What is it … ?
Updated and graciously re-posted from Gurze Publications: In a conversation with my husband the other night I asked him the names of his elementary school teachers and what he most remembered about them. He did far better than I, recalling all but his third grade teacher. When it was my turn I was struck not so much by my inability to name as many of my teacher’s as he but by the one memory that instantly popped into my head. My first grade teacher (whose name I DID recall) continually made derogatory comments about her body. Once she remarked to another staff member as she came out to collect us from the playground, “I’m as big as a barn!” Her comment puzzled me. My grandfather had run a dairy farm…I knew how large a barn was. This teacher was tall but she certainly did not come close to being the size of a barn.
Although by that point in my life I was a fine storyteller, this teacher taught me by example the heights to which exaggeration could be taken. She was not a kind teacher. I never wanted to be like her, yet I found myself exaggerating my perception of my own body as well. If she thought she was huge then I needed to reevaluate my own size. This happened over 50 years ago and yet the memory is as vivid as yesterday.
Knowing what I know today I realize how lasting and sometimes damaging negative remarks about our own body or looks can be. At dinner with friends a few nights ago they shared with us the excitement and preparations around their daughter’s upcoming nuptials. The wife, a woman who has heard our presentations nearly a dozen times said, “I got my mother-of-the-bride dress yesterday…I’ve sworn off desserts until the wedding.”
My heart gets heavy with how difficult it is for us to change our thoughts and behaviors…even when we know (but obviously forget) their potential to do harm. What is it that prompts us to buy a dress that we must worry about fitting into on the day it’s to be worn? What is it that allows us to make derogatory comments about our bodies, especially in the presence of susceptible ears? What must we do to change these realities?
Until next time,