Perception

fun house mirror Katey

I’ve been thinking about perception a lot lately.

How do you see yourself? How does that vision compare with how others see you? Is it important that these two perceptions match?

Should we care? Or – to be a bit more honest – Why do we care so much??

If you spend much time on social media, you’ve probably seen this video going around:

Dustin Hoffman rocks my socks. I’m so grateful to him for reminding me of the disconnect between our perceptions and the truthful understanding of ourselves and one another.

Around the time this video went viral, I had a wonderful, motivating conversation with a new friend from #140You, Liz Nead of Nead Inspiration (http://neadinspiration.com/). Liz mentioned the importance of recognizing the chasm between the way that we view ourselves and the way that the rest of the world sees us.

This conversation reminded me of a night in 2010 (read: Katey at Peak Weight). My husband and I were watching a reality show about morbid obesity. The episode featured a 400 pound woman. She was a truck driver, and her size made it hard for her to get into and out of the cab of her truck.

When I looked at her, I saw myself.

I weighed 150 lbs less than her, but that’s not what I saw. In my mind’s eye I saw myself at max capacity, and I assumed that everyone else saw me that way, too. I was astonished when my husband’s response was “WHAT? You’re nowhere near that!”

I just assumed that he (and everyone else, for that matter) saw me the same way I saw myself.

That moment was a jarring one. It was the first time I realized that there might be a significant disconnect between my self perception and the way the rest of the world sees me.

Over the weekend, I had a similarly jarring moment.

My sister-in-law gave me a t-shirt for my birthday (it’s later this week – don’t forget to shop early and often!) and pointed out it’s size: XS. I told her I’ve been feeling perplexed by clothing sizes lately.

I’m wearing a S/XS in tops these days (RIP, Once XL Bosoms)… so, what do actually extra-small girls wear? What does my sister-in-law wear? She’s tiny – petite and skinny. She didn’t even get heavy during pregnancy! So – what does she wear? Does she have to shop in the kids’ section?

She looked at me like I’d grown another head. She says she wears the same size as me. She says we’re the same size.

I cannot wrap my head around that, but it seemed like an obvious fact to her.

The parallels between these instances has me wondering: Is the disconnect between my self-perception and the way others see me something that I should work on? Or, is it just something that I should accept as a natural part of all of our lives?

Dustin Hoffman speaks of the cultural brainwashing that causes us to overlook people who we don’t perceive as beautiful. Can we re-wire our brains to see other people (and ourselves!) clearly?

I imagine that if I had the ability to hear other people’s thoughts (think Mel Gibson in What Women Want) I’d get a clear vision of what everyone else sees. I could then change in a way that would make me more appealing to the public at large.

But is this a good idea?

Would we love ourselves more if we knew that everyone perceived us in a positive light?

Should we change ourselves if we elicit a negative public perception?

My strong, independent, modern woman side screams NO! I am enough, and if you can’t see that, that’s your problem. But my people-pleaser side begs me to bend over backwards to appeal to as many people as possible.

If I am healthy and strong, should I care about your projections when you look at me? Why does understanding how you see me feel important? And, if I can never clearly see what you see, what good does it do to manipulate myself in some imagined direction?

Do you have any perception-disconnect stories? If so, please share in the comments section! Maybe we can work through these things together. I want to see you for who you are. I want to be seen in my true form (flaws and all), and to feel confident in – even proud of! – what I project in this hyper-connected world of ours.

Perhaps there is Truth to be found at the place where our diverse perceptions meet.

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Lessons Learned

In my post ‘A Necessary Detox’ I announced that I was not going to weigh myself for a month. I hoped a detox would help me to crowbar my emotional state away from the numbers on the scale.

Today was weigh-in day.

When I woke up, the scale was the first thing on my mind. My heart was pounding before my feet hit the floor. I mean pounding.

Successful detox? Not so much.

This morning, I discovered that I lost four pounds. That’s fine. It means I lost the two that I put on (precipitating the detox) and shed two more. I’m still in the 5 pound range (140-145) that I aim to maintain.

Staying off of the scale didn’t cause the dreaded yo-yo.

But, I have to admit that the experiment was a complete failure.

I thought that staying away from the scale would make me care about it less. Instead, I developed a full-blown fear-driven obsession. I was so afraid that I would return to the scale and find a true yo-yo (gaining 10+ pounds) that I became punishingly strict with myself all month long as I attempted to silence the fear.

When I’m especially strict, I’m not gentle with myself. My thought processes went something like this: “How many blueberries did I just eat? I bet it was more than 1/4 cup! That’s more than I budgeted myself for the afternoon! Stupid!! I’m going to pay for that on weigh-in day for sure! I better get back to the gym even though I’m not feeling well.”

