Today on my walk-n-think, I was pondering what used to make me feel triggered and why I no longer feel that way. Why can I now listen to people talk about weight, diet, and workouts and not have all the old stuff come up? My old stuff used to go: "I'm doing it wrong. I need to change everything. I should do what they're doing. I knew I needed to watch out for that. Must be nice. That would never work for me. I always... I'll never... Starting tomorrow..."
Seeing anything about other people's food, weight, or training would cause me to compare myself to that person, doubt whatever I was doing, feel fear, and take stupid action. Like, over and over again. Comparison, doubt, fear, do something harmful and unsustainable. The first sign of the pattern unraveling was when I stopped taking action. I'd feel all the old feelings but be able to stop myself from acting on them. That went on for a long time.
Initially, minimizing the opportunity for comparison helped tremendously. Social media was a minefield of comparison and approval-seeking. As I backed away from that, I began to deal more in my own reality. How do I feel? What do I want? I could try some stuff without being overwhelmed by fears of how others would react. Fear of weight gain was the actual mind monster. I was afraid people would think less of me, laugh at me, be disappointed in me, and talk behind my back. That fear taken all the way to its crazy conclusion meant I would be rejected and unloved. I had put myself out there as a fitness person and a healthy eater. Now, I was afraid of feeling like a fraud, or being the target of jokes. And for that, I kept myself in a hellish pattern of restriction and exhaustion that wasn't even effective.
No amount of tinkering with my food and exercise would have fixed that underlying insecurity, those painful unquestioned thoughts. Whenever my scheme was "working" and I had the imaginary other people sufficiently impressed (in my own crazy mind), that was scariest of all! Now, you don't dare mess up. Don't even think about gaining weight or losing conditioning. One wrong move and they'll know!
There's no easy way out of that, but recognizing it, and focusing on my own health and happiness above all else did wonders. The better I treated myself and the more I enjoyed doing my own thing, the less concerned I was with what other people were doing or thinking. I realized that it was all me. All my painful stories about these other people and what it all means were coming from my own head. It's like a curtain lifted and suddenly I could see that. Change my thinking and everything changes. Keep trying to change my body, my food, and everyone else's opinion, and there's just no end to it.
There is a tendency to take on a diet or training method as our identity, so any questioning of it feels very personal. Without that, other people can eat or believe whatever they want and it's only about them. Age has also shifted my outlook on things. In my teens and twenties, I was insanely concerned with what every other person thought. Their thoughts were more important than my own. Managing everybody's expectations was a full-time job. At 30, that eased up a little but I was still comparing myself like a maniac. At 40, I'd been through the serious injury and not being able to walk for several months. Wow, that reshuffled my priorities! 50s and beyond, I have almost no stake in what anybody else thinks. I recognize that their thoughts are about them, not me. It's been really freeing. I find it easier to connect with and relate to all kinds of different people when I'm not projecting my own hang-ups and insecurities onto them. I see what we have in common instead of seeing my fears.