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Physical: Height Weight Shape General Appearance Hips Chest Arms Legs Posture Ways You Move Attractiveness Grooming Hairstyle Wrinkles Looks What Age Voice Age-Appropriate Taste In Clothes Make-Up Expertise Bearing Teeth Fingernails Appearance - Strongest Points Appearance - Biggest Shortcomings
Other: Usual mood Politeness Attitude Confidence Level Empathy Level Honesty Rating Personality - Strongest Points Personality - Biggest Shortcomings Dealing with People -- Strongest Points Dealing with People -- Biggest Shortcomings
Next to each personal quality, write down one to three adjectives you feel best describe you on that facet of yourself.
Now give list to several friends, your spouse, relatives, coworkers. Tell them you're involved in a project or survey and make sure they can submit it anonymously. Having it completed by someone you think doesn't like you can be most revealing of all!
How closely do all lists overlap?
Typically, there will be substantial repetition in a number of areas. There will likely be divergence between people who know you very well and those who only see a certain side of you, at work, at school, in business.
Now combine lists, deleting repetitions, so that you have anywhere from a few words to dozens of words to describe your public persona. Since we are primarily interested here in weight management, concentrate on descriptors that relate to your physical attributes. Do others see you as you see yourself or are there a few shockers showing up?
Focus on those and try to ferret out source of contradictions. Are you misleading yourself about way you look or are you unconsciously facing world in a manner designed to create a certain image? Do you focus on your "good points" - a small waist you cinch tight with a belt - and forget about other areas - your hips look enormous in comparison? Do you fake something imperfectly such as a hairpiece, a shoe lift, padded underwear? Have you convinced yourself that long, flowing clothes, or oversized suits, make you look slim? Do you always study your face in glow of bathroom warming lights to convince yourself that wrinkles don't really show?
What can be very gratifying and self-affirming about this exercise is that much of what is written about you is far more tolerant and non-judgmental than how you describe yourself. You are your own biggest critic because you know yourself so well - that old internal criteria stuff. You want to be good, you want to be perfect, but you are acutely aware of your weaknesses and dark secrets.
This is where balance can be so nurturing: knowing how others see you can help you make any changes you want to pursue. You can start to emphasize certain aspects of yourself while discarding tricks that everyone saw through. If you want to modify your appearance, lose weight, build strength, it will be valuable only if it is built on reality of where internal and external converge. You are considerably more likely to attain your goals if they arise out of where you are and lead naturally to where you want to be.
One more side effect of this little exercise: you find out that no one in whole world is as interested, or as focused, on you as you are! Even close friends and family may have difficulty in finding descriptors for you: "I just never really thought about it." Of course they didn't because they were too busy concentrating on themselves. Once you really grasp this concept, it can be incredibly freeing. You can start to lose that self-consciousness that tells you others are studying and judging you. That standing-out-from-the-crowd vulnerability can start to fade. That "I can't go looking like this" panic can start to wane.
And as you start to realize that your weight and appearance are primary focus of only yourself, you can start to understand that whatever your physical shape reflects, it is your appreciation which is vital, not other people's. Manage your weight, and manage your life, for yourself - not for those others "out there" who don't even notice.
Virginia Bola is a licensed psychologist and an admitted diet fanatic. She specializes in therapeutic reframing and the effects of attitudes and motivation on individual goals. The author of The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a free ezine, The Worker's Edge, she is currently working on a psychologically-based weight control book: Diet with an Attitude. She can be reached at http://dietwithanattitude.blogspot.com