Content warning for fatphobia.
It was springtime and I was worn down.
And, for the first time in a long time, feeling a jittery insecurity about myself.
You see, I’d been spending a lot of time with someone who’d fallen passionately in love with one of those specialized diets. And they’d gotten passionately mean about everyone else’s weight and eating habits. Sharing a takeout meal was “eating trash.” People we knew in common were “puffy” and “should change their diets.” Eating a pear was just as bad as cheesecake because “it’s all sugar.”
And after months upon months of this friend’s growing disdain for everyone’s eating habits, I’d started to internalize it. Started to see myself from their perspective. Puffy and sugar-obsessed and shabbily dressed and imperfect.
Walking around town, I felt everyone’s eyes on me, the heat of potential judgement, the discomfort of it like a too-tight shoe. I started to make myself smaller. I smiled less at strangers.
I could feel myself shrinking and I didn’t know what to do.
So, I called my therapist-turned-life-coach.
First, she asked if I thought this was coming from a place inside myself or if it was coming from Judgmental Friend. If it was JF’s voice in my head or my own.
The answer was JF. Because I like me. And inside my house, I wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable. It was outside that I saw every potential stranger as judge and jury.
So my life coach suggested a mantra. What if I walked down the street and told myself: they aren’t [insert name of friend].
They don’t think like JF. They don’t look at me like JF. They aren’t JF.
And then I took it a step further.
Because when I walk down the street, I find so many people beautiful. I look at them and think wow, that person is well put together. That person is beautiful. That person looks happy. What a smile. What eyes. What attitude.
Unless you are a creepy dude or a snot-covered baby, I’ve probably passed you on the street and thought you were lovely.
So instead of reminding myself that everyone on the street isn’t my Judgmental Friend, instead of asking “what if they don’t think like JF?”, I started to ask myself something else:
What if they think like me?
What if instead of judging me for running to the grocery store in sweatpants, they’re thinking “cute sweats?” What if instead of side-eyeing my pear, they’re thinking “mm, that looks good” or “she looks happy”?
What if they think like me?
It’s such a simple thing to ask that question, and yet it made such a big difference in the way I felt.
So today I offer up this little mantra in case you need it too.
And if you struggle to think kind things about people on the street or if you don’t really notice them and so the mantra doesn’t quite work, you can use me instead of you. What if they think like Gigi?
Because I’m sure if we passed in a cobbled Italian alley or a spacious Parisian park or a promenade on the Croatian cost, I’d think you’re fabulous.
Wow, I really needed to hear that! Once upon a time I had my very own JF and I constantly felt “less than.” And as someone who has struggled with weight and self esteem since forever, it added an extra layer of pain to my relationship with food. This JF is a friend no longer (and, boy, did I feel liberated when that ended!) and I’ve managed to get to a healthy and happy place. Now I get a different version of JF in the form of “protein experts” because I eat plant based. So I have a whole spiel prepared for those folks with stuff along the lines of “none do your business,” and “I don’t just eat iceberg lettuce.” Anyway thanks for sharing! I relate and I feel so glad to know I’m not the only one severely stressed over this.
What a beautiful post Gigi, I love it !!
I had this happen to me and I made myself small, a kind of protectionism.
We should not allow anyone to make us feel this way..
I am working my way out of it now, and thankfully most people are not like JF !!
Love this so much…although I may be mad when I can’t stop thinking ‘ maybe they think like Gigi’ all the time lol
When my friends or family are trying to make a decision about something I tell them to sit quietly and make sure the decision is theirs not someone else’s opinion. Tell JF not to pass judgment until you have walked in someone else’s shoes.
I love your posts. I miss your dog though.
Indeed, I think, I HOPE most people think like you (and me) and NOT your JF. I generally walk down the street and think to myself how lovely someone looks, even if they’re not ‘conventionally’ beautiful. I do sometimes find myself slipping into judgment, but we are all works in progress, right?
As an (American) woman, I think it is culturally ingrained in us to be conscious of our weight and what we are eating and to do the same for others, sadly. I struggle to eat completely for health and enjoyment without judging myself but being in Lisbon for the last 15 months has had a positive impact on both my eating and my weight.
Cheers to all.
Gigi! I stopped by on a whim, and you’re still here! :-) :-) :-) And wow, I could have written that post. The interesting thing is that I never lost any weight (and I needed to, for health reasons) until I stopped demonizing foods and accepted myself as I was. It sounds like JF is the one who is hurting and not at peace with herself.
I just shared your article JF!! Loved it and strange as it may seems, you popped into me head before I closed my eyes to sleep. I began thinking about you and Luna. Wake up to find it’s your birthday! Happy Birthday to you and Luna ?
This was perfect for me to read today. I love your mantra and will definitely find it helpful when I feel like I want to be invisible!
We definitely think like you dear one… your voice I trust for seeing and appreciating things as I do when exploring and engaging with the world.. .. ‘Should people’ are very sad inside..