You are your before picture
So I stole this line from, I believe, one of my favorite podcasts, Girls Gone WOD. They had an episode lamenting the rise in before and after pics and how it invites unfair comparisons. And as someone who has posted many before and after pictures, this isn't about negating your physical hard work and it isn't about not being proud of your accomplishments. There is NOTHING wrong with wanting to improve your health and showing off those improvements. However, there IS something wrong with other people seeing those changes and thinking they can attain the same results. Or worse, other people seeing your changes and those changes making them feel badly about themselves.
Now, we can't control how other people react or feel. But we can stop comparing ourselves to others. If you see a photo of someone you know (note: I said someone you know, since a photo of a stranger or celebrity has no basis in truth or provability.) there is no harm in congratulating them on their accomplishments. But you must not allow their successes to make you feel badly. If, however, you're motivated to make change because of them, that's fantastic! And honestly, that's the best thing anyone can ever tell me. But remember, you aren't them. Your body isn't them. Your mind isn't them. Your life isn't theirs. You won't look like them because YOU AREN'T THEM. YOU ARE YOU. End of.
We all need to work with what we have. Now, speaking from my own experience, I didn't know what I was working with, from a physical perspective. I didn't know I was strong. I didn't know I would develop traps and lats or my arms would become so defined. I spent my whole life thinking I was big-boned (myth!) and I'm now a size 4. This is not a humble brag. This is a fact. And one I had no way of knowing was an option for my body. People often ask me how I got certain parts to be defined or be so big and the answer is, I have no idea. I can't control what happens to my body from exercise and healthy eating. Yes, I can control how much I lift or how much I eat, but I can't know how that will change my overall body composition. I do know how much it positively impacts my health. I do know it allows me to lift luggage and groceries. That I can run around the park with my son and not get winded. That I can walk miles on vacation and climb steps and not get fatigued. That I do know. But I never went on this journey expecting any specific physical outcome. Because that I can't control.
As for that before picture? Is it still me? Of course. And the after picture is me. Not someone who I idolize or aspire to be. Not someone I saw on social media. Just me. But more than the extreme physical change, has come a complete and ever evolving mental one. In reality, that woman and I are light years apart in how we approach life. The heavy me was unhappy, hiding beneath layers of fat, doubting my value and my worth. That woman didn't know how to eat for fuel and pleasure. She ate what she thought tasted good, but of course it just tasted like disdain and self loathing. It tasted sneaky and unhealthy. That woman had no confidence in herself. She never thought about herself with any introspection. She existed. She wasn't present in her own life.
I'm going to touch more on the mental journey in another post because in many ways, that's the most important and the most significant. Because if you don't change your mindset, anything you change to your body won't last. Change your mind and you change yourself forever. That is a promise.