I weighed 131 pounds when I graduated high school. One-three-one. I was wearing jeans with a 28 waist. My shoulders sloped so much, one of my friends said I looked like an arrow from behind. And I’m 5’11”, so it’s not like I had an abundance of height to offset my lack of size.
I was small. I knew I was small. What I didn’t know was how much that was affecting me.
I decided in college I was going to gain some weight. Having never had much luck in weight training, I just started to eat. A lot. I used to eat pumpkin pies. Not pieces of pumpkin pies; pumpkin pies. For some reason, I had this weight of 180 set in my head as a goal. That seemed like a nice, round (no pun intended) number. I didn’t plan on forsaking exercise altogether, but I wasn’t exactly aiming to be lean and mean either.
I eventually hit that 180 mark … and then I got married and zoomed right past it. I finally realized I had taken things a bit too far when I visited the doctor and tipped the scales at a little over 190. The waists of my pants, which had grown far beyond the 28 inches I mentioned earlier, had begun to curl under my stomach. My jaw line was gradually starting to disappear. For some guys, 190 is a good, beefy weight. I was not one of those guys.
So I started riding my bicycle every day. I stopped eating anything after dinner, and I started eating healthier things at mealtime. I quit snacking as much. A couple of years ago, I tried to cut as much sugar out of my diet as I could. These days, I hover somewhere between 150 and 160 most of the time, and my pants don’t lap over anymore. I joked with an old friend that I decided since I wasn’t ever going to be a big guy, I was just going to get as small as I possibly could.
I didn’t really want that, though. Whatever size I ballooned up to or shrank down to, I always felt too small. Everyone seemed bigger than me, whether they actually were physically or not. I could be around someone 5’1″, but if they had an outsized personality I’d still feel tiny next to them. I didn’t know it growing up, but I was gradually forming an opinion about myself: I did not measure up to everyone else.
It’s difficult to fathom now that I’m realizing this how much it seeped into every area of my life. Shyness, anxiety, lack of confidence, all of which spiraled into all kinds of other issues. I wasn’t that big, strapping guy girls liked, guys respected, athletes followed, and employers took notice of. No matter how hard I fought it (and continue to fight it), I’ve always felt like I came up short (Again, no pun intended.), and no matter how proud I am of my waistline, I still feel as if I’m looking up at everyone (even if I’m looking down at them).
Of course, I can’t blame all the feelings I described in the previous paragraph on a lack of size, but it certainly didn’t help matters any. I don’t know if this is as big an issue for women, but it certainly affected me as a man. I remember thinking one day how I seemed to have to exercise so hard just to be on the low end of being in good shape, and I think that mentality can be applied to a lot of areas of my life. I have to write the best blog, be the best deejay on the radio, ride my bicycle further than the next guy, shoot better in basketball, play bass guitar better than the guy in the next band, and on and on and on…
This way of thinking is doomed from the start, though, because there will always be someone better. Or, at least, you think there will always be someone better. I guess that’s the small-ish mentality. I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous, since the world is made up of people all shapes and sizes, but if you dwell on it long enough it can start to mess with your head. It just took me nearly 40 years to realize that.
So this isn’t so much a post about size as it is about self-worth. About knowing that even if you’re the weak link in moving a piano (Not that that’s ever happened to me, cough, cough…), it doesn’t mean you didn’t at least carry a little of the weight. About knowing even if you weren’t the most handsome guy in school, you still wound up with a beautiful wife. About knowing even though your friends would totally smoke you on the bike trail, you still lost a whole bunch of weight sticking to the paved roads. About knowing that you’re different, but you’re not a mistake of some sort.
Does all this mean I am now a portrait of manly self-confidence? Hardly. I’m an assistant coach for my daughter’s basketball team this year, and I’m having to screw up my courage every week just to high-five her teammates. I have to start somewhere, though. You know, by taking small steps (Sorry, couldn’t resist…)…