I started following a nutrition plan and released several pounds, and then chose to give in to cravings for instant gratification and short-term satisfaction. I not only gained back several of the pounds I had released, I also went back to feeling bloated, fatigued, sluggish, and full of self-loathing. I was working out with a trainer twice a week and jumping on the treadmill or elliptical afterwards for some cardio. I was noticing changes in the way my body felt, the way my clothes fit, along with reduced stress and increased confidence, and then I chose to leave the gym right after meeting with a trainer instead of staying for any extra cardio, and not do any additional exercise during the week. Instead of feeling increased confidence, I am feeling increased self-consciousness and worry about what other people think. I started writing regularly and felt happy about the feedback from other people, and a sense of accomplishment about moving forward and taking action on writing goals I had set and then I chose to do anything other than write when the “writing time” reminder popped up on my phone.
I have been spending some time thinking about why I stop doing these things that move me closer to my goals and bring me happiness, improved confidence, stress relief, and a sense of accomplishment and forward movement. Part of the reason stems back to the idea I wrote about in my last blog post about enough. I stop making good nutrition choices, exercising, and writing when I start comparing what I am doing to what other people are doing and deciding that I don’t measure up. Comparing myself with other people steals my joy, causes self-doubt, and paralyzes me.
When I choose to compare myself with other people, I am really choosing to hide my true self from others.
I stop all forward movement and run back to what feels safe and familiar – even when what feels safe and familiar is really oppressive and self-defeating.
Yesterday I realized a bigger reason for running back to what I know. Fear. My eyes filled with tears as soon as I acknowledged this feeling, this word, and let it roll off my tongue. The tears surprised me and led to more questions. What am I fearful of? What if I ignore the fear? What if I can’t get past the fear? Is fear a sign of weakness? Where else have I felt fear in my life and what did I do about it?
After quite a bit of thought, I realize that what I am really afraid of is succeeding – much more so than failing. Failing is familiar. Not meeting the expectations I think others have placed on me is familiar. Succeeding at something that adds to my self-worth or improves my physical or mental health is unfamiliar. I want to get to the point where doing things that I feel good about is a familiar action. The fear of succeeding is not about small or short-lived successes. The fear is more about not knowing how to, or not believing I can, maintain the success once I achieve it. It feels safer to run back to the familiar rather than take a chance at the joy of succeeding because I don’t have to risk losing that success. Reaching a goal and then going backwards has been more of a risk than playing it safe and selling myself short. How sad!
What if I ignore the fear? I don’t think the fear will go away if I ignore it. I believe the only way to get past the fear is to go through the fear, and then means acting in spite of the fear. I have taken some recent steps to do just that. I am writing this blog post after putting off writing. I worked out 5 of the past 7 days and I’m on my sixth day of tracking my nutrition intake so I can be more mindful of the choices I am making about what I am putting in my mouth. Each individual step may be small, but each is a step forward and the fear feels a little smaller or more manageable with each step I take.
What if I can’t get past the fear? A wise woman I know taught me the words can and will. I can get past the fear, and I will get past the fear – as long as I keep taking action and moving forward. Going back to the way things have been may seem like the worst that would happen, but really the worst that would happen is to never take the risk to leave where I have been.
Is fear a sign of weakness? I don’t believe so. I see fear as a sign of being human. Hiding, running, not taking any risks – those are signs of weakness for me personally, but not feeling fearful.
Where else in my life have I felt fear and what did I do about it? I have felt fear during the times in my life that have involved big change, where I didn’t know what was coming next. I have also felt fear after a big loss, again, because of not knowing what was coming next. In each of these instances I have spent time running and hiding, either physically or by using other means such as drugs, alcohol, and food. Eventually, most often with support from others, I put one foot in front of the other and started moving forward.
I look back now at the life I led when drugs and alcohol were front and center in my life and I barely recognize that girl. I can learn from her though. She took a lot of unhealthy risks for what she made up her mind she wanted, which at the time was drugs and alcohol. She ran and hid from the people she loved and who loved her because she didn’t believe she could ever be who they needed her to be. As a result, she was lonely and filled with regret, shame, and self-loathing. That is not who I choose to be today. I am taking little steps to move forward and I’m finding that it feels a lot like dancing the two step at my sister’s wedding years ago. I take a couple steps forward, or sometimes sideways, and then a step in the opposite direction. Sometimes I feel like im goibg in circles, and what I notice is that I am always moving and taking action. More importantly, I am laughing and smiling and enjoying the dance.
Where in your life have you recognized fear and how have you pushed through it?