No More Shame

Just me – no makeup no filters

I don’t hate the way I look today, which for me is a huge accomplishment. Even bigger, I am not judging myself as good bad or ugly based on the way I look today. Why? Well, I’m actively in the process of losing some weight, I eat clean and vegan 99% of the time. I am getting more exercise and I belong to an incredible emotional eating (EE) group that is teaching me how to understand that feelings and urges are feelings and urges. They pass, I can separate myself from them. I can observe them. They are not me. But even if I wasn’t doing all that, I am learning to love myself, no matter what my size is. It’s a strange, but delightful feeling to reconnect with my body. We’ve been so distant from each other for so many years.


Here’s the part where I could tell you all kinds of stories. Stories about feeling like a fat person since the first time some older neighbor boy burst my innocent bubble and announced to me, when I was 5, that I was fat and ugly. I had no idea at the time. Or I can joke about how my grandmother’s nickname for me was Butterball and I thought she meant I was a turkey, not a chubbo. I could explain to you that there are an awful lot of people in the world (in my world, where I grew up) that confuse tall with fat, because they are both ways to describe large people. How I was always the tallest or next tallest girl in every grade until 7th, when I finally stopped growing and everyone caught up, and most went well past me in height in the years to come. How I always felt bigger than a Macy’s Day float around my friends. How in 8th grade I had a teacher, who I adored up to that time by the way, but who wrote out and planned to deliver a “Deficiency for Ugliness” to me, and was getting ready to announce it to the entire class until he realized I had seen it on his desk, read it, and sat whimpering at my desk, bracing myself and trying to hold back the tears. (Aside: for those of you who are too young to remember or did not attend sadistic public schools, during the 70’s and 80’s, Deficiencies were given out in the middle of each academic quarter to those students who were failing at any given subject. The teachers would stand at the front of the class with little rectangle pieces of paper folded over, little degrading love notes, and merrily announce the names of the students who were receiving Deficiencies. The humiliated children took the little horror stories home to their disappointed or uncaring parents to sign and return. Just to keep the jolly festivities going, the teachers would chirp out each morning for the next 3 or 4 days “Who has their signed Deficiencies?” like it was nothing.) I was a straight A student for the most part and never got an academic deficiency, so you can imagine my curiosity seeing such a little folded paper sitting on my 8th grade teachers desk with my name on it. It was after lunch and my teacher was no doubt sucking in a few last drags on his smoke, much like the rest of the stressed out faculty in the foggy teacher’s lounge. My friend Michael read it for me (he was always braver than me) and then showed me, and my brain spiraled out of control. I thought he liked me? I thought I was one of his favorite students? That’s how he always treated me. (He was my home room teacher and my English teacher so I felt I knew him better than the average student). Me, a pubescent girl who was too tall and too big and just wanted to blend into the walls worse than James Comey. I have other stories too, like how my first boyfriend, my first “love”, who was my obsession to the point of dismissing all other aspects of my life, told me if I gained weight he’d break up with me. And on and on.
Many women, and men, have stories like mine, believing at that time that something was wrong with them. That something is still wrong with them. But the good news is that some of us, a few of us, are finally learning to love ourselves.
I have been many sizes, bigger than I am today, smaller than I am today, more muscular, more in shape. I’ve looked good, I know, some years. In the past, when I’ve looked back at myself 100 pounds ago and remember thinking then that I was fat, I felt sad, sorry for myself, a victim of my own loathing. And then I went through my angry fat phase, realizing that I’m just as good as the skinny “normal” people. Now , I try to focus my energy on more positive endeavors.
I’ve always told my daughter, my beautiful, athletic, terrific person of a daughter that I accepted my fatness. I thought that by admitting it to her, she’d see what was lacking in me and make sure she didn’t make the same mistakes. Then one day, when this gorgeous attractive teenager told me she thought she was fat and ugly, I had another one of those brain spirals like I did in 8th grade. This must be another nightmare. I thought I was working hard to make her understand that I was totally honest about my deficient body. Unfortunately, I learned that all I was doing was drilling into her innocent skull that I thought I was a failure, and therefore she too, was a failure, when it came to physical beauty.
The lesson was reinforced when a woman in my EE class told a similar story of her mother, who always admitted to her that she, her mom, was fat. So she believed her mother was fat and told her friends her mother was fat. Then her friends met her mother and corrected their friend. “She’s normal,” they would say. But this woman couldn’t see past what her mother told her all her life. And she now found herself overweight and despising her own body.
After I beat myself up about ruining my daughter’s life, I realized that hating myself was only making things worse. I had to learn to love my body in order for her to do the same, or so I hoped. So I looked at myself, naked, at every bump, bulge and blemish, and said to myself “I love you.” I didn’t’ believe it but it was a start.
I do this every day now, smile at myself, take selfies while I’m working or when I’m at home with no makeup on, and focus on what’s good. Speaking of which, I’m not totally ashamed of being in pictures anymore either, which has been a huge obstacle to overcome. There are years of my daughter’s life where there are pictures of her with everyone but me. I just assumed she wouldn’t want a picture of me. Scary, isn’t it?
Why am I sharing all of this? I see so many people, girls and boys, young and old, who are ashamed of their bodies, because someone told them at some point that they were not good enough, didn’t look good enough to be popular, or attractive, or successful beyond book smarts. I don’t like it, and I want to let those people know that they are the only ones who can make the self-loathing and body shaming stop. And there are ways to stop. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s the reason I’m writing my adolescent novel “Goodbye Pound Cake” (working title). As I write, I think about all of the injustices and how they now make me stronger. Strong enough to help others understand that there is a way out. Strong enough to find the way out myself.
I can’t wait to share this book with everyone. I hope I can make a small difference, even if it’s only 1 person who learns to fall in love with herself. More to come.

