When I Overhead a Group of Women in Starbucks Body-Shaming Someone on Facebook
I finally dragged myself out of the house, got myself to an AA meeting, went to Whole Foods for lunch and then Starbucks to sit in public to write. As I chill with my decaf coffee, writing and blissfully getting a break from my consuming thoughts and fears, three college women came in and sat near me. I, at first, was in my own world and not listening to their conversation. But the sounds of cruel hate spewing from the mouths intruded on my ears.
Looking at little screens and judging pictures of girls on their Facebook page, these girls were saying, “Look at how disgusting she is. She is so fat! Her stomach is so big! How can she wear that?” The outward sounds of the voices I heard in my own head about myself tainted the air I was inhaling. So many hateful words continued to fill the air.
I had a choice here. I could feed into it and take on what these ladies were projecting about themselves, or I could get angry and tell them off. Taking either of those routes did not entice me. It would only hurt my soul.
I could take the road that would make my heart feel good: have compassion for them and see that they are hurting, too. For me to judge them for expressing themselves the way they knew how will not solve anything. All it would do is create resentment and anger in myself. Then, I am the one walking away suffering, which doesn’t sound fun to me.
I can see why what these young ladies were saying got to me. It is not merely that it was cruel or that I was hearing what I hear in my head out loud. It’s that I have been that person, harshly judging others and myself, constantly. It may be different words I’m saying or thinking about others, but I do it every day. I don’t hate that I do this. I am human after all.
There is this lingering question of what this brings up for me, when I hear people in the “real” world talk about the human body. Being someone who is in recovery from bulimia, with a long history of restricting, it is hard to live in a society where an individual’s value is measured based on one’s weight. I hear these women shame another person for what their perception of an acceptable body is. Every word exiting their mouth felt like a sharp, jagged dagger being plugged into my chest. As I painfully exhaled, it hit me like a ton of bricks: the person they are judging is being seen only as a body. Not for whom they truly are, the person inside the vessel who walks this earth.
I have lived in a personal hell of equating my value to the way I looked, how much I weighed, what and how I ate, the clothes I wore and how hard I pushed my body to achieve my unrealistic goal. All in an effort to be accepted by others and myself. It was a battle to attain a false sense of acceptance of a body I could never have. I would be dead today if I ever was able to reach the bar I had set, a bar constantly moving out of reach, no matter how hard I tried, all to fit the societal norms and ideals of how a female should look and behave.
It is difficult for me in recovery to be in the presence of people who are constantly talking about diet, body and exercise. It makes it that much harder to fight the inner dialog in my own head. That voice that tormented me for 13 years is everywhere I turn, in physical form. Having an eating disorder heightens my awareness of every mention of body image and distorted views of healthy living. It makes my heart hurt for past, present and future generations. I pray every day our society will change and what those women were saying will not be the norm. People will be seen as the being the beautiful soul they possess. Maybe I can help change that.
As I sit here writing this, light bulbs are bursting in my head. I have been giving in to my thoughts and eating disorder (even though I have not engaged in any behaviors). I have taken the back seat and have been hiding behind my fears. I am creating my own suffering by latching onto my false perceptions of what reality is.
All I can do to improve myself, is to be aware of what I am thinking, doing and feeling. To not judge those things, just observe them. I am not my actions, thoughts, experiences, past, present, future or any outward object I try to grasp onto to be able to sit with myself. I am deep within this vessel, which gives me the ability to walk this earth. I do not have words to describe who I am, deep in here. I don’t need to either. I know I am here and people see me every day. Every time I take a second to get out of my head and be with who I really am, I instantly feel clarity and peace. To not be attached to the outside world or my thoughts is liberating.
This is a constant practice and I am so grateful I get chances, like today, to be reminded of who I really am. Thank you to the three college woman at Starbucks. You handed me the mirror to look at myself.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.