As much as you might know that your weight loss journey is a personal experience that affects literally only you, I often see my clients getting caught up in worrying about other people. Whether it’s worrying about what they’ll think of you, or your body, or the way you look, it can be challenging to disregard what other people perceive of us, and I guarantee it’s impacting your weight loss.
How much time, energy, and money have you spent on the way your body looks for other people’s benefit? The quarantine we’ve all been going through has made me look at my own life and question why I do or don’t get ready in a certain way, and I’m inviting you this week to examine your own reasons for why you show up the way you do and to re-center yourself.
Join me on the podcast this week as I show you why we worry about what other people think of us and our bodies, and what happens when you get caught in this trap. While it feels like other people’s opinions can hurt us, I’m offering that this is a complete lie and why that is the best news ever.
This is Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown, episode 51.
Welcome to Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you’re a successful woman who is ready to stop struggling with your weight, you’re in the right place. You’ll learn everything you need to know to lose weight for the last time in bitesize pieces. Here’s your host, Master Certified coach, Natalie Brown.
Hey everybody. So I mentioned last week that I am doing an anniversary giveaway for the one-year anniversary of the podcast. I am so excited for it. I have put together a favorite things box, filled to the brim with amazingness and worth over $500.
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You may have seen the title of this podcast and thought to yourself, “What do other people have to do with my weight loss?” And if you ask that question, you are wondering the exact same thing I am. What do other people have to do with your weight loss?
An experience your body will have, that will affect them in zero ways. And yet, here we are because this is coming up so much for my clients and most of the time, they, and I’m guessing you, don’t even know it’s happening. There are some subtle hints of not so subtle ways that other people, this concept is impacting your weight loss, and I want to talk about it.
The most obvious way this shows up is worrying about what other people think of how our bodies look. Part of this makes sense. Part of this does not. This is actually hardwired into us, wanting to belong, to be accepted. When we were living in caves, we needed other humans to survive. We needed a group to keep us safe and help us get food and create shelter. We needed connections in order to reproduce.
We relied on one another for help and safety and survival really. If we didn’t fit in, if we were ostracized from the group for some reason and we were pushed out on our own, we were dead meat. Literally.
This explains why we often find ourselves comparing our bodies and our lives to others, replaying conversations in our heads to guess what the other person may have thought about what we said, trying to interpret meaning from people’s body language.
We want to belong. And we want to avoid being rejected and we fight for it as if our lives depended on it. Our primitive toddler brain has taken this and magnified it and overlaid it on to all aspects of our lives. Mistakenly thinking that it is critical to our survival, but whether or not your shirt is adequately camouflaging your stomach from being seen as it is by others is not a life or death issue.
Your survival does not depend on whether your friends at lunch noticed that you passed up the breadbasket. And yet we worry about these things as if they are the most important things to worry about. So our worry about belonging makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint.
Worrying about what other people think about how our bodies look, that comes from culture and socialization. Not from evolution. We spend much of our time, energy, and honestly, a good chunk of change on how our bodies look for other people’s benefit.
This really stood out to me during quarantine for myself. When I wasn’t going anywhere anymore and I wasn’t seeing anyone but my family, it was all sweats all the time. It was air-dried hair and clean moisturized skin, no makeup, no blow drying and curling. And definitely no shoes.
It was about how I felt. Not how I looked. And it really got me thinking. Even though I do love all things hair and makeup and clothes, I’m not someone who has to put on makeup before I leave the house or can’t be seen in anything but a fully put-together outfit.
My mom taught me growing up that I am me, no matter what I’m wearing, and that I am beautiful as I am, mascara or not. She lived that and she really allowed me the freedom to find confidence inside instead of outside.
She spent the majority of her early life really focused on her outsides. She’s beautiful and she always received lots of attention for it, and she really wanted something different for me. So I feel like I have a strong foundation by way of my mom’s example and the messages she taught me in terms of showing up as me no matter what I look like.
But as I sort of watched my transition during quarantine to total comfort focus, I took a minute to just check in and ask myself, am I only ever getting ready like hair and makeup ready when someone else is going to see me? Who is it actually for?
It was a great re-centering for me to remember why I do what I do and why I show up the way that I do. I like getting my version of camera ready a few days a week. The work I do is largely online, on Zoom, on camera, so literally camera ready because I’m going on camera.
I also like wearing clothes I’m comfortable in. Not just clothes I look good in. And I like playing around with different hairstyles and makeup techniques. It’s just kind of a fun creative outlet for me. I don’t feel pressure to have to do it, but I can do it as much or as little as I want to.
So I’ve really been focusing as I do get ready on what I want to wear for me, what I’m in the mood for, what I’m excited about. Not just how it looks from the outside.
How often do you think about your body from the inside instead of the outside view? What it feels like to be in it instead of just what it looks like. Why do you wear what you do? What do you think about in the morning when you’re getting yourself ready for the day?
Are your thoughts focused on how you will be perceived in the world by others, or how you will feel as you walk around in the world? Just something to ponder if you haven’t.
Our evolutionary desire to belong explains why we are other-people and acceptance oriented. But let’s talk about sort of the logistics or the mechanics of what’s happening when we are worrying about what other people think of us/our bodies/our weight.
