The fear of success arises in patients when they realize a genuine change is occurring and they are moving forward with their life. To have bariatric surgery is to pursue an allusive dream that is now being realized – many patients have dreamed all of their lives of successfully losing weight. This time the miracle is working and the pounds are melting away. This time there is no familiar failure, no relapse to bad behavior. This time we are eye-to-eye with success. Weight loss surgery guarantees successful weight loss, and increases the odds for long-term successful weight maintenance.
The fear of success is very real because it’s about the unknown. We have not succeeded at dieting or weight loss, that’s why we are having surgery. It will take us into the unknown. The fear of success is real. It is also futile. Weight loss is going to occur in spite of our greatest fear of succeeding.
The fear of success is an umbrella sheltering many other fears. Some patients say they fear loneliness, that successful weight loss will lead to isolation. Some women fear the empowerment of healthy self esteem will make them unlovable. Others fear success will make them vulnerable to people whose intentions are not genuine. Many women fear that successful weight loss will make them more attractive to others and could jeopardize their intimate relationships.
For every fear there is a weight loss patient whose fear has come true. One trimmed down woman was lonely when her life-long friends “the Fat Pack” isolated her from the group. Another woman, so empowered by her weight loss and healthy self-esteem, became a career ladder climber with a single focus for reaching the top – she became unlovable. Slimmed down single gals report suspicion of their suitors saying, “he would have never loved me when I was fat – his intentions are not genuine.” And many other newly svelte women have found themselves divorced and alone. A jealous spouse simply could not manage the male attention his wife was attracting.
Some fears of success are easy to dispel because they will probably never happen, such as the fear of waking up morbidly obese again. But some are real, and some do happen. When a person affects great change, the relationships around them are forced to change. Some friends will always cheer you on, but others are steeped in jealousy and will denigrate you for moving forward. Perhaps a suitor wouldn’t have loved you before weight loss, but truthfully, did you love yourself? If not, how could you expect someone else to love you? Some spouses will embrace the new you, others with tremble and run in the wake of fear your change has awakened in them.
I believe the fear of success goes in hand with the social inferiority we felt as morbidly obese people. As we realize successful weight loss we start to think we don’t deserve to be thin, healthy and attractive – these are reserved for the beautiful, smart, successful people. If we become these things – healthy, beautiful, thin, attractive, successful – then we are frauds and hypocrites. We are undeserving.
This is self-loathing and destructive behavior. It leads to self-sabotage. Patients report uncontrolled behavior changes such as snacking, eating sugary or high fat foods and not exercising. When a patient falls into the downward spiral of self-loathing and sabotage they show a complete disregard for the four rules. Patients know what they are doing is harmful to them. Many admit feeling unworthy of weight loss success. Some patients have become so destructive they have gained weight and compromised their health.
The saddest part of self-sabotage is that it only hurts ourselves. The best thing about self-sabotage is that when we recognize it we can cease the harmful behavior.
To manage the fear of success first acknowledge that you have the right to succeed and the right to enjoy your success. Nobody stood up to the plate for you and had surgery – it is you who made the sacrifice and paid the price to affect a healthy change in your life. Weight loss surgery will affect the way you conduct yourself every day for the rest of your life. It was not a simple one-shot solution. You pay the price for success with every bite you take, every swallow. The price is very steep – don’t ever minimize it. As obese people we are skilled at declining compliments and credit for the things we accomplished, we felt socially inferior for so long. But weight loss surgery is your sacrifice and your accomplishment: you are sole owner. You have a right, and an obligation to yourself, to celebrate the wonderful success it brings.
Next understand that your success is about you, not anyone else. If others exclude you from their “fat pack” it’s not because you have succeeded, it’s because of how your success makes them feel. It has nothing to do with you. If a spouse is so insecure they would rather you be unhealthy and unattractive then it is their issue, not yours.
Your weight loss is about you – you didn’t lose weight to show superiority over others – you lost weight because you had a debilitating illness that could be treated with surgery. The result of that surgery is weight loss. The result of weight loss is a longer, healthier life; and yes, a thinner, attractive beautiful person. While others may see it differently, the fact is, you have lost weight to save your life.
You have succeeded.
You have the right to celebrate your success.
Kaye Bailey is a weight loss surgery success story having maintained her health and goal weight for 5+ years. An award winning journalist, she is the author and webmaster of http://www.livingafterwls.com and http://www.livingafterwls.blogspot.com
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