This is the most difficult post I have ever written, and it faced a lot of internal debate if it would ever see the light of day. Everyone has their own temperament. Some wear their lives on their sleeves; others keep their personal feelings under a bushel basket. I have no problem sharing my feelings, but I have issues sharing my vulnerabilities. Others can exploit vulnerabilities, and I like to feel safe. In addition, being transparent can expose me to the judgment of others. Frankly, I don’t like to be judged. So why am I writing this post? Because it’s time. If you can’t accept me for who I am, then it is best that we part ways. If you can accept me for who I am, I will reciprocate. I am not an Instagram kind of guy; I’m a real person.
I have said less than flattering things about my dad and my relationship with him. My dad was not an evil person; he was just flawed. I’m sure he had hidden insecurities during a time when men were supposed to be invulnerable. I’m sure that I disappointed him in many ways. I was not a typical kid. I always was different, odd. I was interested in how the universe was formed when I should have been interested in playing baseball. I was sensitive when I should have been tough. I was fat when I should have been thin. I was not a 1960s poster son, the kind of kid a dad could brag on. Sorry dad.
My father met my oddness with anger. He never hit me; his anger was expressed in harsh words and a lack of interest in me. As a child, I felt this was normal and deserved his judgment. There was truth in his statements; I was an embarrassment to him. By the Grace of God, I was given an alternate view of myself from other adults who seemed to value me and celebrated my oddness. Their enthusiasm for me far exceeded anything that I deserved. From nuns to teachers, there was a consistent message. I was different, but that was amazing. I was special. I thought outside of the box. God had plans for me. These good people saved my life and made me realize I had value. I now know of an additional force that propelled me away from a negative concept of myself-and that was anger. It feels so odd to admit that, as I am a person who rarely feels angry. However, certain situations can turn it on; I can move mountains when that happens.
I long ago accepted who I am. In fact, I used my differences to my advantage. These “negatives” became gifts that gave me a life I never could have imagined as a child.
However, one part of my life still gives me great shame. So much, in fact, I sometimes have to force myself to be around people. Long ago, I committed to never allowing my fears to control or determine my life’s trajectory, but it is work for me.
Everyone has differences, but those characteristics can be hidden in many cases. However, some differences are impossible to shield. If they are of the socially acceptable type, they are often ignored. But our society still has taboo characteristics that welcome mocking and judgment. Unfortunately, I possess one of them.
I was average weight until about 5th grade, then something happened. I started to gain weight. I don’t recall any changes in my eating patterns, and I believe that, in part, it had something to do with puberty. In short order, my weight had increased by almost 100 pounds.
You can only imagine the torrent of shaming comments that I got from my dad. I won’t repeat them in this post because they still create hurt and sadness in me. I was disgusted with myself as I was now wearing my differences in direct view. In grade school, I taught myself to temper excitement about my interests when interacting with others. I could fake being “normal,” and people would accept me as such. However, there was no deception for being fat. It was out there for all to see. I was wearing a giant billboard stating that I was a freak of nature.
Beyond family, I don’t recall others criticizing me for my weight. I have no memories of kids teasing me about it. They seemed to accept me for who I was and even liked me. I wasn’t one of the super popular kids. However, I was part of the pack and even had a bit of status being the “kid who knew everything about science.” However, in my heart, I felt like a fake who was about to be discovered. My obesity made me a bigger target for my dad’s displeasure with me, and for once, I thought he was correct. I hated myself when I looked in the mirror. Why couldn’t I just be normal? Why did I have to be different? I couldn’t act the part of a skinny person; my weight signaled to all that I was odd.
In 7th grade, I decided to do something about my weight, researched the topic, and started a weight loss program. I’m not a person who does something by half measure, and I lost weight and became the family weight loss expert. Aunts and uncles would take me aside to learn my secrets, and I enjoyed a celebrity moment. Unfortunately, over a few years, the weight came back. I tried my old techniques, but they didn’t work as well, and I had to adopt new, more stringent strategies. I lost the weight again but regained it in a couple of years.
This cycle has repeated itself numerous times—I had to adapt and try new techniques each cycle. I have been on multiple diets. I have joined every major food plan, I have purchased prepared meals, I have taken over-the-counter supplements, I have used prescription meds and had medical interventions, I retained a personal trainer, and I have worked with a dietician.
I am dedicated and reliable, and those characteristics have been utilized in my weight loss efforts. However, my cyclic pattern continues as it is impossible for me to sustain a starvation-eating pattern infinitum. Eventually, I weaken and slowly regain.
I thought I had finally reached a point where it was impossible to lose weight, but around 5 years ago, circumstances allowed me to lose a considerable amount of weight. But, once again, I regained. Now, I have to deal with shame one more time. “What will people think of me who saw me thinner and now see me fat?” It makes me want to avoid people. I can’t let that happen.
As in most of my writings, I scribe this for my kids. Not only that they know me better, but to also help them deal with any differences that they may see in themselves. I also write it for any others who may be reading this. Can you accept me for who I am instead of what I look like? If not, OK, but let’s not pretend we must be buddies.
In this regard, I should accept myself. I would like to, but pounds continue to creep up unless I actively work on losing weight. I do not know its endpoint as I have never allowed my weight to stabilize. I like to be active, and I want to be healthy, and these facts motivate me to control my poundage-however, unsuccessful I may be.
Strangely, there are some positives to my dilemma. I know what it is like to be judged for something that has little to do with who a person is. Some people will see me from afar and instantly form a negative opinion of me. Their preconceived notions will become solidified to a level that I will never be able to break. To be judged in such a superficial way is cruel and unfair, but it is a fact of life.
Those who know me know I’m committed to not judging others based on any superficial identifier or single characteristic. Race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identification, so many people instantly reject individuals based on these criteria. Such superficiality seems insane and unnecessary to me. Why do we need to do that? I say this as a person who was judged for being different. Yet, a person who has contributed to society. A person who has never intentionally hurt another human. A person who has value. I am not alone.
If you have gotten this far in this post, I thank you. I wear my differences directly on my body. I can not hide. Accept me for who I am. If you can’t, let’s be honest and talk about it. Get to know me. Love me, and I’ll love you right back. I will celebrate your differences.