It is so easy to be turned off by and want to avoid difficult challenges. It’s even easier to steer clear of challenges you choose for yourself like running that longer distance or lifting that heavier weight or getting that extra education. But doing hard things is essential to becoming the best you you can possibly be.
I encounter a lot of women who want to be active and fit but are hesitant to set a real goal for themselves when it comes to their fitness. They don’t want to set their personal expectations too high or work on something too challenging like being able to do a pull-up for the first time ever. This mentality can be seen in other life areas, too. We all know people (or are people) who don’t love their jobs but don’t want to put the time and energy into looking for something else, stay in relationships they find uninspiring because dating is hard, or stay in cities they hate because moving is a scary prospect and requires so much work. Just imagine how much you can miss out on in life by avoiding the hard things. Going through a challenge is what helps us grow, brings us a sense of accomplishment, and ultimately helps us live our best lives.
The thing is, challenge and difficult situations are a part of life. So at some point you will HAVE to go through something. Wouldn’t you rather have practiced and developed confidence in your ability to face a challenge head on, tackle it, and come out victorious when it’s under your control, rather than just wait for disaster to strike? Developing the discipline needed to train for and then run a marathon was hard, but it made scheduling, committing to weekend work, and staying focused in graduate school so much easier. Pushing myself to lift heavier and heavier weights has provided me with a lot of sore muscles and an understanding that change takes time; it also taught me that I can handle a lot, even the physical and emotional pain of losing a loved one, and that I can persevere long enough to get to a point where the pain is less and time has helped to heal the hurt.
This is a short post because this concept isn’t a complicated one to explain, but I felt it was really important to offer the reminder of why choosing to do hard things is so important for your personal growth. So I encourage you to pick one hard thing to focus on this year, fitness related or otherwise. And tell me what you’ve decided to do! I’d love to hear about it, so post it in the comments.
Can we be real for a moment? Whoever the people are who perpetuate the notion that once you take the big brave step to follow your dreams everything will fall into place are big fat liars! Getting where you want to go, especially with something totally new and scary to you, is inevitably going to come with a whole host of doubts. I know, I've been there!
If you don't have doubts, you're doing it wrong
Have you ever heard the saying "your dreams should be so big they scare you"? It is so freaking true! Big dreams that come from the heart and would propel you forward into unknown territory. No one's big dream in life is to get a mediocre job and live in a home they can barely afford with a significant other they simply tolerate while sitting on the couch all weekend. Your dream life is about following that one burning passion inside of you so you wake up every day excited to work. Your dream life is about falling in love with your best friend and adventure partner that you couldn't even dream of they are so amazing. Your dream life is about living in abundance and feeling free to give of yourself all day because your home is a private oasis. Your dream life is about running that race, lifting that weight, or playing that sport in a way you've never achieved before.
So yeah, those big dreams are scary. And from that fear is going to come doubt... sometimes lots of it. But if fear doesn't creep up every once in a while, are you really pushing your boundaries and going for the greatest you can possibly get? Probably not. I'm learning to push past the doubts and to see them as a sign that I'm reaching so high the part of my brain that's been trained to be cautious and pessimistic is freaking out (and that's a good thing).
Let doubt inspire new action
Here's what happened to me: I made the big scary plunge into personal training once my desk job came to an end. I spent a lot of time on my own and in consultation with trusted friends and colleagues reviewing my online business model, made sure the gym would not see it as a conflict of interest, and took out a Facebook Ad because I was going to be a trainer in a gym AND online!
Then the doubt took over. Bills looked insurmountable, people didn't flock to me like I somehow imagined they would from one ad, building clients at the gym was not going at the rapid fire pace I wanted, and I started to really question whether or not I made the right decision. In fact, the thought that started to pop into my head was "I'm an idiot to have thought this would work". Wow.
Considering this is the first time in my life I have no trouble uttering the words "I love my job!" it is a bit silly for me to think I made a wrong decision. What was wrong was letting those words of doubt make me stop my Facebook ad, stop posting on social media, and stop writing blog entries. Hello! How can I create an amazing community of people who are learning to love their bodies through fitness, health, and some mental strength and reprogramming if I'm radio silent?
