In the last year I have experienced tremendous changes in my life that have made me want to share parts of myself with anyone who is willing to listen; parts of myself that address issues that most people simply do not want to talk about. Fat Kid Chronicles is a way for me to acknowledge and deal with my own lingering issues of self-worth both past and present, and maybe help you with yours. Your comments are welcome and thanks for stopping by!
Chapter One: Gym Class Woes
In high school many of us had seemingly ridiculous fears about various topics from what would happen if we talked to the wrong person in the lunch room to what would come of wearing the wrong outfit to a certain social event; fears that dictated our decision making processes as we tried to navigate the social climate of a hostile world. No matter what anyone says to the contrary, we all feared something in high school, be it big or small.
For me personally, one of my greatest fears took hold of me at the same time almost every day. The bell would ring, my heart would race, and a cold sweat would cover my body, indicating that in minutes I would be tangoing once again with one of my greatest fears at the time: gym class. For many of you it probably seems ridiculous for a teenage boy to be afraid of gym class, but for somebody like me it makes perfect sense.
High school can be damaging enough to someone’s self-esteem in the most basic of ways; the relational aggression and need for acceptance alone can wreak tremendous havoc. When you toss in the added stress of being overweight in a time where one’s image and self-esteem are developing, you have a recipe for disaster. Two or three times a week I was met with the dread of going to a class that should have been fun; a class that should have been a welcoming reprieve from the trials of academia. When we’re overweight and constantly reminded of that at both home and school, however, the fun seems to fall flat.
We’re picked last for teams, treated differently by our peers and adult figures, and made to believe that there is something wrong with us; that we’re damaged. And in a great many of ways we are; we’re damaged because we don’t fit into the mold set out for us. We’re damaged because, even at a young age, image means everything and no matter how hard we work or how well we excel in other areas, in most cases image will determine worth.
With that being said, even at the high school level a great number of us stop trying in various aspects of our lives. We stop putting forth our very best because we feel like we will just fail anyway, despite our efforts. People like me decide that it’s better to slip by with a passing grade, putting in the least amount of effort possible, than to address the real issue: that my body image was ruling this aspect of my life and not a single person was there to help me. Instead of being met with concern from the adult figures in my life, I was met with contempt. I was made to feel as if everything was my own fault and I was simply a lazy individual. Most people never even had to say anything; all they had to do was look at me and everything they were thinking was evident in their body language or facial expressions.
In my four years of high school, not a single person wondered or cared about why upon my report card you would see an honors student with a nearly failing grade in gym class each and every quarter. When I needed guidance most, I was left to my own devices as so many kids are. It’s easy to see someone as lazy; it’s much harder to look beyond the surface and see what’s truly going on: anxiety, budding depression, and a feeling of isolation from one’s peers.
For me gym class was one of the most daunting challenges of my high school career, not because of the physical demands, but rather the emotional havoc it wrought on my self-esteem, stemming from the belief that my body was not what it should be and far from the physical ideal that was present in not only the media, but my mind and the minds of those around me. To say that my self-worth was below average at this critical stage of development would be a tremendous understatement and hardly indicative of the hard work I would have to put into the rebuilding process in the years that followed. Unfortunately for me, my fear of gym class was only the tip of the iceberg.
Well that’s all I’ve got for today. Time to go running. (Yes, I run now.)
Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry