But What Will People Think?

Haters Walk on WaterYesterday in response to my post about boundary setting for family and friends food police, I suggested that one option for creating a boundary with a consequence attached was to say “It is not ok to talk about my weight or eating. If anyone says one more thing about my weight or eating I’m going to leave” and then, if they fail to respect your boundaries, it’s time to go. I got the following comment in response, I think it’s a question that lots of people have and I want to address it:

But, if you just get up and leave, they will likely say that you are doing so because you “can’t handle the truth”, are “lying to yourself”, etc. If they don’t say it, they may at least THINK it. How would you and/or your readers deal with a possibility such as this?

One of the benefits of having so many haters so obsessed with me is that I get criticized for nearly every single thing I do or say – every blog post, Facebook post, Youtube video, etc. If I say that I like tea, there will be a thread on Reddit within 5 minutes about how I’m a liar and I really like coffee. This can actually be a really good thing since, though I don’t think I’d give into it, I’m never tempted to behave in a way that I think could avoid criticism, since I’ll be criticized no matter what I do. It has also solidified my answer to my commenter’s  question from yesterday, which is this:

They may well think or say those things.  If there’s anything that I’ve learned from my haters, it’s that people will go to any length to justify their prejudice to themselves and anyone who will listen.  I cannot control what people think of me, nor can I control their behavior.  I don’t care what people think, I care how they treat me in my presence.

So when I say “It is not ok to talk about my weight or eating. If anyone says one more thing about my weight or eating I’m going to leave.”  I’m not trying to control what people think – they can think whatever the hell they want, I am stating clearly what behavior I will and will not tolerate, and what I will do if they continue the behavior that I find offensive.

If they continue discussing my weight or eating and I leave, it’s not to control what they think – it’s to remove myself from a situation that is outside of what I will put up with.

If people want to spend time with me they have to treat me a certain way, which includes not body shaming or food policing me.  So while they are allowed to think whatever they want about me, my body, and my food choices, they are 100% responsible for keeping those thoughts to themselves if they want to spend time with me (and they are under no obligation to want to spend time with me, of course.)

Most of the people in my life with whom I’ve had to set this boundary have been able to pull it together and behave appropriately.  There are a few who haven’t, and they don’t get to spend time with me anymore.  I don’t know or care what they think about me, as long as I don’t have to put up with it. Of course your mileage may vary, but I’ve found that – when it comes to family and friends food police – if I stop focusing on what people think and start focusing on what I want, things become better right away.

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24 thoughts on “But What Will People Think?

  1. What will they think? Even if what they think is wrong, if they are even thinking, that’s a good start. Considering how many people that say this garbage do so WITHOUT thinking to begin with, if we can inspire some thought process by our refusal to accept their nastiness, we’re on the right path.

  2. I love your post but please be very carful of the fat haters on reddit. They threatened me with extreme physical violence, went to great lengths to find my address before I moved and were generally fascinated by my every move for about a month until I got to boring for them.

    They seem like they are true psychopaths

    1. Simon,

      I worried about how to word this, because I don’t want to seem patronizing or pitying, but I finally decided just to jump in with both feet. 🙂

      After reading some of your posts, I really want to give you a hug. You seem like a really lovely person, and you definitely deserve better than the treatment you’ve gotten from the world. I hope you know that your contributions are very much valued by those of us around here.

      Wishing you a peaceful holiday season.

    2. I want to hug you too.

      Seems like haters have nothing better to do. For me I try to stay active in my activism communities, but it can be hard. Once I considered throwing in the towel.

  3. It’s kind of the opposite of “don’t criticize someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, because then you’re a mile away and have their shoes”. If someone’s fat-shaming you, get the distance first, and then you won’t have to care what they’re saying (and bonus: you still have your shoes).

    Besides, you can’t control what other people think of you. What you can control is ensuring that they know you mean business about being treated with respect.

  4. It’s a bit like the AA serenity prayer. It’s about knowing what you can and cannot control, and taking control of the bits you can while leaving those you cannot control alone.

    I can control my words. I cannot control what others say. If they continue to say things I have stated are unacceptable to me, I have the choice to walk away and not come back. I cannot control what anyone will think of me for doing this.

    But this is how society changes. One person refuses to listen to hate, and that teaches someone else who found the hate uncomfortable to hear that (s)he can also refuse to listen. It becomes a trickle, and then a stream, and then a mighty wave drowning out the hateful assumptions.

    The thing is, the first people to refuse to listen to the hate will take some lumps. We have to be brave enough to accept that we may lose family and friends over this. But if anything is going to change, someone has to take a stand and say ‘enough!’

    The only question left is are you going to be that person?

    You don’t have to. Clearly that is something you have control over and I don’t. But I’ve already given up a brother for the cause and I honestly don’t regret it. I’d rather not have someone in my life who treats me like I don’t matter. I’d rather not listen to anyone tell me that I’m a bad person if I have a slice of pie. I don’t need anyone else to tell me I’m fat. That’s something I already know. I cannot control what my brother thinks of my being fat anymore than I can stop being fat. But I can decide what I won’t put up with.

    I can choose my sanity over his comfort in having me as an emotional punching bag.

    So that’s what I did. I don’t know how he feels about it, and I frankly don’t very much care. I know that as hard as it was for me to walk out of his life, I am better off for it.

    1. “I know that as hard as it was for me to walk out of his life, I am better off for it.”

      That takes a lot of courage, and I’m glad you’ve done it if it means you are able to hold on to more happiness. We should never put up with abusive people, not even family. True family is the people we CHOSE to be with, some of those people may be the people we share blood with, others may not. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized more and more that we get to chose who we consider family. I’m proud of you for making the choice to cut out the toxic people – I know that can’t have been easy.

