I remember the total sense of self-loathing, mixed with a sad if slightly sneery ‘I told you so’ that swirled round my head as the sleeve ripped as I pulled it over my head. I was stuck completely now, unable to pull the top off without ripping it the rest of the way down. I would have to buy it; I would have to buy this ‘One Size Fits ALL’ bright pink top that proclaimed, in all its fuchsia glory “Well, all except YOU”.
I was 29 years old and in a store in New York. I felt so disgusted with myself that I spent the next five (or more) years wearing black, eating in secret and constantly reminding myself that I was not one of the ‘all’. It took many years to get past that language of self-hate and the message that I’d seen was ‘you are not as you should be. You are different – but not in a good way.’
Now in my fifties, I often remind myself of the years of conversations I had on this topic with friends and the energy it consumed in us all. And it wasn’t just about size. We seem to live in a society where we are all put in boxes that have been built based on the concept of ‘one size fits all’ from education to healthcare, from parenting to sexuality, if you don’t find your place in these boxes, the message is that you are the odd one out. One Size Fits All – except YOU.
I have always been very aware of language and the impact it has on our mind-set. I knew that working with my ‘Heart Failure Nurse’ was never going to be an option for me, and that’s why I worked hard to get her name badge changed to ‘Heart Specialist Nurse’. One Size Fits All, is language that is created for a label, without thought for human vulnerabilities.
I wonder how many times we’ve applied the ‘one size fits all’ approach to people without thinking about it; I think the word ‘should’ does this for us and we apply it to others and ourselves daily. ‘I should have done that by now’ or ‘I should be over this by now’ or ‘she should understand how I feel’ are all words I’ve heard often and used myself.
‘Should’ is one of those words that rarely encourages positives, it tends to be a stick we beat ourselves with rather than a way of supporting positive change or behaviour. And what ‘should’ is really saying is ‘one size fits all except you’. The next time you’re tempted to tell yourself you ‘should’ be something, ask yourself ‘according to whom?’ You might find the answer enlightening.
I hope this thinking is useful for you and that you can start celebrating not being in the ‘one size fits all’ box, but instead being the perfectly-imperfect you that you are.