onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “confidence”

It turns out I’m positively treacherous. Who knew?

At work this past week, someone in a higher position than myself has been giving me a hard time. I say a hard time, but it is abuse. Low-grade abuse, but abuse none the less.

This was hard for me at first, because I was 1) trying to be professional, and 2) trying not to be affected by it. So I took it. With a smile. And at the end of the day, I went to my car and cried before I drove home. And I thought about how much more I could take before I would have to quit.

And then I talked to my best friend who is wise, and also has her eating under control. And she said, “Stop smiling. Stop pretending it’s all OK. You wouldn’t smile like that at an abusive boyfriend.” She said, “Bullies are terrified. If you push back, even just a little, they will get scared, and change their tune.”

Now I will be honest. I had a hard time believing this. Because this person has all the power. They have been in their job for many years, and are high up in the company. I am just an office worker. And relatively new at that. Also, I didn’t even apply for this job. I was asked to take it, so from where I stand, I could just as easily be asked to leave.

I will say that I am good at my job. Really really good. But on paper, I’m nothing. I don’t have a degree. I don’t have any accounting experience. All I have is the fact that I am smart, I have integrity, and I’m a good worker. I’m not saying that those things are not valuable. I am saying that their value depends on the person doing the evaluating. And for the most part, my experience is that bosses evaluate based on what you look like “on paper.”

So here I am with no power, but I’m tired of crying in my car before I drive home. So I take my friend’s advice and I start pushing back. I openly sneer when I am berated for not knowing something I was never taught in the first place. I sigh exasperatedly when I am second guessed without being allowed to explain. I walk away when this person implies that I am not explaining something to a coworker properly. I let them do it themselves.

And you know what? Every time, this person really does change their demeanor. Not long-term. But in the moment, I can see them become afraid of me. And soften their stance. And try to explain away their bad behavior. This person is terrified of being called out by me.

So it turns out I have all the power. But here’s the secret. I only have all the power because I am sure of myself. More sure of myself than this person with so much clout in the company. My power is all in my confidence. In that relationship, even though that person has all of the hard power, I am the scary one.

But I’m only sure of myself because I have integrity. And I only have integrity because I have my eating under control.

Could this person get me fired? Absolutely! Here’s the other reason I have all the power: I have no attachment to keeping this job. I like the job. It’s rewarding. The money is terrific. I really hope I don’t get fired. But I refuse to live in fear of losing this job. What happens happens. And that makes me positively treacherous to an insecure person. Even an insecure person with all the power.

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That’s really deep and all, but now it’s time to eat breakfast…

I don’t usually cook for breakfast. I usually eat a cold breakfast. So there’s minimal prep, and I can get right down to blissful, guilt-free, thought-free eating right after I wake up. But on the weekends, I often eat a hot breakfast. Which means that while I cook there is some time to stand around in the silence and be quiet. I like quiet. I like standing around. I like peace.

This morning while I was cooking breakfast, I was thinking about all of the things that I was told I was all my life. Explicitly or implicitly. And how I believed those things. For so many reasons. Because I knew I didn’t have any answers, and everybody else seemed to. And because those things that I was told I was seemed particularly true. And I didn’t know how to do anything about that. And sometimes I even didn’t agree outwardly. Denied that I was these things that I was told I was, but secretly believed them.

And there is another aspect to it. I believed that these things were unalterable, undeniable truths. That they were somehow written down somewhere. Heaven, or The Book of Life, or in my DNA. But they were and must always be inescapable.

I was fat. I was lazy. I was smart. I was too loud. I was obnoxious. I was funny. I was selfish. I was strong. I didn’t have the talent or the drive to make it as an actor. I was a great singer. I had so much energy. I was unlovable.

When I was in 5th grade, one of my classmates looked at me in the mirror in the bathroom on picture day and said, “You have a big nose.” And for many years after that I truly believed I had a big nose.

One hairdresser told me that my natural hair color was flat and boring. I told people that I had boring hair for another 10 years.

And I was always looking for more of these “truths” about me. And more importantly, what they meant! What did it mean about me that I was (blank)!?!?

There are things that I understand now. About life. About myself. And about other people.

That other people don’t have any answers that I don’t have. Not about me, or my life anyway. That other people give advice and make comments based on their own reality and issues. Bless them…

That life doesn’t have a lot of absolutes. And I don’t have a lot of absolutes. There is not an Ultimate Kate somewhere in an alternate dimension shadowing my life. Sometimes I’m smart, and sometimes I am a total moron. Sometimes I’m loud, even too loud, and sometimes I am soft-spoken or silent. Sometimes I am funny, and sometimes I am serious. And sometimes I mean to be funny and am not. I am anything at any moment. And I change. I can and I do.

What this has to do with eating disorders is…kind of everything. When I got my eating under control, I got my first experience with overthrowing that absolute truth called “I am fat.” Probably the most ingrained and shameful absolute truth of my life.

And then as I continued over the years to control my eating by keeping my food boundaries, and gained more and more clarity, I stopped doubting myself. I started to hear my answers. The right answers. Answers for my own life. The answers I had been looking to other people for. The answers I had been believing because other people told me they were right.

And then all of that mental clarity and self-assurance made me start to realize that nothing “meant” anything. That today was just a day. That this moment was just this moment. And that life was just life, one now at a time. That it’s ok to make mistakes. And to succeed. It’s ok to be brilliant. And it’s ok to suck. And it’s even ok to be lazy and mediocre and blah. That it isn’t all that serious.

And then I ate breakfast and drank coffee and got to slip into that blissful oblivion that eating breakfast is.

