Posts Tagged ‘social anxieties’

Photo Credit: JosephGilbert.org via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: JosephGilbert.org via Compfight cc

The words won’t come. I try to coax them out into the open. Sweet sing-songy platitudes call them forward, but they remain just beyond my sight. I know they are there somewhere, but the miasma has engulfed them. Frustrated I call louder, more urgent, insistent. Still the words won’t come.

I give up the pretense of being calm or rational and slam my fist as I demand they answer me. I know they are out there and now I can feel them laughing and mocking my building rage. I feel them, but I cannot hear them, they won’t even give me that much.

So many times they have lead me by the hand, feeding me reassurances that I possessed a measure of talent. They enticed me with visions of worlds yet explored and tales unconquered. How could I have not been made to think this was what I was called to do? My whole life believing, with a sense of entitlement, that these words belonged to me and me alone. Knowing that one day I would hold them close and they would tell me all of their secrets. I would wield them like a well sharpened sword and cleave a path to my destiny. Only now, they refuse and I can see my path crumbling like over-baked clay. The more I struggle to collect them the less substance they hold. Soon they will blow away and I’ll be left alone.

I thrust my hands into the darkness and flail helplessly trying to find some small purchase to take hold of. I almost think I’ve got something, but I’m overeager and loose my grip before I can even begin to reel it out into the light. I feel the anger rise up in my throat like bile and I spit it out into the air around me letting it fill the room like a heavy fog. With no vent to escape the dense clouds instead double back on me causing my eyes to tear up as my self inflicted hatred wounds every exposed part of me.

It is in these times I know the terrible truth of myself. My fraudulent nature, my unfulfilled desire to be more than I am. I know and I mourn the things I can never allow myself to want because in these moments I know I do not deserve them.

The cursor blinks on the empty screen, still waiting for me to begin. The words won’t come.

gymrunner1

I’ve got a bit of a confession to make, I really like food. I mean I really enjoy the mass consumption of yummy things. Sadly this has lead to a problem I like to refer to as Flesh Abundance Tumidity, or as it is more commonly known, FAT.

The trouble is that people have quite a few unflattering assumptions about those of us suffering from FAT. Primary among those is that we are lazy and have zero self-control. To be fair these labels can be just as true of  slender people, but at some point in our evolution we just began to equate size with our measure of health. It’s utter bullshit, but that’s where we are at.

At several points throughout my adult life I’ve decided to do something about my ampleness, with mixed results. I’ve come to accept that I’m never gonna be one of the naturally slim or fit people the media tells me are the ideal and I’m fine with that, really stop asking. Recently I broke down and signed up for a gym membership.

For those of you uninitiated, gyms can be a little intimidating for newbies. It’s a bit like being a lone gazelle lost in the Serengeti. You know there is a place for you, but you aren’t sure where it is or how to get there. You kinda just have to wander around and hope you don’t put yourself into a dangerous situation. There are plenty of lions roaming about ready to eat you alive if you break some unwritten rule of gym etiquette, so it’s best to start slow and feel your way around, at least that’s how I’ve approached it.

I started out on the treadmill and slowly made my way to the elliptical. Occasionally, I’d peek around to make sure there were no predators looming about before sneaking over to try out a weight machine or two. Lions tend to frequent the free weights. In the end I always return to the safety of the cardio area.

I’m luckier than some because I am not the only member of the FAT club who attends my particular gym. This keeps me from feeling completely out of place in a land of beautiful athletic people. Often as I’m working away, sweating through my clothes as my legs slowly go numb, I notice another card carrying FAT member venture in and climb on a treadmill.

Free cake when you get a new member to join!

Free cake when you get a new member to join!

‘Oh good,’ I think, ‘someone else is FAT, it’s not just me. We can be FAT together.’

My feeling of solidarity lasts just long enough for her to set down her big gulp and pull out a magazine to read as she leisurely strolls in place on the treadmill. Suddenly any kinship I had felt for this person is dashed upon the rocks as I watch her make seemingly no effort whatsoever to be uncomfortable enough to garner results. I now feel like I have to work twice as hard to make up for this member of my clan who clearly embodies all the negative things people think about our ilk.

There are things we as FAT people tell ourselves and each other to make peace with our place in the world. Things like, “any effort is better than making no effort,” and “don’t push yourself too hard.” Friends I am here to tell you, we are doing ourselves a disservice when we do this. Going to the gym or starting an exercise program is a great first step, but that’s all it is, one step in the long arduous trek towards physical fitness and social acceptance. When you’re FAT you start this trek at a keen disadvantage already since everyone expects you to fail and console yourself with a quart of deep-fried pudding.

Is this fair? Hell no, but since when does fair enter into the equation? People are a judgy lot and when you’re killing yourself to meet a goal it’s comforting to see someone who you are clearly beating in your quest. It doesn’t matter that they probably have very different goals and challenges, you just need to convince yourself that there is a reason you had to turn down the cookies that Betty brought to the office on Tuesday. You have to trade cookies for sweat stinging your eyes because you don’t want to end up like that poor slob who thinks watching Duck Dynasty while he crawls along at a snails pace is fooling anyone. (Watching Duck Dynasty is a universally horrible idea for anyone, just saying.)

As FAT people we owe it to ourselves and our fellow pudgy-inclined brethren to put forth extra effort when we go to the gym. We don’t have the luxury of being lazy, we gave that up when we decided that we did in fact need a second helping. It’s not enough just to show up and go through the motions, you have to make up for all the preconceived notions of the fit and healthy.  I’m not bashing, I reach just as fast for another slice of pizza as the next fat girl, but you can bet I make myself pay for it when I lace up my gym shoes.  I don’t foresee myself giving up the Nuetella anytime soon, so it’s likely that my gym trips will continue to be an uphill battle, but you can be damn sure that when I’m there I’m going to give every appearance of someone who thinks physical fitness is within their grasp.

