Thursday, July 31, 2008

Staying Real In Minnesota

It was about a year ago that I went to Minnesota for a family reunion. I weighed 133-134 pounds and felt pretty confident. People made the usual “Oh my god, you’ve lost so much weight!” comments, as was expected, but I was still just ordinary Lynn, only a little smaller.

On Sunday I’m going to Minnesota again, only this time I weigh 128 pounds and I’m a bundle of nerves.

What happened? Oprah happened. And People. And the Today Show. And Entertainment Tonight. And CNN. I’m in mid-metamorphosis, still shedding my skin, trying to digest everything that’s happened to me this year and to catch up with it all, and so my confidence level is on par with the mortgage crisis, only the government isn’t going to bail me out.

I’ve never been able to nail confidence down to a permanent feeling. Seems it always runs hot and cold. I’m overly sensitive and highly aware of the feelings of other people, particularly as they pertain to their expectations of me. Sometimes my intuition is off, but I’ve always worked within the framework that when I sense I’m not living up to someone’s expectations, I have to do something to change myself so I stop disappointing them. I manufacture who I am to manipulate as best I can how someone perceives me, how I want them to think of me, to control who they think I am. Very few people know the real me. Hell, I hardly know the real me. But during this year between Minnesota visits, I’ve been trying to figure out the real me and how to be me all the time and not a “fill-in” substitute for who I think people expect me to be.

So how do I do that when I feel like I’m on display? I get really uncomfortable when someone calls me a “celebrity” or brings up my weight loss and subsequent media appearances to other people when I’m in their presence. You can argue, “Well, Lynn, you should have known that would happen when you agreed to do all that media,” but the thing is, I didn’t know. How could I? I’d never been on television before. I’d never been in a national magazine before. I was excited to talk about weight loss because I wanted to motivate others to think about their own bodies and minds, to treat themselves with kindness and to lose weight for the right reasons and in the right way. I never thought about it being for me or about me. So when it comes to people talking about me and what’s happened this last year, my stomach turns into a knot.

And I’m pretty sure the subject will come up more than a few times on this upcoming trip to Minnesota.

I know it’s only natural to want to ask someone you haven’t seen in a long time what it’s like to meet Oprah or to make at least a comment about their weight loss. I mean, it’s not every day your cousin or aunt or sister or old friend loses nearly 170 pounds. I understand that. Heck, I’d be all over my cousin, aunt, sister or friend if that happened to them, asking them questions and wanting the dirt on Matt Lauer. I admit that. I’m trying to see it from the perspective of people who haven’t seen me in years. But to help me stay real and to salvage my confidence, I’m learning the art of steering conversations away from my weight loss by asking direct questions about the person I’m talking to. I’m always more interested in someone else’s story than my own. I’ve lived with me this year and believe me, I’m kind of dull in real life.

On this trip, I want to be gracious and patient, but I also want to introduce the real me, the woman I’ve come to know the last 12 months and to not manipulate her like a Chinese acrobat into something someone else wants or needs her to be. The girl they remembered from the past is morphing into a unified woman, someone who isn’t comfortable being so many things to so many people anymore. If I disappoint someone because I am who I am, the problem lies squarely in their lap, not mine.

Can I do it? I’ll let you know when I get back. In the meantime, I will try to blog from the road. This blog and you readers have been two of the best things to happen to me this year. I’m not a real huggy kind of person (being a Norwegian (ex)Lutheran Minnesotan and all), but I’m sending this {{{grouphug}}} because I really mean it. Thanks for letting me work all this out with you this morning.

11 comments:

  1. you hit it directly on the head - you are ALL about supporting, educating, encouraging, opening the lines of communication for others.

    And that is a good way of feeling comfortable talking about it. It is great that all the media devices that you mentioned/have been involved in are encouraging people to be healthier.

    I feel very uncomfortable myself if someone tries to "pin me down" on the how to's of a 'diet' plan. I hate that word. I don't like to give someone a "step by step" outline - because the next time I see them - it brings up weird feelings for THEM - if they are still in the same spot and still asking the same questions.

    But I am very comfortable talking about the benefits of yoga and places in town that offer good beginner classes. I am happy to talk about how to buy/cook/store/use whole foods. I am happy to talk about the benefits of writing on a daily basis.

    It took me a l-o-n-g time to figure out a way to deflect (sp?) certain questions but share of myself in a friendly way. Certainly not as good at it as I would like to be - but getting better slowly.