      I do feel sorry for your brother, that he has so much hate in his heart – and now he doesn’t have the awesome Twistie in his life! He’s definitely worse off by not having you in his life, than you for for not having him in your life. You rock, Twistie! *hug*

  5. People often forget that boundaries are about what YOU will do if people choose to cross them, not about their response to your boundary. It doesn’t matter what they think, you set your boundary and hold it.

  6. There is a saying that made ALL the difference in my life. I used to do everything in my power to make people think positively about me – do everything right, say the right thing, etc. And then one day someone made the comment that I have never forgotten: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” That put it squarely in perspective for me. It’s no one else’s business what I think of them, so why should it be my business what they think of me? It’s made a world of difference in my life.

    1. “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
      “It’s no one else’s business what I think of them, so why should it be my business what they think of me?”

      It took me a little bit of thinking about, but you’re right. Wow, why is that such a new concept for people? I mean, it’s obvious when you think about it. Yet so many of us spend so much of our time worrying about what other people think about us, or making sure we try and do everything we can to make sure they think well of us. In the end though, it really is not in our control as much as we may think.

      Because, in the end:
      “You can be the sweetest, juiciest peach, but there will always be someone who doesn’t like peaches”.

      And it’s not our business if someone likes peaches or not. hahah

      That is a very freeing way of thinking about it, and definitely helpful to keep me from worrying about what others think. 🙂 Thank you for the lovely quote and for reminding us of that.

  7. We have no obligation to keep discussing issues if we don’t want to discuss them. This goes for weight, politics, religion and any other topic that people want to force you into debates over. Let them know that you don’t want to continue the conversation. If they don’t respect your boundaries, then don’t interact with them.

    For every viewpoint there is an almost never ending supply of people who will disagree with you and be willing to debate you. Don’t feel obligated to defend your position all the time.

    If they think you are ducking out of an argument because you are too weak to defend your position, they were not likely to be persuadable anyway. Don’t let people bully you into arguing with them.

  8. Glad to know that I inspired a blog post with my question. At 280ish pounds, I’m supposedly a “ticking time bomb.” My organs supposedly also have to work harder to do their jobs due to my obesity. I will not hesitate to admit that I do not exercise and hardly eat anything so-called “healthy.”

    I LOVE fast food, sweets, etc. Despite this, I usually have clear skin, unlike my fit sister, a woman who is all about eating healthy, organic foods, and exercising (her lack of clear skin could be stress-related, as she is employed, and trying to make ends meet, while I live at home).

    I do not smoke or do any illegal drugs — not even weed. I also seldom drink.

    The main concern in my question was more about what people could SAY, as I fear my position would be indefensible, and that’d leave me looking like a fool, making them “right,” and me “in denial.”

    1. To me the answer to this is simple – you get to make choices for you and other people get to make choices for them and nobody owes an explanation or justification for their body size, food choices, complexion, choice do drink, or anything else. Your position cannot be “indefensible” because it doesn’t need defending. You get to decide whether or not your choices are a topic of discussion when you are present, and you can remove yourself if your wishes around that aren’t respected, or you can choose to stay.


      1. Simple, eloquent and to the point. I love the whole “needs no justification” notion.

        Not way too long ago, I was having a discussion with my step-dad, and he asked me who’s going to pay for my medical care if or when (can’t remember which word was used) I get sick. My paternal grandpa asked a very similar question unprovoked when I stayed with him and my granny late last year. Grandpa also felt the need to tell me that my diet soda consumption (I love the taste) will destroy my kidneys. Never before has he uttered a word about my health, so why now?

        Anyway…I’d like to think that a civilized, caring society helps people when they’re ill, regardless of how they got that way. It’d be horrendous to let people die because they can’t afford their treatment or “brought it upon themselves” by engaging in “bad” behaviors. If I countered his argument with this one, he might have said that my position is one of “enabling.”

    2. It doesn’t really matter what you say because you don’t have to convince them that you are right, only that you mean it. E.g., if you state your boundary and they say, “well, that is just because you can’t handle the truth about being overweight,” you either say, “since you can’t respect my boundary, I am leaving.” Or you say nothing (because it’s not your job to change their minds), or you say, “that qualifies as weigh talk, so please stop or I will leave” and then leave (this would also work if they repeat it afte you say nothing).

      Also, I think dissing your sister’s skin is contributing to the larger problem. No one owes it to the world to be (conventionally) beautiful or attractive, including people who are fat and people who have bad skin. When you get into comparing like that, you are buying into a flawed paradigm.

  9. Very true. I don’t run into this with fat a lot but with other areas I have to remind myself that I can’t control what people think and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. I made some changes to my life awhile back cutting out a lot of friends and I stopped doing a lot of things I used to. Sometimes I think “but what if people think that I’m doing nothing and my life is boring without them”. Well so what if they do? (And the truth is from the outside my life is more boring. I’m far more inclined toward staying in with my weights or a book/some articles and a glass of wine than going out to a club or a party. And I’m so much happier now with things that way. So why do I care if it looks more “boring” to someone else?)
    Or with someone lying about me behind my back. “But what if people think that’s true?” So what if they do? What harm is it actually doing me if people not close enough to me to get the real story believe these things about me?

    You just gotta let go of what other people think and realize that they people who make those kinds of assumptions aren’t the type of people whose opinions you should be concerned with anyways.

  10. Years ago, a really cool older lady told me, “I don’t care what they think. It’s none of my business anyway.” That has helped me so much in the practical application of this issue. When I start pondering what others might be thinking, I stop and tell myself, “None of my business!” It’s freeing.

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