Let’s take the example of getting dressed. I used to wear big flowy shirts most of the time, shirts that camouflaged my stomach. I said that before from my own experience. That used to be my objective, sort of strategic dressing, to hide all the parts of my body that I saw as problems.
I thought if people saw my stomach, like if I wore a shirt that was fitted and they saw how my stomach folder over onto my legs as I sat down, they would think she’s so fat, or that’s gross, and I would feel so embarrassed if they thought that.
But let’s look a little more closely at this. First of all, what people are we talking about? Most of the time, my concern was just about all people. Any people. Whoever I happen to encounter in the world. So really, I mean think about this. Often our thoughts are centered around nameless, faceless they that we have no connection to or relationship with.
It’s just they will think or they will say or they will see. Why are we so concerned with random strangers’ opinions? Second of all, how can we know what people are thinking about us when they see us? The truth is we have no idea.
Even if they were saying the things we thought they were thinking out loud, we don’t know that those are actually their thoughts. How many times have you said, “You look great,” or, “It’s fine,” when you were actually thinking something altogether different?
It’s impossible to know what people are actually thinking. And even if we did know, it isn’t what they are thinking that makes us feel embarrassed. It’s what we make it mean about us with our brains. It’s how we interpret someone’s opinion or thoughts about us that makes us feel the way we feel.
Neither people nor their thoughts can actually jump into our bodies and cause us to feel things. They don’t have any control over our minds or our emotions. If you don’t believe me because you are of the school of thought that other people can hurt our feelings, and you’re currently thinking of tons of evidence of how this is true, I want you to consider this.
If it’s true that people can hurt us or create painful feelings in us, it then also has to be true that they can create other feelings in us as well, right? If people can make us sad, then logic follows that they can make us happy. If people can make us hate them, then they can also make us love them.
So then how do we explain the seventh grade crush that was not reciprocated? No matter what we said or did or how cute we looked, they just didn’t like us back. If we can create feelings in others, we should have been able to make them like us, right?
Or what about the parents that love their child with all they’ve got, but the child suffers from depression? No matter how hard the parents try, they can’t give their love to their child and make them feel it. On the one hand, you may be thinking it would be awesome if we could do that, if we could help someone feel the feeling of love when they’re not feeling it or feel peace or joy or confidence.
But where one is true, so then must the other be. If it were possible to put a feeling in someone else, we would have to take the good with the bad. So the embarrassment we think we would feel if someone saw our stomach and thought and then for whatever reason said out loud, “That’s gross,” would not come from those words.
It would come from what our brain makes those words mean. We would hear that and think, “I can’t believe they just said that” or, “I knew they were thinking that. And usually, they’re right, it is.”
Because the reality is 99% of the time, it isn’t what people say about us that has us hiding in our clothes. It’s what we think they are thinking. And we can only think they’re thinking it if it’s something we think ourselves. Other people’s thoughts or our guesses of their thoughts are projections of our own thoughts.
We would not guess that it’s something they might think if we hadn’t entertained the idea already. If we’re thinking that someone is going to look at us and think, “She’s clearly undisciplined because she’s overweight,” it’s because we are already believing that overweight means undisciplined.
If we think that someone is going to see our stomach and think that’s gross, it’s pretty likely that we are looking in the mirror or looking down and thinking that very thing.
If someone were to come up to you on the street and tell you that your blue hair is ugly, but you don’t have blue hair, or you have blue hair and you love it, you would dismiss it immediately. Your brain would be like, not true, doesn’t resonate, nowhere for it to land.
If someone were to come up to you and tell you your double chin is unattractive and it happens to be the very thing you are most insecure and self-conscious about, you would immediately feel hurt, shame, embarrassed, angry, whatever, because your brain would be like, that’s true, I knew everyone else was thinking it too.
It lands because your brain already has a perfect receptor site for that sentiment. The thought that your double chin is unattractive fits because you already believe it’s true on some level. When we worry about what other people might think and how we will feel if they do, we usually then create a little bit of that for ourselves right now.
It’s like we pre-feel it. We change our clothes five times because we’re worried about feeling embarrassed about what people think of how we look, and we feel embarrassed in the process of having to change so we won’t be embarrassed.
We worry about feeling rejected by others based on our appearance, and so we don’t attend a social event, and instead sit home alone and feel rejected by ourselves for not being willing to put ourselves out there.
Everything we are feeling that we are attributing to other people and their opinions is well within our control. The thoughts other people have in their heads about us, about weight, about beauty, about discipline, about whatever are theirs based on their life experiences.
We don’t have any control over what they think and perceive. The thoughts we have in our heads about us, about weight, about beauty, about discipline, about whatever are ours based on our life experiences. We have the opportunity to exercise some control over what we think and perceive and that has direct power over how we feel. Not other people’s opinions, only our own.
Notice when you are imagining what other people are thinking about you and ask yourself, what does this tell me about what I’m believing about me? Do I want to keep believing this? How is this belief impacting how I show up and how I move in the world?
Next week, we’ll continue this conversation about other people and your weight loss by looking closer at some examples of how this shows up in real life for many of you. Okay lovelies, thanks for being here. Don’t forget to review the podcast to be eligible to win the awesome anniversary prize. See you soon.
Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you want to learn more about how to lose weight for the last time, come on over to itbeginswithathought.com. We’ll see you here next week.