I was with my mom on a Sunday in July and we had just finished our weekly ritual of a long day of shopping. I was sitting on the couch and decided to look through some old photos of when I was a kid. As I began flipping through the pages, my eyes kept getting wider and wider.
“Oh my god,” I say out loud. “I was skinny.”
“Of course you were skinny,” Mom replied, looking at me like I have six heads. “You were always skinny.”
I stared at her in amazement then at my elementary school class photo, my eyes moving back and forth between me and the bully girl I had throughout my childhood who told me I was and would always be fat.
We. Looked. The. Same.
We were the same size and shape. It blew my mind to actually see this for the first time in my life. And this wasn’t the first time I had been through this album. I had looked at these pictures a million times, usually trying to pinpoint where everything “went wrong”, where I had messed up. I never noticed that I was so small. I said all of this to my mom and she replied with the best thing she could’ve said to me:
“Jan, that’s what bullying does. It distorts what you see until you’re able to free yourself of it and see the truth.” Immediately, I burst into tears. She was completely right! I could feel it in my bones, deep down to my very core. Now that I could see it, it changed everything…and I felt the most amazing lightness within. I wasn’t the “fat girl” I had been told I was. Who I was (am) is completely different than who I had forced myself to be all these years. And the burden of trying to fit into that mold had been weighing on me my whole life. You see, I realized a very crucial thing: years after being bullied as a child, I became my own bully.
And it’s what a lot of people do. You allow all the negative talk to become part of you and shape who you are, coating all of the positive things said or felt about your body with a thick layer of self-hatred blocking you from seeing what is real. We create self-fulfilling prophecies. But you can escape that. You can stop the inner bully and see yourself for what you truly are: strong and resilient.
There are two ways I would like to share to get you going in the right direction.
- If you don’t like your story, rewrite it. Many of us have been playing the same record of our lives over and over. We been telling ourselves and others the same story of who we have always been. And where has that gotten us? Stuck in the same pattern of our lives. But what if we changed the record? What if we decided that we’ve told that story enough and it’s time to tell a different story? Anais Nin wrote “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”.
- Turn your “needs” into “musts”. We all have things we “need” to do; go to the doctor, visit family, get the oil changed in the car. We do them when we have time for them. But what happens if you break your leg? Or a family member falls ill? Or your car’s engine starts smoking? Now your need becomes a must. You will do whatever you need to do to take care of the issue now, no matter what. Think of all the things that you feel are important. Getting to the gym, hitting your macros, meditating or focusing on self-care. If you move them to “musts” you make sure that nothing stands in the way of your goals. You give them true focus.
Since seeing those photos, my perspective has changed. I work out for the pure enjoyment of it and the goals I set feel easier to achieve. I am willing to take more chances and have already begun rewriting my story. I have turned a few things from needs into musts, my training and my writing being the most significant. I am by no means perfect and I sometimes hear the little voice in the back of my mind whispering. But I remember another Anais Nin quote “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
And my inner bully shuts her stupid mouth.