I am eight-years-old and trying not to spill my hot chocolate as I carry it from the kitchen to the dining room table at my friend’s house. I take a seat and look out the window towards the sea.
I’m startled as a door behind me slams and a boy, my friend’s age, appears – she is seven years older than me. I wonder what to say and where my friend has gone. I’m too young to understand why, but I do know she’s not allowed to have boys visit without her parents being present.
He says, “Hello,” and takes a seat. He has kind eyes and asks me questions. Something he says makes me giggle – and this is the moment when my friend reappears.
Her face frightens me. It’s red and twisted and it takes me a moment to comprehend that she’s angry with me. “YOU… GET UP!” she screams and then violently jerks me from my chair. I start to cry. She forces me to stand. Before I can stop her, she’s pulled my t-shirt up to expose my small, budding breasts – I’m grateful when the boy looks away.
Then she grabs the flesh on my stomach between her two hands. She holds it so tight that later, bruises will appear. She shouts, “You’re fat! You’re fat! You’re fat!”
I am eight-years-old, and in a matter of seconds, I’ve gone from being happily unconscious of my body to experiencing intense shame for the way it looks.
Decades later the summer of 2016 draws to a close. I decide the next step of this healing journey I’m on is to return to my earliest memory of body shame. I feel that in order to move forward, I need to step back. Over the course of a week, I captured every detail I could recall in my daily journaling practice. Writing about it was intensely painful, but it also made me aware of how a false, childhood story had deeply affected my entire relationship with my body and food.
I’d absorbed my friend’s words, and I made them my own. Daily I’d repeated those exact words to myself. I believed them without question.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi.
I also found it incredibly healing to re-write my own ending to this painful story. Only this time my eight-year-old self was brave and courageous and stood up for herself. She refused to take another person’s words and make them her own.
Now I’m the only person who gets to decide what I am and what I am not. I re-wrote my past, but I’m also writing a new story for my future: I tell myself I’m fit, healthy and strong. I repeat those words to myself several times a day and find that my actions do, in fact, begin to reflect my new narrative.
As I’ve worked with multiple coaches and therapists in the past, I felt equipped to work through this memory on my own and to re-write the ending. However, there is more work to be done. I share my experience in the hope it helps you. The Pro-Body Project is published fortnightly. You can read the first entry here or the next entry, “There’s A Problem With The Body Acceptance Movement” here.