On boundaries, gaslighting, and bigotry

I suppose it’s part of my desperate need for positive affirmation from other people- particularly my family- that I continue to torture myself to please them.

As you all might remember, I’ve injured my left knee pretty badly. Of course, my overall lack of coordination is clearly not to blame, according to my mother; it’s definitely my weight that is the problem. Setting boundaries with her about commenting over my weight is difficult at best and damn near impossible at worst. She is a master health troll; any time I injure myself (particularly this recent bout of knee issues) it turns into a lecture on TheDeathFats and how I’m going to have to have knee replacements or I’ll end up completely houseridden; she’s commented before on how my stepdad look at me and assume I’m going to end up 700 lbs and disabled. (This is more than twice my weight. That comment led to the Thanksgiving breakdown.) Despite repeatedly asking that there be no diet talk around me, there’s diet talk.

Well, I’ve recently started resistance training to strengthen my knee, and once I’m a bit more stable and able to balance better, I plan to start doing some yoga. Nothing too advanced; I can’t afford to attend classes, but I can always watch videos for the basic, safe forms that I should be able to do independently. I mentioned this to my mom, so maybe she’ll stop lamenting my physical health.

It turned into a fifteen-minute conversation about her desire to lose 20 pounds for my sister’s wedding, and about making dramatic changes in my own life, such as joining a gym or starting aggressive exercise routines (for My Own Good, of course.)


I don’t want to hear it, about me or about anyone else. I started talking about how I’m concerned about the actual indicators of my health, all of which are great, and how I want to find more safe ways to move in a way that is comfortable and enjoyable for me, versus abusing myself and hating myself because I do not match up with society’s impression of how I should be. That was not a sufficient hint. I suppose I need to have another boundaries conversation, but ugh. I’m tired of having to set the same boundaries over and over again, and remind her that I am the boss of my own underpants and it is NOT okay for her to tear me down over and over again because I do not match her narrow definition of health. It only took one conversation at work with my coworkers to drop the diet talk and “guilty” and “bad” food comments, and my coworkers do self-police for the most part (though this time of year is terrible for it, so I’m letting a little bit more slide than usual, as everyone and their mother has once again resolved to “get healthy” by dieting and increasing their exercise. I try to encourage the idea of improving overall health versus becoming obsessed with numbers on a scale or dress size. This helps, somewhat.)

And yet, why do I continue to struggle for acceptance? I just want her to say “Wow, that’s awesome, keep up the good work” without then launching into how it will help prevent *her* vision of me from coming true. That’s really the meat of it, there; she is more concerned with how *she* feels I should be and what choices *she* feels I should be making, than how *I* feel I should be, and supporting my decisions as my own informed decisions as an adult who is the boss of her own underpants. I would have preferred she allowed me to make my own choices about my health and body going back into my childhood as I developed my own autonomy, but those days are past, and now I just want to focus on her being appropriate about my decisions in the here and now, and allowing me to live my life in a way I enjoy and not judging me, making critical comments about everything I do, or providing ‘encouragement’ that is actually nicely-disguised contempt for my present shape and suggesting I work to change the body I’m perfectly comfortable in, so *she* can feel comfortable while looking at me.

I want to show her this post to help her understand how I feel, but I am afraid she’ll start gaslighting me yet again about how I am the one with the problem because I don’t hate myself, versus her being caught red-handed being bigoted and hateful towards my body because it is not what she wants.

I think I’ll show her anyway. It’s the truth, uncomfortable and blunt as it is, and it’s the words I can never quite get out when I try to have the boundaries conversation. I might be written out of the will, but it will make strides in my overall mental health and ability to spend time visiting my parents without having a major breakdown when I get back.



Filed under Civil Rights, Now, Then

2 responses to “On boundaries, gaslighting, and bigotry

  1. fozmeadows

    It’s awful you have to keep explaining this stuff to your family over and over again. There’s so much misinformation about what constitutes healthy as opposed to slender, it’s boggling. Anyway, just wanted to send some support and good vibes; I hope your mother starts to listen.

    • Thanks. I’ve tried to get my mom to read “Fat!So?” but now I think I’ll get her a copy of “Health at Every Size” so she can read the science for herself. I think that might help. Evidence-based practice is how I roll at work, and how I roll in my personal life, too.

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