I’ve had the experience over the past two days of being shown that I am wrong.
I have long held the belief that people don’t actually like being told what to do, that they can think for themselves, that they WANT to do things for themselves.
I’ve held this belief counter what many people were asking of me.
I’ve held this belief counter to what I now understand to be completely valid professional advice.
Turns out I’m wrong. Very wrong.
The only person who doesn’t like to be told what and how to do things is me. And I’m an outlier.
Yes, I know I’m not unique in this. But I’ve yet to meet anyone who holds to this as strongly as I do. But I know there are others and they probably fall into the Rebel tendency of Gretchen Rubin’s 4 Tendencies.
I happen to be a Questioner with a Rebel overlap. I’ve written about this before. If you want me to do as I’m told, I have to both ask you tell me and then you have to convince me.
Good luck with that.
But I get it. I think. People want easy. You want it done for you. You don’t want to think about what to eat or why or when. You want to be told and given that direction. And for a multitude of completely valid and human reasons.
I’ll admit to having a hard time empathizing with people who can’t make themselves do things. Not because I ALWAYS can make myself do things, but because once I’ve decided there is literally no stopping me. It’s the deciding part that can trip ME up.
In a way, I envy those of you who can simply say “tell me what to do” and can then just do it. I don’t say that to diminish in any way what appears to me as an easy accountability.
I know it’s not easy. For me, it’s the deciding that isn’t easy. For me, it’s the following directions that’s hard. As soon as someone else is telling me what to do, I will find ways to subvert it.
Exhibit A as to why I did not join the military.
I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking everyone is like me. You aren’t.
So consider this my apology and my commitment to doing better, to giving you what you need in order to be successful.
Sometimes I read through old stuff and come across rough gems. I thought maybe I’d start to share some of that here. Posted below is something I wrote 2 years ago and it still has much merit. Let me know what you think:
Fear of failure is really just fear of success. It’s being comfortable with playing small, shrinking from exposure.
I don’t fear failing, per se. I’m afraid of the fall, of what comes after I realize I’m soaring and instead of realizing that belief is what got me there, I allow doubt to bring me crashing, hard, back to the earth.
I’ve broken so many times. I always come back together.
But what if I don’t.
This is worse than having my inner mean girl tear me to shreds. She knows EXACTLY what to say. And I know how to put her in her place.
This is my innate resiliency packing its bags and saying Adios!!
This is my 1st-grade teacher telling my parents that I cheat, that I can’t POSSIBLY be THAT intelligent. This is my 9th grade English teacher telling me my writing is awful. This is my well-meaning dad editing my papers to the point that they are no longer mine and are all his. And though reason does not fail me and I know full well it was DAD’S writing my 9th-grade teacher hated, it sticks with me.
That little girl understood from the time she was 6 that she wasn’t enough. The 14-year-old got the double whammy of parental AND educational rejection. More “you are not enough.”
Never mind that I won an award for a poem I wrote in 6th grade. About trash. TRASH. I wish I had that still. It disappeared, probably by my own hand since I have a history of destroying the beautiful things I create. They have to be flukes so chuck it.
Never mind that every single professor I had in college that I had to write for saw SOMETHING of note, something worth commenting positively on. A couple went so far as to call me into their offices, me certain that I was about to be torn a new one, only to ask me why I was hiding. I’m so obviously capable of better than what I’m turning in so please give them something worthy of my abilities.
Never mind that every single person who has had the opportunity to read what I write, poetry or otherwise, is constantly checking to make sure I’m still writing. My best friend sends me links to organizations looking for writers, my uncle wants to make sure I’m not wasting a gift, my mom just knows that my sanity and continued happiness is contingent on my continuing to write. Something, anything. Just write.
I never set out to be a writer. Until VERY recently, I didn’t consider myself one. I often wonder if I’m not taking more than I’m giving. I get so much out of writing, but I can’t think of anything I give it. I don’t write because I have something to say.
Okay, yes I do. I always have something to say.
