Saturday, June 28, 2008

Criticism...It Sucks, Doesn't It?

I must be PMSing. Wait, no…it’s just the way I am.

Someone described my arms as “chicken wings” the other day and I got pissed and actually cried. Not much – just a little tear in the corner of my eye accompanied by a big lip, but still. I freaking cried! Why would something as silly as my arms being described as chicken wings make me cry?

Maybe it’s because when I went to the zoo earlier in the day with my daughter and granddaughter, I saw the elephants and observed their skin and realized that I have similar wrinkly skin patterns in the crease of my arms and I got sad that I missed the boat on smooth, even skin because I spent so many years overweight and obese.

Flog, flog, flog.

The same thing happened when my legs were described as “toothpicks” on national television. I heard it as a criticism, as something about me that didn’t satisfy someone else. This has been a pattern all my life. God forbid something about me is flawed and people notice.

Being overly critical of myself is selfish in many ways. The energy I spend worrying what people think of me could be better spent cultivating compassion for others and helping people feel better about themselves. I’m working on it, though, and hope that by writing about it, I’m encouraging my readers think more deeply about how they address criticism.

I’ve written further about criticism as a whole over on ZenBagLady if you want to check it out. (There’s a bonus photo of the lovely Miss Claire there, too.) I’d love to hear from you, about how you deal with criticism as it pertains to your body as it is, was and will be. How do you handle it? What do you blow off and what do you take personally? Most importantly, WHO is doing the criticizing most of the time – you or someone else?

I’ll take my chicken wings and toothpick legs over the kind of pain and dissatisfaction I felt about myself at 300 pounds, but my reaction to these descriptions is a good reminder to me that my life didn’t become perfect at goal. Many of our demons follow us down the scale.

14 comments:

  1. Hi Lynn,

    I am much more critical of myself and my body than anyone else ever is - including my boyfriend. Funny how a few years ago I wasn't respecting my body at all and could've cared less about it. But, I was still critical of it; I just wasn't ready to begin my "moderation mode" yet.

    Today, I'm at a very healthy BMI, I watch what I eat, I exercise regularly, and yet I still am critical of my body. Having lost all that weight makes me even more obsessed about my looks and very critical of any bad choice I make foodwise, because those bad choices can lead to pounds back on.

    When I hear someone criticize my body, like in your arm scenario, I end up adding more fuel to the fire by not only agreeing with the person, but also adding another criticism, even if it's something I only say to myself: "Ha! You think my arms are flabby? You haven't seen flabby until you've seen these thighs (or this stomach)."

    I'll always be critical and extra sensitive about my body. I really think anyone who makes such a drastic change to their body, whether by gaining a ton of weight or losing it, will have elevated body image issues compared to the person who stays overweight or has never had a weight problem. KWIM?

    Great post.

    Lesley

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  2. Hmmm... This one has me coming and going...

    A few years ago, I lost 130 pounds the healthy way, and after sticking with my new body for about two years, I ultimately gained a good deal of it back, first slowly (work eclipsed working out, etc.). But then I plunged back into sugar (sort of an experiment that went haywire), and continued to avoid working out because of some emotional and financial setbacks that derailed my attention and priorities.

    But if I dig for the "WHY?!?!?" I went so backward, I have to admit it was mostly because I was rejecting myself, even at my "thinnest," because I'd still never wear shorts or sleeveless tops in public, owing to "legacy skin," and that actually made me really mad sometimes after all that hard work. I was terribly self-critical, almost more so than when I was just gigantic all over. I became ruthlessly nit-picky about the parts of my body I still couldn't change, and I endlessly compared my body to "normal" women's. It was exhausting.

    So now, a couple of years have gone by and I'm getting my head back to the place it needs to be for me to start over again. To that end, a couple of months ago, I'm in one of my favorite healthy-food stores, cautiously reveling in my re-commitment, knowing how tenuous it can sometimes be, but soldiering on and basically having a good day. Suddenly, because of a random misunderstanding while waiting in line for the restroom, a well-dressed, pencil-thin woman positively UNLOADS on me in the loudest voice for a good 10 minutes, ending with, "And your ass is so fat, you need to lose a hundred pounds!" OK, maybe so, but REALLY...

