Help the new fat girl make some friends
June 30, 2010 6:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving into a new neighborhood where a lot of nice people live. I'd love to meet them and make some new friends. But I'm dealing with some weight issues and therefore have low self-confidence, not to mention being a natural introvert. How do I get through this in a positive way?

I'm about 60 pounds overweight. Right on the "slightly obese" marker going by the BMI scale. I hate it, and am making some lifestyle changes to correct the problem. However, it is not going to be solved for a while, yet I'm moving into a new place this week and want to meet the neighbors and somehow put my fatness out of my mind so my true self can shine through. I find it very difficult to do this, partly because I'm an introvert anyway, but mostly because I'm honestly just embarrassed and ashamed to be in this kind of shape. So here I am, hoping for some sound (and kind) advice.

How can I best overcome my anxiety and boost my confidence so that I can be comfortable meeting my new neighbors? Thanks in advance.
posted by georgiabloom to Human Relations (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a fat girl so I know EXACTLY what you're talking about.

Something that helps me is reminding myself that I would never make a value judgement about someone based on how they looked, most nice people won't. So if someone is a big jerk to me just because I'm fat, I see that as a kind of litmus test for whether I really wanted to be friends with them anyway.

BUT I've never had anyone be mean to me about my weight and I think when you meet most new people, they are much more concerned about what you think about them than about trying to decide what they think about you.

Buy a new outfit you feel confident in, remind yourself that you have a lot of great qualities none of which have anything to do with your body. And remember that most people really don't care what the nice new neighbor looks like, only that they are cool and quiet on week nights.

Good luck!
posted by Saminal at 6:23 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

You are not the first overweight person your neighbors have met. Chances are they don't care how much extra padding you're running around with.

Also, try liking yourself more, okay? I bet you have a great sense of humor, or a beautiful smile, or you make amazing smoothies or something. Be proud of who you are, and if you are unhappy with your weight, take walks around the neighborhood (Hey, I bet you meet your neighbors doing that!).

Be awesome like you already are, smile, say hello when you pass them on the sidewalk, wave when you drive past them on your way home, compliment their daffodils, and it will be like flies to honey.
posted by Syllables at 6:28 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

What Saminal said. Be nice and friendly when you see these people; the vast majority (including all the ones worth anything) won't care about your appearance. I mean, no mustard stains or anything, but yeah.

I'd be more specific, but I'm a terrible introvert (not that I mind, per se) and would quite often rather pluck out my eyeball and stomp on it than introduce myself to someone I didn't have to. Good luck!
posted by SMPA at 6:29 PM on June 30, 2010

Two little things: nobody thinks about your weight or appearance more than you do. This goes for everybody. Second, confidence takes practice, and each person is an opportunity to get better at it.
posted by rhizome at 6:32 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm a little shy about meeting new people and have my own weird quirks. I find that it's helpful to realize that everyone has their things and likely don't care much about yours. And if you're sort of obsessing about this, I'd try to think of another thing that can be your thing so that when people think about you or introduce to other people, they're like "Oh georgiabloom she's the one who has that awesome graphic novel collection" or "This is our new neighbor georgiabloom, she just got back from living in Peru" or "Hi georgiabloom, I hear you are the person to talk to if I need help remodeling my kitchen" or something that you can run through your head besides "this is georgiabloom, she's on the heavy side" [which I don't think people really say even in their heads, but I know that's maybe how it sounds to YOU]. Make an inventory, and then get to know your neighbors, the typical, ask questions, make friends with the kids, offer to give someone a ride to the airport whatever.

So think about what's up with you, what would make you an interesting addition to the neighborhood. Mine is "This is jessamyn, she can fix anyone's computer" or "This is jessamyn, she travels to interesting places. Where have you been lately jessamyn?"
posted by jessamyn at 6:34 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you should watch Joy Nash's Fat Rant:
posted by micawber at 6:39 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I sympathize, being further in the obese range, but down a good 50 pounds from my peak. Do what you can to build your confidence before heading out the door, even if it involves slightly silly things like saying, "hi, pretty!" to your smiling reflection or putting on a little more makeup than you might usually for bumming around the neighborhood or wearing a cute outfit. Self-confidence really is wonderfully attractive.

