Ok, bare with me. This is one of those posts in which I wish I was a much better writer, because this is pretty near and dear to my heart.
If you gave me a minute (or an hour) to be real with you, I would tell you that for about as long as I can remember, I have been my worst critic in regards to the way I look.
But the good news is, I’m learning a lot. I’m growing a lot. And I want to be an example to others – no matter if they are younger than me or older than me. I don’t want the way I view myself to negatively impact other people. I’ve come a long way in just the past couple of months. And while I still have a way to go, I want to be transparent about what I’ve put myself through in the past, I dunno, 20 years of my life, as well as what I’ve learned recently.
The thing is…focusing on your physical flaws, especially publicly, will eventually tear you apart. Being negative about the way you look, comparing yourself to others, and constantly putting yourself down – even if it’s just in your own head – will break you. You may already know this, because chances are, you aren’t happy with the way you look, and you make it known.
If I can be real with you, I would tell you that this has pretty much destroyed me over the majority of my life.
See, I’ve never been what you would call a tiny girl.
In elementary school, I was always the tallest and the largest girl, despite being really active. I mean, just solid. I loved playing soccer and basketball, and by 10, I was even beginning to play soccer on a more competitive level, on a club team. In the hustle of going from practice to practice, I ate fast food and a lot of Tombstone frozen pizzas. I weighed a whopping 114 pounds in just the fourth grade. I know this because a friend of mine pointed it out to me in front of the entire class when she passed back some fitness assessment results they made us do. Turns out, I was the second heaviest kid- girl OR guy in the 4th grade. She also announced that to the entire class too.
In middle school, I went through those awkward pre-teen years, and I began to make more of my own choices when it came to eating. By this time, I was VERY active – playing soccer both on a club team and for my school, as well as a short time on a district ODP team. I also ran track, where I ran the mile, the 800m, and the 400m races. I started weighing myself, and wasn’t happy with what I saw. I compared myself to girls that weighed less than 80 pounds, while I was probably pushing a good 125 pounds. 7th grade was rough. THIS is when my perception of myself started to go wayyyy downhill. So, my diet consisted of dumb stuff like dry cereal (for lunch everyday), veggie burgers, and lean cuisines. My parents bought me a treadmill because I loved to run. I had the brilliant idea of running off calories after I would consume them. Well, by the end of 7th grade, I was passing out. Who saw that coming?
In high school, I yoyo’d a lot with different diets. I was still very much into sports – mostly soccer. And by this time, I was working out at a gym in Savannah. When we lived closer to the YMCA, I would even run there. I hated the way I looked…still comparing myself to everyone else and focusing on my “big ole’ thunder thighs” or my “big legs.” Being a normal high schooler, I went out with my friends. I ate crap. But for me, the things I ate and drank showed up a lot more in my body than it did for my friends. Now a days, people tell me that I must have “crazy genetics” to be lean and able to put on muscle (and who knows? Maybe I do?) BUT I wish you could have seen me in high school. I was lost when it came to nutrition. But unlike my friends (who must have had “crazy genetics”-I’m obviously being sacastic) because they stayed tiny despite eating crap), the nutrition choice I made showed up big time in me. No matter what I did, I wasn’t skinny enough or pretty enough. I couldn’t keep up with where everyone else way. By the end of 9th grade, I drank alcohol pretty regularly, and pretty heavy. That wasn’t exactly the best thing for my body-or mind- either. This lasted all the way until right after I graduated high school. I tried to work off calories by playing sports (which surprisingly, I used to be pretty good at them) and going to the gym – even before school most mornings. Despite being young and active, my eating habits showed, and I viewed myself negatively. When I was 16, I tried all kinds of diet pills, laxatives, you name it. By senior year, I was a wreck. I made terrible decisions that could have ruined my life (My poor mom and dad. I put them through some rough stuff). One of those decisions was February-ish of my senior year of high school. My friend told me I could steal diet pills from the Rite Aid by taking off the plastic wrapper on the bottle. She said the alarm wouldn’t go off if I did this. This was a $60 bottle, and I didn’t want to pay that, so I tried it. I got caught, and arrested, but thankfully charges were dropped after they made me call my mom and tell her what I did. FOR DIET PILLS. I was into some crazy stuff, but I had never wanted to steal before….and I stole DIET PILLS. Just a random fact, I’m apparently banned from all Rite Aid’s for the rest of my life for this. But you see I had a twisted view of myself, and it made me do dumb stuff.
In college, I cleaned my life up a little… or a lot. Jesus will do that to you when you’ve already done everything possible to screw it up yourself. Anyway, the way I saw myself didn’t change. And despite working out every day in college, my diet sucked, which made me feel pretty terrible. Like high school, I ate the crap my friends ate, but what I ate looked a lot different on me than it did on them. They were all so skinny and tiny, and I was just…not skinny or tiny. I still dabbled in diet pills. I worked out. I ran a good bit. I went through some seasons where I worked out harder than others- mostly my senior year of college. After I graduated college, before getting married, I worked at a good ole’ gym in Statesboro, GA. Fitness was a priority. I leaned out a little before getting married by excessively exercising (I’ve got a post coming later on this), but the way I viewed myself was pretty horrible. This is the time of my life that I feel the worst about the things I thought about myself and said out loud about myself to my friends. I was obsessive. And it showed. Sorry, college friends for putting you through that. 🙂
BUT, I remember lying in bed about a month before I got married to Daniel, and thinking that I needed to get my life together, because the way I viewed myself wasn’t going to be the greatest thing for me to bring into a marriage. And then getting married didn’t help… at all. Again, I’ll talk more about that in a later post.
