6. take off your cape.

NEWS FLASH: You are NOT a superhero. You do not have superhuman powers. You cannot fly, see through walls, read minds, or lift buildings with your pinky finger. As helpful (and cool) as any of those powers would be, you just don’t have them. I hate to be the bearer of bad news…but you are, in fact, a human being.

My guess is your reading this and starting to form the completely wrong idea about this post. You might be angry. You may even be confused as to why it seems that I am discrediting you, telling you that are you not capable of these extraordinary things.

But the truth is, if I asked you to do any of those things…especially fly, you’d end up as a pancake on the ground.

Would you ever sit there and belittle yourself at your inability to fly? Would you have an overwhelming feeling of failure if your attempt to move a huge skyscraper fell short? No. (unless you really think your secret identity is a superhero. Then we have a whole different story on our hands).

So why do we put such unrealistic, superhuman expectations on ourselves to be perfect?

Why do we become angry when we make a small mistake? Why do we place such an emphasis on always presenting ourselves as “I’m always happy and everything’s fine!”? Why does it feel like we’ve failed if we forget to do something? WE ARE HUMAN. That’s what we do. We make mistakes, come up short, forget to do things, let people down, let ourselves down, fail, cry, and get angry. It’s in our nature. That’s who we are and what we do.

Just the other day, I had unintentionally made someone mad by not doing something correctly. That same day, I underperformed at the gym, falling short on my times/weights that I had previously achieved. I started to silently yell at myself. The dialogue within my head sounded a little like this, “You are so irresponsible! How could you mess up so much today!? Why didn’t you do everything in your power to be perfect? Don’t you know that you have to make EVERYONE happy at ALL times?”

No sooner than those words popped into my head, I decided to shut myself up. Did I have on a cape, a sparkly sports bra, and superhero girl shorts? Nope. Do I have extraordinary powers? I wish! So guess what? I’m not superwoman. There was NO reason for me to place unrealistic expectations of perfection on myself. I am not physically able to read minds. Sometimes my best that day is not what my best was the other day. As soon as I accepted that I’m only human, I instantly felt better.

Just because we are human doesn’t mean we aren’t extraordinary.

Quite opposite in fact. Thank goodness I’m human. This means I can live, breathe, laugh, love, learn, create relationships, overcome obstacles, feel emotions (yes, even the negative ones), inspire, change, challenge, achieve goals, act with integrity, exceed expectations, and be myself. I don’t know about you, but being able to experience life far outweighs being perfect.

So please, take off your cape. You wouldn’t make it your goal to have superpowers, just as it shouldn’t be your goal to be perfect. It’s in those painstakingly human moments that we learn our true value, worth, and tenacity if we just embrace them.

5. so much to lose & even more to gain

Three days ago it was Saturday. Saturday, January 19th. If you check your calendar, there’s nothing listed. It’s not a special date. In fact, I almost didn’t give it a second glance until one of my friends reminded me that it was my one year anniversary of starting CrossFit. Thinking back to that freezing cold Thursday last January, I felt a surprisingly huge rush of emotions; happiness because I met some of my best friends that day, embarrassment remembering that I sat in the Super Target parking lot for 20 minutes because I was convinced I couldn’t do the workout, pride because of all I’ve accomplished since then, and hopefulness at what my CrossFit future may bring. But the feeling of gratitude suddenly overtook my thoughts and feelings. Gratitude for ALL I lost. Gratitude for ALL I gained. Let’s go back a year to understand exactly what I mean.

After being a gymnast for 20 years, the thought of working out never excited me. In fact, I absolutely hated going to the gym. The more I forced myself to try and go, the more I avoided it. I probably wasted hundreds of dollars on gym memberships in the past few years. The shame I placed on myself for not working out caused my already negative body image to plummet. Even after being in recovery from Anorexia for almost 3 years, the only real motivation I had for working out was to lose weight and look thin. “Perfectly” shape my body into what I thought was beautiful. Since I never really went to the gym anyway, it was a vicious cycle of negative thinking towards my body and myself.

