Compliments and Good Intentions

One of my friends was in the hospital two nights ago having an emergency appendectomy. She’s okay now, but on Monday night I ended up staying up all night at the hospital, waiting for the surgery to finish so me and my friends could be there when she came out. We sat with her mother and father, awkwardly making conversation. Her mother, who hasn’t seen me since I got back from Ecuador (where I lost maybe 20 pounds by sheer accident), turned to me halfway through the conversation and said. “Chrissy, you look like you’ve lost a ton of weight. You just look fantastic.”

Now, I knew this was meant as a compliment, so I accepted it as such, “Well thank you,” I said. At that moment I realized it was the first time since I fully came to accept myself that I had been told that I looked fantastic because I’d lost a ton of weight. And it made me realized that the compliment didn’t feel satisfying. It was empty, felt superficial, and didn’t flatter me at all. In that moment all I could think about was how little this woman knew of me, and how I didn’t know what to say to her.

In comparison, I’ve received a number of compliments in the past few days that have reaped some satisfaction. Yesterday, for instance, I was trying something new with my hair and five (!!) of my friends commented that my hair looked great. Then today I got a comment on my Fat Documentary from Joy Nash herself, which made me squeee with happiness. Almost immediately after getting that, a girl I only sort of know from one of my classes came up to me in the cafeteria and asked if she could watch my Fat Documentary because she had heard it was really well done. I sent her to my YouTube page and jumped up and down in my head with glee.

Overall, what I’ve realized is that I feel satisfaction in compliments when people are acknowledging my successes. Getting my hair to look good was, for me, a triumph. My documentary is definitely an accomplishment. And people rewarding me for my hard work makes me feel good because they’re reinforcing my feelings of success. I think this shows a step forward for me because I’ve begun to disassociate my fat from failure.

All my life, I’ve overcompensated for what I saw as my biggest failure, my fat. I’ve gotten good grades. I’ve been nice to people, been a good support for everyone (except myself). I’ve worked hard to achieve everything in my life, hoping that my good intentions would cover for my fat. Hoping that no one would care about my fat if I were successful, and seemingly happy. Little did I know that I only ever failed when I criticized myself. My weight is not a failure, it’s a part of me. It is not a failure, nor is the loosing of weight a success. It all just is.

My friend’s mom considered my weight loss to be a success. And considering how little she knows of me, I’ll take it for what it was–an allusion that I am a successful individual. It was superficial because she knows me only superficially. But I hope that when people see who I really am, they’ll see a confident, happy person whose accomplishments are many and whose body shape or size doesn’t matter. For the first time in my life, I’m happy. And that’s what really matters.


10 thoughts on “Compliments and Good Intentions

  1. I got a compliment like that recently – “You’re slimming down, it’s probably all that bike riding.” I responded awkwardly, with a string of phrases like “probably not, maybe, i dunno, i don’t care really”. And I’m not really sure how I feel about it, actually. It didn’t make me feel any better about myself, even if it’s true. It didn’t even feel like an actual compliment, even though it was probably intended that way.

  2. My favorite is from my Mom (on a regular basis) – “you look so much better when you wear baggier clothes, they don’t show all your rolls!”

    Um, thanks? And WTF is the matter with my rolls?!

  3. Wow, Chissie. Your documentary is really powerful and moving. I agree with your friend’s mother. You do look great, but I’m sure you did 20 pounds heavier, too.

  4. Chrissy, I get stuff like that all the time. The only difference is that I haven’t lost a pound in just under 5 years (I did lose a good bit of weight when we first moved to the UK, but I think that had more to do with suddenly walking everywhere instead of driving). But every now and then, I get people asking me “have you lost weight?” I never know how to feel when that happens. Are they saying it to be nice? Am I just looking thinner because I’m wearing clothes that actually FIT and not wearing Omar The Tentmaker clothes? Have I truly lost inches (because I do seem to lose inches at times, even when I haven’t actually lost any weight)? And now that I’ve found the wonderful people (and information!) in the Fatosphere, and made the decision NOT to actively try to lose weight, it makes me doubly uncomfortable. I never know who might be receptive to the idea of fat acceptance and who won’t.

    I guess what I’m trying to say with all of that (jeez, I really am wordy today, aren’t I?) is that I understand where you’re coming from. And yes, you SHOULD feel good when people compliment you on your successes. After all, isn’t what we DO a bigger measurement of who we are than what we look like? (And for the record, I think you’re beautiful just the way you are.)

