October 7, 2013

8 Things I Would Say to My Younger Self Before Stepping on a Scale.

Sometime during seventh grade, the year my body made more changes than any other, one of my parents brought home a doctor’s scale.

The kind you stepped on and adjusted the metal triangle piece, up or down, to get it to balance. The metal piece was moved by hand. I think you even had to hold your breath to get the scale to balance.

To put your body on a doctor’s scale is different then stepping on a scale where you look down to see the numbers. On a doctors scale, the numbers are right in your face and your whole body, including your hands, have to participate, in order to read it.

The new scale took up too much room for our small little bathroom, so it was placed in a spare room where nobody ever went, except me. And I went there a lot. At 12, I was learning that others could disappoint, judge and lie. Except my scale. In a room with abandoned pieces of furniture, the scale became my private friend and each morning it would tell me what I thought was the most important thing I could know.

As a grown woman, I no longer own a scale, but I can still recall the rush that started in my toes and shot up through my pelvis, as I stood naked and alone, waiting to see what numbers would be revealed. For years, I weighed myself once a day (and sometimes much more.) The numbers were always a surprise and would determine my worth and confidence as I set out into my day.

I wish someone had taken her aside, the young girl I remember being, who was picked first for any team at gym because she could play ball the hardest, the one who loved to sing in public, write stories and make art. But that was before my body became the star of my show, both the protagonist and the enemy. Before its size and attractiveness began to intoxicate me.

The scale is not a liar but its not the truth either.

Before you step on the scale, younger self, unsure of how your life is about to unfold, know the following 8 things:

1. The scale is not worthy to be your destiny and you are not a number.

A woman’s value is not made up in pounds nor the size of her body. These are cheap systems of measurement made by others—systems which have the power to shame and keep us small. Be big and let your dreams and life be big. Don’t try to fit it in someone else’s container.

2. You do not need to starve your hunger.

Feed it. Don’t let anyone tell you your hunger is bad. Hunger is good. Its a messenger. “Feed me,” it says. Something is starving for your attention and begging for aliveness. Sustain it with what it needs, whether it needs hugs, walks in the woods, naps or cheeseburgers. No need is too needy. Don’t ignore the messenger. Don’t kill her.

3. Don’t be scared of your sexuality.

Don’t use it as weapon or hide it away. Know it’s just one aspect of who you are. Get to know it well. As you grow into a woman, it’s OK to be sexy, attractive and seen. Just like its OK to not want to put it out there. Feel free to wear hot-red lipstick or never shave your legs. Experiment with who you are. To put your sexual energy out there is not about power, nor is it about seeking attention, nor does it mean you should feel shame. Its one part of experiencing your full dimension. Let all your stars shine from time to time.

4. As you become a teen, your body is not supposed to stay the same size it was when you were twelve.

When you become a mother, your body is not supposed to stay the same size it was when you were in college. When you grow old, your body is not supposed to stay the same size it was when you were a young mother. Your body is going to change as your life does. It’s going to take up space. It’s going to follow the laws of gravity. And it should. Find female role models in your life whom you admire for something else besides her body. Find a woman who puts good out in the world and whom you admire for her talent, her heart, her sense of daring and her brain.

5. Don’t play nice all the time.

Not everyone is gonna like you regardless of what you do, say or look like. Its OK for others to be angry or disappointed with you.

6. Learn to say “no.”

Practice it a lot. It was probably one of the first words that came out of your mouth as a baby but somehow you forgot how to say it out loud. Others will respect you for being honest and it will save you a lot of anxiety and guilt. Create strong boundaries but also be willing to break them if they no longer serve you.

7. People will disappoint you and some will even hurt you.

The world is not always safe. But make it safe inside of you. Don’t blame yourself for things that others do. Be your own best friend. You spent too long believing that bashing yourself was what would set you free. Instead it fucked you up. But you can tame the troll inside you with kindness.

8. Finally… Be real.

Be you. Be raw when you need to. From time to time, feeling open, unsettled, vulnerable, sad, out of control, and crazy, are all parts of a normal life being lived. There’s nothing wrong with you. You are not a freak, mentally ill, or broken. You are the dreamer, the lover, the intellect, the scientist, the gypsy, the poet, and the painter of empty canvases. Collect shells and cats or whatever else it is you love so much. Catch snowflakes on your tongue, and don’t take shit from anybody, least of all yourself.

Before you step on that scale, remember you are so much more than a number. The number is a false God who will suck away your soul, but only if you let her. Don’t let her. You are more than a number, a flat belly, or a gap between your thighs. Don’t let the size of your body hold more power than the size of your dreams. Dare to be big and go outside the lines. You have the light, the grace and power. You always have.

This is part of an ongoing series on running, eating clean, and body image. Although this essay does divert, the author still believes it fits in. You can read Anne’s other articles in the series here:  

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Ed: Sara Crolick

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