But I don’t write because anyone CARES what I have to say. I just write. I write because I NEED it. Because it’s a compulsion sometimes. Other times, I’m in a drought and can’t come up with a single thing to write. I suspect that’s more a symptom of laziness though, a shrug of the shoulders and instead sitting down with beer, wine, something adult and Netflix to numb out.
There’s a line somewhere though, between keeping things to myself out of self-preservation and keeping things to myself because I have no need to share. Or maybe that’s bullshit too.
Confession: I am sometimes still 200 lbs in my head.
I have a hard time seeing myself as I am when I look in the mirror and I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the camera for as long as I can remember. There are actually NO photos of me at 200 lbs because I just could not bear to see myself.
It’s been 3 years since I started making major changes which ultimately changed my life in a multitude of ways, including losing weight and eliminating my dependence on the pharmaceuticals managing my PCOS symptoms. It was just the beginning though.
Last year at about this time, Kourtney Thomas and Jen Sinkler released a strength training program designed to encourage hypertrophy for women. Hypertrophy is specifically intended to build muscle mass, something that many women have been taught to shun. We’ve spent our whole lives taught we must be smaller, why would we want to train our bodies to be bigger?! Why would we want to take up space?!
I liked the idea of it, adding muscle mass to my body. I wanted to LOOK like all the work I was putting in. But it also messed with me. Taking up space isn’t just a physical thing, it’s a mental thing. I’ve expended a great deal of energy making myself small throughout my life, and not just physically.
Because it scared me, I put off actually starting the program for MONTHS. I didn’t actually start it until the end of August. I hadn’t even joined a gym yet, something that is a requirement for the program (unless you have a well-equipped home gym, which I do not).
My only goal was to see what my body could do. There was no “I want to drop a certain percentage of body fat” though that was definitely on my mind, nor were there any strength goals. I wanted to fall back in love with the process. I wanted to see what my body would do with consistent training.
Even though there is talk of the positive psychological effects of this type of training written into the program (which is really well written, by the way), I didn’t expect what has ultimately happened.
Yes, my body has changed, pretty dramatically. Yes, I’m stronger physically. Yes, I’ve fallen back in love with training my body much the same way I did while I was in high school. Yes, I’m a little addicted to watching the numbers climb as I move heavier and heavier weights and the accompanying endorphin rush.
I didn’t expect this program would create an opening for me to find confidence in my voice. I didn’t expect that finding my confidence would open up a path for me to explore the things I’m passionate about. I didn’t expect that it would completely alter the way I walk, the way I speak, the way I see myself, and the way I occur to the people around me.
I didn’t expect that it would be a key contributor in teaching me to fly.
Underneath everything that I do and am, I am a writer. I probably have been my whole life even though I’ve spent most of it hiding it from people. It has only been very recently that “I’m a writer and I teach people how to heal themselves through the written word” came rolling off my tongue of its own accord, unbidden, free as a bird.
You see, in August, just as I was starting Bigness Project, I enrolled in a mentoring program and was matched up with an art therapist as my mentor. It was an instant heart connection. Within the first hour of meeting with her, she’d planted this little seed in my creative mind that I could teach. By October, right as I was completing Phase 1 and entering Phase 2, I actually started to believe that I could. By the time I finished the program, I had a name for the course I’ll be teaching at a local community center here and the encouragement of my teenaged son to create a teen version. I’m also working on creating a virtual version of the course.
Somewhere in the middle of the program “no more hiding” became my mantra. Even though you haven’t seen much of me here in this space, I’ve nearly completed my second book of poetry and begun a poetry podcast. I plan to do a wellness podcast as well. Interestingly, the first time I tried to record I lost the recording because I didn’t fully understand the software I was using. I thought it was great what I’d recorded, but in hindsight, I’m glad I lost it. It wasn’t my voice. It was my “please don’t see me voice”.
