And if so, why?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Where does the need to explain myself comes from?

Let me explain. <– see! ;)

After I lost the weight I went through a bit of identity crisis. People didn’t see me as "chunky" or "fat" any longer. They just assumed I was always thin and, frankly, it bugged that crap out of me. I wanted people to know my thinner physique took a lot of work. That I wasn’t "born lucky." That I used be made fun of for being fat. That I am not just another skinny girl.

Those feelings have passed, somewhat. There’s still a tinge here and there but I have maintained the loss so long I actually feel more and more like it’s a moot point. People will make judgements on my body regardless what size it is. That’s just the sad truth.

Here’s the thing though, I also feel the need to explain myself when it comes to my work. I’m not quite a stay at home mom, not quite a working mom so I feel judged by both groups. I do work, not in the traditional sense, I don’t have a boss, but blogging is work. Conference planning is work. I need time and child care, and an office space. I have conference calls and deadlines. Clients and associates.

I also feel the need to explain my upbringing. I wasn’t raised with a silver spoon in my mouth. I watched my single mom struggle to better our situation after a divorce that left us with nothing. No house. No money. Nothing. I grew up on yellow cheese and powdered milk. when people see my nice house, in a nice neighborhood I want them know I wasn’t just born into it, I worked hard to get here and needed some helping hands along the way.

I also feel the need to clarify little things by saying..

"No, really, I didn’t start running until I was 30."
"Seriously, I never wear dresses."
"Really, I didn’t grow up eating kale and butternut squash."

Do I really need to explain to people I’m an exercise immigrant, a tom boy at heart and learning to eat healthy has been a choice not my norm. Why is any of that important?

I mean, these are all trivial but I’ve been pondering why I feel it’s necessary for me to prefix conversations or let people know things aren’t always what they seem. Is the "need to explain" a personality type? Maybe everyone feels this way? Maybe it’s a confidence thing? Self-esteem? Maybe it coincides with why I like to blog? Maybe it’s because I’ve changed so much I want people to know it is possible? Maybe it’s stupid and I just need to get over myself?

Honestly, I don’t know. I thought this made a great question of the week. Your thoughts? Do you ever feel the need to clarify or do you just let people make their own assumptions about you?

image from zazzle

 
  • Nikki

    Love it! It’s so true, and you deserve to share your story. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and you don’t need to forget it. I’ve learned a little more about you today <3

  • Nelissa De Paula

    I am not american and people usually don’t pick up on my accent, and even though they don’t ever ask me about where I am from, ALWAYS, when I introduce myself or get introduced to somebody new, I feel the need to explain myself. Same thing when it comes to being thinner. II give people explanations about who I am and how I turned out to be where I am today. I give unsolicited explanations on how I turned out to look the way I look today too. I know I do it, so I just realized that I can stop before I even get started. And I try!

  • Molly

    I believe in letting your actions speak for themselves. Then let all the rest go.
    I see how because of your work, peoples assumptions may seem to be an important consideration. I haven’t been following you very long, but I keep coming back because I see how hard you work. Sometimes I’ll admit hearing how easy it is for you to run makes things seem a bit unrealistic to me. But then you do one of your super deep and insightful podcasts and I’m right back to being ur number one fan. Do you think the need to clarify is being encouraged by your internal thoughts, or external inquires. I wonder if you would be such a good blogger if you didn’t feel the desire to clarify.

  • Staci

    Oh man. I am a preacher’s wife. ANYTIME I get something new, people notice. And say “I like you {insert item}. Is it new?” Or something to that effect. I start going on an on about how it was “on sale” “got it at Goodwill” “I consign shop” “hand me down….” The list goes on! LOL So stupid! I think for me it’s caring what they think of me. It’s like the preacher’s wife should never have anything that costs anything or nicer than other people’s. And that is NOT TRUE. I know lots of super cutely dressed preacher’s wife. It’s just some dumb thing that I have in my own thinking. Blah!

  • Tania

    I do the same thing!! The weight loss thing I tend to keep to myself unless it comes up. I have sort of an opposite fear. I fear being judged because I used to be obese. What I do often feel the need to explain, though, is that I also didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth. We used to live in a trailer (me, my older brother, mom, dad and dad’s brother, wife and his two kids…yeah, crazy). I used to get picked on a lot and was never popular. I feel like I appear to be this put together, fit woman (not that that’s a bad thing) and I want to prove that I have substance or something. I don’t know. I realize it’s silly as anyone that talks to me will realize what kind of a woman I am inside and out, but the need to prove it is something I need to shake. I need to learn to just be myself and let my words and actions speak for themselves. A back story is not necessary for people to see what kind of a person I am.

