I love her.
She’s a little bit country, I’m a little bit rock and roll. But when we chat on the phone, we have the most amazing conversations.
To wit: we recently discussed the social self – that which we show others to gain their approval – vs. the authentic self – who we really are.
And I told Jeannette this story:
She looked at me with wide eyes: “I just think I need to lose those 15 pounds.”
We were talking about her job search, but I knew when she uttered those words about her weight that we were onto something. Something bigger than 15 pounds.
“What would losing 15 pounds do for you, Sandy?” I asked. [Of course, it’s not her real name.]
“Oh, I just think it would give me an edge. I mean, I’m ‘older’ now and I need to be competitive with those younger kids…” she trailed off.
“Anything else?” I probed.
“Well,” she sighed. She was really sharing something important and it came out in a rush. “What I really want is a partner, so if I lose 15 pounds, I can find a man and take some of the pressure of the job search. That’s what I’m thinking.”
“So, it seems to me,” I said, “that you have an idea that men only want skinny women. Am I reading that right?”
She looked at me as if I were dense, slow-witted and a friendly but clueless visitor from another planet. I swear, she wanted to say, “Duh!” but instead she said, “Yes, I do think men are only interested in young, thin, athletic women.”
I leaned in. “Have you ever been to a state fair? An amusement park? A Wal-Mart? A water park? A family reunion?” I could see in her eyes that she had no idea where I was taking this.
I went on. “I’ve been to all those places and I have seen plenty of heavy, married women. Plenty of them. And they have kids. And they’re holding hands with their husbands.”
She leaned back.
“So is it true that every man on the entire planet in only interested in partnering with young, thin, athletic women?”
She began to smile and shook her head, “No.”
“I have no problem with you wanting to lose weight, and be healthier. No problem at all. But you have to know your why, Sandy. Why do you want to lose weight? Who do you want to lose weight for?”
I paused. “Because if you want to lose weight to please others, or attract others, you’re looking for external motivation – that’s what we call the social self – and weight loss like that never works. Never. What makes you attractive to others is being comfortable in your own skin, regardless of the size of that skin.”
“I have to want it to please myself…” she said, realization on her face.
“Yes. Indeed.” I said.
And I meant it.
And so did she.