My distorted self-perception

What do you see when you look at yourself? Do you see what others see? Does what you see in the mirror match what you see in pictures of yourself?

I know that I do not see what others see when looking at me. And this is common. But how much of what we see is also accurate? Is any of it accurate?

Physical distortions

Recently, I was caught in traffic due to an accident. I was thinking about workouts (when am I not?) and clients. The majority of my clients – past and present – have fat loss goals. Many women will state, “I want to look like you!” I generally reply with, “Thank you for the compliment! Together we will work to find the best YOU.” Or something of the sorts.

When I stop to truly think about it, it baffles me – others want to look like me? I have had women want legs like mine, or a butt, or arms. I have had clients comment on how they would like a flat stomach like mine – I remark that my stomach is not flat and that they need to find a different standard to work towards! And all I want are abs like – any number of my fit friends. What is it we are looking for in what we perceive to be perfect physical attributes?

What does this boil down to? Many woman would be satisfied with my physique – so why am I not? OR, would they be just as self-critical once they obtain their ‘ideal bodies,’ identifying new targets for improvement and perfection?

What I wonder is, are my abs better than I see in the mirror? Is there a physiological or psychological lapse between my cornea and my brain? I believe that these thoughts result from being told I have body dysmorphic disorder (as good of a reason as ever to never label someone). Is what I see accurate – and how do I know?

To be unaware

I have no awareness of my outward beauty. It does not occur to me that I am attractive. A compliment often goes in one ear and out the other, without a second thought. This is not to say that I think that I am unattractive – I am simply ambivalent. I have been told this is better than being arrogant about my looks – I am not so sure! I was recently asked, “If you had to choose between being dumb or being ugly which would you choose?”

I would choose ugly. Hands down.

I place great value on my intelligence and mental aptitude – and next to no value on my physical appearance. I do not know that this is right or wrong, but it is.

The bottomline

I am not overly concerned with my physical appearance – and never have been. I seldom wear makeup. I rarely use a brush or a comb in my hair (lucky, I know!). I do not spend much time or money on my wardrobe.

However, I do have a distorted self-perception. I do not believe that I look fit. I view myself as a ‘big’ girl – with an athletic build. Does this thinking negatively influence my life in ways of which I am not aware?

Today, I am left blogging about questions that I do not have answers to.

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Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. ~ 1 Peter 3:3-4

You exercise EVERYDAY?!?

For the second time in my life, I had someone questioning me about my level of physical activity – clearly concerned that I may be overexercising, addicted, etc. The first person to show concern was a gym manager (with whom I was good friends) – I was overexercising and addicted to the adrenaline associated with exercise. He had reason to be concerned. However, his concerned bothered me immensely because he did not go about it the right way. He unintentionally labeled me, telling me that I must have at least a mild case of body dysmorphia. His opinion bothered me a great deal – did not like the idea of him believing that I had a mental disorder.

With the more recent display of concern, my internal mental reaction was – shut up, you have no idea what you are talking about. Mean, perhaps, but that is why I did not say it out loud. I explained to her that I have found a healthy balance and what works for me. I took her concern and pocketed it, always wanting to be aware of whether or not I am in a healthy psychological relationship with health and fitness. I posted in January about my reaction to missing a scheduled workout and how I reacted in a more healthy way than I have in a very long time. I just let life happen. 230

Having to personally manage chronic joint pain – I know that I need to move more and sit less. I have learned through inactivity how much worse my pain is when I do not exercise. Exercising every day keeps my blood and synovial fluid pumping! Not to mention it is a natural antidepressant!

Is exercising every day too much?

When I tell individuals that I workout – to some degree – every day, their eyes get big, “EVERY day?” Yes, I do – the human body is designed to move. I feel better for doing so. The human body is not designed to sit all day – therefore I do exercises to counteract this sedentariness and to reduce the aches and pains that result from sitting. Personally, I have conditioned my body to function like a machine – needing to move and needing the fuel (real food) to move.

Think back to our ancestors – they exercised every day. Farmers, blacksmiths, butchers, and more. They did more walking. Mothers had a dozen children to chase after, they did laundry with a washboard, and they cooked everything from scratch. Our ancestors were active! With every invention of convenience and technology, we have become more sedentary. We even have less activity driving – with automatic transmissions versus manual – not requiring as much mental attention nor the physical use of the clutch and gear shift. While most of these activities do not equate to exercise – it is all activity. And all activity adds up. Some of our parents and grandparents tell the story about, “Walking up hill both ways to school.” (Sometimes in the snow without shoes.) I believe this is simply a dramatization of how much more active individuals were years ago. And they were much more active.

Exercise does not have to be a workout

I recommend to clients to workout 3-5 days a week but to be active every day. Be a body in motion! Now that running season is upon us here in the Midwest, my rest days are Fridays. I do not workout. But I do try to increase my other activities for the day. I park farther away. I take more stairs. Whatever opportunities the day brings to be active – I take them. I provide behavior therapy to a young boy who loves to chase and hide and seek. So we work – play – work – play.

I have mentioned before that not all exercise is a workout. This can be difficult to comprehend, particularly when trying to lose weight or improve fitness and the world is telling us all we need to do is be more active. There is a certain amount of truth to the need to be more active. However, more often than not, becoming more active without incorporating dietary changes is unlikely to yield results. And bare in mind that there is also an enormous amount of research out there showing that even if you workout every day, a sedentary lifestyle outside of the workout still has its health risks.

The bottomline

Get moving. The human body is designed to move! Overwhelmed by the idea of having to exercise everyday? How do you think our ancestors felt about just doing all the necessary daily activities?

With regard to the woman’s concern for my relationship with exercise, I brushed it off. Not everyone will understand – what works for me does may not work for you. And some individuals are not ready to hear the truth – and that is when I just smile and nod.

I am good at the smile and nod.