“Wow, Congratulations on Your Success!” “ehhh….”
That was you? Wow, you look totally different now! That’s amazing! I can’t believe it! How did you do it, how did you do it??
I’ve got this weird mental schism. I both love and hate the accolades that I get. I both want them but want to hide from them. It’s a really odd situation to be in. Similarly, I hate showing off how I looked several years ago. But I also have an urge to show people. It’s messy.
When you’re in the day-to-day process of being fit, your physical appearance changes the same way your hair length changes; you just don’t notice it. Yeah, sure, your clothes are baggy, but it’s a slow enough process that it kind of feels like you’re not making any progress (except, of course, you’re using that scale, right? That’s how you’re supposed to tell whether you’re on the right track…). Eventually you finally relent and get some clothes that fit you (after much badgering from a sister that I’m just “swimming in cloth!”) and boy people notice. Being a naturally shy person, I don’t like calling attention to myself. And of course, a “fantastic” quirk of mine is when I’m embarrassed, a big stupid grin gets plastered on my face that I cannot wipe off no matter how hard I try. So I’ll walk into work with a new outfit with a big dumb grin and people start with their comments. And they think I’m enjoying it! Which I kinda do, but really…
It’s not just embarrassing on an introvert level. It’s also a reminder of my “sin”. Every time I field a compliment, I’m reminded that at one point I was morbidly overweight. It’s a tough thing to remember. I know it sounds silly and that I should revel in my efforts, but It’s still there anyway. Possibly as a devil on my shoulder whispering that at any point it can be undone. I can go right up on back. So I say “thank you” but in my mind I’m thinking “don’t laud my effort to get to where I should have been in the first place: normal. Besides, it might just be temporary.”
And it gets worse when I show or someone sees pictures from that time. As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and the visual juxtaposition between the image and my current form are jarring. I don’t like to see the pictures for the same reasons I don’t like the positive comments. It’s just a thousand word reminder of all the mistakes and bad habits leading up to that state.
But, I’ve realized that it’s a pretty unhealthy way to think. You really shouldn’t hate yourself, no matter what size you are. You shouldn’t be disgusted with yourself. It’s truly saddening to see someone in the same boat and just imagine that they’re running through the same toxic thought patterns. Eventually, I managed to come around. I honestly appreciate the good comments. I’ve really been getting a kick out of meeting someone I haven’t seen for a few years and watch their face morph and this crazy mixture of surprise and recognition bloom on their face after I tell them who I am (although Mr. Gilson laid it on a bit thick when he had me stand up in front of 200 people at a rehearsal with a bunch of teenagers… no matter the reason it’s pretty hard to not be embarrassed with 200 pairs of eyes pointing at you). And the accolades really motivate me to keep on track and are really helpful in a way that goes beyond mere ego boosting; it's properly heartening. I think it’s a big reason why I’m no longer dealing with depression like I used to (granted, I know I still have the capacity for it, but that’s a different discussion). People remind me that I have something to be properly proud of. I think there’s no better way to get self-esteem than to really truly earn it through the trinity of pain: blood, sweat, and tears. For me, self-esteem didn’t come from self-love. It didn’t come from the outside. It came from within: finally banishing a personal shame through hard work and discipline.
Lastly, recall the post about the homunculus? When I got over the embarrassment (and a pedantic distaste for something the following weight loss cliche), the ol’ “Before and After” comparison was useful as a mental tool. And also now serves as a quick ego boost. Since day-to-day my mental self image is of someone that’s way larger than I am, the before and after picture is a wonderful reminder of how far I’ve come. It's a good reminder to myself that the person on the left is no longer the person I am. That being said, and without FURTHER ado (I mean, yeesh it’s been 3 months) here’s my before and after:
Be sure to cheer on your local fitness repenter!