excited to be able to say I'm on this journey, another part of me is just disgusted to be here.

My whole life has had lots of peaks and valleys concerning my health, specifically my weight, starting all the way back in 6th grade when a kid named Scott said I was fat. Who is Scott? Just a random guy I went to school with. He wasn't particularly mean or anything, but as fate would have it, his words helped to guide me down a path that I wish I'd never been on.

It was your average Friday night in 1994 and my friend Nell and I were calling boys. Before cell phones and the Internet (you probably remember it), pre-teen girls used to call boys from landline phones on Friday and Saturday nights. At least we did.

And this particular night, we called Scott.

Nell actually called him up to find out if he had a crush on our friend Jen. And while she had him on the phone, we decided to take stock of his opinions about other people we knew, if certain guys were dweebs, if particular girls were cute, etc. Then I pretended to get off the phone so Nell could ask him what he thought of me.

"Kate's fat," he said, nonchalantly.

I was devastated. This was a completely new revelation to me. Up until that moment, it never occurred to me that I might be fat. "Was I fat?" I wondered. And even if I hadn't been before, was I now that he said it was true?

I'm not sure why we cared so much about his opinions, although I think he just happened to be the guy we had called. And I'm not sure why his saying I was fat was such a big deal to me. But it was. I mean, it's obvious how much of an impact it made if I can still remember the whole experience in great detail.

It's hard to sum up the next twenty years after that night. Let's just say they included a lot of bizarre fad diets, shopping in the plus size department, well-meaning lectures from my dad about the importance of a regular exercise regimen, and cupcakes....oh the cupcakes.

It's not that I blame a 6th grade boy for my body image issues. There were plenty of other contributing factors that created a warped sense of my self-worth. But that's at least the first memory I can go back to where I felt like there was something wrong with my body and how I looked. Before that, I was just innocently oblivious.

What we believe about ourselves shapes us in ways we don't even realize. Growing up, I was made to feel pretty wonderful by my family. They told me I was smart and they told me I was talented. They told me I could do anything I wanted to do in life. And I believed them. Thank goodness I had such positive stuff poured into me from an early age. I like to think that carried me through a lot of other times, when I believed things about myself that were much less positive.

Like how I was surely fat, if a 6th-grade boy said I was. That belief took hold of me and hasn't let go. Which is why I'm on this dang health journey today. And seriously, I'm not blaming him. I was heavier than some of the other kids and I'm sure someone else would have made note of this eventually.

But what makes me the saddest is that this created a belief in me that my value was diminished.

And this is just ridiculous. Our value can't be diminished. Period. End of story. And even as you read those words and somewhere deep down in your heart you know they are true, there's still that small voice that says, "but if I were only [thinner, richer, prettier, more successful, etc] my value would be greater.

Not possible.

Your value couldn't be greater.

It's like infinity.

Nothing you do can add to it and nothing you don't do can take away from it. I wish I had understood this in the 6th grade.

And by the way, when I first sat down to write this post it was going to be about my first time taking a Zumba class. I guess some of this other stuff just wanted to come out. So there you go.

And that's where I am on my journey.

Where are you?