Thursday, October 07, 2010
In Adlerian theory the perception of reality by an individual is more important than the actual reality. When I first learned this I had a hard time believing it. We have the concept of "absolute truth" drilled into us from the time we are babies so it is hard to understand that "truth" can be subjective. Is it possible that all of those times we were called liars or punished because our story did not reflect that of our parents or teacher was because our perspective of reality was different from theirs and not because we are actually lying?
Nothing has made this theory clearer to me than my weight loss journey. At my heaviest, my idea of myself was not always accurate. I knew I was fat but I never wanted perceive myself as obese. I would spend hours getting ready for a picture only to see it later and ask "Do I really look like that?" I never saw myself as being that big. Yes, I wore a size 24, I could not walk a mile without panting, I could not climb a flight of stairs without gasping for breath and my heart pounding. But looking in a mirror I refused to see it. My perspective of myself was more favorable than reality. Now it has flipped. I tend to be much more harsh on myself. I look in a mirror and see all of the flaws. I still have fat rolls, my arms are jiggly, although my stomach is smaller it still bulges. I don't see all of the changes my 60 pound weight loss has brought. My husband assures me there is a big difference. He comments on the fact that I am getting my curves back, that my butt is more shapely, that I have more confidence. My boss and supervisor both compliment me on the changes and say I am looking great. So why can't I see it?
I get ready in the morning and feel like I look good. I may marvel over how much thinner I look and am happy with my appearance. Then later I will catch a glimpse of myself from a different angle and be disgusted. What happened? Was it just a bad angle or is it my perspective? I believe it is more my perspective than the angle. In the mornings I have just worked out and am very proud of how hard I am working. Later I may have eaten something I shouldn't have, had a bad day, or just be feeling tired or stressed. These all change how I view myself.
Another thing I have seen first hand is the mirror theory, I cannot remember the exact name because it has been years since I had sociology classses, but it states that we reflect what we believe others are thinking of us. If we believe others look at us as fat and disgusting, we present ourselves as worthless. I have noticed as I lose weight and become more confident people look at me differently. Over the weekend I even had a few guys smile at me and actually look at me. Now, I am very happily married but it is nice to think that a man can look at me find something attractive. I know the weight loss doesn't hurt and I am looking better, but I think it is more in the confidence I am gaining. I smile at people instead of keeping my head down and shrinking into the background. I hold myself differently when I walk and reflect a more confident and beautiful woman because that is what I feel inside.
I guess what I am trying to say is that my perspective of myself has changed and it fluctuates during the day. The way I see myself is what is important and not the reality of what the scale says or what my pants size says. The way I perceive others' opinion of me is also more important to me than what they actually think because that is what I reflect. So if I feel I am looking good and I feel others think I am looking good, I will perceive a more positive reality than if I feel I look horrible and that others think I look horrible.
I did not mean for this to turn into a lesson in theory. I have just been amazed at how I am finally seeing these theories in my own life that I had read about in books and thought I understood. I find it facinating how much control we have over our own reality and the fact that "reality" is different for each person. I wonder if I can use this argument to get out of a traffic ticket. "But officer, I did not perceive that I was going that fast therefore in my reality I was doing the speed limit and not ten miles an hour over."
Have a great Thursday!