According to Society, Not Only Am I "Too Sensitive", I Am Also "Too Skinny"
If you've been following my blog posts, you may think this is totally random. But they sort of all are right now because there are still so few of them!
My blog is about all things I've experienced, have interest in, or wonder about as an HSE. When I write for Instagram, sometimes I come across a topic that I want to write way more about than what will fit in an Instagram post. And that is when I choose to create a blog post, instead.
My hope is that what I have to say will speak to some of my audience. A post may not be for you, and that's okay. If this is not your jam, you can check back next week. But if it is, I hope you get something out of it.
As time goes on, my blog will be filled with all sorts of stories and thoughts, and I believe the more I write, the more they will thread together.
You'll see. Just bare with me here.
Ever since I became aware of society's view on body image, I've had body issues.
Before then, I didn't. I didn't even know what a "body issue" was. People have issues with their body? What does that even mean?
As a kid, I never really thought about my body. It was just the thing that I used to experience life. To run around and play. It was a vessel that allowed me to taste, smell, climb, laugh, smile, etc.
It was in high school that I started to feel very self-conscious about how not-so-curvy I was. It seemed like the girls with the recently emerged chests were 10x more likely to get attention from the guys, and us girls who developed late, or never really developed much at all, just sorta slid down the attractive scales. I felt like a sexy, vivacious girl on the inside, but slowly over time I lost confidence because I felt like I had no curves to "prove" it.
"Commenting on the fact that I'm 'so skinny' hurts me because my adult life experience has taught me that that's bad, and now I don't want to be this way."
Even before high school, I remember a dreaded day at summer camp with my friends when I was in about 5th or 6th grade...
I was at a neighborhood pool with my camp, and my friend and I went into the locker room to change out of our bathing suits and back into dry clothes. We shared a big stall and would just turn around and face the other way to let the other change clothes. My friend started telling a story, but I guess hadn't realized that I hadn't turned around yet, and started untying her top. Now, I am an HSE, which usually entails being a great friend, constantly worrying about other's feelings, and wanting to give someone their full attention when their speaking. So, being the attentive friend, and conscientious person that I am, I was faced with a dilemma and was confused. Why did she not tell me to turn around? Why would she start a story when we're supposed to not be facing each other? How do I solve this problem without hurting her feelings, or making her uncomfortable?
So after processing all those thoughts and feelings at lightening speed, I decided the best solution was to hold up my big beach towel in front of me at eye level so I could only see her face - that way, I could give her my full attention, without seeing her change. Well, it back-fired. She looked up mid-story, and I guess from her perspective didn't understand that I couldn't see her body, and she flipped out at me. She said she was so embarrassed that I had seen her boobs - and that I wouldn't understand how she felt, because, I didn't have any. Those were her actual words, I kid you not. Not only had I failed to find the right solution that wouldn't make her feel unimportant or uncomfortable, I got an insanely personal and horrific insult instead of feeling like a good friend. Ouch. That one stuck with me. (Obviously. It's probably been more than 15 years and I still remember it.) Sucks that those awful memories stick so vividly in our minds.
Its bad enough when a magazine makes you feel lesser than what you feel you are. And it also sucks when a guy teases you for being flat or like a stick. But when your friend, who is another girl, shames you? Why? So awful. Why must we do that shit to each other.
The Many Things People Have Said to Me
It wasn't until college that I started to really become aware of how abnormally skinny I was, and thus really began to dislike how thin my arms were. Constantly I got told I was too skinny. I started noticing people look at my arms, and my waist, and my legs... "Do you even eat?" People would say to me.
Or, people would say what they would consider to be "compliments" like, "Oh my gosh, I love your thigh gap". Oh, thanks...? Because that was definitely a choice I made, and had control over... #sarcasm
Or, the best one - when I worked in retail: "Hey, what size are you? I'm buying a sweater for my daughter. She is about your size, but ya know, healthy". I'm sorry, but did those &#$!ing words really just come out of your mouth!? That comment was prickly to say the least. I felt little needles of fury all over my body once my brain finally processed that what I thought I heard, was in fact what she had said.
At a different retail job I held for a few months, I got told on almost a daily basis by my manager, "Girl, eat a cheeseburger". One day I finally blew up at him and told him he needed to stop saying that. I shouldn't have to TELL you that that's not okay.
