People come to see me in a professional capacity for different reasons. Some have performance goals relating to their competitive sport, some are post rehab, some want to become stronger, some are there to improve balance and decrease risk of injury, and some just want to learn to kettlebell (because it's awesome, in case you were wondering). But a staggering majority point to their abdominal region or perhaps their booty, make a scrunchy face, and follow up with the phase "I want this gone".
That's usually when my heart makes a scrunchy face. For while I am always glad when someone shares their story and goals with me, in this case, what they are really saying to me is:
I don't like myself the way that I am and I want to be different.
Let's examine this statement. There is nothing wrong with having a direction and working towards a change. In fact, that is an admirable and worthy pursuit.
But read the above sentence one more time. What the person is really saying is that they don't like who they are, and that they are deeply unhappy.
Unhappy with themselves, with where their life is at this time, or with their relationship, or perhaps their career. (I don't know, only they do) They could likely be unhappy with their whole definition of Self.
What they desperately want is for the world to see them differently, which is why they are the gym to begin with. They want the world to see the truer version of "themselves". The happier version. The person they feel they could be and are meant to be. The person they see when they close their eyes.
Now, whether this is something the individual is conscious of or not is the question. In most cases, I would hazard that it is likely completely unconscious. But ladies, and gentlemen, it is officially time to become aware.
This is your wake up call!
"All progress begins by telling the truth."
In order to achieve our goals, in order to grow, we must first begin with telling ourselves the truth ("our" truth).
WAKE UP TO YOUR MINDSET
Take a moment and be honest with yourself. Why did you step into the gym or start on that diet plan again? Is it because you want to be healthier and enjoy nourishing your body? Or is it because deep down you want to change something about who you are now? Is it because you want to be more confident or sexy or more open in your relationships? Do you see yourself travelling the world? Or becoming a writer? Or simply being able to shine at a social gathering?
Whatever the answer is, whatever you want, wherever you are, whoever you want to be... Here's where you need to start:
Stop blaming your body.
It's just doing its absolute best, maintaining homeostasis in the midst of the chaos and stresses of modern life. It's keeping you alive. Providing you with the ability to move, to think, to perform tasks, to interact with others, to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself. It is beautiful, it is complex beyond belief, it is strong beyond compare. Just like you.
So stop punishing your body for everything you are not. Be open with yourself, and give yourself permission to change and grow in a deep way. Begin to take steps, no matter how small, to help you walk the path towards realizing your Self.
Now, I am not saying that changing or working on the physical is wrong in any way. In fact, it is my belief that our physical bodies are a portal to greater emotional and spiritual understanding. But that is only true when we approach body work with the intention of self empowerment, and learning.
When we enter into it motivated by fear, this inherently beautiful process morphs into a cycle of self torture. And rather than helping as it is meant to, it does great damage. Let's even say that you did end up looking the way you want to within this context, all that new physical appearance will do is serve as another mask that hides the uncertainty. We end up addicted to the high of physical activity, of the self punishment, becoming more desperate with time to maintain this mask perfectly. My thought is that it is not worth the pain, when there is such joy to be had simply by making a paradigm shift.
If one of your concerns is how others "see" you - remember that people encounter not only the visual input of physical forms, but also interpret body language, verbal communication, actions, and even energetics. So it is never just about the physical representation of who we are. While others will note a physical difference based on a change, it is the other cues that make a world of difference. For people to see "You", you need to be working on becoming that "you". Your actions, your words, your habits, and your decisions should reflect this.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE CHANGE YOU SEEK
Start with admitting what it is that you are looking for, what it is that you want from yourself. This will be very individual, but once you begin to paint a picture, the rest will come.
My mother always told me that identifying the issue was half the battle. And so it is. You will achieve whatever you are driven to do when you acknowledge it and begin to working towards it.
Soon, you will notice that your training and your workouts have taken on a different hue. They will no longer be touched by a sense of force, of dislike, of punishment, but will become more of an exploration, and a way of reinforcing the positive habits and characteristics that you are working on in your life. That is what body work is meant for after all; as a companion to your personal growth/goals and spiritual practice.
IT'S AN EXERCISE IN TELLING THE TRUTH
To help you with this paradigm shift, I hope you will take the time to do this little exercise:
Sit in a quiet room, away from noises, insistent family members, and work. (If you can't do this indoors, try it outdoors, that is even better.) Turn on your favourite music if you wish. Close your eyes for a few moments, take a few deep abdominal breaths. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4, and then hold for 4. Repeat until your breathing and heart rate have slowed down and you are not anxiously wondering what your kids/dog/laundry is doing. This is all about you. Think about who YOU are. Not you right now necessarily, but you as you want to be, you as you feel you are meant to be in this life. Now open your eyes slowly, and using the pen and paper in front of you, begin writing. Describe in as much detail the person you see in your mind/heart. Don't analyze, just put down whatever words come to mind.
Here are a few suggestions of questions to answer:
(Remember to answer as the "YOU" that is in your heart.
Are you happy?
What do you feel like most of the time, what is your mood, what do you look like?
How do you respond to stress?
If other people were to describe you then, what words would they use?
Where do you live?
What is your home like (not decor or size wise but atmosphere wise) ?
What are your relationships like?
What is your family like?
What do you do for work?
What do you do for fun?
What are your finances like?
What is your life like?
Now, put down that page. Pick up another one, and honestly answer the same questions but based on who you are now at this moment = right now.
Once you have filled up the pages, set them aside, Come back to them in a day or so, and read them over. With a more objective view, look for the differences between the two. Write them down on another page. Read them over. This is your to-do list. Some things may take a week or so to achieve, some a month, some are a lifelong journey. Pick a simple one, the one that would be the least stressful to start with, and start there. Think of a few ways you can work on this aspect. An example would be: I want to be more generous and considerate of others. The three simple ways: 1. offer people a seat on the bus or the movie theatre if you see they are looking, 2. get involved 1x/month in a charity that you resonate with 3. try to perform one act of random kindness per day, no matter how small.
I would like to conclude by saying that I recognize that some may not agree with this post. I respect that, it is your journey.
The topics I write about, such as this one, are often ones that either speak to me or relate to personal struggles. I will honestly tell you that I too have gone through stages of abusing my body, of hating it, of punishing myself unconsciously, of being "asleep" so to speak. It is also something I see my clients struggling with every day. So I know how difficult it is to change your mindset and get out of this cycle. But it is time to WAKE UP. This has to end. We deserve to be free of this, and to be happy. Sure, it is an ongoing and conscious process and it takes time, but remember, you are stronger than you think.