  • abby

    The stronger, more self confidnet, comfortable I become with my choices…THe more inner peace I have with who I am choosing to be, the less i justify and explain who I am and what I do. People who know me, know me… and people who are getting to know me, will get to know this me, and people who don’t know me, well, they don’t need to know.
    “Be who you are and say what you feel,
    because those who mind don’t matter,
    and those who matter don’t mind.”
    ― Dr. Seuss
    To me, I find that only through the development of a friendship, stories of my past come out, (was also very poor adn fat) but not because i am justifying or explaining but because there is a real, beautiful reason for it!
    I don’t anymore explain myself to just anyone. I don’t need to, I am living the life I want to live and I am living with my beautiful choices and I love who I am today!!!!

  • Aimee

    I do this all the time. Too much. I’m trying to stop because the truth is no one really cares. You’re right people will make their own judgments with or without clarification. As I work on becoming more secure with who I am, I am also trying not to pass judgment on others. To each their own.

  • Melissa

    Hi Roni, Just found your blog and this is food for thought. I’m just becoming aware of the fact that I explain myself constantly. You mean it’s not a requirement? Wow. Going to ponder this and maybe stop clarifying every littl thing. People will think what they want no matter what. Might as well let them. – Melissa

  • MizFit

    I so so so so so used to and more from an OVERLY EXCITED TO SHARE PLACE (hence my love of being interviewed :0)) Ive learned no one really cares…in a great way. they’re all too focused on making it themselves … day to day.

    • http://twitter.com/LisaEirene Lisa Eirene

      Agree! Most people don’t even notice anything about other people!

  • Cindy Corliss

    Every day of my life! Now that I live in the UK, I am always explaining myself. No, I am not on vacation. No, I am not from Canada. No, I am not (insert whatever stereotype about Americans you can think of.) I’m here working my bum off to make a better (later) life for myself.

  • Annalisa

    When I was in my early 20s I consistently felt the need to explain myself – especially if I was complimented. I’m not sure if it was a boost in self-esteem or the fact that I did outside sales (talk about a rough, back-bone forming job!) I stopped. When people compliment me, I just give a genuine “Thank you”. I notice people who go on and on and on about the thing you admire/praise seem insecure and I don’t want to come across that way – even if I am. Maybe by doing that it makes me more secure – sort of like smiling all day does put you in a better mood?

    I really don’t think any one “fits in” with a group, stereotype, etc. I’m a SAHM but we run an online store and consulting business that I can be pretty hands-on with so I don’t completely identify with the no-work-at-all moms. We’re also only half-hippies when it comes to child raising so we never completely understand or relate to most other parents. I think it’s normal to not fit in across the board.

    Good question/thought for the week!

  • jenniferwei

    I understand this, too. I think in my case it’s because I am so afraid of anyone thinking that I think I am somehow better than they are which is totally how my mother raised me. Not exactly a good thing. I am a work in progress.

  • Michelle

    I have a different perspective on that. I think perhaps you try to connect with people more deeply than most. Do you consider yourself “relational”? Even though you are in contact with the “outside” world more than most SAHM’s through your job, it’s probably not on a very personal level. Perhaps you explain as a way to truly connect, to share of yourself beyond the superficial. (Not that I have any experience with this notion ;-])
    Just a thought!

  • Donna

    Roni- you don’t owe anyone explanations about anything- Just keep being the awesome you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kdjaffe Karen Jaffe

    OMG, all the time! I think it’s related to self-esteem, and my belief that I’m not as accomplished as everyone else, which of course if not true at all. Even after all my experience with weight and as a weight loss coach, I felt I had to explain my decision to promote a certain type of weight loss plan over another to a fellow coach. Grrrrr . . . I’m way too old for this! And I feel like I have to justify my weight loss when people say things like “well you weren’t that heavy, were you?” And by the way Roni, when I read your blog and hear all the things you have going on, you are absolutely a working mother. Working from home and for yourself is in many ways a much harder way to work, especially with little ones. Yes, you definitely do not give yourself enough credit.

  • LisaM

    I liked the thought about trying to be “relatable” to everyone, and maybe that’s it. Here’s another thought… I was raised in a big family, so we didn’t have as much as a lot of our friends/neighbors. It was a source of pride in our family, that the “haves” were softies, and we “have-nots” were made of stronger stuff. Sometimes those old thoughts come up for me, and I wonder if other people now think I’m one of the softies!

  • Tina

    Hi Roni, I always take your “explanations” as you re-introducing your journey to readers. Your journey is what makes you so relatable (spelling?) to me. Healthy & fit didn’t come easy to you and you share that it’s still a mind-struggle for you now and again…. this reminder that you weren’t always so successful at this “thin” business makes me come back and read your posts day after day. You get ME when others don’t. I don’t take your explanations any other way but that.

  • Stephanie

    I think its very natural to “explain” yourself to people. Unfortunately, there are way too many judgements out there. People want to judge how much money you make, are you a working mom or SAHM, what you eat, how you spend your money, how does your spouse treat you, the way your kids act, the list could go on and on. Generally most people want to be liked and understood…and then there are the people that say “I dont care what everyone else thinks!” (this would be my husband). I would love to be a little bit of both categories.