But to sum it up, you can see how I have had a terrible, negative view of myself throughout most of my life. The way I’ve viewed myself has strained relationships, and it’s held me back from living an enjoyable life. I’ve never been happy with the way I looked. I’ve compared myself to others. Even over the past couple of years, despite putting on muscle, burning fat, and leaning out, (from eating well and working out consistently) I’ve still been pretty negative.
But here’s the light at the end of the tunnel.
The past couple of months have been life changing. I’m getting to live out what I feel like I was created to do. I’ve had the opportunity to inspire others and help them meet their fitness and nutrition goals. And I’ve been upfront with them that I don’t 100% know what I’m doing, but I’m learning from some smart people, as well as taking advantage of the technology in front of me to help them get better. In the midst of this, I’ve had to “practice what I preach” I guess you could say. I want to be an example.
So, here’s the thing I want to get across. (If you skipped all the personal stuff I said above..) Just know that the way you view yourself doesn’t have to be so dang destructive. What are you doing today to make your body the best it can be? What are you feeding it? – (physically and mentally). The days that I feel confident are the days that I did everything I could to make my body the healthiest it could be– not obsessing over it – but instead, by just simply making good choices in what I ate and how I stayed active. Those are the days that I feel confident. Because I know that I’ve done everything in my control to be healthy. I talked more about this at the beginning of the week here.
People are watching and listening to what you say about yourself and how you react to the choices you make. One day I want to have a daughter (or son) that is positively influenced by the way their mom (me) thinks about herself. Until then, I can be that for other people’s kids. One of the wakeup calls for me in my thought process was about 6 weeks ago…it was the week after Regionals, and I said some pretty terrible things about myself to a friend. She said that there were some girls in our gym who looked up to me, and if she was their mom, she would tell them not to based on the way I publicly bashed myself.
Here are some practical things I’ve had to do to help me view myself in a not so negative way.
- I eat, drink, and exercise to make my body the best it can be – not obsessing, but just making good choices. I’m not perfect. Not every meal is great, especially when it comes to going out with friends. BUT, I make good choices when I can, and I workout in a way that is best for me- CrossFit.
- I train my thoughts in the same way that I train my body – believing that if I’ve done everything possible to make sure that I’m healthy, that’s all I can do. Because comparing myself to others isn’t going to get me anywhere. I am me. And it’s the only body I’ve been given. I take that as grace, and I’m confident when I know I’ve done my best to make good choices for my body.
- I surround myself with positive people that don’t bash the way I look, or themselves. I think twice before saying something negative about myself. Because y’all, it affects other people!
- I unfollow on social media. For me, personally, I’ve come to a place of being motivated on social media by pictures of girls who are strong or whatever. But if something or someone on social media negatively influences me or triggers me, I unfollow. It’s been freeing. Also, for me, getting rid of my Women’s Health subscription a couple of years ago was a good decision. Not that it’s bad, but for me, it triggered diet pills, fad diets, and being super skinny.
- I’m flippin’ grateful for what I can do. I don’t underestimate the fact that I can move in the first place, and I take full advantage of it. I’m grateful for the knowledge to be able to pick good foods for my body to eat, and I eat them all up.
Working hard, eating good foods to fuel your body, staying active, and giving yourself some grace WILL pay off. But you have to be consistent – in what you eat/drink, how you work out, and the life choices you make. Stop wishing you could look like someone else, and start taking the steps to get there. If your goal is to have lots of muscles, ask for help and go get them. If your goal is to be able to see your abs, go after it. Stop making excuses. Start taking steps to empower yourself. Ask for help. I have friends that text me ALL the time asking for help…and I help them. If I don’t know the answer, I go find it. Ask for help.
I promise…when you carry out these steps above, more confidence will come. And not an “I’m better than you” kind of confidence,. But more of a “feeling comfortable in my own skin” kind of confidence. There will be road blocks. Things will happen. But if you really want it, you’ll take steps to get on track, or back on track. Be an encourager in what you say about yourself. It sets the tone. Don’t bring others down by what you say.
Health and fitness is a journey. It’s not about having the perfect arms, legs, butt, or stomach. But instead, it’s about becoming the best version of yourself–– and not just physically, but mentally as well. To me, being healthy is about being physically able to live life in a great way. If I want to go hike a mountain and actually see the world God created, and I’m healthy, nothing will hold me back from that. If I want to be able to play outside for an hour with my kids one day, or with my friend’s kids now, I can do it. That’s a life worth living.