It’s a fascinating, thought-provoking post. Everyone should go read it, so I’m not going to write much here.
Kate Harding makes several interesting arguments, but her key point is the tendency for people to think, “When I’m thin, I’ll be different. I’ll be more adventurous, or more sociable, or happier in my relationship.” Her message: No, you won’t. You’ll still be yourself.
I know exactly what she’s talking about. For many of us, there are things that we wish were different. We imagine it will be different when we’re thin. Or rich. Or when we have a baby, or a sweetheart, or a new kitchen, or a best-selling book…
Her post reminded me of the challenge to keep my First Commandment (see left column): “Be Gretchen.” Being Gretchen means accepting limitations and proclivities that I sometimes wish were different.
For example, for a long time, I didn’t acknowledge my passion for children’s literature. That interest didn’t fit with the picture that I wished were true about myself. I wanted to be more serious, more grown-up. I wanted to love opera, or caselaw, or global finance, or fly-fishing.
But once I embraced what I REALLY loved, instead of what I wished I loved, and started my children’s literature book group, my passion became a huge source of joy.
The thing is, it’s a bit sad to accept yourself. You face all the things that you will never be. But to be yourself is the only way to be happy.
On the specific issue of weight – I’m still trying to think through the issue of how attractiveness and self-image relate to happiness. When I posted about Anne Kreamer’s terrific book, Going Gray, about Kreamer’s decision to stop dying her hair and “go gray,” many readers posted fascinating comments on the topic. It’s complicated. I would describe myself as “weight-preoccupied” (I think that’s a term of art), so Harding’s comments about focusing on thinness as the key to all happiness resonated with me. It depresses me to admit how much my mood is affected by a two-pound swing on the scale.
It’s a challenge. Be Gretchen. Now, not later. As is.
This sounds so straightforward, but it’s not. John Ruskin reflected:
The little pig was so comforting to me because he was wholly content to be a little pig; and Mr. Leslie Stephen is in a certain degree exemplary and comforting to me, because he is wholly content to be Mr. Leslie Stephen; while I am miserable because I am always wanting to be something else than I am.
Be John Ruskin.
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