Since completing the program, I’ve had several interactions with people that allowed me to show my passion, all bright eyes, huge grin, hands and arms gesticulating and they weren’t scared off. Better, they were drawn in! It was a major aha moment for me to realize that the me that I’ve been hiding is so much more enthralling than the me I’ve been walking around as for 30 years. The me I’ve been hiding ISN’T overwhelming or too much, contrary to what I believed.
Make no mistake, being seen and heard is still scary for me. Correction: the IDEA of being seen and heard is still scary for me. Actually BEING seen and heard is a revelation, a thermal updraft in my wings. Every time I allow it, it gets easier. Every time I allow it, the space between allowances becomes smaller.
Ultimately, training my body to be bigger has shown me the path that leads back to the me I was before the world told me I had to be smaller, quieter, to cross my legs, that men were dangerous, that it’s too scary out there for a woman. The genie cannot be stuffed back in the bottle. And even if it could, living out loud is too much fun for me to allow it.
Without further ado, the particulars:
I’ll admit that I didn’t do a very good job with the numbers. I didn’t take the measurements called for before I started, so I’ll give you the overall changes for 2017, most of which occurred during the program:
Love it or hate it, the holidays are upon us. Add holiday stress to what has become known as “cold and flu season” and the odds of coming down with something are pretty good.
Unless you’re me. I’ve got a pretty healthy immune system. I didn’t always though.
I used to hate winter because, for me, it was ear infection season. Now I just don’t like it because I don’t like being cold. But I digress.
So how’s a person to avoid catching everything that’s going around at the moment?
1. Minimize sugar and alcohol consumption.
I know this is a sacrilege. No cookies?! No festive drinks?! Before you have my head, go back and re-read that. I didn’t say NO sugar or alcohol, I said MINIMIZE. And no, I’m not trying to be a Grinch.
Our immune systems live in our digestive systems. Sugar and alcohol throw off the balance of good bacteria to bad by directly feeding the bad bacteria. This, in turn, opens up the door to viruses that want to get in and wreak havoc on the rest of the body.
Besides keeping consumption down, you can help yourself by getting probiotic-rich foods into your diet on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be a lot (actually, it shouldn’t be a lot – there is such thing as too much of a good thing with this), a couple swigs of kombucha (I recommend GT’s Organic or homemade because there isn’t sugar added to it) or a fork-full of raw fermented sauerkraut with a meal is all you really need.
2. Prioritize sleep.
What’s this sleep I speak of? This might also land me with a Grinch label but not going to every single party you’re invited to helps twofold: it minimizes your exposure to viruses in the first place and it means you’re able to get a good night’s sleep more often than not.
Why is sleep important? Because it’s when the body heals. There is also mounting evidence to show that lack of sleep directly correlates with increased cortisol production (our primary stress hormone) which also directly affects our immune system. So lack of sleep + excess sugar and alcohol = virus breeding ground.
Set yourself up for good sleep by practicing good sleep hygiene: keep the temp down while you sleep, turn off your electronics at least an hour before bed, develop a routine that encourages rest. Ideally, you’d not have ANY electronics in your bedroom but even I can’t do that as I use my phone as an alarm clock. Just do the best you can.
3. Get outside.
Our grandmothers knew what they were talking about when they said fresh air does wonders for the mind and body. But it’s more than just fresh air; getting into direct sunlight for a Vitamin D boost is great for our immune systems. Going for a walk does a wealth of good for the mind and body but even if all you have is ten minutes to stand outside (with a cup of tea or coffee maybe), do it. Your immune system will thank you. You’ll appreciate the psychological boost as well.
Look, I’m not trying to be a killjoy, I promise. But you have a choice here, sort of a choose your adventure kind of choice. You can either continue business as usual and come down with a cold or 3 and be miserable, or say no more than yes, realize you’re not actually missing out on anything (it’s about discernment here – is the possible outcome worth the indulgence) and sail through the season, if not completely healthy, catching fewer of the creepy cruds and healing faster. Because there’s nothing worse than being sick on Christmas.
