I took a walk the other night, as one does when they’re trying to lose weight. Before I headed back home, I stopped to take a quick video for my coach/life guru/heterosexual life partner Jillian (check out BABE Tribe on Facebook). I said something like, “Meh, what’s up with this hair...oh well, it’s just what I look like.”
I think part of me was trying to say, “If you don’t like it, screw you.” But I think the bigger part of me, the part that always has the last word, was saying, “Please love me, even like this.”
Jillian hit back immediately and said, “Girl. Remove the word ‘just.’ We say that like we’re afraid to own something. We have to put ourselves down a little bit just in case.”
Something about those couple sentences hit home. I get so annoyed when things still hit home, like I’m supposed to know all the secrets to the universe. I mean, I know like half of them, but still…
That word. Just. Like many of my favorite four letter words, it means nothing, but with the right emphasis it really packs a punch right to the baby maker.
You have no idea how much you use it, but I bet I can help you get really annoyed with something else you have to fix. You're welcome, seriously, any time. Hopefully, like me today, you’ll have it in your head like an annoying jingle. Or that new Taylor Swift song everyone hates.
How many times do you say things like:
I just need that six pack abs and then I won't criticize my body any more.
Oh, no I'm not qualified for that, I’m just a
[insert thing you are here]
I’m going to just wait until the kids are back in school then I’ll [lol, name it].
I’m just going to get through the holidays, then I’ll:
Give up smoking
Join a gym
Break up with him
Call that girl
Write that book
I'm not good enough, I'm just....
I just need to lose these 20/40/100 pounds then I’ll take more pictures.
So, I’ve learned two things in my life: the first of which is that I can’t actually cure cancer with my tears; the second is that the last “just” is right up my alley right now.
“Once I lose the weight, then I’ll take more pictures” is a sentence that I’ve said more times than I’ve actually taken breaths. I ran out of excuses a million years ago for why I don’t want to be in a picture.
And the thing is, I’m full of shit. Of course I want to be in pictures. I love every picture I’ve ever taken. I think capturing a moment, no matter how small, is the very definition of love.
Time passes, moments fade, friends move across oceans, and I will be left with photos that show everything but that I existed. I want the memories, and I want to be a part of them.
I just don't want to look like this. I just want the memories to happen a year from now when I'm thinner. I'm not unhappy, I just want to be different.
The word "just" is not benign. It finds a way to metastasize into the fabric of who we think we are. It's a disclaimer. It tells others that we aren't going to totally own the thing we're about to say just in case it leaves us vulnerable, that way we won't have to be perceived as weak.
Sometimes we use "just" at people to soften the blow: “I'm not being mean, I’m just saying..." or "I love you, it's just that...", or (my personal favorite) "You'd be beautiful if you just...."
We give justs to other people like we're throwing out t-shirts at a #sports.
Those kinds of Just'ifications I'm more ok with because it's sort of a survival thing our evolution hasn't had the chance to shake yet. That and nipples on men.
However, just'ing ourselves is a horse of a different color. It does two things that are about as destructive as Hurricane Irma on her period:
- It tells you that you’re not enough right now;
- Then, when the arbitrary "just" timeframe that you've set for yourself comes and goes, you’ve proved to yourself that you’re a failure...again.
To figure out Just-gate, I invited some of the girls over to my apartment, force-fed them week old chili, got them three glasses of wine in, and made them all dig into the deepest wounds they could. Art is pain.
My art. My art is a pain in their asses.
Here's what we learned together:
The people in your tribe don’t give a shit about your timeline. If your "just" nonsense takes you a year and a half or half a century, the people on your list won't care as long as you're doing you. Be real, be honest, keep showing up, and that's all they'll ever ask of you.
And! (we all agreed, belligerently) What If there isn't a timeline at all? What if things just take the time that they're going to take? What if the holidays come and go, and your "just" is still there? Did the world end? No man. There are no rules. Sometimes whatever your disclaimer is just (oh my God this word is everywhere) takes time to iron out.
And then sometimes you wake up one day and you hit the point when there’s a new “just”: you’re just done.
Your mind opens just (!) enough to see that you're ready for the change. You're ready to hear the things people have been telling you. Or you're ready to own a part of yourself that you've been shoving down with a lot of self loathing (and probably wine, or Chinese food, or cigarettes, or sex, or all of the above at once...you kinky fool you.)
Enough about you.
I, for one, need an adjustment.
(See what I did there? #lol)
I’m done. I’m done being unhappy. I’m done crying in the shower. I’m tired....so tired of the feeling that I’ll never be ok with who I am.
I’m *just* so sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. And I’m done with hating myself. I’m ready to do the work, I’m just not sure what that means, or what kind of layer of hell that could entail.
I mean, there must be a very fine line between disclaiming yourself destructively and giving yourself a break, right? There's a big difference between being gentile with yourself and saying, "Hey, you just graduated, it's ok to not know everything," and, "I just graduated, so I don't know anything."
This is all JUSTTTTTTTT a lot to process.
I was doing a lot of just'ing with The Big Weight Battle of '0'17, until a few weeks ago, and I just got sick of myself. So I took a walk.
That's it. I felt like crap one day, so I walked into town (read: exactly 0.48 miles) at the pace of a 18th century aging Duke on a garden stroll. That felt nice, so I summoned the strength and made it to the gym and walked there. Then I started to eat better. Then I asked friends for workout tips. Amazing friends who support with actions are worth their weight in DeFazio's gelato.
Eventually, I got myself a coach (see above), and she gave me advice that made me cringe: take pictures to show progress.
And that's when I sent her the video that said, "This is just what I look like."
See how we made it full circle?
What felt like empowerment in the moment was as thinly veiled disclaimer that kept me from saying, "You know what, I don't like what I look like right now, and that's hard. But I'm trying to memorialize that I'm pretty freaking awesome and I'm working really hard ova here. I hate this process, and I am bummed that I still have miles to go in the world of self-acceptance, but I'm showing up, and that's more than I could do yesterday."
I'm sure there's someone who is actually qualified out there who will advise positive affirmations and a lot of yoga to help quiet your Justs. Do it. Just do it (trademark, etc., etc.,)
Do anything that keeps you curious and seeking that part of yourself that is hidden behind four letter words.
In the mean time, until you find the thing that works for you, maybe try dropping one "just" today. You're not going to miss it, I promise. Drop a Just, then add an And.
I don't "just" look like this.
This is what I look like, and I'm working hard, I'm proud of what I've done AND I'm freaking nailing it.
Someone line up to take a picture with me.