On January 19, 2012, I decided to give this thing called “CrossFit” a try. A couple of my friends are avid crossfitters and I noticed how much they loved it. Since I was still in the “skinny=beautiful” mindset, I figured this was just what I “needed.” Although I didn’t know this at the time, this way of thinking would change FAST. The wonderful gym I now am grateful to be an athlete AND coach at was running a special for newcomers so I figured….what did I have to lose? Little did I know, I had A LOT to lose and even more to gain! And for once, I’m not talking about this in terms of weight.

After my first few workouts, I felt incredible. The crazy endorphin rush left me in a great mood for hours afterwards. The sense of pride I felt after doing things I never thought I could do was amazing. I loved how my body felt after pushing it past my self-set limits. The extremely patient and knowledgeable trainers provided the perfect balance of patience, excitement, and encouragement. I was hooked.

As my first two weeks of “beginner” classes ended, I started to notice a shift in my way of thinking. Because of how physically demanding the classes are, I started to go out of my way to make sure I was eating enough to provide an adequate amount of energy for the day’s workout. Even after two and a half solid years of recovery, increasing my food intake was a little scary but I knew it was what I needed to do! For the first time in almost ten years, the thought of not having enough energy to complete a workout to the best of my ability was 100% more scary than increasing what I ate. At first, I couldn’t believe that this was MY thinking. I started to doubt myself. Was it just because I was “infatuated” with CrossFit since it was something new? Would I eventually fall back into my old ways of thinking? After a few days of turning these thoughts around in my head, I let go. Let go of any “what-ifs” and just decided to enjoy this change. Scary? Absolutely. But I was willing to trust this change to see where it would take me and what it might do for me.

Fast forward to now. January 2013. I’m proud to say that I am 100% (more if it was possible!) recovered from Anorexia, restrictive eating, AND body image issues. During my every day life, I’m focused on becoming strong and healthy. I make my food choices based off what my body needs and what sounds good in that moment. I look in the mirror at my body and am proud of what I see. Instead of seeing all my flaws and insecurities, my hard work, strength, tenacity, and resilience are reflected in the mirror. I respect my body and appreciate the amazing things it can do for me. I want to be strong, healthy, and happy. The word “skinny” no longer has a positive meaning in my vocabulary. I’m in a place today that I honestly never thought would be possible. People would always talk about a life free of eating disorders and body image issues. While that idea sounded nice, I just never thought it to be possible for me. I thought I would always be held captive, gripped by poor body image, eating disordered thoughts, and restrictive eating. But here I am today, living proof that it truly is obtainable. Life is so much better on this side!

I’ve always been incredibly optimistic, but this past year has awakened in me a new zest for life. A passion for achieving my goals and inspiring others. It’s a wonderful thing that much of the progress I see is OUTSIDE the gym. Every aspect of my life has been improved. Has it been easy? No way. Has every day at the gym been sunshine and rainbows? Hardly. But failing miserable and rising above the obstacles, trials, and challenges is what has taught me some of life’s most valuable lessons.

CrossFit was the catalyst for this change, this shift in thinking. The amazing community and the ever present message that strong is beautiful is such a positive influence for all involved. So yes, when I hear people speak negatively about CrossFit, discredit its validity, or make uninformed prejudices, I take it personal. This past year I have learned, changed, grew, gained, lost, and loved more than I EVER thought possible.

My before and after picture is below. I contemplated not sharing it…but I think it’s important. In the picture on the left, I don’t look healthy. I’m too skinny. There isn’t very much happiness in my eyes. It almost makes me sad to look at it. It wasn’t until I put these two pictures side-by-side that I really saw the difference. I’m genuinely happy and healthy in the picture on the right. Am I still small? Yes. But it’s all a journey. I’m just happy to be on the right path 🙂
collageeee

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot. -Eleanor Roosevelt

4. there’s always going to be somebody.

You know that phrase, “There’s always going to be someone out there who __________(discredits you, makes fun of you, laughs at you, insert negative action here).”? It’s been said countless times to me, one of my friends, a bullied student…anyone who has experienced some sort of unpleasant interaction with someone else.

I experienced a situation this week that automatically made me tell myself that phrase. After a deliberate insult was made about something I’m already self-conscious about, I silently said to myself, “there’s always going to be someone who makes fun of you, someone who discredits you, someone who wants to bring you down.” But as I repeated that to myself, I didn’t feel any better. In fact, I started to feel worse.