    Love these kinds of posts…they really get your thinking :-)

  • BigTickles

    Great question. I could go on and on about this; I am juggling a lot of things however the two things that make people confused is when I say I am finishing up my doctorate. Then I get, “but I thought you were a SAHM?”. I am like, “yeah ?”. Then it leads to the head turned slightly to the side with the blank stare (this is what they do). So I just do not even bother anymore…sigh..

  • Cori Roffler

    Hi Roni, another great insightful post. I too feel the need to explain, as if that will keep judgments away. But I realize that people may judge regardless. I’ve been doing more mental work on this weight loss journey. And I’m working on being content with myself as I am right this very moment. I’m working on remembering that people’s judgements are not my truths. It’s work, it’s a process but with people like you giving a “voice” to my experiences it keeps me plugging along on this journey. Thanks for just being you and sharing yourself with us.

  • http://twitter.com/fitinwoodbine Teresa Langley

    When people say to me, “So I hear you are a runner.” I always feel the need to follow up with, “but I am a slow runner!” WHY?????

  • http://twitter.com/LisaEirene Lisa Eirene

    I definitely feel this way sometimes. When I was first becoming a runner, I felt like I had to explain that I used to be 100 pounds heavier to explain why I was slow. I also felt like I had to explain why I have loose skin and stretch marks — no I didn’t have kids, I lost 100 pounds.

    It’s really weird now because I’ve kept the weight off for 4 years now and I am so far removed from the “old” me that many people in my life do not know me as the old Lisa. Coworkers, newish friends, boyfriends, etc, only see pictures of the 250 pound girl and it doesn’t feel like it’s me at all.

  • Kate

    It’s important because you appreciate it! You know the hard work it took to attain the place that you’re at, and you’re proud of it! And, you’re hopeful for others that they can do things they might not think are possible.

  • Brandy

    You are such an inspiration and I think a lot of your want to clarify is to show people it IS possible to get to where you are. I know you went through a lot changing your lifestyle and it is a part of you. For people not to know means that they don’t REALLY know you. I know I’ve been inspired by your story. I started weight watchers, have lost more than 30 lbs, and just started running. All because I felt I could because YOU could. Thank you.

  • Emily

    Thank you for this post. I found myself saying “yes” and “exactly”. I do believe we do this because 1) We want people to see that they can change and 2) we want people to see real change only comes from hard work and usually not “luck”.
    Every time we go on a trip or buy something and a comment is thrown out like “wow, it must be nice to take trips or…. i wish we could” I immediately explain how we scrimped and saved to do so. WHY? Or when a coworker commented on how “quickly” I lose my baby weight I find myself explaining the countless hours of night time exercise I did to achieve that result.
    I have been getting better at not explaining myself because each time I do explain myself it seems that the other party walks away with the same thoughts about me that they originally carried.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cheryl.palen.505 Cheryl Palen

    never cared nor do I now care what people think about what I do or what I look like. maybe that’s why I don’t have a blog to let everyone know what I look like and what I do so it can be scrutinized and analyzed by people I will never meet or care about.

  • Mindy

    This is an interesting question. Maybe a bit of “earner’s remorse”…achieving goals and dreams is amazing but it also comes with some level of… bashfulness? OR maybe it’s just the disbelief of what you have accomplished, maybe you also feel like you still struggle so you can’t “take credit” for what you’ve done. I know that it’s hard for me to take credit for the things that have come from all the hard work I have done. It’s not perfect yet so I don’t allow myself the room to take full pride. So when other’s give me that credit, it feels uncomfortable and undeserved in some way.
    really great question, it really forced me to examine my thoughts on this issue and I didn’t even know it was there until you posted about it.
    On the concept of pride, I think as long as it’s in balance, we are equally prideful and humble (not one or the other all the time) then it’s okay to feel that pride, others will not judge us and, if they do, it’s not our fault, it’s because they still have work to do on their end.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristina.dietznicholson Kristina Dietz-Nicholson

    Yes I need to clarify… in someways i think it’s to give myself a pat on the back to know that I’VE worked hard… and i think that’s okay. It’s who are, how we got to where we are… and i think it’s okay to be proud of that. It’s not like you are arrogant about it – it’s just a clarification :-) Plus, i don’t like ass u m[e] ptions… they are rarely correct and I prefer people know me for who i am. Here’s a quick perfect example… just the other day I saw something on pinterest that said Hard Work. Determination. I’m getting a running shirt made with that. I work hard for every step I take and every pound I’ve lost and i’m proud of that. I want everyone to know that it doesn’t come easy for everyone… AND it might inspire someone to take that first step!

  • jj

    how was your childhood? i grew up with an abusive stepfather, not sexual but physical and emotional abuse. he ruled the house, my siblings and i were terrified. we walked on eggshells. the food was checked in the house; there better not be even 1 cookie unaccounted for. he was hard to please. so here i am today, a people-pleaser always making sure i’m a good person doing everything right, justifying myself so i dont get into trouble. i think that’s why.

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