When someone tells you, “You look great!” do you say thank you? Or do you laugh it off, start listing the things you aren’t happy with about your appearance, or not even acknowledge the compliment? We are our own worst critics. We hold everything against ourselves; things we wouldn’t even see on another person. Being self-conscious about appearance or actions is ingrained in a lot of us.
For myself, there are days when I look in the mirror and still see this guy, like nothing has changed in the last five years.
I don’t usually see this guy – down a bunch of weight, healthy, fast, admittedly scrawny legs and arms. That hair, though…
I almost never see this guy. This is the one I struggle with the most; the one I’ve worked hard to get to. I’m proud of him, but he seems like someone else entirely. I lost a lot of weight to get to the last picture. I’ve put a chunk of it back on, but in different places. Shirts and jackets fit tight at the shoulders and loose at the middle now, but sometimes in my mind I’m right back where I started.
Why do we have such issues with our vision? When you know someone is struggling with this, what can you do to help? Well, the hard answer is, maybe nothing.
By no means am I telling you not to support your friends when they struggle with body image or dysmorphia. You have to realize they wave off the compliments just like you. If someone says “I’m so (insert self-putdown)” and you say, “No, you’re great!” – yes that’s the right thing to do. No, it’s not going to fix their mindset.
Shower them with love and friendship and support, but realize they are fighting a tough battle. Our brains can be terrible opponents and know all our dark fears and secrets.
I’ve talked before about pushing string. It’s a fact that you cannot force someone else to do something they are not committed to themselves. You can’t make someone else want to go to the gym and stick to it. You also can’t make someone else see themselves the way you do.
The fact is, perception is reality. If I believe I am short, tall, ugly, handsome, fat, fit, whatever – then I am, at least in my own mind. All the kind words and positive support aren’t going to change that, any more than tough love and telling me to get over myself is.
Last week I found myself reading an emotional message from someone who has worked hard for a while. They were having one of those days, one of those times when it is all so damn hard. The inner voices were talking louder, and the fear of backsliding was kicking in. I called and we talked for a while; I listened to myself at the start and realized I was glossing over their feelings. Not acknowledging their reality.
Instead, I told the truth – it is like this sometimes. I have bad days, bad weeks. Five years in, it still happens. The truth is, it always will. Our brains are terrible opponents, still. Live that feeling, and find a way forward. One foot in front of the other; some days that’s all we can do. Believe in yourself and celebrate the successes. There will always be failures to bemoan – so make the successes worth the pain. Make that your new reality.
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash