Monday Notes: Projecting

When I was twenty-two years old, my Grannie called me fat. We were discussing clothes, maybe my bra size or upcoming wedding dress size or something like that. And that’s when she said it.

“You’re supposed to wait until you’re married and have kids to get fat. You’re not supposed to be fat before you even get married.”

I was 125 pounds and a size six.

I probably met her criticisms and judgments with silence as usual. But let’s be clear. I cared about what she said. She was my Grannie and as far as I knew, she’d experienced more than I had about how women were supposed to look and act.

weight_lossAfter that day I obsessed about my weight. I read up on how to lose pounds.

One popular way in the 90s was to count calories. So, I counted. I ate no more than 1200 calories per day. That meant I usually had a baked potato or salad for lunch.

Five times a week, I popped in a Donna Richardson tape and sweated to old Motown hits in Dwight’s apartment. By the time, our wedding date rolled around, I was an abnormal 100 pounds and wore a size one. Even in my youth, I’d never been so small.

On our honeymoon, I ate all the tacos and drank all the Margaritas. Subconsciously, I was married, and according to Grannie had a license to get fat. I returned to a size considered normal for me.


Years later, both of our daughters visited Dwight’s parents, whom they affectionately call nana and papa.

Although I’d already been briefed about the trip’s happenings, I asked the obligatory question anyway, “How was your visit?”

Desi spoke up. “It was okay, but Nana just kept calling Kesi fat.”

It was true. She’d ridiculed Kesi’s nine-year-old frame the entire two weeks and actually used the word, fat. Though she never said a word about the incident, weeks after Kesi returned home, she ate less. I could tell she was affected.

Consequently, I sprung into “save my daughter” mode and insisted on having a conversation with Nana. But as I reflect, I’m not entirely sure if I was protecting my daughter, or if I was just triggered. Was my twenty-two year-old self projecting my own past hurts onto the situation? Was I speaking to Kesi’s Nana or saying what I wished I could have to my own grandmother a decade prior?

My point for sharing this is twofold. First of all, I think we ought to do better about how we speak to and about our daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, and goddaughters. Whether they admit it or not, they look up to us as ways to be in the world. Because of that situation, I rarely comment on others’ weight gain, especially not my own daughters’.

Secondly, the more I try to be conscious about how I interact in the world, the harder I believe it is. While I do subscribe to everyone being him or herself, it also seems to be worthwhile to try as much as possible to first be aware of our insecurities and pasts, and then try as much as possible not to project those onto someone else.

I’d love to hear what you think.



64 thoughts on “Monday Notes: Projecting

  1. I am… stunned but the cruelty of these words. My grandmother was the sweetest woman I’ve ever met. She never called anyone fat, if anything, she always fed us sweets and pastries. I can’t imagine her being that cruel to someone that young.

    Having said that… my mother has always battled a negative body image and I know because of always witnessing that, I’ve got a messed up idea about my body, too. I know I am not fat, but if I don’t work out for a week I start worrying I am gaining wait.

    I think it’s important to teach your children to eat healthy and exercise, but also to see themselves as the beautiful individuals they are. What’s the use of crumbling someone’s self-esteem down to a level where they’ll spend the rest of their lives worrying about their looks?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly Samantha. And so, your comment also reminds me that you don’t have to be cruel and mean to pass down a negative sense of body image. I really think it’s a woman thing, in general, that we need to begin to release. Like you said, teach our children to each healthy, exercise, and love the person staring back at them in the mirror. That’s the key.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story! Thank you for sharing.
    A person never forgets a comment like that, and I think you are right, we all are being looked upto by someone we just may not realise it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My dad had me super self-conscious about being fat. I was always painfully thin growing up but I’m quite sure my abnormal obsession with not getting larger than a size 6 and over 140 pounds at 5 feet 9 inches has much to do with my dad’s constant comments about gaining weight and making sure it doesn’t happen when I get older. As soon as a scale hits 140 or my size 4s start feeling too snug, I pop on YouTube and sweat it out. Amazing how easily we are triggered!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a sad story and unfortunately has become a norm with some family’s. I used to be called sensitive a-lot when I was younger and this manifested in me shutting down and not expressing my feelings. Words carry so much power and can be internalised in ways we don’t realise until later in life. It’s so important that we are mindful of the words we use especially as we live in a society which constantly tells people that they need to be a certain way or fit a beauty standard. Even “jokes” can be very harmful to someones self-esteem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true Ash. It’s funny how so many of us writers, bloggers, authors share similar backgrounds. I suppose it was inevitable that we find an outlet for our voices. Also, families are an interesting dynamic. I think that’s why I spend so much time analyzing and re-analyzing those specific relationships. There’s something to learn there.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. And how difficult it is to shed those words that some throw carelessly, oblivious of their impact. You have every right to stand up for your daughters.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is so true and I’m so glad I found your blog. Another blogger whose site name skips me right now wrote about how we have to be careful to ensure that our children are not the manifestations of our issues, and the need to address our hidden layers before projecting on the next generation. I think about this a lot and literally pray that my daughter not break my heart. Like don’t let her say or do something that triggers an insecurity or ache in me, whether I realize it’s there or not.

