Feelings are such delicate things and even the most confident or should I say seemingly confident person we know is often very vulnerable. Our smiles are the masks we don to hide our vulnerability from the world.
Sometime last year, I met a very confident, beautiful and vivacious woman! She was very full of life and her sense of humour brightened the gatherings we all attended regularly for charity! She lived large and made fun of all of us who kept to strict diets; saying she was larger than life and loving it!!
I like people who embrace themselves in all forms so I genuinely liked her; I love food but I love my figure and health even more, so I tend to be on the look out for the extra bits of cellulite that make their way to my behind every time I over indulge!
As I speak I am on a four day course of colonic irrigation and will even put myself through even more invasive therapies to continue to enjoy my physical well being! That said I have nothing against those who take life very easy and just go with the flow, I sometimes wish I could! You can imagine my shock when the lady in question broke down in tears over a very harmless comment that was not even directed at her!
It started as a normal enough event; in the course of the gathering somebody had brought some caftans for sale and since they were nice and cheap everyone wanted to buy! Along the line we all started trying them on when somebody made a comment that it was great to be slim!! The person in question was the closest friend of my vivacious friend.
She had embarked on a diet some time before then and was on her way to looking svelte and quite slim! Her remark was directed at somebody else who was looking extremely nice and as you may have guessed quite slim! By pure coincidence the vivacious lady was wearing exactly the same caftan and perhaps felt she didn’t look as nice; so she assumed she was being made fun of!
She didn’t say anything but was a bit subdued and I was surprised when she blew up a bit later. She said she didn’t appreciate bullying and would not stand for it! I was at a loss as I didn’t know what she was talking about and we were all stunned into silence, when we asked her to explain, the water works began and she lambasted us for behaving like school children who picked on each other for sport!
My initial stunned silence gave way to outrage as I did not recall ever picking on her or anyone else for that matter! Before we could do any damage control she had stormed off and the rest of us were left trying to retrace the series of events that led to the sudden fall out!
Thirty minutes later we were enlightened by a text she sent to the lady who had said it was good to be slim and it contained her take on what had happened! She had concluded that we thought she was fat and were all laughing our heads off when she tried on the caftan. She went to say she did not appreciate being a “joke” to us all and was sorry if were embarrassed by our “fat friend”.
When we finally picked our jaws off the floor a few tempers flared as some in the group felt they were insulted that she would think that they were that petty!! I just thought it was a mere case of miscommunication that could be cleared up! The offending comment was made by someone very innocently and the laughter was actually directed at me as I had donned an afro wig and was looking quite ridiculous!
The two scenarios as far as I was concerned simply exposed her vulnerabilities. She was not happy with her weight and if anything was very self conscious. Her insecurity was what made her a touch too sensitive and in a rather peculiar way it made me like her even more! I advised that we all let it go till she had had some time to think over and we could then go over and smoothen things over.
I could vouch for myself that I had never seen her as a fat friend as I don’t judge people based on their appearance! Like every one else I do admire beautiful people but it is a 2 second thing that warrants no feelings or passion; same as I would admire a beautiful car!
Days later I was still mulling over the incident and wandering whether we all had the confidence we portray! I can speak for myself at least and I fully confess that I have a mountain of insecurities! I grew up as the middle child and I often felt ignored and invisible! My two brothers who were older belonged to a club all their own while my three junior sisters were the cute and beautiful ones!
My mother had them over a course of three years so they looked like triplets; very beautiful and they were always dressed the same! I on the hand was tall and gawky; I seemed to be attached with glue as I was nicknamed the anopheles mosquito; I was so skinny you could count my ribs! I didn’t get the compliments and I was often taunted by my very ungainly gait!
I was also very clumsy, so the reprimands flew fast and furiously in my direction and the end product is an adult that still carries around the insecurities that is very common amongst middle children. I have always felt very ordinary; I was just there; nothing special!! Till date I still suffer from what I call the “ugly ducking syndrome” and while I may have blossomed into a swan my head still functions as the ugly duckling!
My closest friend asked me a question a few nights ago and I was amazed he knew me that well. I put up a very good front and most people are very impressed by my mien! He asked why I always felt like I was never good enough and thought I should grow out of my insecurities once and for all! Given that I have never actually voiced it out I was stunned into momentary silence!
“You are doing very well and whether you believe it or not you are beautiful, so stop putting your self down all the time” were his next words!
To be honest I was not aware I was doing that but I guess to him I was like a child; needing reassurance and validation, he is my sounding board for most of my frustrations and inspirations and it has been his job to give the confidence boost I often need! I won’t deny that the tough love stung but I guess I had it coming!!
I did hear the words and I do appreciate all I have been blessed with but how do you change a mind set that was created in my very early consciousness? It has just become a way of life to feel like second best and I will openly admit to receiving some counselling but it has made me more accepting of who I am; it has not undone the damage.
When next I spoke to the lady in question; I asked her what growing up was like and she recounted tales of some very cruel bullying she had experienced in boarding school. Groups of girls gathered together to taunt her about her weight and a particular incident stuck in her mind. She recalls going in to the shower room to shower and while she was under the water being grabbed and pushed out naked into the hall.
She remembers lying on the floor, naked and with soap stinging her eyes, crying while the same vicious group of bullies screamed “fatso” at her. Her torment ended when the caretaker; a kind old man found her and took her to safety! Some of the girls in question were expelled and her parents moved her to a new school but the damage had been done.
That incident had scarred her for life!! I really felt awful about the misunderstanding and the seemingly cruel taunt of “ its good to be slim” but I went on to explain that it was just a freakish coincidence and no one would actually be that cruel; at least not amongst us!!
I like to think that I am sensitive to people’s feelings but this particular incident is making me a lot more curious; wandering what lies behind the smiles we all wear!
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Toyin Johnson Toronto, Canada August 12, 2007
Awesome article; full of insight.
Reminds me of a book i recently read, The Confident Woman: Start Today Living Boldly and Without Fear by Joyce Meyer.
ike abuja, naiga April 11, 2007
like the article and keep it up.
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