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Hard-earned confidence

Marilyn-Rob-ChristmasI don’t remember what year this picture was taken nor could I tell you how much I weighed. I can tell you that I didn’t want to be photographed at that Christmas party (or any other time), but the hostess said, “Oh, let me get a picture of you and Rob!”

I had no out. I reluctantly complied.

You can see how heavy I was; you can quite possibly imagine how uncomfortable I was. What you may not see is what I felt: humiliation. Humiliation about my size, about the fact that other people had to look at me, about taking up space.

As I said in Tuesday’s blog, I believe shame runs along a spectrum, with shyness at the low end and humiliation at the high end. In between are discouragement, embarrassment and self-consciousness.

I wish I knew where it came from. In my case, I was never abused or traumatized; both parents loved me. We were comfortably middle-class. I knew very little hardship. Somehow, all of that made me feel worse. What did I have to feel bad about? How could I possibly complain? Guilt on top of shame.

My turning point came when I finally realized that it didn’t really matter how embarrassed I was about my size or how discouraged I was about my years and years of failed weight loss attempts. Dwelling on that solved nothing.

I decided that, rather than wallow in my self-consciousness, rather than sulk about all the things I can’t do, I will focus on what I can do.

Now I celebrate what is exceptional about me.

I don’t mean that in some lame “I’m-special-you’re-special-we’re-all-special” kind of way. Even though my parents may think I’m special just because I was born, that’s not what I’m talking about.

What I mean is just this: I am exceptional because I faced my reality and dealt with it. In fact, I must continue to face it every day. Because I am willing to do that I have accomplished things I never dreamed possible: I lost 120 lbs. and have kept it off for nearly 7 years, I have completed 3 marathons, I face my emotions head-on instead of stuffing them down.

The confidence and sense of accomplishment that are mine because of this are immeasurable. It’s not an egotistical smugness that I show off for others to see and admire. (Full disclosure: upon completing a marathon I have been known to wear the medal around for a week. So fine, maybe just a little.)

My confidence comes from knowing that I am made of some seriously tough stuff.

In order to achieve what I have – weight loss, running marathons – I have confronted and endured difficulty on many fronts. And yet I persevered.

Marilyn-RaceSo now I feel like this! This is the picture of me crossing the finish line of my first marathon in June, 2011.

Just as weight loss is more than just “losing the weight” (as if you do it once and need never think about it again), the marathon is so much longer than the 26.2-mile course. Throughout months of training you must be consistent, you must be tenacious, you must overcome adversity. You must dig deep.

Here’s the quote I keep on the front of my treadmill:

Anyone can give up; it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.

I found a way out of discouragement, self-consciousness and shame by testing myself and coming out on top.

I don’t know where shame comes from, but maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe what matters is that now I know, not only do I deserve to take up space, I deserve the best life I can possibly achieve for myself.

So do you.

Losing weight would be easy if all you had to do was count points or follow some menu plan. But it’s not. It’s really, really hard. Somewhere along the line it gets easier though. And you’re so damn worth it!

Let’s go get it!

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