20 thoughts on “No More Shame

  1. How did you get so smart? Must be because you’re related to me! hahaha. Seriously, though, thank you so much for sharing such private thoughts and experiences. As you might guess, I have had some of the same experiences. Although not related to weight, but to height, wearing glasses and saddle shoes and ill-formed teeth! You are so brave and I am so proud of you! It is so sad when a beautiful being believes that they are less than perfect and flawed beyond redemption.
    I hope everyone will read this because I think that everyone breathing has felt like this at one time or another, whether they can admit it or not. And yet look how powerless it becomes when we actually dare to think it or say it out loud!

    Keep on writing baby sister, you have so much to say and such a beautiful way of expressing yourself and making people want to listen.

    Love from your oldest sister. The not so tall one sporting stinky sneakers, high powered readers and ill-fitting dentures.

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  2. Patty, you touch the hearts and souls of countless people by bravely sharing your personal story. I can’t even wrap my head around the level of cruelty of that teacher. It’s unconscionable.

    Although the details differ (My nightmare moment, a low-light among many throughout my adolescence and young adulthood was being fourteen years old and having an elementary school kid ask me if I was having a baby. When I tried to ignore him and walk away, he followed me and persisted. For the record, no I wasn’t pregnant, I was fat), the stories sift down to a commonality of self-loathing and low or non-existent self-esteem. It is profoundly sad that we allow others to judge us by how we look and not who we are and to let that judgment affect our self-worth.

    That no filter/no make-up selfie up there? You are gorgeous, with those luminous green eyes, pretty curls, and gentle, loving smile. Genuine beauty.

    I look forward to your book and taking the ride along with you.

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    • You, Connie, are an amazing and kind person. I admire your courage and how far you have come in your journey. I think you will enjoy my book if I can ever finish it! Not if when … but I am seriously grateful for your friendship and that ARIA brought us together! I think people our age have a lot of great experiences that we can share with kids so that they don’t feel totally alone. xo

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    • Thank you Jovina! I am still waiting for that cook book to come out! Even though I can’t eat most of it as a vegan, you make everything look perfect and delicious. I’m glad that you are out there and have supported me since A Girl from the Hill came out – my girl who is now 93 years old!!
      Much Love
      P

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  3. Poignant and powerful; good on ya, darling! Julia has a motherlode of window to draw upon conveniently located right down the hall (complete with wheels to borrow!).

