A common question, I countered with my pat reply, “You are limited by your own standard of decency.” When I am queried about how much clothing one can shed, I know that the person I am about to weigh is having a rough time; I try and deliver the reply with humor.
She pondered that for a brief moment, forced a chuckle, then faced the scale and began shedding everything that weighed more than her earrings; should the jewelry have been more substantial, I assume she would have rid herself of them also.
“OK, let’s get it over with,” she said dropping her jacket and purse on to a nearby chair and sliding out of her shoes. “I’m really scared.” Most dieters prefer a root canal or IRS tax audit to facing the scale on a day when the number inches northward. Judging by the lack of enthusiasm she showed in today’s weight check, I would not have lost money should I have bet that she fell within that category.
“This won’t be pretty,” she whimpered, “I’ve been really bad.”
“Bad?” I asked. “Did you beat up people in the streets? Rob banks? Were you engaged in an illicit affair, inflicting severe emotional distress on your husband and children?”
“Well, no, of course not. But, I just didn’t stop eating all weekend. I don’t know what came over me. It’s like I didn’t care. There’s no other way to describe it; I was just awful. I can’t believe what an idiot I am.”
We refer to ourselves as “bad” when we slip up. Sometimes, our internal dialogue is absolutely sadistic; hurling at ourselves epithets such as “imbecile,” “moron,” or “jerk.” We would be incarcerated if such descriptions were targeted at our children — and rightly so. Yet, without second thought, we let loose upon our psyche a salvo of insults and indignities that would cause others to blush if they could hear the dialogue between our ears. More important than being overhead, that internal flow of conversation is what makes us who we are.
When my sons were growing up and became frustrated with the difficulty in learning a new task or skill, I cannot remember ever focusing on their errors; drilling into them the blunders and inaccuracies they already saw. It would do no good; I knew that. Instead, as with any loving parent (or partner), I attempted to guide them in a direction that recognized what they were doing well, reinforcing the positive, encouraging them for the attempt, not berating them for their shortcomings.
We inhabit a more wrinkled body than in days past, but that does not preclude our need for positive recognition. Yet, somewhere between then and now, we stopped giving to ourselves the same kudos we give to others.
We’re humans. We slip. We stumble. It’s all part of the job. But we’re more inclined to keep moving forward with a pat on the back, rather than a punch to the soul.