    The entire store hears her outrageous tirade, and I'm mortified beyond anything I've experienced in my adult life (if you don't count lunatic bosses and crazy exes), and at least one kind soul approaches me to offer her support, but I feel like a spotlight has been shone on...my big ass. All the way out the door. A couple of months later, I can say that I have almost recovered from that incident...

    I'm working out again (though I have to start over with that, as well), and I'm solidly back on the (sugar-free) healthy food path. But I also have to do that "out of body" thing to get through a day in public -- just quickly note and promptly ignore the look-aways and stolen glances at various parts of my body, and that was something I got used to NOT having to deal with at my lower weight. The things we take for granted...

    And after being "there and back again," I realize I will never have the body I feel I deserve (whether I work for it or not!), so this must be just one of those things we must bear in our lives, like gray hair, laugh lines, and other types of expensive tuition. And I know that when I finally return to my "fighting weight," I'm going to have the double-hindsight to appreciate it a LOT more, saggy skin and all.

    (And I'll take my chubby knees over that crazy woman's toxic personality any day!)

    Cheers,
    "Flax Seed Girl"

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  3. Mari-Anne Mahlau-BeisserJune 29, 2008 at 7:49 AM

    Lynn, you really touched on something that I deal with all the time. People can think they're giving me a compliment and since I'm uber sensitive about my body and size and weight, I'll turn it into something negative and choose to take it the wrong way. Maybe there is something in us that feels we are undeserving of praise as well because I even cannot often take sincere compliments that cannot be construed as anything else badly.....I'll negate them and say things like "Oh I'm up a couple of lbs this week and wish I could lose another 10lbs" or something like that. Old habits really do die hard.

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  4. Hi Lynne, Great post, and the zenbaglady one as well. I have always hated criticism. I had 'good girl syndrome' growing up--tried extra hard to do everything right so I wouldn't be criticized. I think that translates over into the obnoxious habit of 'I have to BE right about everything.' Anyways, I think I have grown out of all that a little, but I still HATE criticism. I can still be working on forgiving someone that hurt me 2 years later.

    I guess I am blessed that people have not really criticized my body, either when I was fat or thin. But I really have spent too much time criticizing myself. I REALLY related to your comment that you 'got sad that you missed the boat on smooth, even skin because I spent so many years overweight and obese.' That was really hard for me. Especially my thighs, I said they looked hideous. I have really worked on this in myself the past two years (body acceptance) for one reason that I didn't want to regain the weight like one of the commenters explained. I try to push myself to wear something a little more revealing without being uncomfortable about it. I think I'll make it a goal to go swimming this summer. That will be the 'final frontier.' LOL.

    Anyways, I really wrote to say I loved your thought "the energy I spend worrying what people think of me could be better spent cultivationg compassion for others and helping people feel better about themselves." I love this thought, and will bring it to mind the next time I am obsessing about how someone hurt my feelings.

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  5. My mom was always very crtical of the way I looked, especially my face and my weight. It took me a REALLY long time to not be bothered by what she said. She always meant well, but it was still hard to hear about it.

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  6. Lynn, you have beautiful arms!  I am just thanking God that I am healthy.(even if I am overweight).  Yesteday after i hosted a bridal shower for my best friend's daughter, a few of us middle aged gals actually got in our bathing suits and swam in the pool afeter everyone left.  We all were hesitant to put our suits on in fornt of our beautiful young daughters.  It was so hot and the pool looked so refreshing that I said "Oh come on...have a glass of champagne and lets just have fun"  We all got in the pool and we had so much fun just talking and laughing.  Our daughters were so happy that we actually got in with them.  I hate it when I avoid doing something that will be fun and enjoyable just because I think I'm too fat. It starts the cycle of feeling bad about myself and then completely overeating and not exercising like I should.   Life is too short to beat ourselves up all  of the time.  Love your blogs Lynn...keep up the great work!

