Please Just Be Politically Correct

What do you do when people say things that are really really offensive to you but they don’t know it? One really big thing that came along with my eating disorder was my passivity. I’m entirely too concerned with whether or not people like me, and my eating disorder is a way for me to express that preoccupation. For an extremely long time I have been determined that I can’t “say the wrong thing” or else people won’t like me. They’ll think I’m crazy. They’ll think I’m a bitch. I don’t want to offend anyone else. So I tend to keep quiet and not share my personal opinions. As a result, I often am pretty antisocial and shy. I’ve been working really hard lately on breaking outside of my little eating disorder shell.

Cut to tonight. I agreed to get dinner with several of the girls on my hall. This is a really big deal for me because

1. I haven’t really talked to them a whole lot and I’m still not completely comfortable being around unfamiliar people.

2. I’m still not comfortable eating in front of people, especially people I don’t know. I’m still not able to successfully eat my meal plan exchanges in front of people because I’m convinced that they’ll think I’m eating “too much.”

But I went. I’m always scared to eat with other people because they somehow, ALWAYS seem to make comments like “oh, this food is so unhealthy” or “I’m going to be bad and eat a cookie today” or “oh my gosh. I’m going to be so fat. I promise, I usually don’t eat like this.” Seriously, if you’re making comments about your worth based on what you’re eating, how is that supposed to make everyone else feel? These kinds of comments are always super triggering for me. But I went. And sure enough, within less than five minutes of sitting down not only had all of these things been said, but several other comments that were even worse.

Suddenly my eating disorder thoughts are spiraling out of control and I’m convinced that everyone at the table thinks I’m enormous. That they’re watching what I’m eating, silently judging my personality based on the food in front of me. That they won’t like me if I eat too much. That they won’t like me if I say the wrong thing or laugh at the wrong thing. Unfortunately, thinking these things and giving in to my eating disorder always causes me to become completely passive. I stopped eating, stopped talking, stopped paying attention to the conversation and started only becoming anxious about what everyone else thought about me. Then suddenly I’m kicking myself because if I was emaciated, OBVIOUSLY everyone at the table would realize that I’d become quiet and stopped eating once she said that, and they’re realize that the conversation offended me, and they’d apologize and never do it again. Even though I KNOW that isn’t true. So I didn’t say anything. I didn’t bring up the fact that

A.A lot of the information that was said was just entirely wrong.

B. The whole discussion was a little unnecessary.

Now I’m worried that because I was upset and didn’t talk for most of dinner that my hall mates think I hate them. That I’m weird and antisocial and awkward. That I’m crazy. I want so badly to walk across the hall, knock their doors and just say “Hey. I’m recovering from an eating disorder. I just wanted to let you know that you said this and it really upset me. This is why.” I would tell anyone else in the same position to do that. But because it’s me, they’re automatically going to hate me. They’re going to think I’m crazy and overemotional and they’re going to tell everyone on the hall that I’m crazy and overemotional and they’re never going to invite me anywhere again or talk to me ever again. But they have the right to say whatever they want, right? If I corrected people every time they were politically incorrect, I would piss everyone off. What do normal people do? How do normal people respond when they’re upset or offended? I’m so used to just keeping everything inside and taking it out on myself.


6 responses

  1. They do have the right to say whatever they want, but that doesn’t mean the things they choose to say aren’t completely uninformed and ridiculous and lacking in intelligence. If you corrected people every time they were politically incorrect then yes, you would piss them off, but that’s only because people are constantly being politically incorrect and no one likes to be wrong. Sometimes, though, people are WAY out of line in spouting off information on things about which they know little, and maybe those are the times when you try to muster up the courage to speak out and let them know they’re wrong. Politely, of course, and pick your battles wisely, but correct them nonetheless; if they’re hurting you with their ignorant comments then there’s nothing wrong with assuming they’ll hurt someone else, too, and maybe you have the ability to stop that from happening. For the times when you choose to keep your comments inside, don’t take it out on yourself. You’re not the person with the problem in this situation, and belittling yourself solves nothing. Complain to your friends or on this blog or do something creative (or destructive, as long as it isn’t to yourself), but get it out in some way that is healthy and makes you feel better. And remember: fuck those people.

