A few months ago, I sat in a hallway waiting for class to begin. As I hunched over a book that I was interested in finishing, an acquaintance passed by me and dropped off her bag in the classroom. When she returned to the hall, she stared at my stomach and then asked if I was pregnant again. Not being pregnant, I pretended to laugh off the comment with a, “No, of course not. I am done having kids. Two is enough for me.” The woman proceeded on her way into the classroom. Little did she know how much her comment had stung.
Throughout the rest of the class I sat ruminating over her comment. Why would she say such a thing? Was my stomach sticking too far out? Had I eaten too much at my last meal? Maybe she just remembered my being pregnant and thought I might be trying again. The thoughts kept swirling in my mind. I had to reassure myself more than ten times that I was healthy and that my body looked good.
“Old Me” that had used an eating disorder to cope with my social anxiety would have let this woman’s comments destroy my day. I would have let her judgment control my emotional stability and bring me to my knees. Instead, the stronger “New Me” took a different approach. As the class neared the end, I came up with a plan to talk with the woman about what she had said and how it had hurt me.
I slowly approached her as she was packing up to leave. I asked her if she had a minute to talk. She said she did. Then I said, “I was just wondering why you made the comment about my being pregnant.” I paused, waiting for her response. She hesitated and then looked again at my stomach. Another lady overheard what I had said, and she immediately commented that I did not look pregnant. Still hearing no response from the woman who made the comment, I said, “I just wanted to let you know that your words hurt me.” The woman looked up into my eyes and said, “I am so sorry.” Then she commented that she had been feeling inadequate about her own body and must have been comparing her body to mine. I was amazed by her honesty as well as my own ability to admit being hurt.
On that morning instead of walking away thinking I needed to lose ten pounds, I walked away feeling powerful. I overcame my own negative thoughts that were triggered by a comment, and I had let someone know that their words hurt me. I did not try to manipulate my body to please others. I told myself that my body was great the way that it was, and that I was a healthy weight.
This incident brought to the forefront one of my favorite quotes by Bikram Choudhury, “If you let others take your peace and happiness away from you, you are the loser.” By separating my own thoughts from the opinions of others, as well as honestly expressing my feelings, I was able to once again restore my sense of happiness. On this day, I came out a winner.