Fake being a little more outgoing than you are (fake it till you make it). If you seem interested in other people, are genuinely pleased to meet them, and make them feel good about themselves in general, they will reflect that back. Write down names when you get home to help remember, especially children and dogs. Remembering/flattering people's children and dogs (and sometimes gardens/homes) will win you their enduring affection.
posted by ldthomps at 6:48 PM on June 30, 2010

Stop thinking of yourself as the fat girl, because no one else thinks of you that way. If I meet a neighbor and she's nice to me, I'm going to think "wow, she seems like a nice person, I'm glad she had the guts to just introduce herself, because I would've felt awkward doing that. I should make sure I say hi to her so she keeps being friendly" And NOWHERE in my brain would there be a thought about the person's weight. So really, just smile, be yourself, say something nice, and people will immediately like you. Meeting people is nice, and their weight, height, race isn't what I notice first if they are nice to me, and once they are nice to me, I really couldn't care less what they look like. I do, however, notice if the person is wearing something absolutely crazy and not matching, and then you'd forever be known as "clown shoes lady" or "ugly sweater guy."
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:04 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like jessamyn's suggestion. A thing that really helped me once was something I read that pointed out that you don't really know what people are thinking about you, so you might as well populate their minds with really nice things about yourself. Since nobody's going to come right out and say, "hmm, I'd have liked you as a neighbor if you weren't chubby," (and honestly they aren't thinking it either), put thoughts into their heads like, "wow, so nice to have a neighbor reach out, that's so rare these days," or "she's done such a nice job with the flower beds," or whatever it is.

If it helps, I'm super-duper way fatter than you (almost 300 pounds). I'm not really very self-conscious about it, and I am outgoing, so I don't struggle with that piece of things like you seem to be, but I have to tell you that I am liked and respected everywhere I go. People think I'm funny, nice, good with kids, generous, flexible, a great mom, and smart. Some of them, I hear from time to time, even think I'm cute. The culture is so negative about weight, but most folks are really positive about people. Your new neighbors will appreciate your friendly overtures and they will have no trouble seeing all your good qualities.

I know it's hard for introverts. I don't mean to sound like it's not. I hope this helps.
posted by not that girl at 7:04 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

A fabulous website that always manages to pick me up when I'm feeling down about my weight (or anything really) is Kate Harding's Shapely Prose, which is often recommended here. A read through some of the archives might give you some tools for confidence boosting. There is one thread in particular with massive comments titled I'm Kate Fucking Harding that never fails to make me feel awesome. Wishing you luck! And nthing that NOONE is thinking about your weight anywhere near as much as you are, if at all.
posted by Polyhymnia at 7:18 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Something to think about too is that when new people move into the neighborhood, the established neighbors also have a certain level of anxiety that a total jerk has bought the house next to them. So regardless of what you look like, the most important thing is to be a good neighbor. I really don't care about what any of my neighbors look like, I'd rather just have someone I can count on to be good to live by. Be the person who gives out the best Halloween candy, be the person who returns the mail sent to your house by accident, be the person who smiles & waves and learns the names of the dogs on the block. But to help you feel better, they're just as worried about you moving in as you are.

The other thing to think about is that all neighborhoods are different, and friendships take time. When we moved into our house (and btw, I am probably as overweight as you, if not more) we were welcomed by our immediate neighbors within the week. It has taken me seven years to by sheer fate to make an incredible support network of other women here. I tell you that only so that you, a fellow introvert, don't get discouraged. If you don't make friends immediately, don't let that stop you.
posted by librarianamy at 7:32 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

noone is thinking about your weight, only the smile on your face and the friendliness in your voice. You sound like a nice and interesting person inside and out, and your new neighbors, if they are worthy of your friendship, will see that. if at first people aren't receptive, it has more to do with them and nothing at all to do with you or your appearance! just have patience with others' ability to warm up to takes some people more time than others. If my new neighbors are cold to me at first I give them a pass....and continue to always say hello, eventually they warm up and they will warm up to you too.
posted by dmbfan93 at 7:34 PM on June 30, 2010

I'm a fat fatty according to most folk and the reality of it is that the only thing that will make you feel better about meeting people is...meeting people and seeing that they like you!

