One of my greatest fears when I stopped dieting was that people would notice that I put on weight. I prided myself on being thin and knew that that would go by the wayside once I started eating again after years of restriction. Granted, the number on the scale went up gradually, but the mental hurdle of gaining a few pounds and worrying that someone would think “Wow, she’s letting herself go!” was almost too much to bear sometimes.
My anxiety subsided when I began thinking about my own thought process. Because I was such a regular at the gym, I assumed those people would mentally ridicule me if I gained weight since the point of going to the gym is to lose weight, not gain. But then it hit me! When my eyes roam the gym, it’s to see if the machine I want is available. Or I sometimes look at other people while they workout but not in a negative way. For example, I may think to myself “Oh, I’ve never done that type of exercise before. Maybe I’ll try it later on!” or “I’ve been seeing her a lot here recently” or “A Nirvana shirt! I miss the 90’s!” It’s all very matter-of-fact and non-judgmental. Sure, there are critical people out there, but if my thoughts can be neutral, then that certainly can be true for others as well.
My thoughts can still get the best of me sometimes and I wonder what other people are thinking. When this happens, I kept in mind a few things:
- I am not in charge of other people’s thoughts. I cannot change or control what other people think or do, good or bad. I’m only in charge of me, so I can choose to not make judgements, but there is nothing I can do if others want to.
- I am not a mind reader. I really don’t know what is going on in someone’s mind because thinking is invisible. My overactive brain might perceive that I am being judged, but any number of thoughts could be going through that person’s head.
- The spotlight effect occurs.1 I felt like I was under a big spotlight and everyone noticed me. In reality, people are egocentric and so wrapped up in their own lives that we think they care more than they actually do.
- Any comments are a reflection of the other person’s issues. If someone has the nerve to actually comment on my weight, it likely has something to do with their own insecurity and not much to do with me. Why? Because most people are just working on liking themselves.
I know it’s totally normal to care about what others think because humans naturally want validation, but when I find myself caring too much about what others think of me, I ask myself “Why is it important for me to look a certain way for others?” and “Why would a comment about weight gain bother me?” Getting to the bottom of those questions was something I had to work through in therapy, but now I see a fluctuation in the number on the scale as no different than having a few more grey hairs on my head;2 it’s just a change in my body and that’s it. And, at the end of the day, people will want to be around me because of who I am and not because of the size of my pants.
Now before we part ways, I would like to leave you with a very fitting Ann Landers quote:3
How does worrying about what other people think affect you? Please share in the comment section below.
1The spotlight effect is a real phenomenon if you want to do more research.
2And, oh boy, are they coming in!
3I am starting to see my evolution too. As I’m getting older, I don’t care as much about what other people think.
Thank you so much for reading my blog! I am honored that you chose to read about my experience.
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