Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Ugly Duckling Experience

Wow, it's been awhile! I may be going back and removing my old posts here in the interest of reclaiming it as a personal blog space. A lot of my views have changed significantly since they were written! I wrote up a response to a question someone asked about how experiences change for a person who goes through the "Ugly Duckling" scenario, and figured I would share it here in order to reach a wider audience.

All of my life I've been a heavy guy. Even when I played football for those two years in high school (the best shape I had ever been in prior to this year) I was a lineman, so I worked out and ate in such a way that I was still pretty massive and carried a lot of extra weight. Most of my life I've been patently unhealthy, eating as many as 5 or 6 thousand calories in a single meal at times and rarely getting more physical exertion than walking to the kitchen to grab a soda or beer.

Because of my being unhealthily overweight, I was always very self-conscious. In fact, I would freeze up whenever a girl talked to me in middle school, and it wasn't until high school that I started to develop the skills necessary to have a normal conversation with women. Even then, I had a lot of work to do to feel comfortable with social interactions, and it took me a long time to get through it.

So, I was a fairly ugly duckling. Fast forward to a couple years ago.

I reached a point where I was getting tired of the routine I was in where I would come home from work, grab something to eat, and play videogames all night. I decided I wanted more of a life. So I started going out to a particular bar. I got into Hockey and Baseball, and I befriended the staff that worked at said bar. I would talk to people I sat by, and even made a few friends. Slowly I worked on building my social skills.

I also did some work to develop a sense of style. I stopped wearing ratty jeans with tennis shoes and oversized t-shirts all the time and started getting better-fitting button-down shirts with collars, nice jeans, and black leather shoes. I got my hair cut, learned to style it a little bit, and trimmed my beard. These were superficial changes, but they did mean that people weren't repulsed or uncomfortable around me as much. I kind of got to neutral.

Now, I've lost 45 pounds since the start of the year, as of this morning's weighing. I've developed a bit of muscle, and burned a lot of fat, and I'm in better shape than I have ever been. I still have some work to do, but I'm at the point that I look good, even in some tight-fitting t-shirts. I am also much more outgoing, and have built up a lot of self-confidence. My demeanor is very laid-back and nonjudgmental, while at the same time I'm enthusiastic and energized with the things I engage in. I'm the guy that can go from sitting back with a drink to singing and dancing and back again in a matter of minutes.

So, very much not an ugly duckling anymore.

With all of that background in mind, I get very different reactions from people now. I'm no longer avoided or ignored much. People seem genuinely interested in engaging with me in conversation. People almost always smiled back at me when I was younger, but it's mostly the polite fake half-smile. Now I get genuine smile responses. I get people starting conversations with me as often as I initiate with others. People are generally willing to do things for me if I ask, even if I don't know them.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows though. I get a fair number of resentful comments behind my back from people who aren't as attractive or socially successful as I am. I also had my first experience of being objectified by a woman recently, and while it was a nice ego boost at first, it quickly became very off-putting to experience. I've had to learn how to reject other people's advances and not feel badly about it, which was a new experience for me. I don't often get the option to keep to myself if I just want to get dinner quietly on my own, unless I cook it myself at home. The increased attention I get from prospective partners can also get frustrating because I'm getting a lot more attention from people I don't actually connect with.

So, what's it like to be attractive? Overall, it's nice. I definitely have noticed the Halo Effect taking place a number of times. But it has its drawbacks too. Looks aren't everything!

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