    • Now I’m worried that I shouldn’t have even written about her. That by doing that I was disrespecting her even though she doesn’t know about it. That I should have just kept my thoughts to myself and gotten on with life. No one else took it so seriously. I should just mind my own business.

  2. Savannah,
    I completly understand what you’re talking about. People are really rude sometimes and make really stupid comments, especially when they don’t know what they’re talking about. I went to my sister’s house at Christmas time and got various stupid comments ranging from my weight to my behaviors to just my personality in general. All these things really upset me of course and were very triggering but I was still able to keep on track with what I needed to do, for the most part, which was eat my exchanges and worry about myself. I know that sometimes that feels wrong or selfish but thats just the eating disorder trying to trick and manipulate us. I don’t think you were disrespectful to this girl by writing about her, everybody needs to vent and writing is a great way to do that. People do have the right to say whatever they want, but they do not have the right to go around hurting others or just spouting random crap when they have no idea what they’re talking about. The fact is as you and I both know, eating disorders are often misrepresented in our culture and in fact a person is almost not allowed to have one unless they are emaciated or purging after every meal. This is so not true, as you and me and many others know but unfortantly its only a small percentage of people it seems who recognize that. As far as what to do when you’re upset or overwhelmed…I find writing helps a lot or drawing. Sometimes I like to turn my muisc up really loud and just start singing (or dancing slowly of course) lol or even a hot shower sometimes really helps. I’m sorry this is so long (now I think you’re going to be annoyed by the length of my comment and my tendency to ramble haha) but there was just so much I wanted to say in my response.

  3. Savannah,
    I find battles over political correctness often boil down to exercises in empathy. Imagine making a comment, offhand, about someone around you doing something stupid. Now imagine phrasing the comment so indelicately as to include the word “retarded.” Now imagine a friend of yours was present, and that friend has a dear friend or family member who suffers from a tragic developmental disorder. These types of things happen every day, but not nearly as often as anyone thinks. The paths left to this person are either to say something or to remain quiet. The question this time isn’t what you would say in this person’s stead, nor what you should say. The question i would ask is what you would want the offended party to tell you if you were his offending friend.
    He can remain completely quiet. This means the pace of the conversation will continue, and you will all have a nice laugh at the foible of a bystander. Everyone will be quite happy with the exception for your tortured soul of a friend. Worse still, you will continue to make the mistake, likely regularly hurting your friend, but never knowing the pain you cause.
    He can also speak up. This would completely ruin the moment of a laugh, and probably even cause an awkward pause, depending on the social grace of those present (in my circles of friends, at least, a nonexistent quality). Sure, it puts a slight damper on the moment, and the friends will likely always walk on eggshells from them on when talking about mental health around this friend. The question is whether it’s worth it.
    I can say with certainty that I would want to know. Now, being an intolerable know-it-all, this is not a surprising answer from me in itself, but my biggest reason would not actually be selfish. This person is my friend, and I would truly try my best to never hurt him so deeply. I’d like to think I’d do this for most people in the world, but friends especially. Further, if I wouldn’t want to know and go out of my way to accomodate my friend, I would be a pretty shitty friend. This doesn’t mean I won’t mess up. God knows I talk so much, it’s impossible to not mess up pretty frequently. But I would hope I could put a dent in my problem speech–my friend is worth that much. I think most people would agree with this sentiment.
    If you agree with the conclusion above but don’t speak up yourself then there’s a problem. I think the problem could be more effectively addressed in most people, myself included, not just as a problem in assertiveness. That’s a symptom. If you would want to be made aware of your aforementioned friend’s sensitivity but yourself don’t tell people about your own sensitivities, you are valuing the feelings of those around you as more important than your own. And let’s face it, you’re at LEAST as valuable as them, and if they are friends worth their salt they will want to know as badly as you would. It’s easy to say, but as I see it, the real struggle is accepting it.

    Now this doesn’t even address if the people are being intolerable, stupid, shallow, and factually incorrect. At that point, you politely address their douchiness and try and casually move the conversation along. You’ll be doing them a service by providing them with something important to talk about. They’ll thank you later.

    Didactically yours,

    P.S. I now have it set up to follow your blog right. Gah, technology.

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