T Nation

Skewed Self-Image


Do you ever feel like you have accumulated a very distorted self-image over years of training, just because we see ourselves in the mirror everyday but never next to the people we interact with?

I've been getting a lot more comments on my size than ever before recently and just honestly don't see myself as a big guy. Random skaters on the street: "dude you're huge!" Friends and family I haven't seen for awhile. People even making jokes to whenever there's heavy objects that need to be moved.

That was all fine and dandy and I chalked it up to the fact that compared to average population...sure I'm a big guy. But then it really messed with my head this week when I was forced to train at a commercial gym for the first time in a few years.

Some dude picked me out of a crowded gym to spot me on bench. And then I'll get guys approaching me asking how to grow their biceps or something. Thing is, these comments are coming from dudes I mentally see as bigger than me!! So my first thought is always "da fuck?!"

Anyone else experience this?

TLDR: apparently I'm bigger than dudes I still perceive as being bigger than me. Anyone else experience this?


Yeah. Just wait til guys start telling you that they want to look like you one day.


I get this a lot even though I'm actually not big. One thing that definitely sticks out as odd is that I never think I look bigger than I used too. When I see myself in the mirror I can't help thinking I've always looked the same size. i can't remember how small I was before

On a slightly related note, I find it extremely annoying that nobody thought I lifted weights until I started doing more arm work. I gained no more mass than I had already been gaining, just a little more triceps definition, but all of a sudden everybody thinks i lift. Like arm exercises are all lifting is


Yep. Al i see is the bodyfat i have left to loose even at sub 8%. Whats up with that. 5"11, 185 @ 8% and i consider myseself distincty average. What you from comparing yourself to the top physique guys instead of the average joe i suppose


Wow and I thought I was the only one who felt this way. I remember when I was at a rush event for a fraternity at my school seeing this rushee and thinking how much bigger he was then me. We soon became pledge brothers and I would find out I was 45 lbs heavier then him. He even remarked that I was the biggest pledge and one of the biggest among both pledges and actual brothers. I guess that says a lot for how I view myself. To me I am the same 140 lb weakling I was when I started.


I am with you here. A lot of day I still feel like that fat 12 year old kid who got made fun of all the time. And still see guys and think damn he's big and I'm 80 lbs heavier.

I have noticed small children always gawk and stare at me. Maybe it's because I'm hooge, but probably just because I'm funny looking.


I'm with ya guy's on this as well.I will feel like no progress Is being made at all,no changes etc.Then someone makes a comment on your physique asking questions and giving compliments.This just floors me when this happens cause most of the time I'm looking at their build and thinking that they look bigger,better than myself by far.Oh and Steel Nation I wanna look like you one day.


Having this never satisfied, I still look like shit, still weak as shit is what keeps us going. I don't think any of us who take this pursuit of ours seriously will ever be satisfied, even with all the accolades bestowed on us. I get this all the time at my gym, and it feels good to be admired and asked questions.

I always tell myself not to ever get that Big Fish Small Pond disease, because I don't want to compare myself to the average gym rat, I compare myself to my contemporaries (you guys) and it keeps me going, I compare myself to guys who are way more advanced then me and it keeps me going, it keeps my head in check. There has to be some sort of balance, being happy at your progress, happy about being noticed, but never ever satisfied.


I know there has been progress. But it's never enough. I still see myself as fat and small. I've gotten some of the most random compliments. Like on a walking trail or walking through the hospital. But I just figure those are ppl who don't know shit. I always need about 10lbs more muscle and 10lbs less fat.


I've had this, especially when i was 19/20 when i was a lot leaner, guys used to ask me what i was taking etc what roids i was on and so. That was when i was living in the U.K

Now in egypt it's even worse, 99% of people in gyms here are either super fat women who walk on the treadmill or 140lb guys who bug the fuck out of you and have no idea what they are doing.

Thankfully when i work out at 9am me and my brother are the only people in the gym.


