January 14. “Self-image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment.” (Maxwell Maltz)
My own perception of self becomes the limits of my existence. If I see myself as larger than life, then I will be larger than life. If I see myself as something small and insignificant, then likewise that’s what I’ll be.
Usually when I think about my self-image as being a limit, I think of it in terms of holding me down, making me smaller. If my dream is to only reach a certain level in my company, for instance, then that is how far I will go. But I think there is another kind of limitation at play for many of us, and it goes in the other direction.
For much of my adult life I have been very heavy. As far back as I have medical records I can see that, with the exception of one year, I have even been obese. I have tried many times to lose weight over the years. Once I was successful at losing 72 pounds, only to gain it back. Since then there have been many teeth in the wave of my weight curve, as I have tried time and again to get control. In 2014 I made up my mind to lose weight, and this time I stuck with it in a way that has thus far been very different than in times past. This time I have lost over 102 pounds and counting.
Over the past few months many people have asked me how I did it. My immediate answer is Weight Watchers, with a lot of walking for exercise. That answer is truthful, and it tells about the mechanics of my weight loss, but it doesn’t address the psychological side. Part of the reason I don’t answer that part is that most people wouldn’t be interested. They want to know whether I have a magic secret to losing weight. Another reason I don’t answer that question is that I really don’t fully know.
I honestly have struggled for months with the question “why this time? Why am I successful now where I have failed before?” I still don’t know the full answers to those questions, but today’s quote makes me think about one aspect of that question – my self-image.
For years I have thought of myself as a big man. I have become identified as a jolly fat guy on more than one occasion. In the past when I tried to lose weight, I made no attempt to shake that impression. This time, though, I have noticed that with increasing regularity I refer to myself as thin person. At first it was a bit of an attempt at humor, considering I was still well over 300 pounds. Even with my weight loss there is no objective way I can be called “thin”. “ThinNER” maybe, but not thin.
I think this subtle message is making its way into me. I am starting to believe that I am a thin person. At the very least, I am not longer thinking of myself as a jolly fat man.
The self-image that I was a fat guy was a limiting factor, and to some extent it still is. Thinking of myself as a big person keeps me fat. As I shed that self-image, I open the door to achieve greater results in my quest to be healthier.
I don’t think this is the ultimate answer to my questions about why, but I do think it is a clue. I think that because I have been referring to myself differently, I am seeing myself differently. The more that I see myself as a thin person, the more that I will remove the self-induced boundaries that have kept me fat.
If you are one of my readers who is also trying to lose weight and become more healthy, try this. For the next week start calling yourself a thin person. At the very least, don’t refer to yourself as fat. It will feel hokey and fake at first, but let’s all give this a try. I wonder what we all can accomplish in the realm of weight loss and increased health if we start believing that we are thin and healthy people?