Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Barely recognizable

A couple of people I know have recently lost a LOT of weight. 

Of course it happened gradually, but after a while folks started to notice. "Wow, you really look great!" people said to them, especially those who hadn't seen them for a while. They flushed with pleasure and showed off the new clothes they'd been able to buy. Or they just said, "Thank you," and grinned to themselves. 

Photo Weight Loss courtesy of luigi diamanti at
Occasionally, someone who hadn't seen them since their "before" picture would say to them, "I almost didn't recognize you!" More smiles. 

Few people would argue that when someone who's overweight loses weight, there are so many health benefits that it would be ludicrous to criticize someone for not being overweight anymore. Or to try to twist that person's arm into overeating again. 

Weight loss is an easily visible transformation. The results are measurable, and those who care about the person who has succeeded in taking off weight would no more do or say anything to jeopardize their success than they would try to drive full speed into a concrete wall! 

Yet when the change is internal, that's often the first thing that happens. People are used to relating to someone in a certain way - and when that person changes, it can be hard for them to adjust. They may react in any number of ways: anger, sadness, fear, or a combination of those ... and more. What is excellent news for the person who's changed on the inside to mature or grow, become more free of fear, of resentment, of anger ... is often NOT good news for those who still see the changed individual as the same old person they used to know. Not that he or she hasn't changed. It's that the people around him or her are actually living in denial, not wanting to admit there's been a change. Or, they see the change but they really don't like it. Like the old drinking buddies of the alcoholic who's in recovery, they just want to go back to the "way things used to be." 

First, the person usually looks the same. The automatic assumption is that the person therefore IS the same ... and that the "change" he or she claims to have experienced either won't last or is somehow suspect, perhaps a veiled personal attack against family and/or friends from that former lifestyle. This leads to some inevitable boundary issues, and may actually lead to the end of certain relationships.

Second, and maybe more importantly, admitting that there has been a change, or saying that it is a good thing, would be the same as admitting that their own lives might need to be changed. In a lot of cases, people just don't want to examine their core beliefs, their attitudes, or their behavior that closely. 

I didn't. Until I did.

That is, I had to get to the place where I was desperate enough to look for help. Anyone who needs help won't seek help unless he or she feels there is no other alternative. Everyone seems to want to do it on his or her own.

Adjusting to that kind of reaction from people from my "old life" was a stretch for me. I guess I naively thought that if I was happier with the new me, then everyone would be. I hadn't counted on folks feeling threatened by it. Or denying it even happened. Or being weirded out by my insistence on rigorous honesty.

Just like I needed to be my own motivational coach, I need to be my own cheerleading squad. To myself, I'm barely recognizable compared to my "before" profile when I look into my spiritual mirror. To the ones who know me well, they can see and rejoice in the difference too. However, very few appreciate the transformation, so most of the motivation to keep it up, and the recognition for milestones already reached, has to come from within. 

For now.

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