I was 8 years old when the television series, "Mister Rodgers' Neighborhood", first aired in 1966. The show ran until 2001 and it was targeted to pre-school children. I wasn't a follower of the show. Even though still a child myself, I was a bit too old. Of course, I had heard of Fred Rogers and I knew he had a following, but I really never sat down to watch. Not until I was a teenager and the show was in re-runs.
With the advent of the remote control, I'd seen some short snipets of scenes from episodes here and there while channel hopping. Up until then though, I honestly wasn't aware of what it was he did. Even after quick viewing, I still wasn't clear on Mister Rogers' real message. What was he trying to teach our kids? He moved slowly and talked slowly. He even put on his sweater and changed from shoes to Keds deliberately. Why did parents and kids like him? Wouldn't they want more action? I just didn't get his appeal. (If you're a Mister Rogers' fan, in fairness to me and others like me, it's probably difficult to get anyone's real message in less than a minute.)
Then suddenly, one day it hit me square between the eyes. Mister Rogers was talking in his usual slow, calming voice giving his usual slow, calming message. I listened. And, I finally heard it. The message. "I like you just the way you are." Slow moving Mr. Rogers was delivering words that exploded over and over again! How many television programs offered this affirmative, loving, unconditionally healing message to our children? To adults? NONE to my knowledge.
I'm not sure at what age I was struck by Mister Rogers and was finally able to take in and appreciate what he offered. Most likely it was sometime after I had "come out" as a gay woman. I struggled with coming out and abandoning the "security" of passing as straight. And, I had constant fear of people not liking me because of my lesbianism. "I like you just the way you are", screamed LOVE and I couldn't be more grateful and appreciative of Fred. Whether gay, straight, or whatever, so many of us have our own personal insecurities and anxieties. Here I was being offered a warm, safe, and accepting, helping hand. I love you for that Mister Rogers!
Today, I met with a friend for an Eating Psychology coaching session. He had a weigh-in using my Inbody Analyzer which indicated his lean tissue mass was right on the money. His fat percentage though was on the high side. We spent some time talking about how and what he ate. We looked at stressors in his life as well as his exercise patterns. We did all of this and started talking strategies to maintain his lean tissue and reduce fat. Time stopped though when he said the following. "I have a reunion coming up in October and I'm determined to lose 20 lbs. by then. Even 30."
Here he was getting motivated to lose fat because he was going to meet with people from his past. In his mind he needed to lose weight for that occasion. In other words, he wasn't okay as he was. Sound familiar? I looked at him and delivered the following message, "You're a wonderful, giving, smart, good-looking, sweet guy. If you want to lose fat for YOU because of health concerns or because of body discomforts, that's cool. But, you've got to start from a place right here and right now of loving yourself. Loving the inside of you and who you are. You're a caretaker to just about everyone you come in contact with including your mother, friends, your volunteer work, and even your work with me. Whatever you weigh at your reunion is great! Whether you lose 5 lbs., 20 lbs., 30 lbs. or nothing, you're great just the way you are. Be in the present moment loving and caretaking you. Unconditionally."
Simple concept yet I'm not certain my friend was able to take in the totality of those words all in 1 sitting. But, I get it Mister Rogers! And, thank you for your slowed-down, deliberate, kind message to kids young and old. Inner self-love, acceptance, and happiness first. Weight and everything else second.