Think of it this way if it helps:

How many of those neighbors are lonely? How many of them need someone to talk to? How many would appreciate what you have to offer them?

Make it a little less about you and you'll feel less self-conscious.

(Focus on the one or two neighbors who seem friendliest and give you the best vibe, or on the one or two who really seem to need companionship. As an introvert you don't want to overextend yourself then withdraw from everyone all at once.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:36 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Force yourself to go over and introduce yourself to your immediate neighbors. Have a question in mind if small talk makes you nervous. Everyone likes appearing knowledgeable in front of the newbie! Ask which is the best grocery store / mechanic / restaurant in the area.

I've made several nodding acquaintences in my neighborhood since I started walking for weight loss. I tend to go out at the same time and see the same people. I started by forcing myself to smile at them, and then by saying hello, and now I'm working on comments like Nice flowers or Cute dog.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:45 PM on June 30, 2010

(I hope I didn't come off as accusing you of being selfish or self-centered...I don't think you are...I just find that sometimes when I get self-conscious I think of myself disproportionately and it really helps to remember that I should think of other people, too, then I have something else to focus on and I just feel better.

Also know that you are more than just your body. You are a person with accomplishments and you can DO things with your body, and your mind, and your heart. It's not you, it's a part of you, and YOU get to choose what to do with it--do things that make you and other people happy, and your body will be doing it's job!)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:48 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

We have new neighbors moving in next door. They aren't there yet but I've seen painters coming in and out, and appliance installers, and that sort of thing. I don't care if they're enormously fat or super skinny or short or tall or green, pink or purple. What I do care about: Are they going to play loud music late at night? Will they have big barking dogs running loose? Will they keep their trash and recycling neatly at the curb or will they let it overflow and blow around?

Chances are they'll be nice enough and we'll be glad to welcome them to the neighborhood. I bet your new neighbors will feel the same way about you. You sound really nice and I'd be pleased if you moved in next door. Your weight isn't what matters here at all, except to you. I hope you settle in comfortably and make some great new friends. Good luck.
posted by Kangaroo at 7:59 PM on June 30, 2010

Nthing the comments about people caring more about what kind of neighbor you will be than whatever physical characteristic(s) you are concerned about. I promise you, "crap, some overweight person moved in, there goes the neighborhood" does not cross anyone's mind, as least in any neighborhood that's worth living in. Go meet people, learn their kids' names, ask them for local knowledge, find out if there's a block party this summer, if there's a local email list. Ask people for advice, or for help doing something. That makes us feel connected. Offer to help in return. And for god's sake, don't waste the summer--the best time of year to meet your neighbors--worrying about your weight.
posted by bloggerwench at 8:27 PM on June 30, 2010

If you try, for a while, saying out loud the critical things you say to yourself, you might become more aware of how hatefully you yourself are treating the new fat girl.

Nothing your new neighbours will say to you is going to be as mean as the stuff you are saying to yourself. Making positive life changes can only be a good thing, but do you know what would make everything better right away? Every time you doubt yourself, every time you criticize yourself, every time you look at a stranger and automatically privilege their possible opinion of you over your own, stop. Acknowledge your mean or self-defeating thought, and then, deliberately, think something you'd say instead if you were speaking to a friend that you love.

You don't need to be ashamed for existing and taking up space in this world.