    With your situation, I’d venture to say it was both protecting her and protecting you. Doing what you subconsciously may have wished was done for you. And right now in my life I think that’s ok. Because i think she def needs her mothers affirmation especially after that. But I think it speaks to healing you might need too. And definitely a conversation with grandma Lbs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree with everything you’ve said. Convo with my Grannie about this, probably not gonna happen lol However, I do need to heal that part of me, and I think fleshing it out in writing has been helpful. Thanks for this comment. I appreciate it ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Soooooooo true! Subconsciously, you do try to live up to someone else’s expectations. If you think about it, it actually starts with pregnancy. “I’m eating for two”, some say. Then, once the baby is born you feed them until they’re full. Thick thighs is cute on a baby. Until they enter grade school and the cute is no longer cute. And it continues from there. Have you ever thought about that?#ImagineThat

    I was thin as a toothpick growing up. Could only fit in ‘skinny’ labeled clothes. Then, in my 20’s I went from size 7/8 ( that’s when they were two sizes in one!) to a 9/10. Looking back on my teens, I realized I WAS a toothpick wearing a size 5/6. I, too became so judgmental of myself AND what others thought. It doesn’t help either culturally because you can be called fat or too skinny. By the time I turned 30, I went on a no carbs- no pasta, no potatoes, no rice, no bread. I lost thirty pounds! Then, the first bite of it again and I gained it all back.
    Today, I drink more water, eat dinner early and have made Friday ( a.k.a. DATE NIGHT 😄 ) my one day #STRESSED, which is desserts spelled backwards 👍). I enjoy my life again.

    Good for you, too!👏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point Cherie! You’re judged from conception lol…funny, but not. It’s very real, right?

      We all have to come to terms with our bodies, I suppose. It feels good to be comfortable with who I am at this point.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Doc! I think it was both and I believe you to be exceptionally right in both in addressing both areas w/Nana. Protecting our daughters is instinctual. Negative words hurt and they cut to the very core of who we’re trying to grow into. Our families is our foundation…this is where we learn how to be. Love on her and love on Nana just a wee bit more when “protecting” your daughter and your inner child self. Hugs! Love heals. 😘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks LPC ❤ Right about families are foundational. So, I know none of us is perfect, but we can and should do a little better. If this were to happen today, then the protection would come from a different place and I also would've been able to speak up to my own Grannie. But back then…well anyway lol

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Though most family members might claim the media is solely responsible for body image issues, I actually think most body-image issues are instilled by parents, grandparents and other family members. More often than not, these family members are womxn who have also internalised body-shaming against them.
    We need to parent better. Being aware of the ways we’ve internalised toxic thinking and patterns of behaviour is the first step.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tend to agree. I mean we’re around our families a lot and here is where we learn most societal and cultural expectations, so I’m thinking it’s a combination…but definitely a women’s issue as I’ve tried to show here.