    I hope you have a GREAT trip.

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  2. You go Lynn! It sounds like you are mentally geared up for this trip. I was thinking that I wasn't like you in this regard, but then I remembered that I had quit doing something that had caused a lot of stress and anxiety in my life, and a year later a friend called and wanted to talk about this, actually wanted my advice, and I talked a minute about it to her, and then I just said kind of bluntly, 'I don't really want to think about this any more.' I felt a little bad for being so blunt, but I did think I was right to not inflict that anxiety on myself.

    Hey, on other topics, I liked the articles on 'stimulus narrowing' so much over on 'Refuse to Regain' that I wrote about it on my blog, and it really struck a bell with quite a few people. You guys are doing such a good service over there. Thanks!

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  3. As a transplanted West Coast girl now living in North Central Minnesota, I invite you to skip the reunion and come visit me and my family instead. (mostly joking here, but family reunions are stressful without the added celebrity status.)

    I think the fact that you know you have tried in the past to be what other people wanted/expected is a huge step in figuring out who YOU are, and you do not have to conform to anyone's ideas for you.

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  4. You can do it Lynn we believe in you! I have issues with confidence everyday. I have people come up to me and say how much weight have your lost so far? What are you doing differently? It is like you said, I feel as if I am on display and I am not sure what to do. But with people like you Lynn who inspire me I can do it! Good luck and keep up posted we are all behind you.

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

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  5. Thanks for the support, you guys! I'm doing laundry, putting together my outfits (a girl's gotta plan ahead, yanno?), and trying to figure out what I can cram into one piece of luggage so I only have to pay for one bag and not two. Good thing it's summer. The clothes are smaller.

    Vickie, I'm with you on the "pin me down" thing. It's like we're somehow "diet experts" when we lose a few pounds. Hey, we had to figure all this stuff out, too, and design a program that worked for us individually. I'm really most concerned about the family get together on Sunday night. I have two obese cousins who will be there who love and support me but I know will be all over the "tell me what to do and I'll do it" thing. It makes me sad.

    Debby, sometimes blunt is best. I know it feels uncomfortable, but man, when it comes to anxiety, I'm all for just cutting it up where it is.

    Michele!! My kids are going to Lake Edward without me! It's near Mil Lacs. If I were heading up there, I'd so want to meet up. I'll be out there next year, though, and I definitely want to hit the lake, so let's keep that open. Thanks for the invite :)

    Mara, I think of you every time I'm at my gym and going up and down the stairs :)

    I'll be in touch from the road!

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  6. Just wanted to wish you well and good luck!

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  7. Hi Lynn,
    I can relate to the feelings of trying to measure up to someone else's expectations of you. I often wonder if a lot of people are in the same boat as me and don't really know who they are. We have many faces that we show the world, for me it's hard to know which one, if any is the true me! Thanks for writing about that!

    I hope that you have a great time in Minnesota and that your trip is everything that YOU want it to be.

    You are an inspiration!
    Natalia

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  8. Good luck and have fun!!

    My mom is coming to visit in September and my stomach has been in knots for over a month now. She causes all of the stress that you described and I'm really really trying hard to be like Debby and be blunt (gotta take care of yourself you know!)

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  9. Hopefully this trip will take care of all the questions for you! Once they get the scoop, as much as you're comfortable to give, they should figure out that you're still the normal you, and hopefully move along to other subjects.

    And if they want you to create a plan for weight-loss for them, it's better than them looking to some crazy scheme or crash diet, right? You can't bear the responsibilty for their changes or weight loss, but perhaps you can provide some inspriation as you've done for those who have seen you on Oprah or read about you. I don't know if your psychology works this way or not, but I am boosted by the thought that it could always be worse...Just think how many women are headed to reunions this summer having gained 100 lbs since they were last seen. Hopefully the fact that you're going back even lighter than before is a silver lining! They all get to see that weight can be lost, and the loss can be maintained!

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  10. I hope you have a great trip. Remember..you never have to measure up to anyones expectations. Family loves you unconditionally..fat, skinny, famous, unfamous because..well, its your family.

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  11. You have taught, encourage, challenged us - your readers- to bring our real selves(is this a word?) forward, I have no doubt that you bring the Lynn that you have worked so hard on to Minnesota. Knock 'em dead. Stay Strong.

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