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I know, I know.
Some of you are already thinking “victim mentality.” Just so that we start off on the right foot, it is the furthest thing from the truth.
This is a true story and a part of my story that isn’t easy for me to share.
This is one of my experiences with the dirty word BMI (Body Mass Index). For me, it’s called childhood trauma that continued into adulthood. Repeating the same ol’ patterns that made me feel happy, comfortable, and “full.” In our family, mealtime was a happy and peaceful time.
Now that you have a snippet of context, let’s move on to one of the many times in my life when I was made to feel, based on my body weight, like I didn’t “measure up.”
I was a new realtor on the scene. I had stepped out of my ultra cozy comfort zone as a stay-at-home mom with three young girls. I love people, and I love helping people, so real estate in our small town seemed like a good fit for me. My husband was a mortgage lender at the time, and I thought this was the perfect way to compliment his career and bring in extra income.
Keeping it real in real estate.
The setting: I was working for the coolest real estate brokerage in town, and they were hosting a fun soirée at the local watering hole known on our little island as the Tiki Bar. An awesome, little, open-air bar that overlooks Back Creek in Solomon’s Island, Maryland. Fake palm trees swaying with the breeze, sand brought in for the true island feel, and the best Mai Tai in all of Southern Maryland (so I’m told).
I was there with my husband, colleagues, and a broker. Other realtors, lenders, and investors were invited as well for a chance to network.
I remember feeling pretty that evening, wearing my red lipstick and all.
I was on fire! I was feeling cute and confident. My new career in real estate was taking off. I have never had a problem talking to anyone (those who know me just read that and are now laughing at how true that is), and so I met some investors. I got up the nerve and slid on in-between the three of them at the bar. Two older attractive females and a slightly older-than-middle aged man who was fast on his way to feeling pretty good, thanks to the Mai Tai.
The women were extremely friendly, and I had them laughing in no time. We hit it off well. The older guy was laughing too but mostly wanted to talk about himself, which hey, I am okay with that. I am a conversationalist at heart so win-win for me.
Or so I thought.
As our conversation went on, my new three amigos were asking questions about my real estate career, like where I get my business, who my largest clientele is, how I handle this and that scenario, and so on. I was confident that I had all the right answers, and they were impressed. I was fast on my way to securing a new partnership with investors. In the real estate world, that’s a beautiful thing.
An hour after flexing my skill and feeling pretty proud of myself, my bladder was full of unsweetened iced tea. Yes, unsweetened ice tea. Hey, it was still in a cup with the little umbrella. Hah! It looked the part.
I excused myself to hit the ladies room.
I remember looking into my compact mirror as I reapplied my new brick-red lipstick and thinking to myself, “You are doing the damn thing girl. You are doing it. You are moving past your childhood trauma, your insecurity over your body image and size. You are being seen for who you are as a person, your intelligence, your genuine spirit, not the number on the scale.”
It was a pivotal moment for me.
I decided it was time to seal the deal. I was ready for this first big moment in my career. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome but needed to shore up and ask for the business. I strolled back over to the bar where the two women were still chatting. The older gentleman had turned his back to us as he was canoodling with another realtor.
Smiling and full of confidence, I went all in and bit the bullet. Clearing my throat and speaking in my professional voice, I said to them, “It was awesome meeting you all tonight. I really had a great time. I would love to work with you three in the future. Let’s set a lunch date and discuss working together in the near future.”
I meant what I said and felt my execution was just right.
I immediately noticed an uncomfortableness in my two newly cemented female investor friends. My walls went up, and my confidence went down.
I thought to myself, “Way to go, Val. You were too enthusiastic, too pushy. You just lost them. Maybe it was the red lipstick? It’s not everyone else’s cup of tea…”
No. Not even close.
The sheer humiliation of writing this next paragraph is still overwhelming.
These two ladies, looking embarrassed and uncomfortable, leaned in to make sure no one else heard but us. They proceeded to let me know that while I hit the little girls room, they had discussed with their male colleague that they were eager to discuss partnering with me as one of their preferred realtors.
My heart skipped a beat; that was an incredible thing to hear. How could that be a bad thing? Perhaps, I had misread my earlier take on the scene.
My happiness was short-lived.
They followed with, “I’m so sorry. We don’t even want to repeat these words, but we want you to know the truth. Our sexist colleague said no. He didn’t want to partner with you. He thought you were great but wants to give it a go with some of the younger, ‘thinner,’ more attractive agents at the event.”
You read that right. Read it again.
My heart sunk. My face was flushed with the humiliation at hearing those words and having someone actually say them out loud. My stomach was in a knot, and my skin was tingly. I was so embarrassed and hurt. It was a familiar sting from my adolescence that I knew all too well, and yet, it seemed to stab me right back in the wound as strong as ever.
The two ladies apologized profusely and said he was such a jerk. They had no idea that his words confirmed to me once more that “I wasn’t good enough.”
You see, he saw my weight, but he didn’t see me.
He had no idea the emotional abuse I incurred from some of my relatives growing up that helped get me to that number on that scale. He had no idea how many times I had worked on myself or that I had just lost 40 pounds when he met me. He was unaware that this was my first time stepping out in a very long time, and he just crushed me under the weight of his cruel words and judgement.
But he also didn’t know I’m a warrior.
In that moment six years ago, I was brought right back to the childhood wound I still carry. His evil words didn’t keep me there though.
I cried and relived it for a short while. Then I decided to jump off that merry-go-round. I am still a passenger on the trauma train, but I don’t have as many stops as I used to.
I’m not a healthy weight yet…I am healing my soul and the weight will follow.
Here is what changed in me that day. I pitied that middle aged man throwing back his Mai Tais and feeling he needed the affirmation of those prettier, thinner, younger women. You can see my trauma in my weight. He can hide his in his alcohol and secret thoughts.
I learned that day that we really cannot judge anyone. Not even him. God only knows what he has gone through to make him the miserable human he is. I try to see everyone in that light now.
Even the people who look like they have it all together. They don’t.
So, Mr. Mai Tai, I forgive you. I wish you true joy and happiness. I hope you heal so that you can give hope and encouragement to others instead of hurt and superficial judgement. I hope you find God and learn to love Him and yourself.
I am out here doing just that.
P.S.: I’m wearing the brick-red lipstick while I do it.