My story is profile in the current issue of Psychology Today (December 2013), as part of the article Do I Make You Uncomfortable?
This is the article for which I had My Abnormal Photo Shoot. In late August, I replied to a Facebook notice shared by the Obesity Action Coalition. Being a member of the OAC has provided many opportunities to share my story, and thus spread awareness about lipedema and lymphedema.
Does my fat make you uncomfortable?
According to the article that is YOUR issue, not mine. I knew this already, but I admit I misunderstood the article concept as originally told to me: “story about the experiences of those with physical differences—and how, on both a societal and individual level, we can overcome negative or prejudiced responses.” I thought the article was going to focus on those of us on the receiving end of the negative and prejudiced responses. Through my own sessions with a psychologist, I learned I cannot change other people's behaviors, I can only control my own reaction. To my pleasant surprise the article's focus is on the response people have when they see a person with a physical difference. It is a refreshing change for the discussion to address why some people have such adverse reactions to ME, since it is usually just accepted that it's normal for people to act in such ways towards people who are abnormal. And yet, it's not normal. Not everyone who sees me has a negative or prejudiced response, if that was the case I would not have so many supportive friends. So what does prompt the negative response?
The theory discussed in the article is that people's negative and prejudices reactions towards physical difference is rooted in an immune response and survival instinct protecting against disease. Interesting idea for sure! And does go along with the idea that people project their own insecurities towards me. The personal stories shared tell of instances for which we have experiences negative reactions based on our appears, mine included the now famous "check out them cankles" incident. It is inspiring that the other individual profiled in the story have the same positive attitude and outlook as I do and the hope that by sharing our stories we can help others.
"Research suggesting that prejudice is a flexible trait abounds -- and simply being aware that it's not fixed can significantly reduce discriminatory behavior. Accepting that we all hold negative associates and becoming aware of the one we automatically make are also critical steps in the process of counteracting our biases. So, too, is encouraging people to talk about their negative perceptions."
My abnormal appearance is beneficial in life, it serves as a screening process. If people do not want to get to know me because of my looks, their loss. Now sure, it hurt when I experienced weight bias in the workplace but obviously that was not a company whose values align with mine.