And this trend continued at yet a third retail job (I guess the moral of the story is to not work in retail, lol). I was promoted to the management team, and on the first day that I was given keys (of course), I lost them. Which drove me insane because I don't lose things. But my intuition had my back :) *high-five* HSE skill! My boss thought I was just dumb and misplaced them and wouldn't let me go home until we found them. But I remembered that the only time I took the keys off was at the counter helping a customer: the keys were on my wrist and were scraping across a scrapbook that this lady was asking me about and I didn't want them to damage it, so I took the keys off and placed them next to the book. After she left with her bag and her scrapbook, the keys were gone. I knew they were in the scrapbook in her bag. But she left no phone number, just her name. Anyway, when the regional manager asked my boss how I lost the keys, the reason she gave her was, "her arms are twigs, so the keys just slipped right off". I mean, really? Couldn't you have just told her the truth? (PS- the customer came back a few weeks later and I asked her about the keys. She went home and found them in the bottom of her scrapbook bag, and brought them back! Thanks, Intuition, *high-five!*, you're a doll.)
Here's one that never made sense to me, and I've heard it a surprising amount of times: "You're so skinny, what could you possibly have to complain about? Your life must be perfect", they'd say. As if I had no right to experience anything negative in life, because "I was skinny". What a stupid thing to say, honestly.
I even had a doctor insist I was anorexic. I went in for a physical before going off to college, and the doctor asked me questions about my diet and exercise. I told her that I ate meat, veggies, fruits, and grains 3-4 times a day. And that I didn't exercise at all because of fatigue and other undiagnosed health issues. Ignoring the last thing I said, she asked me if I was happy with my body. And I said actually, no - I'd like to gain a few pounds. She then said, "are you sure you want to gain a few pounds? Is that really the truth?" She questioned several times if I was telling the truth. The doctor left the room after a few minutes of this went to go tell my mom that she thought I was anorexic. She asked her if she had actually seen me eat. My mom went into a mama bear frenzy, told off the doctor, and we left. I understand the doctor's job is to make sure her patients are healthy, but sitting there in nothing but a crunchy paper dress, already feeling badly that I was "too skinny", being interrogated about it, and then not believed every time I uttered an answer - felt beyond awful.
A coworker who I had just met at a new job working in a photo studio told a group of us casually that she wanted to lose weight. "I want to exercise and lose some weight. So I can be skinny", she said. And then she looked directly at me and finished with, "But not like, you skinny. Ya know?" I didn't even know her. Not that that would have made it any better, really.
I even had a close friend tell me that I should really "take advantage of the baggy sleeve trend" when I got home from my first year of college and she thought my arms had shrank.
Would you call someone fat to their face? Probably not. So what makes it okay to call someone a stick or a twig? Or comment on their size at all?
It's Not Something You Get to Choose
Body image and weight issues of all kinds, suck. Often times when people would comment about me being thin, they wouldn't think they were doing anything "wrong" at all, because being skinny is considered the ideal. I don't care what is "preferred" by society or fashion magazines - a person's body is not something he or she gets to choose (yes, you can modify it somewhat with changing exercise or eating habits, but for the most part, you're stuck with the body type you were born with), and you should never assume that you know how someone feels about their own body. Commenting on the fact that I'm 'so skinny' hurts me because my adult life experience has taught me that that's bad, and now I don't want to be this way. Just as it would hurt to call someone fat who was desperately trying to lose weight. Or making fun of someone's natural hair color. Or skin color. Making comments about someone's body is inappropriate. Period.
Thankfully, I have a supportive boyfriend who doesn't make me feel as though I'm too skinny. He encourages me to wear whatever I want, and to feel more free. Even with his support, though, it's still difficult for me. It feels deeply engrained. To this day, I feel uncomfortable going without a bra, or wearing a bathing suit or even a sleeveless shirt in public. I struggle with being happy with my body the way it is, and wanting to change it.
Body and Being an HSE
As a sensitive person, I am highly tuned into the subtle messages I get from people, from society, and from the media. I deeply process them, and they linger with me for days, weeks, sometimes years if its powerful enough. The things people have said feel tattooed on me, and the images I've seen in the media are seared into my brain. I imagine this is a tough topic for anyone, but I wonder if its that much harder for a highly sensitive person to break a thought pattern, because we tend to deepen the impact of the thought by walking over the path thousands and thousands of times in our head.
I think though that part of why I am so skinny is because of how hard my mind works, and how easily I get stressed. The only thing I have noticed that allows me to gain some weight and keep it on is lowered stress levels. Which as an HSE, I feel requires eating well and healthy, and thinking and ruminating less; being more at peace and in harmony with yourself and your life. I've been trying to view my body through this insight and realize that it's the way it is because I am so much of a stress ball of a person. But fighting my own thoughts is hard enough, let alone everyone else's comments. I will say that being commented on has given me a chance to learn how to stand up for myself, so I'll give it that.
Can We Just Go Back to the Childhood Mindset?
I would love to start seeing my body the way I did as a kid again: a strong - almost invincible, beautiful vessel through which to experience life. We all could do with reverting back to our old childhood perspectives of our bodies. Focus on what's beyond it: people's personalities, words, actions, friendships, how they make you feel... And the attention we do place on our bodies, let it be only love for simply making it possible for us to be here.