Well, that was unexpected

The post I want to write today is about quitting smoking. And I’m having issues with that.  I keep thinking, “I don’t want this to turn into a quitting smoking blog.” But the truth is that smoking and eating have a lot to do with each other for me. I did them for basically the same reason. Because I don’t like to feel my feelings. So I am going to write this anyway.
There was a good reason why smoking took the edge off of the food cravings when I stopped eating sugar. It numbed the same feelings that sugar did. Actually it numbed some of the same feelings that sugar did. Over the past 3 weeks, which feelings those are has become apparent to me.
Before I get into cigarette feelings, there is something I want to explain.  When I stopped eating sugar/eating compulsively, I got this profound level of self-assurance. It did not happen overnight. It was a long and subtle process. But getting control of my food eliminated nearly all of my self-doubt. I have come to understand from looking back on the past 6 1/2 years, that it is the result of a combination of things. The rigorous honesty that I began to practice, first with my food, then with everything else. My commitment to keeping my promises. (Again it started with food and extended into all other areas of my life.) My willingness to be responsible for all of my actions, good, bad or indifferent, which I had to do because not doing so gave me feelings I couldn’t handle without eating cake. And finally the mental clarity that came from not being high anymore. All of these things came together and gave me a new relationship to the truth. Not just my honesty and my own truth, but to the truth in general.
When I was eating compulsively, I was a liar. And I was easy to lie to.  You know that saying “You can’t kid a kidder”? I think it’s wrong wrong wrong…It was like my own lies muddled up my brain and muddied my thinking.  They kept me from seeing reality. You could tell me something that obviously didn’t make sense, and I would notice, but I would always have to question myself. I always had to question my own thinking. But when I stopped lying, that stopped.  Also, I wasn’t high anymore. On either sugar, or the obsession with food. (Yes, for me the obsession was its own kind of high, related to, but not the same as, the sugar high.) I had a clear head, and I was telling the truth. It slowly but surely became clear to me that the truth was obvious. That it was silly to question myself.
The same thing happened with my own bad behavior. When I was being an a**hole, I had a hard time distinguishing bad behavior in others. The kind of actions that now occur to me as red flags, would totally escape my notice. But when I started treating myself and others with respect and honor, disrespect and dishonor became glaringly obvious. Sirens and flashing lights.
Getting control of my eating also had me become a person I liked and respected. So there was no question in my mind anymore that I didn’t deserve to be treated badly. That I deserved honesty, honor, and respect. It wasn’t that I never did anything wrong. It was that I knew when I did something wrong and when I didn’t.  And that when I had done something wrong, I was willing to own it and do the right thing. I stopped questioning myself. I stopped thinking myself in circles. I got an incredible confidence in my own judgment.
So back to cigarettes. And what kinds of feelings I used them to numb. They were “Good Girl” feelings. They were feelings about not being good enough. About wanting to be liked. About not wanting to do anything wrong. And not wanting to upset anyone.
Here is the pattern from when I was smoking. I would do something that seemed to me to be totally normal and not particularly worthy of notice. Someone would offer some subtle hint of disapproval. Subtle. Easy to pretend that I was not affected by it. I would tense up. I would not look to see if it had any merit. I would hold it in until I had a chance to smoke it. I would pretend it did not happen and I was not hurt.
The first time I went to the grocery store after I quit smoking, I left the store and immediately wanted to light a cigarette. I realized that I always lit a cigarette as soon as I left the store. I realized that I have been denying the fact that the checkout women at my grocery store are mean to me. The ways they show it are easy enough to ignore. If I can go smoke those feelings as soon as I’m out the door.
So that first time I had to face that those women are sneering and unpleasant with me, I cried. And then it hit me that I have been going to that store for years. And that I get a little panic and a little dread every time I go to check out. And that I have been doing all sorts of things to make myself more accommodating to them. And less annoying to them. Doing things to get through the checkout line faster. And that I have been stressed out about it. For years.
And when I couldn’t smoke it, and I had to face it, I finally thought, Why do I give a sh*t what these women think of me? I am giving their store my money. I’m not there to be liked. I’m there to do business. And I did, indeed, stop giving a sh*t. I stopped dreading. I stopped taking actions to make my shopping easier on them. I stopped stressing about checking out. I got peaceful.
I live in New York City where the streets are filled with people whose job it is to solicit donations for not-for-profits. I used to get really uptight when I would have to pass these people on the street. I would get edgy and stressed out wondering how to get past them without them talking to me. How to not make eye contact. How to look busy. How to look rushed or focused. How to get by unnoticed. And all of a sudden I am so calm when I walk by. I smile. I tell them I am not going to talk to them. I just say no and keep walking. No big deal. Just no.
These are seemingly small or trivial examples of the kind of shift that has gone on for me this past 3 weeks. But the peace and confidence that I’m describing does not occur in my life or my head or my heart as small.  Some parts of it make sense. Not smoking has meant I have had to look at things I was able to avoid by smoking them. But other parts of it don’t make rational sense to me right now. The generally being more calm and worrying less. I mean, isn’t that why I smoked? To calm down?
Maybe it’s being more present than I have ever been in my life that has me so self-assured. Maybe it’s that following through on my commitment has given me more self-esteem. Maybe, like when I stopped eating, as time goes by, the how and the why will become clear. But I like this whole happier, saner, more serene life. I am grateful I decided to quit smoking. I wish I could say I would have done it sooner if I had known it would be this emotionally freeing. But I know that’s not how it works. I know it’s everything in its own time.

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