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    • Martha I’m so grateful for your friendship! Your feedback means a lot to me and you and all of the other sweet sentiments keep me energized as I embark on a tough journey that I need to express. As I noted to Connie, you are another great reason to love ARIA!<3 ❤

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  4. This is such a great post, but very sad to read at the same time. Reliving painful childhood memories is always difficult. And reading yours, I could relate to so much of it. But look at you now, using all of that pain and humiliation to cultivate a happier, more authentic life. If it didn’t sound so condescending I’d tell you I’m proud of you. Instead though, I’ll just say I’m inspired by you. X

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    • Thank you for reading this Sarah- I’m honored as you have inspired me and helped me see how far reaching the issue is and that there is a way out. Keep it up! And anyone who wants to learn more about Sarah’s journey should check her out at sarahtyrell.com!

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  5. Pat, can I tell you what an honor it is to read your work? I’m so, so grateful to get to share along this journey. May I share this blog post with my Facebook audience or no? I’m not sure how ready you are for that, but I think it’s so valuable.

    I also have my stories to share, about how my ex-husband called me “repulsive” the day he walked out, when I was at my heaviest. He left me for a young skinny blonde. But I also have a friend who was a model—just stunning and tall and blonde and perfect–and guess what? Her husband left her for a chubby girl! Wut?? I know that shouldnt come as any consolation, but for me, in some jacked up way, it does. Somehow it proves just how silly it is for us to place the foundation of our self-worth upon the opinion of a man. Or a friend or a family member or of anyone for that matter.

    G-d only, thank you very much.

    Oooh look at me all opened up and sharing. I didnt even plan to — it just all came out. Thank you for providing this safe place.

    Can’t wait to meet again,
    Rebecca

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    • Rebecca the honor is mutual. Working with you has taught me so much about creating a story and characters in order to express my thoughts, feelings in an attempt to connect with others. I would love it if you shared this post. I would also love to be part of your fb group if you think it’s appropriate. 😊

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  6. Pat – your selfie…you are beautiful…you just are. How healing for all of us it is when we feel safe and cared about to the point of sharing such deep emotional facts about ourselves. I read everything you write and I always feel so good and positive because it is clear how much we are all connected beyond our wildest dreams. To think about, reflect, to feel and to say to yourself, “I can understand how that must have felt” is so good for us all. It makes you think about how you felt with your own struggles…which is so good to process like this. I too had a tough time going thru school being very shy, having more than my fair share of skin problems, and having parents that divorced at a time when that really wasn’t happening all that often. It can be cruel when people feel they can react or say whatever they want to. I do like to think though that our tough times made us strong. I appreciate everything I’ve gone thru in life because the fact is, it made me who I am. You also. I’m pretty happy with who I am and I’m thrilled beyond words that we reconnected after so many years out of school. I think you are incredible. Start to finish. I also think both of our daughters (even though they will have their own demons like we all do) will be strong women because they have strong moms. Mission accomplished! Can’t wait for your new book…and that title is FANTASTIC! XOXO

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    • Tina, I have to admit that on The morning after I posted this I panicked a little. What was I thinking? Did I bare too much? What will people think? It was like waking up with a hangover and not remembering if you danced around with a lampshade on your head! But the panic was brief because the outpouring of love and understanding from friends and family. I’m so grateful and it makes me more determined to get this book finished. I’ve known you since kindergarten and in all those years I’ve never seen you as anything less than perfect – a kind sweet beautiful girl with gorgeous hair and just a good good person. Isn’t crazy how our opinions of ourselves can be so distorted? Most likely because some insecure person decided we needed to get knocked down or some magazine decided how normal people should look. Thank you so much for the kind words and support since day 1 of this blog. I am touched and looking forward to a coffee date before the summer ends!

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  7. Pat, thank you for sharing this. Your writing is amazing. It’s raw, real and strikes a chord in all of us. I’m in your corner cheering you on to finish this book. Unpack those memories and put them on the pages of the book. Continue to love yourself for who you are and not what you look like; easier said then done. I see myself in you…always being told I was fat…and now it doesn’t matter how many times I lose the weight, gain it back, I will never see myself as fit or in shape. When someone destroys your self esteem, it can take a very long time to get it back. I’m still working on trying to find mine. Please continue to share your story. It’s beautiful….just like you!!

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    • Anita thank you so much for the wonderful response, though it saddens me that you ever felt this way. When I think of you as we were growing up I always envision you as “perfect” – beautiful, smart, athletic, great personality and confident. Isn’t it crazy what we do to ourselves inside based on comments from a few insecure ignorant people?! I am so glad you read this and that it touched you. And I know you, and we, will find what we need by remembering to love ourselves every day ❤️

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