My Varying Degrees of Perception

Perception is weird, friends.

As many of you probably know, I’m trying to improve myself physically. And that comes in many forms–working out more consistently, eating healthier (yet not dieting), buying clothes in the right size, drinking more water, etc. I’ve always had this “ideal” or “dream” image of myself (and it’s evolved and changed, once being too influence by the impossible societal expectations while now, I think my goal shape is a much more healthier and realistic vision). I’ve never reached it, despite trying–with various levels of seriousness and dedication–for years.

This year, I think I’ve definitely been the most consistent and it’s been twelve weeks since I started working out more. Though I’m still nowhere near where I want to be, I’m definitely making strides–or so I thought. And that’s where perception comes in and that is where my confusion lies, because depending on the situation, my perception of myself and my current level of progress/success changes.

For example: ever since I started working out, when I’m dressed, I think my clothes fit a lot better. Granted, I’ve also overcome the really horrible hurdle of associating worth with clothing sizes, i.e., I used to buy a size smaller than what I actually was because I was ashamed of being a Large. Now, depending on the shirt, I’m most often an XL. Same thing happened with jeans (I’m a size 16, btw).* It’s sorta obvious that wearing clothes actually made to fit you will automatically look better–I wish my high school self would have realized that. Yet I still think that they fit even better now, after twelve weeks of going to the gym/running an average of three times a week.

That’s Perception One.

Yet if I’m naked and looking in the mirror, I immediately want to cringe and run away. All I can think about is how massive I am: the stretch marks on my love handles and thighs, how I jiggle when I move, the sudden protrusion of fat at my lower back, how I have such an awkward and inconsistent shape (fit in some places and fat in others). The calves that I thought looked great in my latest pair of leggings suddenly look like massive rocks. My arms that I got giddy noticing slight muscles when I flexed are suddenly overshadowed by the fat that remains.

Perception Two.

My sister hugged me the other day and legitimately said, “Where did you all go?”, referencing to how much weight I’ve lost. My Mom–and Dad, which is saying a lot, considering he doesn’t notice anything–both compliment at my progress and how good I look. Grandma came in town? Same comment. Some people at work have complimented me, claiming I am looking good.

Perception Three.

Like the letters associated with clothing sizes, I’ve also always been terrified of the number associated with the scale. The last time I weighed myself, last year, I was mortified. I’d finally hit that dreaded 2-0-0. I had never felt so horrible about myself and have purposefully avoided the scale since. But after hearing so many compliments and feeling great, I thought I’d try again and see. I am truly stubborn about making working out a lifestyle and being more aware of what I eat this time around, so I was determined to not get discouraged if the number hadn’t changed…or even increased, since I started this quest. As of this weekend, I weigh 196. And though I still went to the gym today, still determined, I am slightly discouraged. How could I make all this progress mentality, that others have noticed, yet only weigh four pounds less?

Perception Four.

No matter what outfit I wear or how great I feel leaving the house, I avoid mirrors in public at all costs, because I believe I look like an over-inflated balloon or a beached whale.

Perception Five.

Yet sometimes, if I catch a glimpse in the mirror right after the gym, I feel beautiful.

Perception Six.

And seven, and eight, and nine and…

You catch my drift.

I think you can also understand my confusion. How can I have all of these perceptions of my appearance, sometimes running into multiple different perceptions in a single day? Which one is right? Can they all be true? Can they all be wrong? How do I maintain the positive thoughts while combating my avoidance of mirrors and my revulsion of my naked self? Will I ever be able to see actual progress, when it happens, or will my vision always be warped, depending on the environment? Will I ever believe it when someone calls me beautiful or will I always respond with, “Well, after I go to the gym for a few years, then…”

Unfortunately, I have no idea how to answer these questions.

Maybe there is no answer. Maybe I’ll never be fully accepting or loving of what my body looks like. But while that may be true, I’m also not full of hatred in every aspect and instance, like I once was. That’s important. I think it’s also important to just realize that yes, there are a lot of different ways I view myself. Sure, there may be no right answer as to which one is “true,” whether it’s Perception Two or Perception Four. Yet the positive perceptions exists. So why am I not fighting to believe in those and hold onto those, instead of focusing so much on those negative moments?

*hums as she chews on these thoughts, hoping they provided something enlightening or encouraging for you, as well*

Cheers.

