The dress fit perfectly, and I came out to model it for her. I stood there feeling very shy and self-conscious and pleased. Then I said, “Do you think it makes my hips look too big?” and she said to me slowly, “Annie? I really don’t think you have that kind of time.”
— from Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
A couple of weeks ago, I was reading the archives of one of the blogs I read on a regular basis, and I came across an entry that talked about something I’ve been thinking about for a while: I’ve lost a lot of weight, but it’s still not enough (health-wise or otherwise), and I wonder if people who meet me at this weight think, “Hmm, she’s cute enough, but she could stand to lose a few pounds.”
Don’t get me wrong, I know that sixty pounds is nothing to sneeze at, and when I look at pictures of myself before I started Weight Watchers, I’m shocked at the transformation. And I’m definitely proud of what I’ve accomplished so far. But I often wonder if, even when I get to my goal, I’ll always see myself through the same lens, the one that only sees how far I have to go, no matter how far I’ve come.
I do that to myself in every area of my life – it’s like I never quite measure up to the standard that I’ve set for myself – and that’s troubling to me. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I have very high expectations of people, but for no one more than myself. Sometimes it makes it hard to live my life, because NO one can perform at such a high level constantly – it’s just not possible – and when I don’t measure up (I leave 30 minutes early from work, or take a little extra time at lunch, or overeat, or skip a workout), I have to make excuses for myself, like I’m trying to justify my actions so that they don’t seem so bad. In psychology, we call that cognitive dissonance (and by “we” I mean lapsed psychology majors).
The thing is, the things I do AREN’T so bad. They’re just things that happen to everyone from time to time. In fact, often, it’s probably only me who’s keeping score anyway, so they don’t really even matter. It’s not like there’s some cosmic scoreboard keeping track of whether I’m truly incapable of going to the office when I call in sick, or whether I go to the gym every day that I plan to, or whether my apartment is as orderly as I think it should be all the time.
I’m trying to get better, I’m trying to remind myself that I don’t have to be perfect at everything, and it’s working to some extent. Mondays, I usually I run and do arm weights, but last Monday I was exhausted after being out late at the game Sunday night. Walking back from the bus is when I make my decision about whether I’m going to work out or not, and last Monday, I was so tempted to throw in the towel. I knew, though, that I’d feel worse if I didn’t do anything at all, so I compromised with myself that all I had to do was run, which is 23 minutes, and then walk until 30 minutes, and then I could come home – no weights. And all of a sudden, a psychic weight was lifted. I was doing something good for me by giving myself permission not to do something else good for me.
So I’m trying to catch myself when the negative talk starts and replace it with something positive. I know it sounds so cheesy, but it does work. I’ve felt happier in the past two weeks (since the game) than I have for a while, and I think it’s partly because I’m consciously trying to be kinder to myself. And to bring it back around to the original topic, when I feel happier, and better about myself, I’m less likely to overeat, which for me is the key to losing weight (because I don’t eat terribly, for the most part, and I work out; I just eat too much), which helps me feel better about myself, which helps me be less negative toward myself, and on and on and on.
Funny how that works, isnt’ it?