I remember in high school (when I weighed about 150 pounds) walking out of the cafeteria behind a cheerleader and her boyfriend. The cheerleader was a petite blond with large breasts and a small round butt. Her boyfriend was a football player who often picked her up in the lunchroom and threw her over his shoulders. I was behind the boyfriend who was behind the cheerleader when the boyfriend said loudly, “I’m making a sign for your ass that says, ‘Wide load.’” Then he beeped like he was backing up a truck and laughed. The cheerleader turned around and playfully hit his arm, but I was horrified for her. Then I was horrified for me. If he thought his girlfriend’s ass was fat, there was no hope for mine.
It was fun at first, albeit a bit jarring as I got used to starting and stopping without causing whiplash. Then I backed up and the cart beeped and a familiar feeling washed over me, the same thing I felt in the cafeteria that day in high school.
I read “Women, Food and God” this weekend. Some of what Geneen Roth wrote pertained to me and some of it didn’t, mostly because I am, for the most part, on the other side of experience than the person for whom the book was written. But what I did take from the book was that we all have former selves and former selves and former selves.
Throughout out lives we say goodbye to one way of looking at something and adopt a new view. Doesn’t mean every new perspective is healthy. (God knows I still cling to beliefs that don’t elevate me to any higher understanding). But learning to recognize our primal reactions – those formed long ago through repetitive or one-time experiences we might not even remember – we can break habitual patterns of thinking and doing. For me, the vivid memory of that moment in high school was the result of belief I accepted years ago that I’m not good enough, worthy enough or whole apart from other people’s approval.
The roots of this belief system are deep. But while I can’t erase my past, I can choose how I react to stimuli that act to cut me down. For awhile I felt a little sad riding on that cart – a little exposed, vulnerable, and subject to mercy from those around me who could walk and reach and not hear beeping noises when they backed up their carts. But that stinkin’ thinkin’ didn’t last long. I acknowledged my former self and even paid her a little homage, then acted in a way that no longer gave power what Roth calls “The Voice.”
Now, then, 150 pounds, 300 pounds, 130 pounds, I AM worthy and good enough and whole without the thoughts and opinions of others, namely the opinions of my inner critic. I happily finished my little ride around Wal-Mart, and sent up good energy to that football player, who I can only hope grew up.