Well, I am. Both obese and ashamed of it. It’s pretty restricting sometimes. I don’t want to be photographed, and if I have to, I try to avoid ever seeing the photos. The same goes for mirrors. At work, if we are ordering clothes, I am terribly ashamed of telling anyone the size I need. Obesity makes me afraid of flying too. I don’t fear that the plane would drop (not much, at least). I fear that the seat belt won’t be long enough and I will need to ask for an extension. Or that I don’t fit in my seat.
I feel humiliated for being obese. Fear of other people’s comments and even their thoughts makes me uneasy. The roots for this, I suspect, are in my childhood. I was relentlessly teased for my weight, for I was a bit chubby. So, now, as an adult, I still expect to hear the same comments. My instinct is to assume that even if some adults don’t say it out loud, they must be thinking it. This thinking pattern is really, really deeply ingrained in me, so deeply that most of the time I don’t even recognize it is at work. It has become status quo, a solid structure in my brain.
I kind of suspect I might be wrong with my beliefs of what other people think of my weight. It may be that all this shame is in vain and only in my head. Of course, there will always be people who concentrate only on appearances, but possibly not everyone is like that. For myself, I don’t notice too much about people’s weight. Even if I notice it sometimes, I don’t spend my evenings thinking about it. Nor my lunch hours laughing at them. My head is too full of my own life that giving much thought to anyone else’s is not going to happen.
The thing is, however, that comments made on someone’s body and its size, shape, whatever, may hurt deeply. Especially if you are a child and there are no adults around telling the commenter that what they are doing is wrong, and telling you that you and your body are just fine. When those comments are thrown at you often enough, the injuries become deep wounds. They don’t heal on their own. They are just capsulated inside you, and you spend your days trying to protect that old wound from opening again.
And that is where all that shame and fear of humiliation stems from. If you are told often enough you are worth nothing because you are chubby, you’ll start believing it. You know that anyone, any day, can come up with a comment that humiliates you again. And the pain it would cause is so great you try to avoid those situations as best you can.
The pain is so great, as is the fear, that you don’t want to risk having to feel it. And that is why I fear flying. And mirrors and photos. That is why I avoid social gatherings with strangers. Many people think that it’s just the way I am, introverted, and I believed it myself for years too. But it is not introversion. It is the shame I carry with me that makes me withdrawn. It is the past painful humiliations that make me try to avoid any new ones, by not attending, not connecting, not being visible.
I’ve spent most of my life without realizing any of the above. Now, after almost a year in therapy, I have started understanding. It has actually made my life a bit better, to understand that I have my big wound inside me that is still open and unhealed. Even understanding and knowing it’s there makes life a bit easier. I will go to therapy for at least another year, so maybe we can help my wound start finally healing. Maybe life gets better and easier.