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How to Stop Caring About What Other People Think of Your Body

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Gah! This topic! So juicy. Thank you to the ladies who brought it up recently on the JillFit Facebook page in a thread about metabolic damage and yo-yo dieting.

There are many ways to go with this post, but let’s start with two truths:

  1. Your knee-jerk reaction to this subject is most-likely, “Of course we shouldn’t care about what others think! That’s stupid!” or even, “Anyone who cares what others think of their body is just insecure!”
  2. Ok, great. But you’re also human, and even if you don’t want to admit it, you do care. I do, too. That person who you think is judging you cares too. IT’S NORMAL.

So with that being said, how do you stop caring as much? Because let’s face it, even though it’s normal, it’s also one huge distraction from realizing our full potential, living with passion and purpose and showing up in our lives 100% authentically.

When we worry about how others see us — our bodies, our likes/dislikes, how we dress, what we say, what we write on social media, the #selfies we put on Instagram, whatever — it’s one huge mental circus. And it’s a block to achievement and living a life you love.

When we are always worried about how we are being perceived by others, it’s a mental drain that holds us back.

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I have experienced this many times myself, and see it frequently with my Best of You gals. It can be crippling: self-doubt, fear of being called out (especially as a fitness professional when you are teaching others how to get fit or lean!), fear of judgment, thinking people are losing respect for you because of your body, feeling like you want to explain your physique to everyone, or even just straight-up feelings of embarrassment or shame. I’ve written on how it feels to regain weight after you’ve lost it, here. The mental side of weight regain especially, is devastating.

And many of you have brought it up with regards to metabolic damage and how when your metabolism literally gives out on you, the results are what they are — often weight gain or at least change in body composition. You can only push so far until your body pushes back. Read about the mental challenges of metabolic damage here. And sorry, but when your body no likey your insane cardio routine anymore and stops responding, you have no choice but to change your approach. And dealing with the fallout of what other people might think can be unexpectedly saddening.

I have two clear memories of struggling with how my body was being perceived by others. Again, I know, I know, we’re “not supposed to care” — but that doesn’t change the fact that, well, we do. And instead of pretending it’s all good, I think it’s important to address this and find some solutions for improvement.

Memory #1 was after my first competition. I’ve written about it many times, but what I experienced was simply a constant state of embarrassment for months when out in public. Besides, people had just seen me mere weeks ago looking my leanest and most fit ever, and winning my competition, to now what I considered a fat, lazy, slob with no willpower. PEOPLE MUST BE JUDGING ME! I’M A HUGE FRAUD!

Things were all good when I was getting in shape, I felt on top of the world! People were commenting nonstop about how good I looked, how fit I was, “When’s your show, Jill?” The attention was addictive. Then, weeks later, after gaining a quick 15 lbs in 2 weeks … where did the comments go? How am I worthy now? I must not be adequate because the affirmation I was addicted to was no longer there. HELP! I just need to get back “in shape” really quick!

And we all know how the story goes. The yo-yo dieting cycle continues.

Memory #2 was more recent. It was a couple years ago, and I had been eating moderately for about a year, feeling good with everything being pretty effortless. So, my nutrition component had been worked out, but my head wasn’t yet. There was still a disconnect going on with the body esteem component.

I got asked to speak at an industry conference on online fitness business. The conference was a FITNESS MODELING CONFERENCE. I was going to be teaching fitness models in the audience how to build their online businesses. Holy shit, I AM GOING TO BE THE FATTEST ONE THERE!

I started to feel really insecure about my body. I didn’t want to change my eating because it was the easiest thing on earth, buuuuuut, was I lean enough??? Surely none of these models will take me seriously if I am not 12% body fat? I should probably tighten up! This lasted for a good month and as I’ve written before, now that I eat moderately, it’s impossible to actually do anything more strict, it just makes me cranky and dissolves willpower — no actual behavior change occurs. So for a month I stressed out, didn’t do anything different, didn’t look any different, and showed up to the event.

I did what I recommend in #4 below. I showed up, gave myself a mental pep talk, harnessed my confidence, pulled out my inner businesswoman and killed the talk. It served as (another) affirmation to me that my body is not my contribution. My physique doesn’t help people get better or improve their lives. My body says nothing about my confidence, my intelligence, my ability to help others or inspire change. Looking back, I was pretty lean and fit. Not my leanest or fittest, but fuck that — I made an impact. And THAT is worth a thousand times more than visible abs.

LOOK for those opportunity for affirmation! And when you see how powerful you are in the world regardless of your body shape or size, cherish those moments, let them sink in and use them to transcend the need to have “a perfect body” to be effective in the world.

And so, my tools:

1) Let them judge, and work on you.