  10. Was I speaking to Kesi’s Nana or saying what I wished I could have to my own grandmother a decade prior?

    I think it’s a both/and, not either/or situation. Whenever I stand up for my daughter in those kinds of triggering situations, I’m usually doing two things: (1) protecting her and (2) standing up for her the way I wish I had been stood up for/stood up for myself.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I think it’s almost impossible not to project our own emotions (especially old emotional wounds) onto our own children. You are smart to be aware of it and to try to minimize how much you let it impact others. But I also think you should cut yourself some slack in that department…in this instance, both of the grandmothers were totally in the wrong, and their words were very hurtful to you and your daughter. I’m not sure I could have sorted out exactly which grandmother I was truly reacting to either!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think this is another perfect example of why ‘words’ hurts more than ‘stones’ and why I always say ‘what good is for me, doesn’t have to be good for you and vice versa’.
    Indeed, a fine line between projecting, protecting and even perception.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I so hear you, Kathy! I really love the questions that you’re asking here. To me, just the inquiry can bring healing and love. ❤ And, if you haven't already done this, I encourage you to be really compassionate with that younger you. From my heart to yours.

    I love you Kathy! Your openness and caring is beautiful to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Neither of my grandmas would ever have said anything like that. They, like our parents, taught us that if we couldn’t say something nice, we shouldn’t say anything at all. I think the incident with your daughter was upsetting, but more so because it hit a nerve. Bottom line, we can’t make anyone be nicer or more sensitive. We must teach ourselves to be more resilient, not let rude comments get to us. The older you get, the easier it is to disregard them. Love to you and Kesi. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ugh! This is the truth Joan. We cannot make anyone anything. I’ve calmed down a bit since this incident. I mean people have their opinions (always) anyway. I think this is one reason why I’m so stuck on self-love. It can help to block out all the foolishness.

      I’m receiving the love ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  15. My mother seems to herald from the same school of thought as your Grandmother – criticizes without thinking of the consequence. I have learned over time that what my mother says is based solely on her own agenda and has little to do with the target of her thoughts. We can’t do anything to change what others may or may not say, but we can teach our children that the not everything they hear from others is personal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve learned something similar! And I’ve also learned that a lot of times they don’t even remember saying anything egregious. They really are just speaking off the top of their heads and then moving on. Thanks for that last part. It’s extremely important.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. lol – nothing. My husband said something to her. I said something to her. She seemed a bit offended that I would even imply she called her fat. I’ve noticed a shift in how she communicates in general. Sometimes when people don’t know any other way to communicate, then they tend to just shut down a bit. That’s what I’ve observed here.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I was wondering the same thing, ’cause I knew somebody had to say something, whether it was you being triggered by your own history with weight or just being a Mama Bear, which is a-OK by the way. LOL. I have overweight relatives. I was overweight for the first time in my life when I was pregnant (okay, I waddled) and one of my co-workers loved to tell me I was never going to get the weight off. She wasn’t super mean, she just said it too much. Fortunately, I didn’t give a damn as long as the doctor thought I was healthy. Having been super skinny and that, I see that some folks like skinny and some not. I just try to be comfortable with my own body and be as healthy as I can through movement and good food, and encourage the young females in my life to do the same. It’s important to feel good about you, no matter what the age and I think anyone should think twice about calling a child fat while their self-esteem is still forming. It’s always better to encourage health and fitness than shame, so hopefully ‘Nana’ got that and she can get with the times and still get her Nana-love.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh definitely. Just me being me had to say something. A decade ago, I didn’t let anyone get away with saying ANYTHING out of pocket to me or anyone around me. In some ways, I’m still like that, but I pick and choose battles now lol I’m also glad you can relate. But the thing is, which I should’ve added, is neither of us was fat! Like, 125 is pretty good, no matter your stature. Anywho, that’s where I am right now with it…if the doctor says something (which none ever have), then I’ll make some changes. Until then, nope. Keep it to yourself. And yes, we definitely need to boost our children up, not tear them down. On that last part, I’m not sure. We literally never discussed it again :-/

