What Lies Beneath

It’s been a while since I’ve written about this girl:


Don't be fooled — that smile's not real.

But I was reminded of her again today when I was talking with a friend of mine. This friend is struggling. She wants to lose weight so she can feel good about herself and be comfortable in her own skin. She wants to take control of her life. And she reminds me a lot of that girl in the red dress.

That girl in the red dress? She played happy really well. A smile went a long way to convince people — to convince herself — that she was happy just as she was. She was uncomfortable in her own skin, and she was missing out on a lot. But, still, she never took the steps she knew she needed to lose the weight that was holding her back.

Besides, she had her place in the world pretty well carved out:

  • She was the bookworm who was pretty darn smart — taking on extra homework and helping her classmates. Who doesn’t like someone who can help them get good grades? Besides, if she focused on her schoolwork maybe her lack of a social life wouldn’t seem so obvious.
  • She was funny. Make people laugh and maybe, just maybe, they won’t notice how fat and uncomfortable she is.
  • She was a people pleaser. Give people whatever they want — regardless of what she wants to do — and they have to accept her. Right?
  • She worked hard. No matter what it was — jobs, school, home — she threw everything she had at it. Keep busy and stay happy. That’s how it works.

Denial can’t last forever, though. And the smiles stopped being able to hide the sadness she felt, the pain that kept her from being the person she knew she could be. And she tried therapy — for a while. But that didn’t stick, at least not the first time around. She decided she’d always be the sad, fat, lonely girl. And she was ready to just be that person.

But then something clicked. And she knew she had to change before something terrible happened. And the toilet seat breaking was a symbol of other things that could have broken — a sign that it was time to pull it together. So she took those initial steps to get her life back. It was hard.

It was more than the cutting food intake and getting active that was difficult. Accepting the fact that you are worth the effort and the love it takes to regain your life is a leap that is really tough to make. And until you can take that leap, it’s really hard to be successful at any kind of life-changing efforts. When you’re led to believe that you’re undesirable for a majority of your life, it’s hard to say “I deserve to be healthy; I deserve to be happy.”

It is such a psychological battle to break the vicious cycle of food dependence, depression, self-defeating thoughts and isolation. And until you can break through that — through perseverance, self-talk, support systems and, sometimes, counseling — it’s hard to be successful in this journey.

I’m so thankful for the people I’ve had in my corner through this journey, the ones who’ve helped me through. The ones who provided me support when I needed it and a kick in the pants when it was necessary. But they couldn’t do it for me. And finding that love for myself — truly believing that I deserve a happy, healthy life? That one was all up to me. And that is the biggest, most important factor in my success so far.

It is the one that has led me to the place I am now. That place where the smile is genuine, the joy is real. And the love I feel for myself is warm.

now me

That smile? Real as they come. And it feels so good.

I think that’s maybe why I don’t talk about the girl in the red dress much anymore. She is my past. Red Dress Girl will always be a part of who I am. My present, my future are what they are because of her and the battles she fought. But she no longer defines me.



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3 responses to “What Lies Beneath

  1. I always knew you were hiding in there!


  2. Pingback: Rethinking Food « That's All Joy Wrote

  3. Pingback: Life is a Gift « That's All Joy Wrote

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