Monday, January 11, 2010

Are You Lying to Yourself?

For years, I told myself that I carried my weight well. The scale may have shown a huge, scary number, but I looked fine. Look at some of the before photos I’ve posted on this blog to evaluate the truth of that statement for yourself.

I never referred to myself as obese – even though I was by all ways of determining that. If I referred to my weight at all, I’d say I was overweight. Only an absolute and complete lack of clothing that fit and the need to have appropriate, nice outfits for job interviews got me to enter a plus size store that first time.

I told myself that the excess weight did not affect my life. I felt fine and could do whatever I wanted. When I could no longer believe that, I told myself that overall my life is good. I’m happy. I'm not missing out on anything because of my weight. I’m healthy. If you think one can be overweight or even obese and healthy, read this recent New York Times column.

I’d tried and failed to lose weight so many times that I told myself it was impossible for me to lose weight. I ate well and made healthy choices. I exercised some. I understood nutrition and portion control. I couldn't possibly be lying to myself about how much I was really eating or exercising. I was meant to be fat, so I should make the best of it. Realizing how all these lies and negative thinking patterns turned into expectations and results is frightening. How did I ever find the courage to try yet again?

I did. And, it wasn’t caused by hitting bottom. I’d done that years before in terms of my highest weight and biggest sized clothing. A recent PBS special I saw called This Emotional Life would say it’s the resiliency of the human spirit and the need to have hope. I’ve also read that sometimes what you want the most is what you are most frightened to attempt. Your ability to procrastinate or even self-sabotage attempts to go after this most wanted thing can be off the charts.

Somehow I still found the way to try again, and it was not with any great sense that this was the time I would succeed. I know I was very inspired by two friends who had lost 50 pounds in 2008 and by several seasons of The Biggest Loser. Somehow I walked back into Weight Watchers to try yet again but not quite believing I could really lose that weight. I have done better than I ever expected. It’s made me think a lot about the power of thoughts, expectations, bad habits and lies.

Weight is not the only area where you can lie to yourself. Have you ever said you want to be a published author and then gone months without writing or ever establishing a writing schedule? Have you avoided mastering the one or two craft areas that you know you need to learn before you’ll make that sale or move to the next level in your career? Have you ever submitted anything?

Are you lying to yourself in other aspects of your life? Finances? Relationships? At work? Do you drink too much? Do you still smoke? Are you denying other risky behavior? Are you refusing to acknowledge and work out your negative emotions and thoughts?

2010 can be the year you stop lying. It’s extremely liberating.


Elise Hayes on January 11, 2010 at 8:39 AM said...

Hey Michelle! You ask some tough questions here. I think one of the things I admire most about you is your ability for self-reflection--for asking yourself (and others) the tough questions. I pretty much have the self-reflective tendencies of a a vampire (no reflection at all :), so your posts are always good for me.

In my writing life, I've been one of those people who said I wanted to be published, but then would let months go by without writing (always with a good excuse about how busy I was at work and home). I still think it's ok to take a month off occasionally, when things really heat up at work or at home, but that's *one* month. Not three or four. I'm now committed to integrating writing into my weekly life--treating it as an extension of my job, something I do (ideally) five days a week.

Like with my running, I won't always hit that 5-day per week target, but even if it's only 4 days, it leaves me feeling pretty healthy.

And emotions are on my list of things to pay more attention to this year--both in my characters and in myself. I've noticed that I tend to gloss over what I'm feeling (over-rationalize it away before I'm even fully conscious of the feeling). Part of me wonders if that's why I have such a hard time accessing emotions in my characters, too. Definitely something to work on this year...

Michelle Butler on January 11, 2010 at 10:48 AM said...

Elise, I thought of this as my tough love post. I'm glad it helped you. Do let me know if I'm ever crossing the line. :)

I definitely can over-rationalize emotion away as well. For years, I was not very good at recognizing or acknowledging emotions - in myself or in my writing. I've worked on both a lot.

Realizing that unacknowledged emotions, particularly when they are negative, will lead me to overeat has given me the motivation to be better about figuring out what I'm feeling and trying to work it out. It's all been part of my willingness to give it my all and try just about anything to lose weight.

Also, we only have one life. I want to make mine the best it can be, and that takes some self-reflection and even going to some dark places. I've had to work on realizing/ recognizing how I'm consciously or unconsciously sabotaging myself. I'm really trying to make some progress in that concerning my writing this year.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on January 12, 2010 at 8:59 AM said...

Another good post, Michelle. I think we've probably lied to ourselves about something somewhere along the line. I think it's at least part a coping mechanism so we don't feel bad about ourselves and our actions/lack of action.

Michelle Butler on January 12, 2010 at 9:58 AM said...

Sometimes you just can't deal with it, and the "lie" can help you go on. Denial, though, can just hurt you more in the long term.

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