We’ve all heard the saying “nothing succeeds like success.” It’s one of those sayings we can all parrot but don’t really think about what they mean, if they mean anything at all. But, in my opinion, the idea is that success builds upon itself. Think about it: we invest with companies and people who have a proven track record. We know they can do what they said, so we feel confident in giving them our trust and our money.
The same is true with confidence: it also builds upon itself. I remember watching yet one more episode of My 600 lb Life in which the patient Erica was having difficulty getting help from her family with her weight loss. She needed someone to help her set up a new living situation, and one of her biggest problems was her lack of self-confidence. Basically, she didn’t believe in herself and when you saw her family dynamic, it was easy to understand why. Her brother had essentially written her off as a lost cause and her sister and brother in law pretty much treated her like something they stepped in and had to scrape off their shoe. Her father (who did not appear in the episode) had called her Godzilla when she was growing up and her brother admitted that their father was probably embarrassed by Erica’s size. The only one who had believed in Erica and tried to help her was her mother, who had passed away a few years earlier. Essentially, with the exception of her niece, Erica was ignored by her family, the overall message being she’s a failure at life and isn’t worth their time or effort to try to save.
Paradoxically, once Erica starts on the diet, her sister makes it clear to her that she completely expects her to fail and at the same time taunts her for not staying on the diet. This is the atmosphere that Erica grew up in and this is probably the biggest and truest reason that she weighs 600+ lbs. When you are told repeatedly by the people who are supposed to love and support you that you are worthless and a failure, you begin to believe it. It’s a living example of my favorite line from The Simpsons: “Can’t win- don’t try! Got it!”
Erica is just an example of what so many of us internalize: “I can’t do this.” Whatever ‘this’ is doesn’t matter, because we go into the project believing we have already failed. It can be running a marathon, doing your taxes, painting a room- it does not matter if we approach it as if it’s an impossible task. We make a token attempt and when we fall flat, we aren’t surprised and shrug it off as “I was right!” It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: I know I can’t do this; I try to do this; and I fail. “Told you so!”
Most of us approach weight loss with the same kind of baggage- we bring all our past failures with us along with an attitude of “why should this time be any different?” It’s our internal dialog more than anything that kills our success. We tell ourselves that we aren’t good at diets; that we can’t make the kinds of changes to lose weight; and sometimes we tell ourselves that we are just destined to be the “fat one.” It’s a bizarre attempt at protecting ourselves from the failure “we know is coming” because if we don’t get our hopes up, we don’t get hurt as bad in the fall. We feel comfortable with failure- it’s a known quantity.
We have no confidence in ourselves and it is this lack of self-confidence that keeps us eating gigantic Costco muffins all day. It keeps us from getting up out of our chair and making the changes we need to make. The changes themselves are not difficult to make: walking around the block; eating more veggies and less starches; not grazing through a bag of chips or crackers all day. Obviously, there’s a lot more than these simple changes to losing weight, but don’t forget: nothing succeeds like success.
This is where confidence, success and motivation converge. When we start getting things right, we start building confidence, and the more we get right, the more we want to try getting other things right too! The more we accomplish, the more we realize what we can do, and this is motivation. We want to try more things and the more we succeed, the stronger our confidence becomes.
But confidence doesn’t happen by accident. One of the pitfalls is that it takes a long time to build confidence. It’s one of the reasons this blog is titled “Taking the Long Weigh to Skinny.” It doesn’t happen overnight, but we have to believe in ourselves just to make the attempt- and I don’t mean that token try just to show that we ‘tried.’ Confidence is hard for most of us. Some people are born either with a great deal of self-confidence or the pigheadedness to keep getting back up after falling flat. No one succeeds all the time, no matter how confident they are, and when we find ourselves face down on the floor, we can either stay there or get back up to try again. It’s our choice.
For me, that’s what it comes down to: whatever I want to do or not do is ultimately my choice. (For the record, I’m one of the pigheaded ones.) For most of my life, my choice was “I’m just destined to be the fat one” as I kept getting bigger and bigger. I was going through the photos on my phone a couple of nights ago, and I found photos of me I didn’t know or had forgotten I had and I was seriously shocked at my size. Even in a selfie from just two years ago, I could not believe how big I was- and I had already lost about 50 lbs by then! It was a series of choices to just keep making more positive changes until it was no longer “I think I can do this” but rather “I am getting this done!” It wasn’t an easy process learning to believe in myself when I’d spent a lifetime telling myself that I was the ‘fat one.’ I chose to believe that was true, until I chose to believe that I could be someone else, but getting there meant I had to believe in myself. It meant trying again and again until I got it right, but it also meant giving up that comfortable feeling of failure.