Monday, October 8, 2007
1 Exercise Psychology Tip #4: How to Deal With People Getting Used To the "New You"
This past Thursday during my workout with my friend, we bumped into several mutual friends (from a former workplace of mine) along our path. Almost all of them commented on my weight loss, which was nice, but frankly, there's a part of me which would rather get past this hoopla, as it's not like I was that overweight to begin with & also I'd been even thinner (than I currently am now) when I first started working there. Of course, none of the people we saw that night had actually seen me at this former thinner phase I am referring to, because I'd starting working there before they did, but still, they did once know me at a thinner point, as I hadn't gained the weight all at once.
Anyhow, this takes me to an interesting question: When you lose weight, no matter whether it's 5, 15, or 30 pounds or more, how should you deal with people's comments?!
Since I've been living with myself over this several-month progression & seeing the changes on a daily basis, it's not such a big deal to me. Of course, for everyone else around me -- former co-workers, friends, family, etc. -- who don't exactly see me every single day, these changes probably appear far more drastic than they actually are in reality.
It's true that I feel great, mentally & physically. And it's also true that people who know me well (i.e., good friends & family members) have been confirming this (i.e., the obvious effects of my new & improved state of health) by telling me that I've got great color in my cheeks & that I glow from good health. Thank you, family & friends, for noticing subtle qualities & improvements other than just my obvious weight loss! 8-)
However, the changes don't just end there. Now, while I absolutely love & appreciate the physical benefits I'm getting from an improved state of fitness, I'd like to talk about the other, not-so-obvious benefits. The reality of what's going on is so much more than people can see. On a less-obvious level, there's something different going on in my head. It's not just about how I eat or workout, or how I think or strategize when it comes to nutritional & fitness, etc. It's more of an overall mental change, which is just as important as the physical changes I've made.
Part of it has to do with the changes in my own self-perception & internal voice: While my self-confidence has pretty much remained a constant despite my weight-loss, my body confidence has in fact gone way up. This has changed me somewhat.
Also, my internal voice is stronger. It's not that I didn't listen to it before, but it's more insistent now than ever before. I think about health much more these days. And, in terms of overall personal priorities, I put my health (& the health of others I care about) first; it's no longer an after-thought.
However, there's still something more than this that's going on inside. It's hard to pinpoint or fully explain. Perhaps when I'm closer to my goals, I will have found the proper words to more accurately describe what's going on inside of me.
Also, I notice that people respond & treat me differently as well. Those extra 15 pounds lost seem to make a difference in how I'm perceived, even with total strangers. Isn't that interesting?! Well, it's got to be either the weight or the improved overall confidence I'm projecting, or a possible combination of both.
With regards to total strangers, I notice that, in general, the men are rather friendly (which has pretty much always been the case regardless of my weight), and the women can either be friendly or less friendly, depending on their own circumstances [their current frame of mind, how they view their "relationship" to me (i.e., mother, daughter, sister, friend/foe, etc.), how they perceive their own age, height, & weight & if/how they compare this to me, etc.], & their own sense of self-worth (levels of self-confidence & emotional security, feelings about their own body size/image, etc.). In other words, it's more about them than me -- what people want or don't want, their motivations, etc.
While my manner is generally perceived by others to be friendly & non-threatening in nature, the way others perceive how I look is not within my control. Yes, I can control my appearance (what I weigh, my makeup or lack thereof, what I wear & how I "put myself together," etc.), but not how it is perceived by others. So, basically my advice is this: In general, it's best to ignore factors which you can't control. ;-)
When it comes to your goals, focusing on what other people think of you will generally lead you off course, as you need to be listening primarily to your own internal voice.
Now I'm not suggesting that you turn into a completely selfish jerk, or ignore useful data which may lead to greater self-awareness or awareness of others. Quite the contrary. What I'm suggesting is that when it comes to other people, don't let them derail you on the path to your goals. Listen to your own internal voice.
You might like the ego-stroking of people telling you that you look great or might not like how some people voice their comments about your weight loss or overall change in appearance, but the bottom line is that it doesn't matter. Yes, you heard me correctly. The only truly important things that matter are how you feel about yourself & the fact that you are achieving your goals. So don't let the comments -- the good, bad, & the ugly -- throw you at all.
Don't be surprised if people don't respond in the way you'd like them to respond. Obviously, you can't control this anyhow, so just let go of it. Recognize that no matter how they respond, it's generally about them, and not you.
People very well might be threatened by the changes you're making, & act out (i.e., try to minimize, degrade, or all together ignore your achievements, or take little "chips" out of you by making jealous, passive-aggressive comments, etc.). Or they might be supportive & tell you how great you look. Or they might be bumbling idiots and unintentionally say something tactless that was meant to be a compliment. Or they might just not notice or say anything at all. Always keep in mind that it doesn't matter. Yes, repeat after me, it just doesn't matter.
Say thank you to the nice people, & ignore the jerks. Take the compliments & discard the rest. So keep your head in check -- whether you get a compliment, an insult, or no response at all. Stay strong (mentally & physically!) & stay on course towards your goals!
Just remember that old adage our mothers taught us, which small school-children probably still chant, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me." It might be a good idea to even say it to yourself when need be. ;-)