Perception is weird, friends.
As many of you probably know, I’m trying to improve myself physically. And that comes in many forms–working out more consistently, eating healthier (yet not dieting), buying clothes in the right size, drinking more water, etc. I’ve always had this “ideal” or “dream” image of myself (and it’s evolved and changed, once being too influence by the impossible societal expectations while now, I think my goal shape is a much more healthier and realistic vision). I’ve never reached it, despite trying–with various levels of seriousness and dedication–for years.
This year, I think I’ve definitely been the most consistent and it’s been twelve weeks since I started working out more. Though I’m still nowhere near where I want to be, I’m definitely making strides–or so I thought. And that’s where perception comes in and that is where my confusion lies, because depending on the situation, my perception of myself and my current level of progress/success changes.
For example: ever since I started working out, when I’m dressed, I think my clothes fit a lot better. Granted, I’ve also overcome the really horrible hurdle of associating worth with clothing sizes, i.e., I used to buy a size smaller than what I actually was because I was ashamed of being a Large. Now, depending on the shirt, I’m most often an XL. Same thing happened with jeans (I’m a size 16, btw).* It’s sorta obvious that wearing clothes actually made to fit you will automatically look better–I wish my high school self would have realized that. Yet I still think that they fit even better now, after twelve weeks of going to the gym/running an average of three times a week.
That’s Perception One.
Yet if I’m naked and looking in the mirror, I immediately want to cringe and run away. All I can think about is how massive I am: the stretch marks on my love handles and thighs, how I jiggle when I move, the sudden protrusion of fat at my lower back, how I have such an awkward and inconsistent shape (fit in some places and fat in others). The calves that I thought looked great in my latest pair of leggings suddenly look like massive rocks. My arms that I got giddy noticing slight muscles when I flexed are suddenly overshadowed by the fat that remains.
My sister hugged me the other day and legitimately said, “Where did you all go?”, referencing to how much weight I’ve lost. My Mom–and Dad, which is saying a lot, considering he doesn’t notice anything–both compliment at my progress and how good I look. Grandma came in town? Same comment. Some people at work have complimented me, claiming I am looking good.
Like the letters associated with clothing sizes, I’ve also always been terrified of the number associated with the scale. The last time I weighed myself, last year, I was mortified. I’d finally hit that dreaded 2-0-0. I had never felt so horrible about myself and have purposefully avoided the scale since. But after hearing so many compliments and feeling great, I thought I’d try again and see. I am truly stubborn about making working out a lifestyle and being more aware of what I eat this time around, so I was determined to not get discouraged if the number hadn’t changed…or even increased, since I started this quest. As of this weekend, I weigh 196. And though I still went to the gym today, still determined, I am slightly discouraged. How could I make all this progress mentality, that others have noticed, yet only weigh four pounds less?
No matter what outfit I wear or how great I feel leaving the house, I avoid mirrors in public at all costs, because I believe I look like an over-inflated balloon or a beached whale.
Yet sometimes, if I catch a glimpse in the mirror right after the gym, I feel beautiful.
And seven, and eight, and nine and…
You catch my drift.
I think you can also understand my confusion. How can I have all of these perceptions of my appearance, sometimes running into multiple different perceptions in a single day? Which one is right? Can they all be true? Can they all be wrong? How do I maintain the positive thoughts while combating my avoidance of mirrors and my revulsion of my naked self? Will I ever be able to see actual progress, when it happens, or will my vision always be warped, depending on the environment? Will I ever believe it when someone calls me beautiful or will I always respond with, “Well, after I go to the gym for a few years, then…”
Unfortunately, I have no idea how to answer these questions.
Maybe there is no answer. Maybe I’ll never be fully accepting or loving of what my body looks like. But while that may be true, I’m also not full of hatred in every aspect and instance, like I once was. That’s important. I think it’s also important to just realize that yes, there are a lot of different ways I view myself. Sure, there may be no right answer as to which one is “true,” whether it’s Perception Two or Perception Four. Yet the positive perceptions exists. So why am I not fighting to believe in those and hold onto those, instead of focusing so much on those negative moments?
*hums as she chews on these thoughts, hoping they provided something enlightening or encouraging for you, as well*
* Notice how I told you those sizes (not to mention my actual weight) without being ashamed about it? That’s a sign of progress, if nothing else.