What kind of fish are you?
When I was younger I had terrible allergies. The only 'pet' allowed in the house had to be void of fur. I had newts, hermit crabs, and fish. Lots of fish. I had goldfish at first like most kids. Then I graduated to the fancier fish that required just a little bit more care - algae eaters, pumps and filters. You've seen them filling up the walls of the pet store. These were your fancier fish. My favorites were swordtails and kissing gouramis. Following along, the goldfish were for beginners. The swordtails and friends were for the more intermediate fish folk.
Then, of course, were the advanced fish folk. These are the fish that usually require some guy to come into your house with 'supplies'. Saltwater fish were never something I managed to graduate to. To be honest, I haven't had fish in over twenty years and I still have dreams about forgetting to feed them for weeks. But, I had a friend who had a tank full of these fancy fish. They were colorful, more unique by a longshot than those goldfish I got a the school carnival, or even my fancy to me swordfish! The payoff of what they offered was balanced by the work they required for their care.
It's important to accept where you are in fish life. Some of us are goldfish. We have a short list of needs, get to hang out with lots of kids, sometimes even a belly flop to the carpet a time or two. This isn't me, but I would totally want to be the ones with the bug eyes. They are my favorite. Some of us are swordtails, requiring a little more work for care- fancy pumps to keep our water clean. Some of us are salt water fish. We have a lengthier list of needs that may or may not include calling in a few experts for our care. A salt water fish doesn't know to consider itself high maintenance. It just has a list of care requirements, neither good nor bad.
Accepting what kind of fish you are helps you tell others what you need. Don't show up with the goldfish if you are a puffer fish!
Worth is a right... Happiness is a luxury. Don't get them confused and think you only deserve happiness if you have worth. We are all born with infinite worth, not to be taken away from.
What is a size really?
No matter what size you are... 8 or 0, there is no way for that size to be the perfect fit. Sizes are by nature arbitrary. A size is a collection of measurements under a heading. Bodies aren't standard. Somehow, however, sizing is supposed to be. If you think about it, anything that has to be categorized has to be pushed a little this way or that way. This has to be smaller than that. That has to be larger than this. Why is it that a number gets to have so much power? Do we have to walk away feeling not good enough?
Maybe it's because we have learned from a very young age that numbers mean something. Everyone knows that a 100 on a test is better than an 80. We are driven to classify ourselves in a numerical system. What if our grades consisted of AWESOME, GOOD WORK, LET'S TRY A LITTLE HARDER? A grade is just a number that we have learned means something about us. Our size is just a number that we have let mean something about us. And like grades, we hear it can always be better.
There are some colleges where you get to pick your grades. Depending on where you are in your life, whether you are also working through school, have a family, you get to decide which grade you want to work for. You can choose to do the C track and not feel in competition to those who are working on A's. What if we could accept our size in the same way? Certain people have a lot of time to devote to sports or exercise and preparing healthy meals. Some may have other priorities that don't allow for that. What if we allowed ourselves to pick a size, one that we would feel comfortable in, one that was based in part on how much time we could devote? What if we were allowed to feel proud of ourselves in that size?
What if we got to choose for ourselves what felt good instead of only getting to feel good if we got an A or wore a size 2? What if?
What is skinny really?
Putting on a pair of shorts shouldn't make me feel like I have the wrong body type, but it does. Or, it did. With a semi-warm day in the middle of February I grabbed a sweater and a pair of Banana Republic shorts to pack in my bag. As I quickly changed into those shorts a couple hours later I was suddenly hit by a flooding of messages about my body. While this might have been normal twenty years ago, I'm not typically flooded by those messages. I've learned I simply have better ways to spend my time. Today was not so easy as the leg opening on my shorts grabbed tightly around my thighs. I could hear the familiar voice whispering in my year thing like, 'they are too big' or 'I told you to cut back on the weights' or 'that's it, you can't eat today'. I was surprised by how quickly they all showed up. I have to admit. For a few moments I found myself buying in, as if somehow the powers that be (here being Banana Republic) got to decide whether my body was meeting some kind of universal standard of correctness.
