Today is the final day of "Weight Stigma Awareness" (WSA) week. A couple of national organizations (BEDA, NEDA) have hosted events or sent out newsletters on ways we can re-think our often stigmatizing and shaming attitudes on weight. I applaud and support their efforts especially after an incident a few days ago reminded me of the importance of a week that focuses on this topic.
On my jog back to Tom I realized that I was a bit angry with myself. By chuckling (which was me being "polite") I reinforced this "drive by shouting." 1 This man may now think that making unsolicited comments to strangers is acceptable, especially in relation to "fitness" with a goal of weight loss (which both Tom and I had the "sense" his remark inferred)
I knew why I felt anger. I had been transported back to the day when Andrea and I'd been walking up Big Ranch Road on one of our daily "fitness" outings (although this was pre-bulimia for her, we both had the goal of weight loss on our minds). A bicyclist went whizzing by and shouted menacingly, "It's gonna take more than that honey!"
I wanted to run after this man and throttle him. I wanted to shout, "How dare you! My daughter is in a vulnerable place right now. How dare you ruin her day!!" Which, indeed, was the end result of his callous shout-out. Andrea tried hard to hear my explanation that HE was the one with the problem but she could not shake the feeling that his judgment was accurate. Although certainly not "the" triggering statement that sent her down the slope toward an eating disorder, it probably counted up there in the top ten.
These "drive by shoutings" whether delivered on foot, via car or bicycle, are not innocent "encouragements." They are delivered by those who have never been exposed to the following notion:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
--Marianne Williamson, Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles" (quote taken from one of BEDA's WSA daily newsletters)
Shouting at strangers is a pretty strong indicator that we are deeply afraid. It is not a way to let our "light shine" or to liberate us from fear. The only way to do that is via love...with love of self being the first step. I truly believe that the men who felt the need to shout out their thoughts in the above scenarios suffer from a lack of self-love...may they, one day, develop that ability.
Sending blessings until next time,
1Dr. Deah Schwartz wrote a terrific blog on just this topic. I've borrowed the apt phrase, "drive by shouting" from her.