Recently, a short but highly personal Facebook post had me looking back own my own journey not just of my weight loss but of my attempts to reconstruct my personal image.
It’s been over 7 years since I reached my highest weight, and decided I needed to do something about it. It’s been 3 years since I actually hit my goal weight. For the past three years I have hovered between 205 and 215. It’s been a struggle since I know I need to keep my guard up so I won’t eat all the things. I also know I can be too hard on myself, so this year I’ve been trying to be less hard on myself and stop, as one sorta kinda a friend once said “eating like an asshole.”
It was going pretty well, until late March (around my birthday) and through much of April. I did great on my Disney trip, actually lost weight, and decided to lessen up the pressure. Yet, by mid April I felt like I had gained weight. That voice came back in the back of my head. “Hey, Bob. You’re getting fat again. You’re gonna lose control. Even at your best, your fluffy, with droopy arms and the physique of a California raisin. Your body is already a mess of loose skin and purple, swollen legs and weird scars. Why are you fighting the inevitable?”
Yesterday, I went in for my monthly weigh in at Weight Watchers. I’d gained 3 lbs. Seriously, this is the viscousness of self doubt and why weight loss is as much about dealing with the emotional side as the physical. For 3 lbs. I was ready to scream, Fuck it! And give in to my self doubt. Looking back, I may have had one too many beers on a day, and indulged in a bit of cake or something, and there is definitely things I can do better, but mostly I’ve made smart choices, eaten what I wanted to eat, and typically ate healthy. So, why am I so hard on myself.
It all comes down to self image. I’m not perfect. I’ll never be the hot stud in the room. Yet, I’m my harshest critic. I convince myself that people can’t be attracted too me because I’m not perfect. I focus on my flaws. Yet, I know intellectually that people can be attracted to me, even if I can be a bit oblivious about it at times.
As I mentioned, I was thinking about this a lot after a Facebook friend posted about her struggles with self image. This isn’t a person I know very well. Yet, I knew her at work many years ago when I was at my largest. She was smart and funny and always treated me like I was an actually human being who existed. This wasn’t something that always happened with people I didn’t know well. Especially, someone like her, who, in my opinion, was beautiful. I don’t mean this in some weird creepy way, just if you asked me for an example of someone who was beautiful in a traditional sort of way, she would be such an example. The fact that she actually would be nice to me and treat me like a human was a help to me during a hard time in my life.
So, when I read her post about her own struggles with self image, it made me think. It’s easy for someone like me to see someone like her and think “she’s pretty, what does she have to be worried about?” But that’s not how it works. We are all our worst critics. We confront our flaws everyday and we can either become overwhelmed by them, or just think of them as part of our character.
The thing is, I often tell myself someone wouldn’t be attracted to me becomes I don’t meet some arbitrary standard of male attractiveness. I see my flaws and wonder who would see past them. Yet, I know personally, when I find someone I’m interested in, I rarely see the flaws they seemed so focus on. I tend to find myself attracted to quirky (well, maybe crazy) women who rarely meet some weird standard of female attractiveness. When I get a crush (and yes, this still happens at 44) I find many reasons not to follow through, maybe I feel like they are too young for me, or our schedules won’t mess. I’ll remind I’m a workaholic, introvert who doesn’t mind being single. Yet, there’s also the voice in the back of my head that tells me that I.m still this squishy guy with a weird body and who would every be attracted to that. Well, that voice can fuck off.
I know that this is a large ramble post, and I image it falls squarely in the TL:DR category. I know a lot of people will come on and say things like “I like you Bob, no matter how you look.” This is often the response I get when I talk like that. I always appreciate my many friends for whom I know this is true. Yet, before you say this or think this, take a moment to think about your image of yourself versus how others perceive you. Often times when you tell people “Don’t be hard on yourself” it can come off, to a person who struggles with self image problems, as a criticism. Most people who suffer from body image issues have a weird cycle of focusing in on their flaws, self doubt, and self flagellation for the self doubt. So, instead of pointing out the fact that their self doubt may not be entirely rational, just be there friend. Treat them like they exist. And be there if they do need to talk. Treat them like they are beautiful to you. That little gesture can make more of a difference than words in ways you may never know.