The problem with having siblings is that you are all constantly being compared to one another. And as I’ve said before, I was (and still am) the black sheep of my family. For the better part of my youth, I was “the skinny sister.” I was never thin, exactly, but I was the thinnest of us three Smith girls.
Now, I am the heaviest. Well, I look the heaviest. I couldn’t tell you what the other girls weigh. And it’s hard. Elizabeth, the used-to-be heaviest sister has spent the last two or three years losing 80 pounds. I applaud her for doing that, because she looks great.
But what people don’t tell you about weight change is the toll it takes on the people around you.
I talked to my Daddy the other night and part of the discussion involved this topic. My sisters are just so different from me. I told Daddy that Elizabeth is not the same girl that she was when she was heavier. And the rabbit hole Daddy went down went a little something like this:
Daddy: Do you remember when you were 16? You were skinny and pretty and outgoing. Because you felt good about the way you looked, and so you were confident and spontaneous and popular. Elizabeth never got to have that kind of personality, because she was always heavy. So now that she’s thinner, and she’s getting a lot of attention, I’m sure her personality has become more like yours used to be. She’s confident and outgoing, too. Maybe this has been the “real” Elizabeth all along. She was just never comfortable enough to be who she really is. You know, Megan, every time I get on Facebook, I look at your posts and they usually say something about how ugly you are or how fat you are, and while that’s not true, you’re a different person than you were when you were skinny. You can’t afford to be mean or confident or outgoing or bubbly, because you’re not as skinny as you were back then. It’s like you and Elizabeth have switched personalities.
And I got off of the phone with him, in full “reflection” mode as I cried and tried to process everything he said to me. I typically cry when I talk to my daddy, and it’s usually because I can hear disappointment in his voice, and I know there is nothing I can do to make that better. But this time, it was different. This time, while I understood Daddy’s points, I had to sit on my couch, crying and disagreeing with everything he said.
First point of disagreement – Yes, I did a lot of awful things when I was a teenager (as most teenaged girls do). I broke the rules more than Elizabeth did. I had a smarter mouth. I had more boyfriends. I had more friends. And I was skinnier and prettier than I am now. But all of that was in spite of the fact that I HATED myself. Even now, I’m still outgoing, spontaneous, funny and popular. I have just as many friends now as I did back then. When I was single, guys flirted with me, just like they did in high school. And once Jack and I started dating, I knew I could have sex whenever I wanted. And while I don’t show my cleavage like I used to, and I don’t wear skirts like I used to, that has a lot less to do with the fact that I’m fatter, and lot more to do with the fact that I’m older and wiser and don’t feel the need to show the world what I’ve got. Either way, whatever confidence Daddy thinks I had or displayed for others to see when I was 16 was completely pretend. Truth be told, my self-esteem was flushed down the toilet the second my mother walked out of my life, and that’s the truth. At 98 pounds or at my current weight (which, yes, I am embarrassed to share), I have always, ALWAYS hated myself. It’s not a weight thing. It’s a mind thing.
Second point of disagreement – Elizabeth lost her virginity way before I did, and she is 16 months younger than me. Elizabeth started drinking and smoking before I did. She was sweet and polite and kind on the outside, but what I know that Daddy doesn’t, is that she has always fought demons, just like everybody else. She wasn’t perfect when we were kids, unbeknownst to the family. Yes, now that she’s away from Daddy, she can be the person she wants to be. But that’s not to say that she’s a different person just because she’s lost weight. She’s always been the person that she is right now, at least on the inside, weight fluctuations aside.
Third point of disagreement – We sisters’ personalities have not flip flopped. I spent a lot of my youth making GIANT mistakes that I can never take back, even though I wish, every day, that I could. But all of the mistakes I made, while they did reflect poorly on me as a daughter, were never made with the intent on maliciously hurting another person. Yes, I PRETENDED to be confident, when in reality I was, and still am extraordinarily insecure. But I was also kind and friendly and gentle. That has not changed. I think that because Elizabeth was so afraid of Daddy (to him, fear and respect are much the same thing), she was kind and friendly and gentle. Because she HAD to be. But Elizabeth, currently, not having to answer to anyone for her actions, has become quite the “mean girl.” And again, I don’t think that has anything to do with changes in someone’s weight. I think it has to do with someone’s sense of accountability.
Daddy also told me that, one day, Elizabeth will have to face the fact that she has made mistakes. That she will have to accept her part in the dissolution of her marriage, the failure in raising her children and the breakdown of her life up to this point. He said that it can’t always be someone else’s fault, and that one day she will be held accountable for her poor decisions.
My sense of accountability can be found in the bodies of a 10 year old and an almost 8 year old. I found that accountability when I realized that I had to break the curse that was placed on my family when my mother’s mother left her, and then when my mother left me. And now I practice that sense of accountability, daily, anytime I make a decision or face a problem. And I hope Elizabeth realizes that she is in the same boat as I was 10 years ago. I hope that she gets the help she needs.
And that’s when I decided that I was going to PROVE to Daddy, to Elizabeth, to my ex-husband who had weight loss surgery in April, to everyone, that a person can lose weight and still be a nice person, whose personality does not alter just because she is thinner.
My friend Lori and I were discussing weight gain at work yesterday. Lori is a 5’3” teeny tiny little thing, but according to her, she has gained a lot of weight over the years. She told me that no matter what she tries, she just can’t lose weight anymore. I agreed, as I ate my sad little salad for lunch, and I told her that I want to get these 40 pounds off, because I hate how I look. And she said something very wise to me that I hope I never forget: “I think part of the problem, especially with women, is that we can never learn to just accept ourselves for who we are. We are always climbing a metaphoric mountain, trying to change our appearance. The happiest women are those who truly accept themselves and love themselves, no matter what the scale says.”
There is so much truth to that. If I lose weight, I need to do it for me, for my health, and not just to prove anybody wrong. Moreover, whether I weigh 98 pounds or 698 pounds (I don’t weigh that much, but I’m just saying…), I need to learn that I’m okay exactly how I am. Accepting who I am, as is, is the key to being truly happy. And the number on the scale has nothing to do with that happiness.
Love who you are, Ladies.
Meg / cC