Have you ever had someone tell you that you look fantastic, only to brush them off or smile politely and carry on? When someone says “you’re looking slim!” or comments on your weight loss, do you think the complete opposite in your head? Why is it so hard for us to accept compliments even though we’ve earned them? Why are we so hard on ourselves when we get and deserve praise?
Why is it so hard for us to accept compliments even though we’ve earned them? Why are we so hard on ourselves when we get and deserve praise?
I remember the exact moment my weight loss caught up to the image I had in my head. While the number on the scale dropped 20 pounds, then 30 and 40, and eventually 60, I didn’t realize or think it was a big deal. Somehow the weight was falling without it really showing in my reflection. Despite concrete proof on the scale that I was slimmer, in my head I was still over 200 pounds, and even though my clothes had to be replaced with smaller shirts, pants and skirts, it still didn’t register with me that I was losing a lot of weight.
After the first 15 pounds came off, people took notice and told me I looked great. I’d roll my eyes as soon as they turned around or I’d wonder if they should have their eyes checked. How could someone my size “look great”? How could someone who felt so uncomfortable in her own skin “look slimmer”? What a lie, I’d think to myself.
When I reached 70 pounds of weight loss at almost 18 years old, the image I had in my head of myself was slowly catching up to the factual number on the scale. As I recount in the chapter “Not a ’12′” in my book, Keeping Daisies, I’d shop for smaller-fitting clothes to replace my large ones and would still automatically go to the plus-size section, only to find the clothes there were too big. Even when the sales associate would tell me to try the size 14 or even the size 12, I’d tell her those pants would never fit me.
To my complete shock, the sales associate was right, and I was suddenly a size 12. After I bought my first pair of size 12 pants, something inside me brightened up, as if the air I was breathing was somehow laced with excitement. I held the bag with those size 12 pants from a non-plus-size store where the other 18-year-old girls like me shopped, and swayed it from side to side as I walked in the mall.
I reached another store and was looking at some shirts to go with my pants when something caught my eye. It was this girl with curly brown hair, looking at shirts and carrying a bag from the store where I’d just bought my size 12 pants, but she was slimmer than me. While there was a slight sense of anonymity, she looked very familiar. She then caught me staring at her with widened eyes.
It was at that moment when I realized I was staring at my own reflection. And while I had seen this reflection many times, it was that instant when I really saw what I looked like after all my hard work. I was much slimmer. I had cheekbones. I had curves that were more defined. People weren’t lying — I actually did look great.
As I was leaving the store, I bumped into one of my high school classmates who hadn’t seen me since graduation.
“Wow, you look amazing!” she exclaimed.
“Thanks so much,” I replied with a genuine smile. I believed her, and more important, I deserved that compliment.
So why was it so hard for me to accept those compliments before? While someone can change their appearance, their perspective is much harder to change. I was overweight for so many years and was conditioned to believe I looked fat, that I was stuck shopping at plus-size stores and that compliments about my appearance were always disingenuous because I didn’t believe I deserved them. My shell may have changed over the course of two years, but my body image had a hard time catching up, and I was always hard on myself. Instead of thinking “Wow, I lost 70 pounds,” my mind was stuck on “I need to stop eating this and lose 20 more pounds” or “Look at my flab, so gross.” I wasn’t stuck shopping for larger clothes anymore; rather, I was stuck on the idea that I had to continuously scrutinize my appearance. I was stuck on the idea that I didn’t look good enough.
My advice to you on your journey to a slimmer and healthier you is to not only focus on the outside, but to really take some time to think positively about your accomplishments. It doesn’t have to take a 50-pound weight loss to feel proud of yourself. An accomplishment could be something as simple as going to the gym three times this week or passing on dessert. When you look in the mirror, find something you love about the way you look. Instead of scrutinizing your belly because it’s not a six-pack, focus on your sexy legs or fantastic butt!
Finally, don’t brush off the compliments you receive, because you’ve worked so hard and deserve each one.