I wasn’t sure what it meant when that statement popped into my head. Not “I am.” I AM. All in caps, even in my head. Bold, maybe, too.
Thinking about all of the “I am” statements that come out of our mouths on a daily basis, I wonder how many of us are truly aware of these declarations. I nearly started this paragraph with “I am”. It’s not just about labels though, as I originally thought it was. It’s deeper than that.
Think about it: when I say “I am…” I’m declaring, affirming, labeling, calling into being, and accepting whatever it is that I follow it up with.
I am an introvert.
I am in a transition period.
I am a single mother.
All of these declarations carry meaning and depth to them beyond the original statement. And while all of those declarations may be true, as may be the labels, I can choose something else. YOU can choose something else. We don’t have to be caged by these declarations.
We also get to, if we so choose, to accept or reject the declarations given to us from others in the oh so common “you are” statements we so love to dole out unconsciously.
You are more fun when you’re drunk.
You are too intense.
You are brilliant.
I’ve been on the receiving end of all of the above statements. The two negative statements I accepted without question. The positive one I only accepted because I trusted the source, though it was still shocking to me. Isn’t interesting to notice how quickly we accept negative statements?
One of the best things about being a writer is that I get to think. I like to think. It’s fun for me. Except when it’s not. Except when declarations go unchecked and I’m blindly accepting everything my mind generates.
The mind loves a good story and it’ll create one when there’s an absence of information.
I AM. It’s a complete sentence. I don’t have to quantify it. I don’t have to create a story. I just AM.
I’ve been bouncing around a lot this month, mostly in my head, some out of it. What can I say, I really enjoy THINKING, which not to be confused with RUMINATING. Ruminating is bad, m’kay?
I’ve mentioned previously that I’m participating in a 10-month mentorship program. I’m getting immense value from my relationship with my mentor. In the last few weeks, the switch finally flipped and things are starting to snowball for me, which is amazing. I’m lighter, free-er, and oh so much more open. Like WIDE open. While I originally thought I’d be working on my business acumen, I’ve shifted to getting back in touch with my creativity and the ways in which that creativity strengthens me. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
I’m wrapping up Week 13 of Bigness Project, a hypertrophy program written by Kourtney Thomas and Jen Sinkler (who is one my favorite people I’ve never met…one day), and with only one week left I’m beyond proud of myself. I’m actually FINISHING! This has been about rewriting my story about being a quitter (I’m NOT) and really just seeing what my body can do. I cannot wait to show you the before and after pics because WOW. Suffice it to say my body LOVES training this way. I’ve fallen back in love with the gym and it’s a boatload of fun.
One of the byproducts of the changes in my body has been noticing how others see (with their eyes) me. This is often a double-edged sword for women. We’re told so many conflicting things about how we should view ourselves, how others are allowed to view us, we’ve experienced so much negative and positive around our appearances that sometimes we aren’t sure what to do. Here’s what I’ve decided for myself: your value isn’t in your appearance. But there is nothing wrong with valuing your appearance or wanting it to be valued by others. This came to me after not once, but twice, men opened the door for me just so they could watch me walk away. And I LIKED it. Note that this wasn’t done in a way that I felt threatening or sleazy. They were simply appreciative. I guess the bottom line is that I get to choose. I get to choose to feel empowered by being appreciated for my appearance, even though I’m so much more than that. After nearly 30 years of hiding, this is a MASSIVE shift for me.
Another thing I’m pondering is around where the line is between compassionate self-improvement and the self-hatred of obsessively striving for better. I don’t have any solid thoughts here yet, only that I’m reaping the benefits of compassionate self-improvement as I write this. As Brené Brown has written, at any given moment we are all doing the best we can. Compassionate self-improvement comes more from acknowledging that making changes is about feeling good whereas obsessive self-improvement is about perfection. It’s letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. It comes at the expense of various things in our lives, such as our relationships. This line may or may not be indelible and its position will vary by person. All I can say with any certainty is that fighting myself has not yielded nearly the results that loving myself has.