I came across a video on the internet about a woman who wants to get into the Guiness Book Of Records for having the widest hips in the world. Bobbi-Jo Westley is literally dying to be famous. Her singular focus, even in the face of increasing difficulty living her life, appears to be self destruction via short term notoriety.
In an interview with a nutritionist who has visited to give advice she suggests that Bobbi-Jo’s desire to grow wider and wider is a defence against acknowledging a problem she has no idea how to tackle.
Sometimes we make up stories to tell ourselves everything is fine when it clearly isn’t. In a way it’s safer to be unhappy than it is to do the work of getting better.
Unconsciously we create all manner of reasons to prevent us from recovery. We don’t do it knowingly, but underneath the same old patterns repeat again and again ensuring that we keep making the same mistakes and remain in a dissatisfying spiral of self harm. We think that emotions drive our behaviour but the reverse is true too. When we are already set on an image of ourselves we are more likely to find the evidence which supports and legitimises it than we are to try and shift it.
It won’t come as a surprise to hear that many people with weight issues have cripplingly low levels of self esteem. But another way of thinking about self value is significance. When we feel insignificant we feel emotionally small. What better way to fight back against feeling small than to put on weight and become bigger?
Neurosis makes us stand out and means people treat us differently. We are noticed and, in a deeply dysfunctional way, we are often indulged. In a conscious sense of course we would rather be happy and healthy, but sometimes our unconscious is trying to keep us safe by perpetuating a problem in order to make sure we stay visible and cared for.
Who would Bobbi-Jo be without her life shaping difficulties?
You’d think that question would trigger a response of such excited relief that it was impossible to contain. But often the answer is more muted. It’s almost as if it hasn’t been considered, isn’t believed possible and, maybe, feared.
While change is hampered by fear of failure our concerns about sustaining success also undermine our attempts at improvement. The consequence of making significant changes to ourselves so that we become healthy and happy is that the people around us start to see us as healthy and happy. With it brings the pressure to remain so and, when we have struggled for so long, that can be an expectation too far. “If I’m better I’ll have to stay better, and I really don’t think I can”
Bobbi-Jo is setting her sights on something familiar that she feels sure she can achieve. Hitting a goal makes us feel happy. Even when it’s an own goal. Behaviour can change emotion, but it has to be underpinned by a different definition of happiness.