For me it was always weight and body shape. Not surprising when you consider I was raised by a woman whose answer to most problems was food. A woman who loved with cooking. A woman who monitored her weight and verbalised her satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with it, regularly. She bonded with her friends at Weight Watchers meetings and took turns at hosting Weight Watchers compliant breakfasts. They’d walk to each others houses for exercise and on school holidays, I’d be right at their heels. They were all about the food (both embracing and resisting it) and I knew if I followed them, that somewhere along the line, I’d be fed! It’s little wonder I developed a passion for eating and an obsession with weight. But, rather than being a podgy little kid, I was skinny with bones poking out all over the place. People often commented on it and called me skinny mini or bean pole. And so, from a very young age, I gained my identity and lots of positive attention from eating lots of food and being skinny. You can imagine that as I hit my mid to late 20’s those two things no longer went together.
So, I then spent many years oscillating between my love for food and desire to be thin, because both were part of the identity I’d established as a kid. And I spent a lot of time and energy trying to get theperfect figure. Whilst living in Thailand, I finally got it! The day came when I looked in the mirror and thought, “Wow, where did all the fat go? Where did these muscles come from? When did this happen? And why don’t I feel any different?” Apart from my reflection (and the number on the label inside my jeans) nothing had changed! I didn’t feel different about life. It wasn’t easier. I didn’t feel better about myself. I didn’t feel more entitled or deserving. I felt . . . exactly . . . the same. Men were not suddenly dropping at my feet when they passed me, sensational job opportunities did not present themselves and my bank account didn’t fill itself.
Because, fundamentally, I was still me. The packaging had changed, but the product was still the same. And the packaging can be different for everybody. You might feel a certain way living in a certain house. You want to feel better, so you move to a better house. Regardless of which four walls surround you, you’re still the one living in it; with your values; your beliefs; your habits; your lifestyle. This may sound obvious to those of us who are older, but maybe this might strike a note with some of my younger readers. Having worked a lot with troubled teenage girls, of late, I’d like for them to know that just because another person is slimmer than you, more popular than you, more together than you that they are happier than you. What people see on the outside, is rarely an accurate reflection of what’s going on for them on the inside.
Its important to have something you desire and something to strive for. But its just as important to stop and look how far you’ve come, and where you are now. Nothing is completely black or white, good or bad. Instead of focussing on what you don’t have, what you feel is wanting in your life, spend some time thinking about what you have. Ask any man or woman who remembers complaining about their looks, size or fitness. Then, some ten or twenty years later, they see a photo of themselves from that time and notice just how thin, fit, young, successful they really were. And think to themselves, “If only I’d realised what I had, when I had it.” Try it yourself. Think of a time in the past when you were riddled with uncertainty, doubts and insecurities. Remember what ‘the product’ was like back then. Search through some old photographs (skipping any 80’s ones, as they can often have the opposite effect of what we’re trying to achieve here) and see what the packaging was like. In most cases, this proves that having a younger face, slimmer body, more glamorous life does not equate to happiness. Or you would have been happy then.
Having goals and working towards them is not only important, it’s something we need as human beings. It gives us meaning and purpose. It helps to stimulate us and give us a sense of achievement. Just be sure that you’re not equating the achievement of your goals to all encompassing happiness, because you’ll be disappointed. You’ll never quite catch what it is you seek, just like chasing Rainbows.
No matter how much you focus on that rainbow, no matter how fast you run towards it, it’s never where you first thought it was. Its moved. So you have to keep moving towards it. And if, by some miracle, you do manage to catch your rainbow . . . All you'd end up with is a fistful of rain!