The first night of the first summer I returned home from college after my freshman year I met up with friends at a party on campus. I remember my entire time at this gathering, we didn’t stay there long. Both of these facts were undoubtedly a consequence of an insufficient supply of alcohol. Although there appeared to be enough there for some.
A girl I knew from high school, not a friend, but a friendly enough acquaintance, approached me drunkenly. She shouted my name and then ran up to me and gave me a hug. Her approach would have been far less convivial if not aided by the three games of beer pong she had participated in earlier. As she loosened her tug around my shoulders she lowered her hands towards my waist and swung me around. “I have to see your ASS, I hear it’s GINORMOUS!” Our mutual friend who had probably relayed that information to her tried to laugh it off, “Yes, isn’t it amazing!?” I laughed too and pretended to take the comment lightly. After all, everyone had always talked about my ass–it was always big, but you know…in a “good way”. Unfortunately, facing the reality of the Freshman 15 X 2, I knew her inebriated comment sprang from critical gossip. I was not the skinny mixed girl with the bubble butt anymore, I had grown hips and thighs; I was thick. After forcing myself through a bit more small talk I finally managed to grab my girlfriend and slink out of the party. I’m sure we found booze somewhere, I had to forget what that girl said.
But I’ve never forgotten what that girl said.
The fact that I still remember that comment has nothing to do with how I feel about my body now; that’s been a long journey and the difference in my self confidence is night and day, thank God for therapy and also my thirties! Still, I’ll always recall that night because the embarrassment and hurt I felt at 19 ushered in a precedent–I would always try to lose weight, or tone up, or “look better” before returning home for a visit.
So many of us try to get into routines all the time. We work to discipline ourselves to regularly wake up early and go for a run, or we order a salad everyday at lunch to try and stay on a healthy track. But what about the patterns we don’t mean to fall into? The ones that we suddenly look back on and realize we have been following to our detriment for years? With a trip to Michigan scheduled for the end of this week, I realized about a month ago that my “tone to go home” routine was one that needed to be broken.
What I find most amusing about this pattern sticking in my head is that I barely see anyone when I go home anymore. I have three close friends that I visit and none of them are from my high school class. I pretty much hole up at home with my family the entire time and snuggle my nieces, that’s really what it’s all about. I know that everyone there that I spend time with loves me and could care less about whether I have gained a few pounds. I know the furthest thing from my mind when I first greet them is whether their asses have gotten bigger; it’s just not remotely circling the realm of importance. So, when I got on the treadmill last month, I wondered why I felt compelled to push a little harder for my impending homecoming.
The only answer I could come up with was simple: repetition. While I let go of the starving and the purging a long time ago, I’ve kept the “who you are right now is not good enough” gig going for almost fifteen years. As a few self-deprecating thoughts crept in yesterday I realized that in order to break this pattern once and for all, I would have to take action and do something different. I would have to create a new routine.
In order to do this I’ve decided that every time an old thought comes up between now and when I am home, I’ll make myself consciously replace it with a new, more positive, more true, sentiment. That means not just letting thoughts roll through my head as they may; I am responsible for stopping them and not allowing them to colonize my brain and influence my actions. So when my old mind thinks, dinner with friends would be more fun if you were a bit thinner–I will challenge that thought with, I always have so much fun going to dinner with my friends, I can’t wait to see them. Seems basic, but I think turning over the dialogue in my head is vital to retraining my brain; if I want different thoughts to come out, I’ve got to start putting different thoughts in. My hometown is full of body shaming, self-critical ghosts; I need to clear them out so I can move freely and joyfully. It will take some practice; something tells me this first trip back won’t be perfect. But if I know anything about myself, it’s that I have the discipline to change my habits, and I’ve gotten pretty good at creating new patterns that support and contribute to a healthier and happier me.
What about you? What’s it like when you go home? Any old insecurities start to pop up? I’d love to hear what they are and how you battle them! x