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  7. I am reading the comments and am moved to mention that everyone does this--even people who aren't overweight. Every photo that catches my broken nose at a bad angle makes me sigh. My sun damage spots, darn why did I lie in the sun like that thinking there was no tomorrow? And I tried on a pair of jeans last week and under those flourescent lights, can we say grotesque? Holy canoli, are those really my thighs? Ei-yi-yi. We all do this to ourselves and losing weight doesn't make this go away, unfortunately. There are all sorts of reasons to lose weight. Pursuit of perfection is not a reasonable goal. Dang. And Flax Seed Girl--people like that lady, seriously. Mental help indicated for her. Some people do have those unfortunate personalities and that's their cross to bear, lol. love, V

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  8. You guys gave me a lot of insightful reading this weekend. Wowza!

    Flax Seed Girl, that woman in the store has some MAJOR issues. I'm so sorry she took them out on you. I'm glad you're making peace with your body. What we want and what we get are usually two different things, both physically and in life in general, don't you think?

    Debby, GO SWIMMING!! I did that last year (and yeah, it's like the "last frontier" - LOL) and it felt GREAT! I don't float like I used to, though. No body fat tends to weigh you down in water :) Do what Anonymous did - jump in and have fun!

    So many of us seem to have had critical mothers. This is a subject for another blog, but suffice to say that what we heard growing up, no matter how "helpful" they thought they were being, really helped mold our image of ourselves as adults. "Suck it in, Lynnie!" my mother always said. Ugh.

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  9. I completely relate to this topic. But my biggest critic is myself. I seem to put myself down and I am harder on myself than anyone else. My friends always tell me you are so much more than you realize and it makes me sad to know that I don't hold myself up to such a higher standard. I am also trying to overcome it and hopefully with time I will succeed. Great topic Lynn thanks for inspiring me once again and letting us all know we are not alone.

    Mara
    http://24stepstogo.blogspot.com/

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  10. I don't deal with criticism well - at all. I take it personally and really do not know how to let it roll off my back. I am working on it,my list gets longer and longer! And so very thankful that there you are out there with many others to help me along my way. Otherwise, I think I would be lost in my own thoughts, and that would make it way worse. Thanks for sharing and putting yourself out there, you are truly a beautiful woman - inside, out - top to bottom.

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  11. I just found your website and want to thank you for such inspiration. You look incredible! I wanted to know how you were able to get such firmness after all that weight loss?

    I am on my own journey with unfortunately many detours. I'm stabilized at 1/3 of my total weight loss goal (want to get to 130, from 281), although at one point I reached a 80 pound weight loss. I got stuck on a plateau just before crashing through the 200 mark, and had a climb back up of 30 pounds, which affected so many things including my knees! So, in order to prepare for knee replacement and just get better, I'm TRYING to stay on track. Your triumph is so encouraging. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    CG

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  12. Um, just to let you know, I think you are beautiful.

    I have just been reading your blog here and there for a few weeks. I saw a picture of you on the beach in California (I think), and you looked awesome!

    I am 32, and I would be very happy if I looked as good as you do now.

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  13. It really helps to read Lynn''s blog and the comments on criticism. My husband gets upset with me for being so self-critical. It's a really hard habit to break but I really, really need to break it.
    Thanks all!
    p.s. to Flax Seed Girl--great comments--good luck with getting thin again!

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  14. I definitely more critical of myself than others. So far I've lost 77 pounds, and all I see is the 33 I still need to lose. I went to visit my family about a month ago and the most common comment was, "When you lose weight, the girls go too huh". I know the ladies that said it meant well, but I was hurt by it. The fact that they ALL kept saying it, made it worse. Up until then, I thought my girls could use a lift, but the size was perfect. Now I'm insecure about it. I'll never get implants (just not for me), but it's taking me a while to come to grips with the comments.

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