Have you ever felt like you were being tested? Like maybe the universe was dangling something in front of your face to see how badly you want it? Me too.
I’ve always struggled with the nagging feeling that if I just work a little bit harder I’ll find the success I’m looking for. A fit body, a rewarding career, a fairy tale relationship, or friendships that make everyone else jealous. Honestly, sometimes I even beat myself up over how clean I can keep my apartment. It’s like whatever I do, I could do more. Or at least that’s how I make myself feel. Over the last few years I’ve had a chance to reflect on how these thoughts impact my wellness.
Over the last year, I’ve made a conscious effort to try and change these thought patterns. To be happy and proud of what I have. To stop looking toward things I want, and instead live in the present. To believe in myself. And most importantly, to know that I’m doing enough.
Perfectionism is hard, but being gracious towards yourself, and allowing yourself to feel good is even harder. The reality is there will always be more to do. More clothes to fold, more health trends to follow, more burpees to complete. But what about what you already accomplished?
To take this into a smaller view, I want to reflect on my own health journey.
Let’s start with my senior year at James Madison University. I was active and started to really get into running. But then I broke my wrist and sprained my ankle, so you can that impacted my fitness routine. Combine this with the celebrations and indulging that happen during senior year, and you can probably see where this story is going. I gained 30 pounds over the course of 9 months. I got so swept up in the festivities, I didn’t even notice it was happening until graduation arrived and my clothes weren’t fitting right anymore. As someone who had never struggled with weight gain, this was hard for me to accept.
When I reflect on the summer after graduation, I remember how horrible I felt about my body.
I remember poking at my stomach, staring at my face in the mirror, and wondering how I got there. My self-confidence was gone, and I would do anything to lose the weight. I thought if I lost the weight, my confidence would return.
Working out became a part of my daily routine. Lots a cardio, a little bit of strength training (mostly abs and arms), and dieting. I had never gone on a diet before, but I figured that was the best way to lose the weight. Remember that perfectionism I talked about before? You can bet that this diet got along great with it.
I became obsessive. Always thinking about what I was eating, when I’d fit my workout in, and how would my social life impact my results? What I lost sight of during this time in my life was what I did have. Like the exciting move to Colorado at the end of the summer, strong legs and lungs from my time spent running, and a few more months in a college town that had become my home.
By the time I moved to Colorado I had already lost 10 pounds. I felt great and I wanted to keep the momentum going. Not so hard in a town as fit as Boulder. But Boulder is also a craft beer mecca. I was part of a team of 18 AmeriCorps, and they were always down to try a new brewery. I love craft beer, but again and again I’d get anxious thinking about how drinking a beer would impact my fitness goals.
I spent a good chunk of my time in Colorado focusing on what I wanted (to lose the college weight), instead of appreciating what a beautiful area I was so lucky to be living in. I kept thinking: once I train for this 10K I’ll reach my goal weight. Or maybe when I finally get my love for craft beer and tortilla chips under control, I’ll fit into those skinny jeans again. To put it simply, I was focusing on the wrong things.
I loved the time I spent in Colorado. I went on so many beautiful hikes and day trips, I met some of my best friends, and saw some awesome shows. But my need for the “perfect” body was always in the back of my mind.
Fast forward to where I am now. Yes, I lost the college weight. But I also have a much healthier mindset about food and fitness. As a certified personal trainer and wellness blogger, I see and hear so much about what a “perfect” body looks like. There are so many health trends constantly flowing through my social media feeds. I’ve learned to view everything with a critical eye. Yes, that girl has a sixpack in the photo she just posted. But lighting, body type, and a myriad of other factors make that one snapshot of her body look how it does. With food, I eat healthy the majority of the time, but carbs and fat are now my friends.
This isn’t to say I don’t have my bad days. I’m human.
But what’s different is the experience and tools I now have to snap myself out of a spiral. Practicing gratitude for what I have, helps me see the things I want in a better light. I still have goals, but I’m not putting that same pressure on myself to make them an immediately reality.
This year, my plans for life, business, and health are very ambitious. It would be easy to let my old thought patterns come back into play. But I won’t do that. I’ve always loved bracelets that serve as a reminder of some. My mala beads remind me to relax and trust the universe; my wooden beads remind me of my Papa; and my bracelets from La Clé refocus my negative thought patterns.
This quote that came with my reflect band really wraps everything up perfectly.
“Be thankful for what you have: you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” -Oprah Winfrey
There will always be more things to want or do. If instead, we reframe our thinking to come from a place of gratitude and positivity, we’ll see that we already have everything we need. Whether it’s strength from within, support from friends around us, or just the power to turn a negative thought into a positive one. It’s a challenge to rewire and reflect, but with practice, it is slowly becoming my norm.
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