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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Release Your Inner Janis

It’s very ironic how people’s outward appearances are often quite different from who they are inside. For instance, very beautiful people can be very ugly inside. You wouldn’t know it at first glance, but once you get to know the person, you see them for who they really are. (I don't mean to pick on conventionally beautiful people -- obviously not all of them are like this, and "ugly" people can be just as ugly inside -- but I want to point out the obvious irony here.)

In the same way, fat people are generally perceived as outwardly unattractive. But inside, many of us are very beautiful people. If people get to know us, they discover that beautiful person inside. Sadly, most people don’t bother going beyond that first 3-second glance.

I believe that we have two bodies: an outer body, and an inner body. Our outer body is composed of physical matter: organs, bones, hair, etc. Our inner body, or soul, is invisible, but it is who we really are. We all have beautiful souls, and sometimes they can really take a beating.

My self-esteem took a horrible blow when I entered adolescence. At the time, I was a chubby, pretty young girl, excited to be growing up and starting a new school. To three boys in my class, however, I was an object of ridicule. Every day, they would tease and berate me until I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. These kinds of experiences stay with us, no matter how many years go by, and it is very difficult to “get over” those initial feelings. They can stay with us and haunt us for years. Many people say that emotions even alter our physical bodies -- that old emotions are actually stored in our cells and can affect our tissue, organs, and general health.

This is why it’s very important to talk about your feelings. If you want your inner beauty to express itself and become visible as physical beauty, it needs to feel safe, honoured, and free. Many of us keep our emotions bottled up; some people even prefer to pretend they don't exist. It’s like trying to keep a damaged ship from sinking. You may be able to keep it afloat for awhile, but sooner or later, the water (or emotions) will overtake you, and the ship will sink.

A lot of fat people are ashamed of their pain. We are already perceived as weak (for giving in to our supposed bottomless appetites), and we don’t want to appear even weaker by admitting we feel overwhelmed or depressed. So we bravely carry on, put a smile on our faces, and pretend everything is A-OK, to our own disadvantage. I was like that for many years. I used my sense of humour as a shield and was always perceived as the life of the party ... but inside I was absolutely miserable.

I’m not saying you should talk to anybody and everybody about things that are bothering you. But it’s very important for all of us to have an outlet -- one or more people we can trust, who will listen to us objectively, and provide support and encouragement when we need it. This can be a friend, a family member, or even a therapist. If you have no one in your life who you can openly speak to about personal things, writing is a great way to get the feelings out and address them. Start writing a journal – talk about your past experiences and what effect they have had on you. Let your anger, sadness, and loneliness out. Give them a voice: the more you express them, the less intensity they have, and the more relief you will feel.

Beauty is authenticity. We all know it when we see it. We can see a gorgeous supermodel on a magazine cover and think: Wow, she looks really great. Her makeup is so beautiful, her hair is perfectly teased and curled, her body is perfectly sculpted by whatever she is wearing. But we all know she doesn’t really look like that. We all know it took a team of stylists hours to get her ready for that photograph.

On the other hand, if we see a little child running up to their mommy or daddy for a hug, we all smile, and admire how beautiful that child is. Or if someone gets up on a stage and reads a poem, or sings a song that’s really personal to them, with no hesitation or self-consciousness, it doesn’t matter what they look like: they are beautiful.

I remember hearing a quote from somebody about Janis Joplin, one of the greatest blues singers of all time. Janis Joplin was not a conventionally beautiful woman. Some would even say she was quite ugly. But boy, could she sing. I've always remembered a movie where a man was asked about her. He smiled and said something like, When you looked at her, she was a very plain, ordinary woman. BUT: 

When she sang, she was beautiful!

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