Like Putter pointed out, it's from comparing ourselves to other who represent what we wish to achieve. As such, we put that image on a pedestal, and the idea of ever achieving it 100% is subconsciously a foreign concept. What I mean is that I highly doubt anyone ever looks in the mirror, objectively assesses their physique and goes "yep, I'm there" -lol

I would always be reminded that I truly had no concept of what I looked like when I would compete. I'd be backstage, lined up with the guys in my weight class, and I'd be eying the other guys thinking "holy crap that guy's huge", "damn he's shredded!", "sh-t I'm coming in at the bottom of this one" , and some of the most negative crap you could imagine. Of course then after prejudging someone would show me a video and it would blow my mind seeing myself amongst these other 'huge' and 'shredded' competitors, and always finding myself being placed in the middle of the lineup.

Even now, still recovering my my shoulder surgery, I see things very differently due to 20 years of pursuing an ideal. Yesterday I had to get fitted for a tuxedo for my brother's wedding in August. The last time I got fitted for a suit, the size jacket and pants were quite different than they are now (I haven't returned to my previous size yet, and I'm fully aware of that fact). Still, it certainly didn't prevent the saleswoman from freaking out over the size of my arms when my buddy and I both walked in (and he's a very large framed dude).

While most people would have been happy, it actually depressed me a bit as I argued that I was in no way impressive looking, and my friend who has known me since I was 4 rolled his eyes at how distorted my view of myself has become since hitting the iron.



Happens all the time here in Egypt 'hey rambo' i get lot, even though im bald.... and fat.

Even random people in shops when i'm buying stuff, do you workout? YOU ARE STRONK (no typo, thats how they pronounce it).

I was in croatia on my honeymoon and a waiter in a restaurant asked me for an arm wrestle, i said no problem, but if i win i eat for free. He declined my offer.


Yep totally agree Matty.Because of our mindsets I don't think we will ever reach the point of being satisfied.And I also look to like minded guys like yourself here to keep me In line with my goals.Definitely gives me the drive when I need that kick In the ass.


I wanna look like you one day Steel. But my tats are way more colorful.


Definitely Brother, while this site has taken a bit of a beating lately the fact remains it still is where I go to get most of my info, not from the articles so much but more from the threads and posters like yourself to shit ball ideas and get no nonsense advice from...sure there is bickering but such is life.

This passion or hobby of ours (whatever you want to call it) really is just not fun for most people out there....I mean there aren't many people that will go for a body comp change for fun or attempt a 600lbs squat cause you like it.


I posted this pic in a thread just like this one a while back, but I can't seem to find it. Anyway I've definitely experienced this.

Also I want to look like Steel Nation someday.


Amazing vtaper


Maybe a counter viewpoint but no I dont feel like this. I am actually pretty comfortable in my own skin and usually look around at the general population being so fat and untrainned that it is the oposite. Gives me quite a confidence and ego boost. I can easily recognize when someone is bigger than me or more developed, and some times i do get a little freaked out when I stand next to them and realize I am actually bigger or leaner or whatever, but most of the time I have a firm understanding of where I am in the food chain. Extra medium for the win!


I know what you guys mean. In 2010, I was at my heaviest I had ever been 6'4" @ 290lbs. I decided I needed a lifestyle change. Started running and doing bodyweight exercises along with some dumbbell work at the start of 2011 and eventually dropped all the way down to a skinny 195lbs by the beginning of 2012. I stayed at that weight until November of 2012 when my wife and I joined a local gym. I fell in love with the heavy weights especially front squats and deadlifts. Now I am at a weight of 215lbs and look and feel so much better.

I am working towards the body I knew in my mind I could achieve. Get compliments from friends, family, and co-workers of how far I have come. Although there are times when I look in the mirror and still can see the 290lb fat boy, or the 195lb rail. I like to learn from the big, lean guys on these forums and website so I understand I have a loooooooong way to go, but I'm amazed at people who don't know jack, think I've already arrived!! I know I have a very skewed self image due to the fact that I have been up and down and around the entire spectrum in a relatively short time. Sorry for the life story!


I prefer not to compare myself to the "normal" population because its so awful for the most part. Also I don't want to be normal so comparing myself to that seems weird. It's too easy to look good next to most of the population these days. It's a bit depressing