Recently a gift of cupcakes arrived at my office for the entire staff. Shortly after an all-staff email appeared in our inboxes alerting us of the gift. Myself and many staff members stood up simultaneously and b-lined to the pantry. As I walked the 100 feet that stretched from my office to the pantry to accept my ration of celebration, I took note of the conversation surrounding the cupcakes. It was eye opening. Instead of my co-workers and I conversing about the celebratory reason the cupcakes were sent to the office or using the cupcake distraction as an excuse to forget about work and talk about the latest in reality television gossip, I found myself in a circle of self-deprecating humor. With each bite of butter cream frosting came a personal attack each woman spewed onto themselves. A bite of chocolate butter cream frosting accompanied with the words “don’t judge me.” A hand reaching for a banana butter cream cupcake with the phrase “clearly I’m the fat cow when needs a cupcake” hurled into the air.
I too was guilty of justifying my need for a cupcake in the form of an insult.
But why couldn’t we all just enjoy the cupcake? Do we even know how to enjoy anything “bad” without acting this way? Why is it so hard for us all to sit down together, take a break from work and savor a New York City delicacy? The truth is, it’s much more comfortable to throw around self-deprecating humor before we run back to our desks hoping to erase the realization that we all just blew our diets in the face of sprinkles.
Where did those actions stem from? Why do we feel the need to put ourselves down in front of others? It’s because we are judging ourselves so harshly that we assume others are judging us. If we say something hurtful about ourselves, we protect ourselves from someone else doing it first. But worst, why do we set the bar for failure so low that one cupcake does us in?
The answers to these questions lie in the naked truth of why we feel the need to be on a diet in the first place. In order to face the truth we need to take the opportunity to be completely raw and vulnerable about why it is so important to look a certain way on the outside.
If someone asked me, how I feel when I am completely naked, It’s easy to answer. I wish my stomach was flatter and didn’t form rolls that look similar to a snowman when I sit. I wish my butt and thighs had less cellulite. I wish I had a little more of a thigh gap so my legs didn’t rub together in shorts and skirts. Now, if you ask me to strip down emotionally and bare all about why it’s important to have this perfect body, the answer completely escapes me.
I’ve spent the last couple days really reflecting on this. In preparation I asked myself these questions:
- Why do I need to weigh a certain amount? Does being thin mean status?
- Why is it so important to walk into a room with people I haven’t seen in some time and look thinner? Does losing weight mean success?
- How does the compliment of “you look thin” or “did you lose weight?” validate me? Does being thin mean I have my life together?
- Why do I need to wear a certain size? Does being thin mean revenge? Who am I competing with?
- Why do I need to be on a diet? What will being thin provide me? How am I looking to be validated? Why do I need to be validated in the first place?
These are hard questions. Not only is it hard to find the answers, it’s hard to face the reality the answers reveal. Our souls become undressed and that’s an uncomfortable feeling. In fact it’s so uncomfortable it makes standing in front of a mirror naked feel easy.
When we take the time to strip down and understand who we are and what makes us tick, it often puts one office cupcake into perspective. It puts our goal weights into perspective. It gives skinny jeans a new meaning. Most importantly, it opens our eyes to our deep-rooted need for validation in the form of our outer appearance. Let’s validate our own truth. When we do that, we won’t need anyone else to validate us.