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Appearance vs. Reality (Guest Post)

In my high school English class, my teacher always told us to be on the lookout for clues that all was not what it seemed; to pay attention to characters whose inner thoughts were different from their actions, and to focus on the incongruity and what it might reveal about the characters, the story, or the world. I remember my teacher writing “Appearance vs. Reality” on the board over and over during the years I was lucky enough to be in her class. It has stuck with me, and I’m still attuned to it even when I’m watching movies or reading for pleasure.

Sometimes, I feel hypocritical even doing the occasional guest post on a fitness blog, because I feel like a total impostor; like the appearance I try to cultivate is hugely divergent from the reality. My relationship with exercise is on-again, off-again, I don’t excel at any sport (although I genuinely like a lot of them), and I’m not a nutrition expert. Some days, I feel like a total untouchable boss in the gym or in the pool, and others, I feel like an alien or a toddler who hasn’t quite gotten the hang of walking yet. I wish I could be someone who rode my bike everywhere (as it stands, I walk pretty much anywhere I can get in less than an hour and take the bus if I’m going any further). I’m a decent cook and like cooking healthy food, but have certainly been known to eat an entire pint of coconut ice cream* in a single sitting. I go through frequent cycles of “YAY I’M GOING TO EAT HEALTHY FOOD ALL THE TIME AND EXERCISE EVERY OTHER DAY” followed shortly by a crash where I eat takeout curry** every night for a week and forget what my running shoes look like.

[Image description: A greeny-blue pint-sized carton of Mint Chocolate Chip coconut ice cream.] Seriously, you don’t understand how good this stuff is.
Conceptually, I know moderation is the key to avoiding these cycles, but I haven’t quite internalized that.

Because of this, I often feel like I have no business whatsoever in blogging—even guest blogging—for a fitness blog. It seems like the kind of thing that only people who really have their act together should do; people who have it all figured out and are here to impart some epic knowledge. Even though I’ve only done a handful of posts, I dread linking to them on my own Facebook page because I’m totally convinced that people who actually know me in real life will read them and go, “Pfft, what? Who is she to talk?” (I think this is my anxiety talking, but that doesn’t make the feeling any less real.) The impostor syndrome doesn’t end there; I’m convinced that someone will realize I’ve tricked my way into my PhD program, someone will notice that all the socks I knit are basically just variations on the same theme (so take no real talent to produce), someone will find out that I have no real competence in anything whatsoever. This is indeed a case where appearance does not align with reality, or so my brain tells me.

I try to manage my worries with an awful lot of private pep talks to myself (and a lot of support from family and friends). But there’s a Catch-22: I normally rely heavily on exercise to manage my anxiety and depression, but occasionally exercise turns into a source of anxiety. For the time being, I guess I’ll just keep rolling with the on-again, off-again cycle that I’ve come to know and love (?), but I sure wish I could shake the feeling that I’m not good enough and have managed to trick everyone else into thinking I’m something I’m not. Of course, things are further compounded by the fact that I do genuinely believe that it’s okay just to do things you like doing, regardless of whether you’re actually “good” at them. So then I worry that I’m being hypocritical, and I question why not being good enough is so troubling to me. If you truly believed that it was okay to do things you like doing, whether or not you’re good at them, the little voice says, you wouldn’t feel like such an impostor.

There isn’t any grand lesson or moral to be gained from this post. I just wanted to throw these ideas out there. How about you, readers? Does any of you ever feel like your appearance doesn’t match your reality?


*And let me tell you, this is one case where “vegan” is unequivocally not the same as “healthy.”

**Again, “vegan” ≠ “healthy.”

5 thoughts on “Appearance vs. Reality (Guest Post)

  1. Yep. I get this. And I literally have to stop myself from writing a similar post pretty much every month. I think a lot of 20-somethings are too hard on themselves (myself included) with what we think it means to “have it all figured out,” or think that we have to have our shit together like, yesterday! I often look at my bad days or moments as way more meaningful than they deserve. I treat them as evidence to be filed in my “Tracy is a Failure” folder. But the reality is that there are good days and bad days, and maybe it’s better to just treat them with the same amount of compassion. Good moments are okay and bad ones are okay too.

  2. Sounds like The Impostor Syndrome (there are books). 🙂 And also like being human, and like being female in cultures that bombards us with so many conflicting and “perfectionist” expectations that we struggle to figure out who we want to be let alone who we are.

    Comparison is the thief of joy, is I think how the quote goes. Comparing to others who may or may not really be the way they seem, to the ideals others put forth (others may only be only trying to sell you things, distract you, dis-able or sideline you), to the perfect version of yourself you’ve created from those things will cause a lot of those feelings. It’s also hard when you haven’t quite come into your own yet. (sometimes it can get a bit easier as you get older….in some ways, harder in others)

    Definitely do what you like doing, and what gives you joy, regardless of what you think others think or whether you think you’re “good enough” at it. The question is “good enough for whom?” 🙂 And know that most people aren’t looking at you or thinking anything about you – they’re feeling the same feelings and worrying what you think of them! Someone once said “what other people think of me is none of my business”. It’s what you think, and what floats your boat, that matters. In some ways, what you’re going through makes you a “perfect” fitness blogger – whatever that is – relatable, more so than people who supposedly always eat according to the trendy diet of the day, who crush all their workouts, who never have doubt, or an off day. (look at who you really admire, elite or not – what characteristics do they have? are they “perfect” or real? think Velveteen Rabbit, it’s a better life in the end being real and being known, truly, not having an image that people think is you…lonely and scary to feel “not known”)

    And Tracy is right – good moments and bad moments happen, and that’s okay. And either way, they pass. All is impermanent.

    Sharing the human-ness – foibles, flaws, inconsistencies, struggles, joys, triumph, humor, fear – is part of why I – and others I’m sure – read the blog. Knowing that we’re not alone in how we feel is precious and helps us go on. So keep it up!

  3. No, I would definitely say we need people like you on social media. The ones who accept they are not perfect; that health/fitness can be achieved, even if it’s not you 100% of the time. Personally, for me, I get kind of down seeing health/fitness people NEVER falling off. It makes me feel like when I do I might as well just give up altogether. But you show that while we are not always where we want to be, we can still get there with little breaks in between.

  4. Whoa. I related to this post on so many levels. I definitely find my appearance not matching my reality, e.g. trying to appear like I have it together when on the inside I feel like I don’t have the slightest clue what I’m doing. And tracyrwdeboer is right. When you’re a young adult, you chase this perfect ideal of what you believe adulthood entails and end up being extremely hard on yourself. Doing so places incredible amounts of pressure on yourself and causes self-doubt to spread like wildfire. But posts like this help us all to cope and realize that we’re not alone in our feelings. Thanks for being so real! 🙂

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