I didn’t grow up fat or even chubby. I didn’t start to gain weight until about my Senior year in High School. So most of my middle and high school years I spent feeling…well, pretty…not to the point of cockiness in any way…I just didn’t feel ugly. Then about the end of my Senior year, I started to gain weight. I know now that that was because I have this lovely little disease called PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) but I’m sure it didn’t help that I loved food so much and I liked (still do!) a lot of it. But I grew up generally healthy and in good shape. I felt confident.
But when I started to gain weight, little by little, that confidence began to chip away, and I became more of a behind the scenes person than a front and center person. I became the friend with a great personality; funny and fun to hang around with, but definitely less assured. I have always been a happy person but my ability to really see all the great stuff about me, started to diminish as my exterior began to grow and I wanted less and less to be an assertive go-getter and more and more just to sit back and observe. Confidence is something that just oozes out of people, and I lacked the ooze.
When you start to try to disappear into the scenery, people start to let you. People who don’t know you and how fun you are, just judge you for the person you are portraying. That person I was portraying was a fat version of me. It is so very true that even though fat people take up a lot more space, they are practically invisible. There are a few things I’m very thankful to my fat for and one of them is the ability to see the world from a healthy person’s standpoint and then, oppositely, from the safety of my thick cocoon.
When you are invisible, you gain the ability to gauge people more; their reactions to certain things, their reactions to you. A lot of people, and funny enough mostly males, would practically look right through me or not make eye contact with me. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t trying to meet men, I have been happily married for almost 19 years (all of my fat years!), but I’m talking about in a work environment or other social settings. My biggest observations came at work. Sometimes I would pass one of these shallow people in the hallway and if they were new to the company, they had no idea who I was. I was just another fat girl walking the hallway; they wouldn’t even acknowledge me. I bring up the fact that they were new because for most of my career life, I have been blessed to be able to work alongside and support the leaders of my companies. This is not a glamorous job in any way, but it’s at the right hand of very successful people; people that others look up to. And we all know that there are people out there that can be impressed by positions of power. The funny thing is that the same people who would pass me in the hallway and ignore me would change their tunes immediately once they found out who I worked with. Suddenly, I was SOMEone! Not JUST the fat chick in the hall. In my mind, who I worked with had nothing to do with the real me, so what was the big effing deal?? But over and over, it was. The same people whose faces showed indifference to me, were now amiable, and I was no longer fully unnoticeable. To see the change in their behavior was so very interesting to me.
In social settings, I could also observe how people reacted to others. How people looked, or didn’t look at each other, how they engaged or didn’t engage others, and how your exterior really is what people (yes, all of us…good, bad, and indifferent) react to.
What I’m long-windedly trying to say, is that being invisible allows you the ability to really sit back and observe people more fully and it truly was a gift that was handed to me.
Because I also learned and witnessed how WONDERFUL people are. Not only do you get to see negativity, but you also get to see the true selves of those people who have huge, wonderful, accepting hearts…that SEE you for the person that you are…or the ones that have been there through it all. The ones who see “before” pictures of you and say, “You have always been beautiful” or “I never saw you as an overweight person; you’ve always just been you.” My ears ring with words of praise like this…because at the heart of everything that is ME, no matter how big or how small my exterior is…when all is said and done…I want to have lived my life as a loving, strong, giving, happy person. And that means that I am.
So my confidence is slowly coming back. And interestingly enough, it’s not even about the weight I’ve lost…it’s actually more about things I’ve been able to conquer in my fitness life that helped me the most. To meet my old fears (which actually came with that old lack of confidence) head on and punch them smack in the face. And while my confidence is building, I think a lot about what being fat taught me. Most people might become bitter and resentful, but I don’t feel that way at all. I mean, I wish that I didn’t know that there can be super shallow people in the world – but what I did learn was invaluable. It’s the old saying: It truly is what’s on the inside that counts.
My NSV this week is that reminder.