I pick on myself. And it’s not that I am my own worst critic; it’s not constructive or inspiring at all. Like many women, I’ve picked up the bad habit of “fat talk,” something I spoke about recently on the Today Show.
The back and forth banter that escalates into who has more fat (often accompanied by pinching of stomach, flanks, and words like “muffin top,” and below the bra strap, “back fat”) is the “this old rag” deflection of yesteryear. But I started thinking about how hurtful it really can be. As a psychologist, having a patient say something out loud makes it have an exponential importance than just thinking about it.
How about if I am hearing myself insult myself, over and over, day after day?
I’m not fat, though I have pockets of places I wish were leaner, like everybody. I too have had a moment of slight scale rage or have left a dressing room wishing I could Photoshop myself or at least dim the lights. But why has it turned into a topic of ongoing conversation?
Is our need to create comfort in the other person so intense that we’ll level the playing field by turning what could be a really uplifting conversation into an ugly banter about how imperfect we are?
On my way home a few hours ago, I tested this on men, telling each one that they looked good, and asked if they had lost some weight. Five out of five accepted the compliment, though one admitted he had gained weight but actually would be wearing this shirt more often if it made him look leaner. None of them deflected the compliment or tried to turn it into self denigration.
I think part of it is a reaction to the “catty culture” (that stems from a even more general entitlement of everyone commenting on how a woman looks, her age, and her weight), the snarkiness and backstabbing we see exemplified on television.
There is interesting psychology behind this. When one woman gossips and insults another, she subconsciously feels that others must be looking at her and doing the same thing. So in an effort to preempt them, women cut themselves down first.
This is not about humility; this is about self-deprecating remarks that might reach the hundreds by the end of the year. Think your subconscious is recording it? You betcha.