        Liked by 1 person

  16. I agree that we should be self-aware and reflective on our motivations for doing and saying what we do. But I also think you were right in speaking up because comments on appearance and weight are dangerous ground; we should be compassionate and teach beauty as individualistic rather than perfectionistic, about the importance of being ourselves and happy and healthy rather than fat or thin. Of course, what was said to you at 22 would stay with you and affect how you go on to react in future situations such as this, but it also shapes your opinions and decisions, which is natural. A tricky one because in this situation I think that projecting or not I would have reacted strongly to such comments. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I know for sure many of us are auto-projecting. Like you mentioned, understanding and being honest about your insecurities will make certain situations less of a reactionary-let-me-project moment and instead a I-know-why-this-is-bothering-me-lemme-check-myself moment. I was chubby for awhile and dressed like a boy and when I thinned out, my mom decided it was time to tell me that she was worried I’d be a “porker” forever. Meaning.. I’d be like her and hate my body.

    Great post, Dr. G!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Auto-projecting” YES! So, I know it’s hard to be in tune with our insecurities, but it’s so helpful in the long run. Today, I always stop and say to myself, “what am I really angry about here?”

      Love what you’ve said in the end. That’s what we do sometimes. We feel crappy and we want others not to/to feel crappy too.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. It’s tricky, especially with people you love (family)…some Europeans are very blunt, especially the older generation, and when they make a comment they think is ‘harmless’ and you say something to them (protect your offspring kind of thing) they turn around and say we’re too sensitive. Or something like that.

    Times have changed.

    I remember when my daughter was 5 or 6, at a baseball diamond she yelled across the park that she couldn’t have ice cream because she was on a diet. What we were doing (with doctor approval) was a two-week elimination diet to see if she had a sensitivity or allergy against dairy products. But the old grandma that was sitting there gave me a dirty look, make an assumption and accused me of putting a 6yo on a diet.

    I said:

    You don’t understand the context and I don’t know you from Adam, so I don’t owe you an explanation.

    I mean, really.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank goodness times have changed. And yes, I was called sensitive a lot when I was younger. A lot of “what you crying for now?” moments.

      As far as the baseball game, we definitely should mind our own businesses a bit more too lol We never know what is going on in someone’s life. Even if your child was on a real “diet,” it still would’ve been your business and what you’d chosen to incorporate for your child. Great comeback by the way 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Oh boy, my grandmother has a sharp tongue and has mentioned it to my mom more times than I can count. It hurts. I even told her to be nicer but she’s not hearing me. I believe we should honor all women…no matter their race, religion, weight size, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Hi Kathy – I think you were triggered AND protecting your daughter. Could it be that females have been kind of conditioned to judge ourselves and other females (not males) on appearance? I can remember being a child and visiting relatives who lived at a distance and who we only saw every couple of years or so. They always greeted my mother with comments about her weight. I remember how hurt she was, and her wondering out loud why people couldn’t just express happiness and affection at being reunited.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree Leslie. I’d add that we do it no matter the distance. It’s always something. I can understand how your mother would feel, especially if she hasn’t seen someone for a while and the first thing is “have you gained weight?”

      Liked by 3 people

    2. I agree – you could sympathise with your daughter’s experience because you had experienced it yourself, but regardless, it is an unhelpful and potentially damaging way to speak to someone. It comes from a time when adults believed children did not ‘feel’ the same way as a matured person and were empty vessels for adult wisdom. My grandmother was the same, and just as blunt. And I recall some of her barbs to this day.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This is the absolute truth. A couple generations ago, there was little sympathy for children as human beings. It’s also funny how we can remember those slights as if they were yesterday.


  21. I was always treat differently for being fat. Even today I have issues. Big issues. Thankfully my daughter is smarter at 21 than I was when I was 21 (then already married!)
    Now I probably won’t go into bear mode, I’d go ninja on them.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. I completely understand where you’re coming from. I, too had my grams tell me on several occasions that I was fat. It made me cry and complicated my relationship with food. She’d count calories in front of me and scold me if they were too high. I think you wanting to defend your daughter was equal parts mama bear mode and equal parts you reacting to something that hit a nerve. Neither one is a bad thing. I definitely believe we need to be more aware of and careful with the manner in which we speak to children in general. What we say carries weight (no pun intended) that can last a lifetime

    Liked by 4 people

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