I stumbled upon a friend’s facebook post tonight. A meme she shared that set off a firestorm of emotions in me. I’m certain it wasn’t directed at me and likely that I never even crossed her mind before she hit “share”, but it hit such a raw nerve that I now can’t settle my thoughts. I’m hurt, I’m angry, and I’m sick in the gut.
Writing can sometimes help me let things go so I thought I’d give this a try…my mind is churning with so many thoughts and feelings and as it is a weeknight I do have to get some sleep for work tomorrow…
Let me see if I can post the meme here as a frame of reference….
Now…let me tell you the story of the woman in the green shirt and why assuming you know anything about anyone’s journey is so dangerous and potentially hurtful….
The woman in the green shirt was a little girl once. She lived in a loving two parent home where healthy meals were provided regularly, no junk food was allowed, and outdoor play was the norm year round. She swam and rode her bike almost endlessly during the summer months, she played kick ball and hide and seek with the other kids in the neighborhood, and visited the sledding hill with them during the winter months…she even took gymnastics, dance, and tried team sports for a little while.
Despite the well balanced meals, the lack of junk, the daily activity, this little girl was still considered “fat”. She was judged for it everyday and bullied by the kids at school. This made her hate school and not want to go, despite loving to read and learn new things. It also caused her to shrink inside herself in the hopes that if she didn’t draw any attention towards herself that people would let her be (it didn’t work).
This little girl went to her first weight watcher’s meeting at age 10….this started a decades long cycle of diets, doctor’s, nutritionists, “life-style changes”, exercise memberships, classes, programs etc. There would be some success but then it would be followed by a plateau, a lot of frustration, and eventually failure. This little girl grew into a teenager and then a young woman. The bullying never stopped and the judgements and rejections grew more painful as the years went on. With every one, the girl’s self esteem, self confidence, self worth, and courage to stand up for herself was chipped further away.
In her late 20’s this young woman, so frustrated by the struggles so far and so desperate to improve the quality of her life, made the drastic decision to have weight loss surgery. A surgical error during the initial procedure made it impossible to complete; and despite the fact that that error could have cost her her life, it did not dissuade her from trying a second time…6 months later after recovering from the first surgery she went under the knife again.
The second surgery was successful and much weight was lost, however more surgeries followed to resolve unforeseen complications. At one point this young woman worked 3 jobs to pay for the plastic surgery to help eliminate the bagging skin left behind, as insurance would not pay for it.
For a few years this young woman began to feel worthy. She began to feel good about herself and to not feel judged whenever she went out the door. Her confidence grew but she still carried so much of the pain, shame, and anxiety from the past that she continued to struggle to believe that she could be her true self and to have the things she’d always wanted.
In time the weight started to come back on. The surgical interventions stopped working, the bad habits developed over years of plateaus and failures returned, and the already fragile self-confidence started to fall away yet again.
What never changed…not in all of the years of losses and gains, of successes and failures, was the quality of this girl’s heart, the intelligence in her brain, the drive to work hard and do good, the compassion for others, her sense of humor, or the belief that people should never be judged by what’s seen on the outside.
My point is that we can never know just from looking at someone from the outside what kind of journey they have been on and what they are all about on the inside. And because of this we should never assume we know their story and jump to judge or blame them for those things we can’t possibly know or see.
Now to try to get some sleep….