I have tried so hard to keep quiet in the recent spate of news headlines targeting the use of feeding tubes for pre-wedding diets, Lady Gaga's controversial body image tweets, and other similar spring season "thin ideal" viral media frenzies.
But I have watched these topics circulating and recirculating for a couple of very long weeks now, and the truth is, I just can't.
I was trying to stay mum because my usual policy regarding discussion of such potentially triggering topics is that "less is more", and the last thing I want to have to bear responsibility for is putting a dangerous idea before a vulnerable set of eyes.
But here is what I need to say on the topic.
We as a society are not comfortable with our anger, AND we lack compassion. In fact, one may very well be a result of the other. Add to that that personal guilt and shame -- which we often feel when attacking another, even if we believe it is the right thing to do -- often bring out more anger as a camouflage to the discomfort of the guilt and shame.
Because of this, we do not think before we attack, during the attack, and often even after the attack. We do not pause to consider the bigger picture to see that what we need to attack -- nay, not attack, but address -- is not the individual so-called perpetrator of a feeding tube diet, or a pop star who, after a well-publicized and rather extensive history of supporting body diversity and self acceptance, suddenly tweets a comment that appears out of context, but the CULTURAL CONDITIONS that have brought these and other similar occurrences INTO EXISTENCE.
If Lady Gaga were not Lady Gaga, but just another Facebook or Twitter peep with a few hundred friends who was tweeting out her frustration over her desire to love her body in the face of a profession that actively discourages it, she would likely get several dozen "I'm here for you hun" posts, virtual "hugs," little heart icons, and other similar expressions of comfort, empathy and support.
But because she is who she is, we hold her to a standard we could never meet ourselves (no matter how much we assume it would be easy, from our vantage point on the outside looking in).
We judge, we condemn, we do not ask, "Could it be -- just perhaps -- that Lady Gaga, recovered bulimic that she is, may be struggling again herself?" We have no compassion because we are not standing right in front of her, looking in her eyes, and thus she does not seem like a person but more of an object to us -- someone we in our all-powerful state as music consumers can deify or vilify at will. We blame her, saying, "But she has 23 million followers on Twitter -- she should be more responsible." As if somehow she has sold her right to freedom of speech, to showing her humanity in public, to being less than perfect just as we each are, as a price for her success.
She hasn't. This is not okay. We are not standing in her shoes -- we are not even trying to.
Similarly, what on earth must those women have experienced prior to their wedding day that has left them feeling SO insecure that they feel like they cannot pose for a picture without enduring the costly, uncomfortably, temporarily disfiguring, and self-shameful insertion of a naso-gastric feeding tube to prepare? What kind of hurt, shame, fear, isolation, judgment must they have endured -- or be afraid of enduring after watching others endure it before their eyes thanks to our anything-but-real "reality TV" culture -- to even consider such an outrageous proposal, yet alone accept and pay up?
Again, no compassion. Not even a weak effort to walk a mile in their shoes. As for the doctor who is offering the procedure, in his mind, are the risks of this particular lame excuse for an "extreme diet" more or less potentially health-compromising than the whole host of other horrific weight loss options that are just a click away via the internet? (I won't say more out of risk of triggering, but in the very same article where the naso-gastric tube diet was first announced there were several other equally jaw-droppingly dangerous extreme diets outlined.)
This doctor is just the latest victim of our societal witch hunt for someone to get angry at, someone to blame, someone who can release us of the obligation to do our own tough personal growth and mentoring work.
WE are to blame. We who continue to buy the magazines and watch the reality TV shows, we who use "fat talk" when out to lunch with our friends, we who personalize absolutely everything to our own experiences and opinions as if we were the rightful center of the universe, we who feel justified in attacking because "others don't understand what it is like to have an eating disorder," we who retweet in anger without doing one darn thing to change our own thoughts and behavior, we who secretly nod as we read Lady Gaga's statement and say, "Yup, she's right -- pop stars really don't eat. And I know exactly how she feels about eating a salad while wanting a hamburger because I felt that way at lunch today."
If we don't change -- starting with ourselves -- if we don't look in the mirror when we say some of the mean and hateful things we direct towards others without even giving them the benefit of a doubt or the chance to explain (and a very genuine consideration of their thoughts and explanations when they do) then all the well-intentioned activism in the world will do not one bit of good.
We are the mentors here -- all of us, and each of us. What are we teaching ourselves, each other, and the next generation? What will our legacy be -- anger, or compassion?
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Agree or disagree, my mentor has taught me over the last decade that the path to everything positive and healing in life comes through compassion. She has also taught me that the areas where I have the least compassion towards others are usually the areas where I have the least compassion towards myself. So I am not going to invite you to do anything in this post -- rather, I am going to share with you my renewed commitment to monitor my OWN thoughts, words, and actions to reflect my belief that every human being caught up in our "thin ideal" culture has a right AND an ability to feel beautiful, perfect, and healthy in their own skin, regardless of how limited the eyes of the surrounding world may be to see or appreciate that beauty. I also believe that this change I desire starts with me. I would love your support as I renew my commitment to this practice here.
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