  5. Wow, great post and great documentary! I wish I knew how to make films myself, but even if I did, what I’d make wouldn’t hold a candle to what you did. Just beautiful (as are you!).

    I began my experiment with non-restrictive “normal” eating about two years ago, and since then I’ve moved up to about the size I was before I started restrictive eating (a 24, which I wore when I was 15. I’m 25, now). When I was moving down in sizes, you couldn’t dam the flood of compliments I got. No one asked *how* I did it, of course, and if they did, would they have liked the answer? (“I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday morning, and that was a fat-free Fig Newton. Oh yes, and I’m also taking diet pills with ephedrine, whee!”)

    I’ve noticed that my experiment has generated, rather than insults, a great sucking void with respect to my appearance. When I was starving in high school I used to get all sorts of proud compliments from my father, my stepmother (and worried remarks from my mom — she’s the only one who had her head screwed on straight), my friends, my grandmother, my extended family…and do you know I haven’t gotten a single body-referential remark since I gained back the weight? It must be because they’re so happy I’m not longer eating-disordered and are now respectful of my humanity and unmindful of what I look like, right?

    Maybe not. My dad speak *with pride* that my four year-old little sister is skinny as a rail, and treats her chubbier little sister with far less respect. Weird? Should I mention he considers, “Hey, have you lost weight?” the biggest compliment *of his own self* in the book? Yes, he’s a self-loather. Does that mean I have to be, too?

    It’s hard escaping the personal values and expectations of your parents, but I think the most important part of the journey is to realize that their personal emphasis on thin(ner)ness = success is just that — *their personal* emphasis. I frankly pity my Dad, because I know how unhappy he is, loathing his naturally fat body, fighting against it, coveting the rail-thin body of my stepmother and his adopted daughter. That’s really, really sad, and once I realized the issue was not with me but with him, I was free to let melt away the anger, indignation, confusion, and disappointment I felt in his estimation of my body. It was never really *me* he was seeing, you know. It was himself.

  6. Pingback: The Self-Loathing of our Parents « Big Liberty

  7. Hi Chrissy, I’m somewhat new to the fatosphere. Great post; I can definitely empathize. During one particularly memorable phone conversation with my mom a few years ago, she declared that my childhood nemesis was “winning” because she was thin and married. Well, now I’m married, too, but still fat! My mom probably still thinks I’m a failure. Oh well.

    And Big Liberty is wise. My mom’s obsession with my weight is definitely all about *her*, not me.

  8. wow, you spend a few months away from American food and portion sizes and you accidentally loose 20 pounds, I think you broke your magic set point. Fat people are ugly because they are a bloated mockery of the human form. Just keep telling yourself you are fat due to magical set point and not due to lifestyle you’ll go far in like like that.

    • Ahem.

      Look around her posts until you see the pics- I’m rail thin and can’t do that, you can only get that with practice, and size doesn’t stop you from doing well in physical activity, like dancing.

      Oh, yes, did I mention that I am American, don’t diet, don’t do a lot of exercise (gym class and ice skating, but not every day,) don’t count calories, eat as much as anyone else my age… and I’m 12 years old and only 70 pounds, thin enough to see my ribs if I take my clothes off and feel them even with them on.

      It is true that overeating is a cause of fat, but weights fluctuate and overeating isn’t the only cause. My dad lost a bunch of weight after being diagnosed with sleep apnea and put on a breathing machine at night. The point is- fat doesn’t mean lazy. Skinny doesn’t mean anorexic.

      And “bloated mockery of the human form?”

      Sir or Madam, you seem to be taking away the right of people to be people, at least verbally and mentally.

      That’s what fat people are. People. Not a bloated mockery. The only mockery of humanity is the person who forgets that other people are humans. That’s why people get called insulting names: Whale, nigger, faggot, bitch…

      “Bloated mockery”

      It dehumanizes them, makes them less than human, takes away their personness in people’s minds.

      Race, weight, gender, religion, sexual orientation, country, whatever, we are all people and all deserve to be called people. We all deserve to be treated with respect. We all deserve our rights as a person. We all deserve the right not to be treated rudely just because of how we look or how we talk or what gender we’re attracted to.

      We are all people, plain and simple.

  9. Pingback: Speaking Up « All My Jiggly Bits

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