The next few signposts on our journey may be uncomfortable. Some may be controversial. However, they are out there and they need to be discussed and understood. Growing up as a person struggling with obesity isn’t easy. I know this all too well. There is the perception that if you’re a “large” person, you’re lazy and you won’t accomplish much in life. Although my family tried to use a nice term to describe me, it still hurts to be ridiculed when you’re young. Yes, I was the “husky one” growing up. Even now in my 60s, the scars are still there. Events that happened to me as a preteen and teenager shaped how I feel, act, and dress in public.
Cetus, the whale, serves as a cruel reminder of the descriptive terms I heard about my size. There were others but that one hurt the most. As I got older, I used humor to deflect the pain. You can imagine my fear when I enrolled in the Medical Laboratory Science program in college. I was told I needed to wear white pants and a white shirt with a white lab coat. Since my first name was Richard, fears of being called Moby Dick overwhelmed me. No one actually called me that, but the fear and anxiety were real—that was how I was programmed.
I’m not sure if society purposefully treats people with obesity as third-class citizens. Certainly, literature, movies, TV, and advertising do not paint large people with a great brush. Whether it’s for an easy laugh at our expense, plain ignorance, or simply not being aware, the damage can cripple one’s ambition.
While society may be getting better, bullying and fat-shaming still exist. Weight-shaming can lead to eating disorders, anxiety, stress, and depression. People who are on the receiving end of this abuse tend to reduce their physical activity and have low self-esteem.
There were many voices causing me to dwell on Cetus, but it only took one voice to lead me to the next signpost. One family member told me that no matter what I looked like, I was just as good as the next person. Those words helped me travel forward. Please try not to dwell on the past and set your sights on what you can control today.
I probably missed out on some life experiences while growing up, but I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I survived.
This is part 11 of the multipart series, “Aim for the Stars.” In my next blog, we’ll look to the constellation Cygnus.