Even though it’s hard — and I don’t know that you ever get away from it completely — what someone thinks about you is not your business. The idea that you can or should spend time trying to convince other people what they should think about you is insane. You could try, and you’d drive yourself crazy doing it. Let people think what they are going to, and work on your own interpretation and emotional detachment. The tool is releasing our attachment to their assessments. Again, not easy, but definitely worth the internal practice. Here’s how I do it.

2) Pity those who judge someone’s worth based on their physique.

I am not going to be holier-than-thou about this. I’m going to be straight with you — this practice helped me a lot. It served as my first, knee-jerk response strategy (and then flowed into #6 below) I had to, in a sense, get a little up on my evolved soapbox. I had to mentally elevate my consciousness to the next level if I wanted to stop caring. Because even though judgment is natural, those who use someone’s physique to make assumptions about their character or worth or ability to contribute are closed-minded assholes. Sorry, but that’s how I feel about it. While judging is natural, the interpretation of that judgment is subjective. And if someone thinks you are “less than” because of your body, then be happy to not associate with them.

3) Reaffirm your goals.

Let other people compete for World’s Leanest Physique. It’s ridiculous. Let them have at it — it’s not your #1 focus. You will always want to have checks and balances in place with your eating, but your #1 goal is low stress eating and a sustainable exercise routine you enjoy, yes? To me, a reaffirmation of what I actually want — to not be obsessed with food and to minimize the amount of time and mental energy I spend on it — always puts me back in my power. Because remember, that goal isn’t about eating with abandon either — it’s about ease and joy and lightness — and eating everything you want is not easy, joyous or light. So remember, just because you want to (or were forced to, as in the case of dealing with metabolic damage) give up your old hardcore ways, doesn’t mean you are any less driven or determined or focused than someone who is working to get on stage at the Olympia. The priorities just show up differently, and it’s all good. No goal is better or worse, it’s just individual. Owning your choices immediately puts you back in your emotional power.

4) Work on finding other ways to feel worthy.

I was lucky to have made the shift from obsessive-physique-competitior-dieter to online businesswoman/blogger at the same time. This shift in focus and priorities was integral to my ability to feel like I was still making a contribution in the world, because a lot of this comes down to purpose and meaning, right? Previously, my contribution had been my body: “See, I’m so lean! Oh wait, now I’m not, I need to hide now! Oh, here I am, back at it! Lights, camera, action! Oh shit, I must suck because I’m ‘fat’ again.” And on and on … if I was lean, I was worthy and if I was in my off-season I was fat, lazy and inadequate with nothing to contribute. This is a huge fucking trap. Using your body as your #1 was to feel adequacy is a mental trap. So go out in engage in other places. Start a blog, read some books, go to a personal development conference, create a cool Instagram series, join a club, learn a new skill, travel, whatever. Find meaning and purpose elsewhere, and you’ll be looking back years from now wondering why you cared so much about what others had to say about your body.

5) Stop defending your body to people.

Resist the temptation to explain your physique. You’re amazing, perfect, whole and valuable regardless of your size; you don’t ever have to defend your body. This can be hard when we feel like we *should* be thinner, smaller, leaner, more muscular, whatever. But the second you start preempting other people’s judgments by explaining “why you look the way you do” is the second you relinquish your power. Explaining your physique sends a message to your higher self that there’s something wrong with it. So what do you do instead, when you feel that urge to apologize for being whatever sub-par think you think you are? For me, instead of apologizing for the things I’m insecure about, I put forth the things I am secure about. I assert my intelligence or play to my confidence or kill a tough workout. When I do that, it’s an affirmation to myself and an energy into the world that I have so much more to offer than my body.

6) Realize we are all in this shit together.

That person who is judging your physique is actually judging their own way more. We are all the same. There are no new stories. The person who thinks having a leaner physique makes them better than someone else, trust me, is the most insecure of all of us. BUT, the idea is that we are all insecure and we are all doing the same things. We are all working to find balance, to overcome insecurities and to find ways to feel worthy. Our natural human default, in my opinion, is to think we suck. So we use things like our bodies and our careers and our Facebook likes and our kids to boost our feelings of self-worth. And while all of those things are of course valid, no outside thing or person or assessment can ever make us feel whole and worthy if we don’t find a way to feel loved and affirmed on the inside all by ourselves. And this is a practice.

So when you judge someone for judging you, in that moment, be aware that you two are actually the same.

You’re both doing the same thing, acting out of normal human insecurity. And it’s fine! It’s actually useful to realize this because now you don’t need to be so stressed about their judgment, because you can even see what they are doing because you do it too, we all do it. So dare I say that the tool here is actually … compassion? Giving others the benefit of the doubt? These tools lessen the personal nature of the judgment because well, it’s just one judgment in a series of a million judgments that we are all doing constantly!

Gals, the JillFit 10-Week Mindset Makeover is open for a limited time, grab your spot HERE if you want to go more in-depth with these lessons. 

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