* Notice how I told you those sizes (not to mention my actual weight) without being ashamed about it? That’s a sign of progress, if nothing else.

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About Nicole Evans

Nicole Evans is a writer of fantasy and science fiction. She is currently unpublished and is working fervently to get the “un” removed from that statement. She has five completed manuscripts: a trilogy about destined heroes that fail anyway, a science fiction standalone that pits the natural desire to love against the natural instinct to kill during the extinction of the human race and a new series about a writer who can't get published and gets the chance to live a life that all writers dream. She also has two scripts done. Currently, she is about to start writing the second of a nine book series while planning two more. (If you can tell, she really likes this whole writing thing.) Considering she has run out of space for putting rejections letters up on her wall, Nicole now uses her spare time doing the typical things that nerds do: blogging, dying repeatedly during video games (which she believes is retribution for the characters’ she’s killed), wishing she was the character she is currently reading about and trying to fight off the real world by living in her own head, with varying degrees of success. Nicole has a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Film and Media Studies, and works part-time as a supervisor in a library at the University of Kansas. View all posts by Nicole Evans

12 responses to “My Varying Degrees of Perception

  • Adam

    It is tricky. One thing I try to remember, in the process of losing fat, one may also gain muscle, which is not a bad thing. I think it’s very easy to get hung up on numbers, like you say, and the ever changing cultural aesthetics of the human body. It’s good to strive for self improvement, but odds are you are living healthier than most people, and that is definitely something to be proud of, regardless of how you look. Regardless of the results, the fact that you’re working hard and living healthy is itself an achievement and something you should be proud of :-).

  • Alex

    I love how genuine and real this post is. Our world needs more real talk. Props.

  • Marie E. Stump

    Remember when I told you I’ve always been a wee bit jealous of how gorgeous you are? I meant it then and I mean it now! 🙂 So proud of you for working so hard to overcome the “sticker” struggle, and to accomplish your goals! 💙 (Also, skeletal muscle is one of the denser materials in the human body. I don’t know if that helps, but it just might, so I had to share!)

    • Nicole Evans

      Marie, you blow my mind, you gorgeous, fantastic human, you. Thank you!! Actually, would you mind expanding on what you meant by skeletal muscle is one of the denser materials in the human body? Obviously, anatomy is not my strong suit…

      • Marie E. Stump

        You’re welcome! I mean every word! 🙂 Ha, sure thing! Denser materials weigh more than less dense materials do in comparable sizes. Because skeletal muscle is more dense than, say, fat, if you’re looking at equal weights of both materials, the amount of skeletal muscle needed to get to that weight would be less than the amount of fat needed to reach it. Basically, weight loss isn’t a great indicator of health advances when you’re trying to get fitter through exercise and such. So don’t be too reliant on those numbers! 🙂

  • justbmoreblog

    I find this happens to me too-view of myself changes with the time of day and the things I do. Wouldn’t be surprised if that’s most people. I hope that you tame the internal negative demons-I know that no amount of others praise can shut them up when they latch on to you.

    • Nicole Evans

      Thanks, Beth! It is a comfort (though a sad kind of comfort) to know that other people deal with the same varying degrees of perception. But I think remembering that this is a common battle that people fight and that it is a battle to begin with–and to try and focus on the good days–should help. I hope you’re doing well!

  • Olivia

    I can’t tell you how many of these perceptions are ones I have of myself at times too, I love how bold you are to bring up this topic and put your heart on your sleeve! Or on your blog page :). Coming from someone who’s known you for almost 6 years now, I have to say my perception is that you are a beautiful human being, not just because of your stunning smile, but because of the positivity amd confidence that seems to radiate out whenever we are together. You’ve always had a positive outlook on things which I’ve admired, and stayed true to who you are (not trying to be someone else, which is a trap many of us fall into as we are fed so many opinions and images through social media). Keep up the good work on both your physical image and self-perception of that image, and CONGRATULATIONS on the 4 pounds! That’s a big deal, one to be proud of.

    • Nicole Evans

      It honestly blows my mind that you’ve had these perceptions as well (though it shouldn’t, because what humans don’t question themselves on a daily basis?). Honestly (creeper moment), you are one of the women I personally know who I wish my body looked more like yours! And your work ethic and drive and humor. You’re just an all around amazing person I’d love to emulate more. And thank you so much for your compliments and sweet words. You’re seriously fantastic. ❤ ❤ ❤

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