For those preparing their torches and pitchforks, calm yourselves. I know that everyone’s body is different and that people have different levels of fitness. I’m firmly mixed into that lot, but if you are going to go to the gym and have convinced yourself that you are working to improve your life than it would be nice if you actually, you know, worked.

Hold on, I have to update my status so everyone knows I'm at the gym.

Hold on, I have to update my status so everyone knows I’m at the gym.

I like to imagine that when people see me in there awkwardly panting and staggering through my workout they think, “yeah, she’s big, but at least she’s trying to do something about it.” This puts my mind somewhat at ease with the fact that I haven’t seen any automatic and fantastic results thus far. When I see another chubby person come in and not even  break a sweat while they exercise all I can think is that they have ruined all the progress I’ve made in convincing people that we don’t all fit the stereotype.

I don’t enjoy the fact that my mind is wired to judge people this way. I’d like to be all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to my fellow man, and especially towards the groups which have enough external pressures to conform to societal norms. Wouldn’t that be a better place to be? Sure, but I’d be there alone so I’ve pretty much scrapped that idea. New idea, if you’re not willing to make your particular marginalized group look better at least do the rest of us a favor and don’t make us look worse.

So up until now I hadn’t given much thought to the whole concept of “introverts-vs-extroverts” thing that the blogsphere has decided to latch onto. I have a full set of personal neurosis which I spend far more time than I’d like to admit dealing with on a daily basis. Social anxieties have always been a deep seated issue of mine, but since I consider myself able to function reasonably well in social situations, for the most part, I never thought those “How to love an Introvert,” articles were talking about me.

Yeah, I have my initial shyness around new people and my ability to contribute to small talk is abysmal at the best of times, but despite my contention to the opposite, I don’t actually hate people. I sometimes hate dealing with people, but I don’t like feeling completely cutoff from society. I like being social and in the right circumstances I’m not the least bit shy about it.

That’s why I was taken somewhat aback when I read an article from the Huffington Post about the ’23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert’.  For once I wasn’t even seeking an explanation for my perceived idiosyncrasies, I was legitimately just killing some time while I waited for Husband to be ready to watch a show with me.

As I read through the article, checking off the points that applied to me one by one, it suddenly dawned on me that not only had I gotten the whole idea of being an introvert wrong all this time, I was exactly the type of person the article was referring to.

Now, let me stop here to explain something for any younger readers who maybe don’t think they’ve found out who they are yet, or people who are so certain of who they are they can’t possibly imagine that reading a random blog post would have the power to send that certainty into a complete tailspin. I know I have weird issues, I’m completely comfortable with this fact and do my very best to deal with it in a way that has as little negative impact on the people around me as possible. Finding out that a lot of my ‘issues’ were actually just my personality’s way of finding a balance between my social personality and my innate introvert self was a game changer for me.

It’s like someone turned on a light switch and suddenly I could see further into the room of my own mind than I had ever before. I wasn’t just stumbling around blindly trying to make sense of why I feel and react certain ways to things, I had been given an overview of what was in there and why it caused me to get so frustrated with myself over things that weren’t actually a big deal.

I told Husband about my findings and about what makes a person an introvert or an extrovert. One of the points in the article even said that the two tend to end up in relationships together and after a quick assessment we determined this was likely the case for us as well.

Husband needs to be actively engaged in a task. Downtime frustrates him, he has no idea what to do when he’s between projects. He thrives on getting people on-board with his ideas and making things work. He gets a lot of his best ideas by solving problems for other people. He’s by far the more socially inclined of the two of us and actively seeks out other people’s perspectives when he’s on a task.

I have a slightly different approach. I can have a good time out and about, but I find it draining. Even having people come by to visit can leave me exhausted. Left to my own devices I’m perfectly content to work on my writing or drawing. I don’t need a massive project to keep me interested and I prefer to work on things myself to see how they turn out before I present them to anyone else.

Yeah, these seem like minor personality quirks, but I find it interesting how much of this is not only hardwired into our behavior, but that other people also fall into these categories. There has been much ado made about introverts as of late. Everything from books celebrating the introverted temperament to possibly well-meaning blogs written by extroverts detailing how to befriend introverts, which sadly come off as though they thought they were dealing with some exotic pet.

As an introvert, and yes that still feels weird to hear myself say, I recharge myself by being alone and doing solitary things. My extrovert husband gets energy from being in active and engaging environments. This realization has been an interesting change for the both of us, not only in how we view ourselves, but also in how we support each other.

Finally I get why he needs to be constantly in motion, always working on something and seemingly unable to appreciate just sitting down and not having any plans or obligations for the day. Now he has a better idea of why I just want to sneak off and write or read and not do something with him even though we both enjoy spending time together. We both have to learn to work around our basic temperaments.

Reactions from my friends have been mixed. Some wholeheartedly agreed that I was an introvert, why else would I be so nervous about social interactions sometimes? Others just snorted and told me that I wasn’t shy or quiet enough to be a true introvert. Can’t say that I really blame them, most of my life I would have agreed. I guess as with most social sciences the whole introvert/extrovert thing still needs some work and study before we can go around making grand proclamations about the quality of life a person can expect upon being diagnosed as one or the other. Probably for the best really.

If you’re still on the fence about where you fall on the personality spectrum (ambiverts are a thing too, who knew?) there are plenty of somewhat reputable and other less-so reputable quizzes online to help you establish a baseline. Who knows, maybe you’ll even learn something about yourself that you didn’t even know was there to learn.