I was reading an article about Roxane Gay’s interview with Trever Noah. My information (right now) is limited, and a few places removed. I’m writing based on less than 500 word article on an interview of an author who is talking about their book. (Thus, the problem with the internet and citation.)
Anyway, from what I could gather, and I know that it’s super watered down, Gay talks about in her eating and being overweight as a defense mechanism and a response to trauma. The article quoted, “My body is not a problem.”
It is a powerful statement. My body is not a problem. I am not a problem to be dealt with. But how often do we respond to bodies as an inconvenience, as a problem. Can people be a problem? And to what degree equals problem? In comparison to the problems of the world, being overweight feels like an infinitesimal problem.
I guess the problem is seeing bodies, people, as problems. As something to sell to, take advantage of, or move. Seeing myself as a problem, is a problem. Is being overweight a problem? Possibly yes. But is the overweight person a problem? Absolutely not. Is this like a version of “love the sinner, hate the sin”? I don’t know.
What is a problem? A problem is like a wall that you need to get over. There is something on the other side that you want or need, and there are steps you can take to get there (or maybe not). Someone else may even see a wall that you don’t see. That could be a problem: others assuming your problems. But maybe it is also a gift, because, hey, we can’t do it all by ourselves. Sometimes we are really clueless and really need help. Isn’t this why people have therapists?
If you see the person (or yourself) as the problem, not externalized, then it is pretty impossible to get over (not to mention lonely!). So, it is important to give credit where credit is due: no one does anything by themselves.
Trying to figure out what all those walls are can be extremely tedious (c.f. therapy). In the example of Gay, she names here wall: rape. Trauma. Sure, eating too much is another wall, but there is much more to it than that. It’s an abusive culture that takes advantage of bodies. It’s fear. It’s shame. It could be a history of trauma. It’s any number of intangible things that are not who I am. How do you “get over” that wall as it is connected to your body (but hopefully not to your being)?
The first thing is acknowledgement. Naming the wall. Claiming the wall. Not letting the wall overpower you. This may be easier said than done. Often, the wall exists in a place that we don’t want to go. An event. A Feeling. Something we don’t want to let go of. Maybe it’s something we don’t even know. Maybe we need someone else to help us uncover what that thing might be.
In the counseling that I do, I collaborate with my clients to discover these walls. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is not. But what takes the wall out? Notice, I’m not even bothering with climbing the wall anymore. We’re gonna blow it up…
In the case of Roxane Gay, the trauma that she endured perpetuated certain beliefs, and it made/makes sense. She believed that eating would make her stronger. She believed that she wouldn’t be hurt again if she was big. I don’t think she is alone in these beliefs. These beliefs might have helped her get through a tough time, but ultimately they are not serving her in healing and transformation. At a certain point, these beliefs become stunting and repetitive.
Without having read the book, I imagine that in it, Roxane Gay confronts these beliefs, and in part, lets them go. Story telling is healing all on it’s own. In effect, blowing up the wall. But for anyone out there struggling, here is a sneak peak of where I might go:
I forgive myself for believing…
- That my body is a problem, and I’m going fix it.
- That the bigger I am the less I will hurt.
- There was something I could have done to prevent my trauma.
- No one can help me.
- It’s my fault.
- I can’t let go.
Just looking through these statements, it amazing how quickly they connect to the past and the present. At the time, one might blame themselves, and similarly claim that they make the choice to be fat. Or it could work oppositely, believing that I have no control whatsoever, so what the hell…
I forgive… whoever…
- For using my body.
- For not seeing me as a human being
- For teaching me it is bad to be a woman.
- For not knowing any better…
I give ….whoever… permission to forgive me, when I have wished the same trauma on them. When I have used others the same way that I felt used.
The above statements are a to go full circle. We always, to some extent, commit the same sins against others that have been committed against us. We crave revenge, but revenge keeps us bound to the wall.
- I give myself permission to let go of a past that I can’t change.
- I give myself permission to let go of the life I lost because of my trauma.
- I give myself permission to let go of trying to control everything.
- I give myself permission to make healthy choices without this trauma.
I love an accept myself even when I’m afraid…
- I will be hurt again.
- Nothing will change.
Without these beliefs and feelings associated with this trauma, I am free to own my strength and awesomeness. I am free to know, that I am ok. I am free to know that I made it. I am free to know that this trauma didn’t kill me, and that I am thriving and flourishing.
I imagine that no one has offered this to Roxane Gay in a grocery store or airplane (as opposed to the exercise and dieting advice). It’s a lot of weight to lose already in negative beliefs and patterns, and it is worth a lot more.
Now, I should probably get around to reading Bad Feminist.