Luckily it wasn't too long before I felt the even more familiar anger surge through my body. I've learned to parent or protect myself from these messages when they are a little further out in my periphery. I guess being directly on my person this one snuck through. I felt the anger creeping in. It wasn't that my body was wrong. Those pants were wrong. My body was right. My body was right for me. Those pants might be right for someone else, but not me. But how many of us fantasize about this promoted ideal that's out there? The one with less fit legs.
Why are we promoting an ideal of weakness? Why are we promoting an ideal where girls grow up afraid to be in sports because they don't want to lose their thigh gap? Shouldn't we be promoting strength because strength leads to confidence. Don't we want our girls to grow up strong, where they can be feminine and have the curves that go along with being a woman, but also be able to protect themselves in a world much more scary than the one I grew up in. Why does Banana Republic get to tell me that my body is too big?
It doesn't. I'm not. Strong is a gift I hope to pass down to my daughter... even if she mistakenly thinks her daddy is stronger than me.
What's wrong with being an overfunctioner? You are thinking, 'I just like to get things done' or 'I just can't sit still if things are left not finished'. While being an overfunctioner may at times have it's payoffs, it has it's share of taxes too. Overfunctioners tend to feel as if their value is wrapped up in another person's view of who they are. As long as they are 'performing' they feel valued and worthwhile. Take that performance away and they often feel worthless. The constant demand and drive to do better, work harder, keep performing, keep running is fueled by a strong fear of the internal hole it feels like the worthlessness creates. While this in and of itself is a flawed concept it also creates an absence of self care on the part of the overfunctioner. The more I am driven to fuel my worth with other people's demands and often unspoken opinions, the more I am less inclined to slow down and listen to what my own needs are. While there is no tax in this for the overfunctioner who can only achieve value from those others; there is, in reality, quite a bit of tax from the lack of decompression.
Everybody needs to fuel back up. That may look different to a hundred different people. The idea behind it is still the same. Our bodies, our minds, our psyches, our whatevers need time to refill the gas tank. Unlike a car that can run in the the orange for at least 50 more miles before the engine finally shuts off, our bodies won't shut off. Most of us are familiar with a variety of stress responses that the body has to push through the lack of fuel and keep moving down the road, albeit a little less efficient than it could. But in the end the body craves a period to shut down, to rest, to plug back in to build back up the fuel reserves. This time is called decompression. While it may just sound like a fancy buzzword made up by a bunch of ancient like the dinosaurs therapists. It is actually an important term that allows us to unwind, dump some things off from our day that don't need to hang around like monkeys on our back, and gather a little insight into what isn't willing to let go that we might need to address more fully.
Those issues that go unaddressed often bubble under the surface as we approach dinner or any other night time eating ritual, including after the house has gone to bed. What we find is a focus on food, typically moving from one food to the next until we are way too full; but that is only part of what is going on. Shoving emotions down literally with food forces a certain calm, a certain numbness, for some almost a euphoria where they can finally rest. The food then is really just a vehicle to get to the point where permission is granted to decompress, without the nagging list of to-dos hanging in our face. The same thing plays out in starving away emotions. The hunger pains that are a part of starving eventually reach a euphoric state, or drug-like high that again induces a calmness. While, in reality, it may be a weakened state, it forces a decompression state.
Ultimately, decompression would leave to more energy to tackle the emotions from the day and a couple life tasks. Instead, past this kind of induced decompression leaves a considerable amount of guilt for the overfunctioner who hasn't, 'got things done' or 'has left things unfinished'. An overfunctioners job isn't just to learn how to decompress to avoid pitfalls with food. An overfunctioner has to allow themselves to realize where value really comes from and that it can't be robbed, earned, gained, or lost and that we are all worthy of self care.