Finally, I decided to make a change. Reading good things, refocusing my thoughts, approaching everyone I interacted with at the gym with love, talking to friends and family, meditating (this one has been more helpful than I seriously ever would have imagined), and jumping back into the online world with a conviction that I can and will get where I want to go. If you're feeling immense doubt I encourage you to take a moment, make a plan, and get back in control. YOU CAN DO THIS! The voice that says you can't is just scared and doesn't know any better.
Let the Doubt Out
OK, now that you're dreaming so big it scares you and pushing forward with a plan, it's time to let the doubt out. It's OK to share your feelings. And it's OK to let them go. There is something very liberating about acknowledging your own thoughts and feelings. The most helpful exercise I did when trying to pull myself back to being the motivated and excited dream chaser I had been was to write down the stories I tell myself that hold me back. It went something like this:
YOU CAN DO THIS! Don't let fear or doubt hold you back.
P.S. I really enjoyed "Mastering Your Mean Girl" by Melissa Ambrosini when working on getting past some of those limiting thoughts I was suffering from. Check it out!
I recently went speed dating here in Boston. For those of you who have never been, let me give you a rundown of how it works. The women sit down throughout the bar area with an available seat across from them, then a man sits down across from each woman, they have 5 minutes to exchange names and get to know each other, then the men are shuffled around the room to sit with another woman and start the process again. You have a card on which to write down names and take notes. At the end, you list on that card your top 5 (or up to 5) people that you would like to be matched with and hand in the card to the host. The next day you receive an email letting you know who you matched with and what their email addresses are.
When I first signed up for this event I thought it would be a great chance to meet single men in person that didn't involve a very late night on a dance floor somewhere or trying to connect with strangers in a bar while hanging out with friends. There was a chance it would be totally awful but I figured there were two likely scenarios: I meet some awesome men and get to go out on a couple of dates or I meet some totally oddball men and have a funny story to tell later. Win, win.
So here's what actually happened... I went, open-hearted and ready to give everyone a chance. I had some lovely conversations and some conversations I couldn't wait to end. I listed 4 people on my card that I wouldn't mind seeing again (1 of whom I was actually quite interested in) and immediately texted a couple of my best girls about what happened and what I was hoping for from the event. The next day, the email came...
I didn't match with ANYONE! Guys, I was devastated. How was that possible? That was not part of the scenarios I had played out in my head. What was wrong with me? Why didn't anyone like me? I had been feeling so good about myself, what went wrong? And then came that voice I have worked so hard to keep quiet throughout the years... "Did you see the other girls? They were prettier and thinner than you, of course those guys picked them instead. Maybe if you learned to do your hair or put on makeup or act more demure and less sassy they'd have picked you. Maybe if you stopped eating so many sweets and trimmed down you'd have been more attractive to them."
Let me be the first to say, that voice in my head and I'm sure in many of yours is a total bitch and I hope you say a big "fuck you!" to her anytime you hear her. What shocked me most was that I really thought I had moved past that voice and was totally confident in my body and my appearance these days. It caught me a bit off guard and left me feeling even more defeated.
But once I let those feelings wash over me, I mounted a counterattack. I started reminding myself about how awesome I am, how much my beautiful body can do, that I would not be living true to myself if I had gone there decked out in makeup and curled hair and high heels, and that if I hadn't really been that jazzed about any of those guys (save for 1 and 1/12 isn't great odds for matching) then it isn't surprising they weren't jazzed about me either. It just wasn't a match and that's OK.
So why am I telling you all of this? Because I want to remind you that those feelings of doubt and insecurity are likely to pop up when you put yourself out there and try new things. You haven't failed because you hear those words in your head, you fail if you don't fight back and take some time to get perspective. You could be the biggest, juiciest, sweetest peach on the tree, and there will still be people you meet who don't like peaches. It always stings a bit to feel rejected or not good enough, but those feelings do not and should not define you. Just tell that voice in your head "that's one perspective, but I think x, y, and z are more likely to be the truth".
You're beautiful, strong, amazing, and unique. Keep being true to yourself and the right people will come along. I believe that will all my heart and I hope you do, too.
lover of fitness, sweets, veggies, adventure, travel, and feeling confident.
If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done. - Thomas Jefferson