Believe in Your Limitations, and They’re Yours

Last week I posted some statistics about height and weight.  Partly it’s because the statistics surprised me a bit — I thought women were taller and heavier, on average, than they are.  I also thought it would be an interesting bit of data to discuss and think about.

There’s something else, though.   I accepted the data when I read it.  I could’ve denied it.  I could have argued, for example, that women in the Seattle area are really taller than average.  Or that the statistics were incorrect.   Or that since many women do wear heels, their height in heels is what matters, not without.

If, you know, I had more invested in seeing myself as average height.

Humans often do focus on the data which confirms their beliefs and discount what doesn’t; it’s called confirmation bias, and reportedly emotion encourages it.  Reading the Wikipedia article I came across the following:

[D]epressive patients maintain their depressive state because they fail to recognize information that might make them happier, and only focus on evidence showing that their lives are unfulfilling. According to Beck, an important step in the cognitive treatment of these individuals is to overcome this bias, and to search and recognize information about their lives more impartially.

This was something I worked on in therapy for depression, in fact—learning to look beyond my own perceptions to check my feelings with whatever facts were available.   (I think that’s part of why I find demographical statistics fascinating.)  This disconnected me from my feelings to a certain extent, but when you’re depressed that can be something that really helps.

I think of it like putting on my glasses (getting in better focus) or using highway checkpoints (getting an outside reading for my spedometer).   My emotions and feelings of self-worth can be impacted by depression.  Or fatigue.   Sometimes it’s better to say “enough” and come back after a nap or some coffee or when I’ve got my glasses on.

This technique also works when you feel that being fat is the root of all your problems.  Or when you are worried about what other people are thinking.   Yes, sometimes they are pointing at you and saying “Look at her!”—but more often they’re not.

Yes, I am taller and fatter than average.  In some ways I’m a freak of nature — most humans simply can’t weigh as much as I do.   I also have white skin, curly hair, a rack of doom, a Bachelor of Science degree.  Some of these things provide me with privilege, some don’t, but none dictate my worth.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

8 thoughts on “Believe in Your Limitations, and They’re Yours

  1. It sounds like you have done some pondering about this lately, trying to put it all in perspective. If that’s true, then I am in the same place.

    Lately I’ve been pondering my own “where do I fit in” thoughts and haven’t come up with anything I can settle into yet. The reality of knowing that my physical body (similar in size to yours) is atypical is a hard pill to swallow sometimes. I don’t really feel like I can champion right along with the majority (those with BMIs above 25 and below 40) because that’s not me. I’m above that BMI threshold.

    That said, I truly do “look beyond” the physical when determining my own perceptions of others. Just because one aspect of me is atypical does not mean there aren’t an abundance of similarities that I can align myself with in others. It’s difficult to overcome the physical, even for someone who has embraced the FA movement. Societal definitions of beauty are so entrenched in our day to day lives that even with a new understanding of acceptance, I still find myself making comparisons. Only now, I don’t let it get too far before I stop myself and actually look harder at that person, or imagine what their life (beyond the physical I can see) may be like.

    It’s definitely a journey. With mid-life changes occuring in my body (perimenopaus, arthritis aches/pains, new wrinkles, massive graying in my hair, thinning and graying eyebrows/eyelashes, less physical endurance, memory lapses, etc) I seem to face new obstacles regularly. There are even times I find myself reluctant to go out because I just don’t have it in me to shield myself from the stares or worse yet, being ignored. But I believe that means I am coming to terms with who and where I am at this point. A period of disequilibrium if you will. I have to believe that it is just part of the journey and try not to fall into doom thinking where I place all my sense of self worth on my appearance, numbers on a scale, or my aches and pains.

    Thanks for sharing your journey…..and letting me share mine.

    • Thanks for sharing your journey…..and letting me share mine.

      You are welcome.

      Societal definitions of beauty are so entrenched in our day to day lives that even with a new understanding of acceptance, I still find myself making comparisons.

      I agree. But also: societal definitions on the importance of beauty are pretty entrenched too. We can work to change that. Women En Large and the Adipositivity project showcase other sorts of bodies and beauty and help to expand the standard of beauty. Making my own perceived beauty less important in my own life — such as pursuing a career where a “professional appearance” can mean showering and putting on a clean t-shirt — is another.

      • I love the Adipositivity site and visit it almost daily. It gives me goosebumps seeing my body shape there. I just wonder why they have to be mostly naked. I get that it, just that most of the time, I’m wearing clothes, ya know? Also, the only other clothed pictures I see of my body type are usually headless fatties…….which is so dehumanizing.
        I like your stance on making your percieved beauty less important in your own life. It amazes me how my standard of beauty has changed over the years. I used to like biker type guys in my 20s……now it’s nerdy types with megaintelligence that I find seksi. Even in nature I find beauty in some of the most mundane or traditionally unpretty things….like wilting flowers, mud puddles, or piles of dirt. Sometimes it just takes a closer look to see the beauty in things…and people.

  2. I think it’s more negativity bias (giant PDF I haven’t finished reading yet) than confirmation bias. (E.g. I would be really upset about the one class I failed even if I had rocked the socks off several other classes. As the saying goes, one drop of poison spoils a bucket of milk.)

    The Roosevelt quote makes me wonder if there really is a difference between empowerment and blame, because I could take it either way.

  3. I have discovered over time I am far, FAR more sensitive about my weight and size than other people are judgmental of me. I mean, yeah, the occasional asshole exists, but for the most part, I don’t get judged much for my weight.

    I do find perceptions about weight holding me back, though. I’m SCARED of getting a book contract because I’m afraid of how I’ll be treated during publicity due to my weight and the fact I’m not photogenic.

  4. Hi – I just found your blog today – maybe this post isn’t too old for a reply. The Fantasy of Being Thin really hit home for me, too. Once in my life – when I was about 17, I got to a “normal weight” (other than that time, I’ve been in various categories of obesity), and that was the most depressed I’ve ever been. I had always been told that if I would just lose weight, I’d be more popular, and have more dates, and feel better, and wear normal sized clothes, etc. etc. It sounded logical, but it didn’t happen. I wasn’t any more popular, I still had to wear tall sizes (which, in the ’70s, were pretty hard to find) I didn’t have any more friends, I didn’t have any more dates, and I didn’t feel any better (hungrier, but not better) than I did when I was “fat”. I think it’s horrible to tell someone that all of their problems will be erased if they lose weight! OK, I could rant about that all day, but I’ll stop myself.

    I’m glad I found this blog. It helps to know that others are out there experiencing the same things I am. I’m currently around BMI 50 (+ or – depending on the day). Anyway, thanks again.

  5. Pingback: Way Outside the Bell Curve | Living ~400lbs

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