You Could Be A Ballerina, But You're Too Fat (Or, Burning Question Numero Cuatro)

The next stop on Danielle LaPorte's Burning Question wild ride is the following:

What's inflamed in your inner or outer life?

Now, she says at the beginning of the post that she doesn't expect us to blog or Facebook the answer to this question, but I can't tell if she's being facetious or if she really means that this one may dig a little bit too deep to be comfortable exposing the answer to your typical audience.

No shame, people. No shame.

She goes on to explain that, as in the body so in the mind: repetitive motions or actions can lead to inflamed conditions. Physical inflammation (internal) as a chronic state can lead to a host of diseases and difficult medical conditions; Danielle would also argue that "an old psychic wound" or one small behavior continually repeated could strain your whole life (external).

Well, I totally agree. That's why they're called patterns. That's why they say we often have to "break the chain." I'm talking ingrained behaviors, actions that perhaps you picked up from a parent or teacher as a child, or things you were told were bad about yourself — also referred to as the "stories" you tell yourself or even your "shadow" stories.

Don't we all have those?

  • You're not good enough.
  • You're not pretty enough.
  • He/she is better than you.
  • You'll never amount to anything.
  • You're stupid, fat, ugly, whatever.

When we were kids, my sister and I used to say to each other (it became an inside joke we still refer to) "You could be a ballerina, but you're too fat."

Okay, can I just take a moment to say OH MY GOSH HOW SAD IS THAT??? It's funny when we say it to each other, really it is; we still laugh to this day doing so, but at some point when we were kids, even though it was said in gest (and we couldn't afford dance lessons anyways), I am certain we believed there was a grain of truth in that. We believed that to be a beautiful, graceful, pleasure-inducing dancer, you had to be tall, lean, long and lanky.

Tall we were.

So I was going to write about more recent "psychic wounds," and believe you me I have plenty that I carry around in my back pocket should you wish to compare some time, but this is suddenly feeling very juicy to me. We literally used to tell each other that we couldn't do something we clearly wanted to do — what little girl doesn't practice twirling around in a holiday dress, Halloween costume or bathing suit at least once in her life? — because some message or someone somewhere already put it in our heads as little girls that we were FAT. We might as well have referred to ourselves as Cow #1 and Cow #2 or Little Miss Fat Whale. Chunkomatic. Fatty. I can't even begin to imagine what kids come up with these days.

But we weren't bullied for it. We said this to each other, "in gest."

So I have to ask, because I honestly never have before, Is it possible that part of my subconscious has been hanging on to the impression this phrase had on me as an adolescent? I mean, I'm really just thinking about it for the first time some 20-odd years later. We were kidding, or we thought we were kidding, but God help me if I can't wonder why we even knew to say that. Let's exaggerate out all of the possible implications:

  • Child thinks she's fat and thus can't be a ballerina. Even if child's parents can afford lessons, child never admits to wanting to dance. Flush first potential passion down the toilet.
  • Junior-high young-adult little lady thinks maybe she's still a little bigger than the rest of the girls and starts to feel...different. Maybe just a little set apart, but at a time when all you want to do is fit in, this little tiny thing feels a little off and creates a feeling of reduced self-esteem, perhaps for the first time.
  • High-schooler is suddenly thrust from a class of 17 to a class of 700. Definitely feeling self conscious now. Body image issues, popularity contests, high standards, comparisons, the stuff we all go through, but inflamed because of messages passed from backpack to backpack. Girl starts to put up walls. Relationships are strained, with boys, girls, siblings and parents. It's a new kind of fear, one never experienced before.
  • College. Moving out. Trying to fit in, yet again. MORE body image issues. MORE things to hide, accentuate, cover up, emphasize. What can't I do now? Can't get that guy? Can't feel comfortable at a party without a few beers? Oh I'll show you. Inflamed mrshmamed. Defiance. Defensiveness. "I'm fine."

Aaaaannnd that's just a little too close to the present day now. I see why Danielle would be serious about not wanting to write publicly about this stuff.

I admit to taking this far, but I always have a point. (Would you want your daughter or son to grow up being self conscious about their weight, a learning disability, a birthmark or what have you? I know we're all self conscious, eventually, about something, but shouldn't we do what we can to delay that for as long as possible??) A little DIY wall hanging in my kitchen says "Everything you say to your child is absorbed, catalogued and remembered." I usually attribute that to mean that if I say we'll go to the library today I better freaking mean we're going to the library today or I'll have a severe meltdown on my hands, and while I don't have daughters and I think it's safe to say that boys see things differently, these messages and the inflammation they cause, however seemingly small or invisible, aren't only about beauty, thinness, fitness and grace. Little boys can turn into young adults and grown men with pride inflammation, not-good-enough inflammation and not-smart-enough inflammation, which my husband suffers from greatly.

Think nothing in your life is inflamed? I guarantee you there's something. You may not want to write or think about it, either, but there's no sense in hiding it. In fact, there is great liberty in reaching deep down and uncovering these issues, however humorous they may sound at first. The hope is that in identifying it you can free yourself from it. Mommy issues, Daddy issues, mistrust, disbelief. No one had perfect parents, teachers, coaches or friends. (Are you a perfect parent, teacher, sister or friend?) We all do our best, but these messages slip through nonetheless.

I'll leave you with some hope: The editor's note in the latest MomSense magazine talks about trying to recognize we're not just parenting for today; we're shaping preschoolers into young adults and "building the portrait" of who they will be in the future. And even the little things matter, such as integrating tiny teaching moments into your everyday activities — while eating breakfast, doing laundry or making school lunches, for example — you are actually instilling the values of character, honesty, gratitude and self esteem that you want your children to have, even if you weren't brought up that way yourself. I have taken to doing this as often as is possible, intentionally, and I've also noticed that it helps take the rush-rush-rush out of otherwise mundane, everyday activities.

You're not too fat. You can be a ballerina, engineer, President or whatever you want; it's never too late.

Make sure your child knows that, too.

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