Why is it that we can be so kind to others but when it comes to ourselves it’s a different story?
We all have a self-critic that thinks we should be doing better. For me it comes out big when it relates to my health and physical fitness. I should be stronger. I should be more in shape. Why don’t I have more endurance? Why don’t I look like her? Why don’t I make better food choices? Why am I so confused when it comes to my health? Why don’t I do better?
And it’s not just a nagging questioning voice. It comes with a ferocity. It stares at others, analyzes their choices, how they look, what they say, and compares it directly to me. Well so-and-so is ordering the fish with broccoli but you better order the cheeseburger since that’s what you really want. You’ve made healthy food choices before but it never really sticks.
I’ve been thin. I’ve eaten paleo. I’ve eaten like shit. I’ve been overweight. I’ve been underweight. I’ve been muscular. I’ve been a vegetarian. I’ve run multiple 5ks and a half marathon. I’ve danced my whole life. I’ve had excess fat on my body. I was on the basketball team. I’ve worked out daily. I’ve not worked out for months. I’ve been in shape. I’ve gone up pant sizes. All of my clothes have been too big.
What do all of these things have in common?
No matter what state I was in I never felt like it was good enough and I consistently compared myself to others. So whether I was in good health or not, I still didn’t truly love my body.
A few summers ago I was eating completely paleo but without sugar or alcohol. I was at the lowest body weight I’ve ever been and I was completely miserable. I was depressed, I wasn’t sleeping well, I had weird headaches, and I didn’t have very much endurance or muscle on my body. I was eating that way to attempt to make myself healthier, and I know it had some good impacts on my body (side bar, I’m still a big proponent of the paleo diet) but it backfired. And on top of everything, I still didn’t think I was good enough.
This confession could be coming off as blunt, maybe a bit sad, but I guarantee that most people have been in a similar place at one time or another.
When I was eating paleo I was hard on myself for not feeling better mentally. For not being in better shape because all of my effort was going into eating well.
When I was working out everyday I was hard on myself for not being able to make healthier food choices.
And it was just never good enough.
So in the end I’ve decided it’s all about our internal mindset. It’s about how we view ourselves day to day. You could be Michael Phelps but if you consistently look at what’s not good enough you’ll never be happy.
Yesterday we got back from a two week long vacation to Iceland and Amsterdam and we’d been doing physical things every day. Biking, hiking, swimming, etc. I wanted to try to bring that joyful movement home with me and I bought this cute 30 day fitness challenge thing at a store in Amsterdam. It told me to do a 15 minute run for Day 1 so I laced up my sneakers and headed out for a few laps around the block. Half way around the block I was breathing heavily and my calves were burning like they’ve never burned before. I slowed down to a walk a few minutes later, picked up the pace again, then slowed again.
I found myself starting to go down the path of self criticism. Why aren’t you able to go further? Remember when you used to run three miles a day without a problem? You are so out of shape. You’re never going to get where you want to. So-and-so would think you’re pathetic.
And then I stopped. Not running but questioning myself. I changed my mindset. I told myself how proud I was that I made the time to do this today after being so jet lagged. I viewed the burn in my calves as their way of getting stronger with every step. I thought about how to use th
ese learnings in my health coaching practice. I thought about how many people are probably going through this every single day, every single moment. Whether it’s excessive working out, eating disorders, buffering with food or alcohol, or any other unhealthy behavior, we’re all going through it.
I told myself I loved myself. I told myself I was good enough. I told myself I would get stronger with each day. No matter what I did. And then I realized that any choice I’ve ever made in my life was to protect and take care of myself. Whether it was eating two bowls of popcorn during a movie or going to a yoga class or sleeping in, we’re always trying to take care of ourselves.
I’m on a journey to find my balance. To become the healthiest version of myself and to allow that to transform other areas of my life. To understand that my body will change with time, for better or for worse, and my most important job is to be kind to myself.
My sister Jess and I are going to be doing a short cleanse to refresh and recharge in these next few weeks so I’ll be posting my thoughts about that as well. I can’t wait to see what other self-discoveries I can make for myself in finding what’s right for me.