There are many changes I would like to make in my life: personally and professionally. But significant change often requires significant investment and how likely are you to invest in something you don’t like or believe in?
I recently read that learning to accept yourself as you are now is key to committing to a change for the better. Afterall, if you do not like yourself, why would you invest time, money and energy in improving yourself.
Miguel Blancarte, Jr., a young Chicago man who recently lost 196 lbs and was interviewed by the Chicago Suntimes, expresses the concept eloquently.
‘‘After trying so many different diets year after year and not seeing the results that I wanted, I became happy with the person I was and with how I looked,’’ he said in an email interview. ‘‘I realized that continuing to go through life with disliking the way I looked or feeling bad with how I looked was pointless. I accepted how I looked and was happy and confident with myself.
‘‘However, while I accepted how I looked, I could not accept some realities. I have goals in life that I would like to achieve, and I came to realize that the goals were senseless if I did not have the time to accomplish them. The path I was walking was a perilous one because I was putting many years of my life in jeopardy. At 24-25 years old, I was risking shaving off years of my life, a reality that I could not accept. And as my doctor mentioned, I was seeing death in my 40s.’’
Our experiences and viewpoints are very similar. While I have also learned to accept how I look, I can no longer accept some of the limitations. There is the well-known, fact that first impressions are based largely on visual presence. A voice coach told me 70% of a first impression is composed of the physical. This includes your actual appearance in addition to your body language. Hearing this definitely made me anxious about how I was being perceived.
Then later this year, I attended an executive breakfast with the CEO of a well-known global executive search firm. He emphasized the importance of making the committment to physical fitness as part of his daily routine. Not only does it provide him with the energy, strength and endurance he needs for his demanding days full of travel but it lends to his presence.
The CEO went on to say that others will often make assumptions about your character, capacity and abilities based on your fitness level. Can you handle stress and demanding work hours? Will you be out of the office due to frequent illness? What impression will you make on clients? Can you prioritize and manage your time? Are you disciplined? The list goes on.
I mulled this over quite a bit after the event and eventually spoke to my husband about it. By the time I got around to sharing the experience my husband, I felt sure that I knew what his response would be, “Sherry, don’t worry. You are a good person who works hard for yourself and others. People will see beyond your weight.”
So, one evening I finally told Bert about my experience with the executive and shared my own thoughts and concerns. I eventually asked,”won’t people look past my appearance to my dedication and abilities? Afterall, I contribute quite a bit of my personal time and resources to charity work.”
Bert looked at me and said, “People don’t have time for that.” On some level, I already knew this. In this fast paced world, people rely on first impressions and snap decisions. As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his book Blink, people take in information and pull upon their own experiences, biases and knowledge to come to conclusions about people and situations.
In this time of great competition, why not place more of the odds in your favor and have your physical self more accurately represent who you are inside? When I look at myself in this photo from the Teen Living Programs gala of 2013, I do not feel that this is a true representation of who I am as a person. My physical presence does not convey my strength, focus and endurance. So I have started my path to change working with a personal trainer, taking gym classes and changing my eating habits.
If you are considering beginning your own journey to internal to external alignment, just remember to keep liking yourself on your path to change. And remember, beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but first impressions are often established in the blink of an eye.