I was always interested in psychology of the mind years prior to undertaking a degree in psychology. Throughout the hundreds of books, I read explanatory style always interested me with its explanation of why people blame negative events on all the surrounding, permanent aspects of the self and external forces. For example, in my case, I argued with consultants and even the dietician that my disability and restrictive lifestyle was to blame. I also blamed the mini-Sainsbury on my doorstep and the Poundshop within a ten minute drive and convinced myself that should I not be surrounded by these shops I would not binge on Custard Creams and packs of chocolates. Prior to constructive self-criticism kicking in I never once told myself that if I avoided these places I would not have the goodies to binge on. Nor did I consider researching and discussing with professionals and others in my situation ways of getting fit within my limits. Then I experienced a strange encounter with myself.
It was the day of my first swimming lessons and I was relieved that the locker room was empty. I had signed up for a membership that day also so that I could avoid using the public locker rooms. After a struggle getting into my swimsuit and bearing excruciating pain from the straps digging into my shoulders whilst walking through the changing room I noticed the woman at the end of the room watching me. The closer I got the familiar she became as the chubby stranger with two chins and flabby arms eyed me up and down with a look of sheer horror and disgust. I suddenly felt uneasy and embarrassed and turned my head away and rushed out to the pool area. However, it was no use I couldn’t relax and with five minutes to spare before my swimming lesson I rushed back to changing room to confront that look of horror. As I expected she was still there waiting when I returned and again staring straight at me. However, this time her look was of sorrow and sadness. She looked familiar because she was me looking back at myself in the full-length locker room mirror. The tears welled up in my eyes as I let my towel drop and I asked myself out loudly “how could you let that happen”?
I already had the answers but until that moment I couldn’t see them until I allowed constructive self-criticism to kick in. The reality that my weight gain, lack of activity and reclusiveness could not solely be blamed on my disability had now sunk in. I was forced to admit that I am responsible for my body irrespective of my circumstances and that it was only me who could make changes and put things right with myself.
Constructive criticism covers the degree to which someone attributes changes in lifestyle externally or to the inner-self. Disability can be physical or psychological. In my case it is chronic disease that affects my physical capability but being the one-time optimist and after three years of ignorance I stopped dwelling on how much weight I put on or how badly I felt. I knew it was time to turn my bad experience in the locker room into something positive and a new start. I prepared myself for a difficult road but I knew I would re-educate myself and put my life back into perspective.
Behind every disability is a person and in keeping that in mind so began my swimming lesson and journey back to fitness began.