Wait… wasn’t I supposed to be ‘detoxing’ in an effort to stop beating up on myself?

This morning, when I saw that there had been no significant change, I felt certifiably ridiculous. I have been driving myself to distraction for no reason.

Attention to metrics feels like having a good grip on the status of my health. Avoiding the metrics led to fear rather than the sought-after empowerment.

So, I’m going to go the other way and see if it’s any better for my mental health. I’m going to weigh myself if I have the impulse to do so. If I need a little reassurance that I’m not going off track, I’ll weigh in. But, there will be no set weigh-in time. No more Mandatory Mondays.

Maybe over time I’ll shed the fear.

For now, I need to acknowledge that I live with a daily fear of losing what I have worked so hard for. I think maybe I need to be ok with that, and give myself time. I’ve kept 100 pounds off for about 7 months. Hopefully, when I’ve kept it off for 7 years, it will be so second nature, I won’t need to think about it.

Until then, I’ll settle for the wisdom of trials and errors.

Happy Inspiration

I saw two videos at #140You that made me smile and inspired me to keep up the hard work.

Obviously, this meant I had to share.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

No excuses, y’all! Get it in where you can fit it in!

Gosh, I hope that if I keep ‘fitting it in’ I’ll get as strong and fierce as Andia Winslow. I kind of want to be her when I grow up.

(Pay no attention to the fact that I’m quite sure she’s younger than I am. Details, details.)

Don’t wait until tomorrow. You can turn it all around right. this. minute. Do it up!

The only things holding you back are your excuses.

Sidebar/Update: 2 more days until the 1-month weigh-in. I am shaking in my boots. Wish me luck on Wednesday!

Stranger In A Strange Land

Marilyn

I have a confession to make.

You know that part of the gym where they keep the weights? Where all those grunting men are pumping iron?

I think of it as The Boy Zone, and it intimidates the hell out of me.

You see, I have spent a lifetime gleefully cultivating my girly-girl femininity. I grew up emulating Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, and Brigitte Bardot. Today, I buy anything with Princess Kate on the cover. You get the idea.

I don’t know about your gym, but when you walk into mine, the gender division is pretty blatant. Almost all of the women are on cardio machines, while the weight training areas are Testosterone Central.

So, as a newcomer to the gym world, I kept myself in my girly lane. I only used the gym for cardio. I worked with weights when I got home and no one was watching.

It’s ridiculous, but I had myself convinced that being seen lifting weights would somehow diminish my femininity.

My silly little gender role snow globe was due for a good shake.

First, I actively considered venturing into Testosterone Central. When I did, I heard a small inner voice saying ‘that’s not for you – it’s not for girls.’

As soon as I heard that voice, my bigger, stronger, Mama Tiger voice kicked in and whooped that little voice’s ass.

Here’s why: TRY to tell my daughter that she can’t or shouldn’t do something because she’s a girl and the thing she wants to try is just for boys. Go ahead and try. I will rain down protective maternal fury that will scorch the earth, I swear.

My daughter can reach for any stars in the sky and nobody better come at her with any toxic cultural BS.

So why don’t I apply that same mentality to myself?? How can I model equality if I don’t walk the walk?

Come on, Mama Tiger – go lift weights!

Um… ok… yeah, that’s totally legit. I’ll get right on that. Just, um… not today. Today’s… busy… and stuff. I’ll be Power Woman tomorrow.

Tomorrow came, and it brought the final push that I needed.

I was back at the gym, back on my cardio machine, when a woman I know walked in. Our kids go to nursery school together. She lives in my ‘intimidatingly pretty’ mental category. There is no deficit of femininity in this woman.

Did she take a sharp right and jump on a cardio machine like a good girl? Hell no. This chick marched her ass right over to the Boy Zone and grabbed some metal. She did pull-ups! She worked with a barbell! I was floored.

I know I’m a terrible feminist for even admitting these things, but seeing a woman whose image was already set in my mind as a ‘pretty girl’ in that part of the gym was something I needed.

When I told her I was inspired, she said she just doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. She’s there to get strong, so that’s what she’s going to do.

Badass! I love it! I want to be like that!

So, last week I marched my ultra-femme behind right into the middle of it all. I did squat presses. I did deadlifts with hammer curls. I sweated and I pushed, and I got a damn good workout.

I exercised my body and I expanded my comfort zone. I killed another ‘can’t’, and it feels b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

Up next: Learning to deal with the gawking of pubescent boys. Can’t say I’m a fan of the attention that I attract as the woman doing squats in boy land.

Sidebar/Update: 3 weeks off of the scale! Not weighing myself seems to be kicking my workouts up to the next level. I am combining cardio and weight training every day. It’s driven by a fear of the unknown, but I’ll take it!