This morning, for the first time in more than eight years, I weighed in at 200 pounds.
I am not proud of this fact but it's the truth. I own it. I got to this point through my own actions, not because some cruel tormenter force-fed me cheeseburgers and beer.
When I'm overweight, I tend to internalize the problem, which generally leads to a vicious cycle of overeating, shame, and self-loathing. While I'm older now and more aware of my mental processes, I still struggle with self-defeating thought and behavior. (This is exacerbated, of course, by my recent battle with depression. In fact, I suspect the depression has a hand in my life-long weight issues. The onset of both seem to be correlated.)
Being fat affects my self-confidence and self-esteem. I'm less likely to be social. When I do go out and see people, I'm less engaging (and I know it). Right now, my weight is actually hindering my work too. In April, I started a Get Rich Slowly channel on YouTube. My goal is to produce a couple of videos per month — but I'm not willing to put myself on camera at the moment.
In short: Like many people, I allow my physical make-up to dictate my mental make-up.
People are funny like that. We internalize stuff that ought not to be internalized. When we do, it becomes much more difficult to do the right thing, to make the changes that need to be made.
Take money, for instance.
Net Worth Is NOT Self-Worth
People allow their net worth to dictate their self-worth. This is true at every level of wealth.
At one extreme, you have folks like the guy in the video below who — because they're rich — believe that they're better than everybody else, exempt from the normal rules of society:
On the other end of the spectrum, you find folks who feel terrible about themselves because they're buried under a mountain of debt.
In my personal life, I've seen tons of examples of how folks conflate net worth with self-worth. Heck, I've done it myself!
- Back when I was trying to figure out how money worked, my debt made me feel like I was drowning, like I could not catch a breath. I felt miserable. I felt like I'd never amount to anything, as if my debt were an accurate measure of who I was as a person.
- My father — who would have turned 73 yesterday — internalized money too. For most of my childhood, my parents struggled to make ends meet. Dad often told us that he felt like a failure because he couldn't give us everything he wanted to give us. When the ladies from church brought us food, he was mortified. Mom and dad rarely had people over to the house because they were ashamed that we lived in a run-down mobile home.
- More recently, my little brother (who, at 45, isn't exactly “little” anymore) went through some rough times. A decade ago, he lost two homes to foreclosure. He declared bankruptcy. He moved his family to Seattle to make a clean start, but he couldn't find work. “I don't feel like a man,” he told me at the time, unknowingly broaching an interesting issue of gender dynamics. “I can't provide for my family. My wife is the one earning money. It's killing me.” (I'm pleased to report that Tony has managed to turn things around and seems to be doing well these days.)
In some ways, it's natural that we internalize factors like our fitness and our finances. They are, after all, scorecards of sorts. When I weigh in at 200 pounds, that's an objective reflection of everything I've done to my body during my 49 years on this planet. My net worth is an objective reflection of every penny I've earned or spent during my life.
Both weight and net worth serve as a scorecard for how well we've managed our fitness and finances, but they're not complete measures. That's why we use other numbers, such as BMI and muscle mass (for fitness) or saving rate and income (for finance).
Plus, it's important to note that while for most of us, most of our weight and/or net worth is a result of the quality of our decisions, chance does play a role. Some folks are born into better situations than others. And some people suffer misfortune (or enjoy lucky breaks) that drastically affects their situation.
If I believe we shouldn't internalize factors like weight and net worth — and I do believe that — what then is the alternative? [Read more…]