This may sound dumb, but just try wooing yourself, and meaning it. You will like you.
posted by Sallyfur at 8:28 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Most people are too busy worrying about how THEY come across to pay too close attention to what the other person looks like. "Oh dear, what will the new neighbor think, having seen my husband fetch the paper in his saggy old pajama bottoms!" or "Oh my, I look like an old hag what with my roots all gray and wearing this old stained sweatshirt."

(Quotes furnished by my mom.)
posted by desuetude at 9:00 PM on June 30, 2010

I'm not sure if you're an introvert or shy. As an introvert, I am far more at ease when I'm one-on-one or in small groups, and I find that socializing &, especially, large groups exhaust me, after which I need time to recharge. So if this describes you, attempt to meet your neighbors individually. Walking around the neighborhood is a good idea, if it doesn't leave you winded when you meet them -- the worthy will not mind your weight, but it's hard to talk to someone while they're busy catching their breath! The walking idea will work even if you are both introverted AND shy; we're conditioned to at least be polite when we meet one another in passing, and it's such a small step from polite smile to "hi, enjoying the weather? By the way, I'm your new neighbor!"
posted by asciident at 12:29 AM on July 1, 2010

I used to be balancing on that overweight/obese edge. In the last year, I've lost about fifty pounds and am no balancing on the normal/overweight edge. My body feels way better for it. I have more energy. I sleep better. I'm generally happier. But meeting new people, being interesting and projecting confidence? Those things haven't gotten a fucking bit easier.

I was always a little annoyed by fat advocacy when I was fat, and I'm still largely annoyed by it now that I'm merely chubby. That said, the fat rant that was linked above is excellent.

Towards the end of that video there is an absolutely golden bit about not using your weight as an excuse. One of the examples she uses is assuming a cute guy won't like her because she's fat. Not only does that thinking keep you from doing stuff like talking to the guy, but it also gives you this bullshit license not to work on any of the other aspects of your personality.

Some people won't like you. Most of them will dislike you for reasons entirely unrelated to your weight. Certainly, work on getting in shape. But also work on other aspects of your life. And, whatever you do, don't use your weight as an excuse to put your life on hold.

Nobody's perfect. The people in your new neighbourhood? They have flaws. Some of those flaws are probably a fuck of a lot bigger than your weight issues. Hell, chances are some of your other flaws are bigger than that too. But you, and they, also have great qualities. That's being a person.
posted by 256 at 7:26 AM on July 1, 2010

Oh and, if she hadn't called attention to it, it would probably have barely registered in my mind that the girl in that video is fat. She's beautiful and good God does she know how to project confidence. If she showed up to introduce herself at my door, I'd probably find myself later wondering if she was single.

Compare how she looks in the clips where she's being her assertive ranty self with how she looks in the clips where she's play-acting as a self-hating fattie. The difference is huge and it has nothing to do with weight.
posted by 256 at 7:30 AM on July 1, 2010

Take up walking. Go out and walk around the neighborhood for 45 minutes every day, smile and greet everyone you encounter. Introduce yourself as their new neighbor.

You'll lose weight and make friends!
posted by mareli at 8:05 AM on July 1, 2010

I was not promoting fat acceptance advocacy. I was promoting GEORGIABLOOM IS AWESOME (EVEN NOW WHEN SHE IS NOT THIN) advocacy. At least I wasn't telling her that she had to lose weight before she could go talk to the neighbors or that it would be easier if she lost weight.
posted by micawber at 9:41 AM on July 1, 2010

micawber: Sorry, I wasn't accusing you of spreading Fat Advocacy. I was agreeing with you that that video is awesome and is something different than mainstream Fat Advocacy.

I also agree that georgiabloom doesn't need to lose weight before talking to the neighbours AND that that wouldn't make it any easier anyway. In fact, that was the main thing I was saying.
posted by 256 at 11:20 AM on July 1, 2010

Thanks, everyone - really. Lots of good advice and experience-sharing here. I appreciate it and it has helped immensely. And, I want to be Joy Nash when I grow up. ;)
posted by georgiabloom at 5:17 PM on July 7, 2010

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