That’s when I made the decision to challenge this phrase. Change it. Flip it upside down. Switch it up to say what is really should mean.

“There’s always going to be someone out there who admires you, finds you inspiring, loves you, supports you, thinks you are funny, etc.”

Yes, that’s how that phrase should work. Instead of focusing on the negative and accepting that people are going to bring you down, it’s important to REMEMBER that there are always people who are on your side. People whose lives you change. People who consider you valuable.

Once I flipped this phrase around in my head, I instantly felt better. The harsh, deliberately harmful words said to me no longer mattered. In fact, I quickly remembered two days earlier that a different person had commented on the same subject saying that I inspired them, made them smile each day. Just by switching the language in this common phrase to focus on what really matters, the insult had ZERO power over me. I actually felt better than before something was said. It’s as if I finally have started to let go of the power I give to other people’s thoughts and words about me. Now I’m able to just live and do, based off what I think is right, what makes ME happy.

Because remember, there is ALWAYS going to be someone who thinks you are inspiring. Who applauds your efforts, and who loves you…exactly the way you are.

3. (Shut Up & Be Childish)

Yes. You read the title correctly. Shut up and be childish. Excuse me…what did I just say? Aren’t we forever trying to be as mature as possible? What I really mean is shut up about diets, negative body image, negative ways of thinking,“fat talk”, eating disordered thoughts, etc. and think like a little kid. Still confused? No problem, let me explain further.

I have the privilege of being a Third Grade teacher in a wonderful school. My students are the absolute light of my life and I find joy in the way each day brings such unique experiences. My goal is to inspire my students academically and encourage them to show good moral character in all they do. I emphasize positivity and optimism in the way they think, talk, and behave. Our classroom functions more as a family than your average class of 26 students and a teacher. In order to gain their respect, I make sure they know they are, first and foremost, respected as an individual. Because of this, I feel comfortable admitting that the most valuable lesson this year has been taught by the students themselves.

Have you ever had the luxury of just watching children interact? It’s amazingly simple, yet mind-blowing/eye-opening/jaw-dropping all at once. The sheer innocence in which they go about daily life is something to envy. Decision-making, often stressful for adults, is an easy task for a child. It’s a quick process for them. They listen to their heart and go with what they genuinely want to do in that moment without ever looking back. Yes, this obviously is not ALWAYS the best way, but it certainly is the most intuitive. It’s rare to ever see a child second-guess himself or make a decision to please someone else. If music is on that they can feel the beat to…then perfect! They dance without caring who is watching. They preach their interests, hobbies, and opinions loudly…even if what they are passionate about is the less “popular” choice. The same goes with eating. If my students are hungry, they eat. It may not necessarily be snack time, but that doesn’t matter to them. Food to them is just simply that. It tastes great and satisfies their hunger. It holds no magical properties. They would probably look at me like I was ridiculous if I told them some of the food myths ED had me believing were true. The food choices they make? Well, obviously it’s what tastes good to them!

So how does this apply to you? Challenging yourself to slowly start living and thinking like a child is the best way to figure out what this means for YOU. That’s the beauty of it. Each person’s experience will be different. Will it be scary? Oh, absolutely! Is it worth it? More than you can EVER imagine. Will you laugh and have fun doing it? Well, that’s up to you!

The next time you find yourself over-analyzing, thinking negative thoughts about yourself or your body, or just living in your head….STOP! Shut up! Picture what a child might do or say in that situation. Would they look at you with confusion if you explained what you were doing or thinking? Be conscious of what you REALLY think….of what you REALLY want to do in that moment. Try and live intuitively. Put some music on and just dance. Let go for just five minutes.

As scary as it is, it’s worth it. I would not have had the opportunity to learn this lesson from my amazing students if I still listened to my eating disorder. There is no way I’d be able to be a good enough role model or even a teacher if I still thought negatively about myself and my body. So go ahead. Try it. What will shutting up and acting childish help you achieve?

2.

I’ve put off blogging the past two weeks because, like always, I want to create the perfect entry. Chalk one up to perfectionism once again.  Anyone else have this problem? I remember when I was creating my blog posts for a doctor’s blog that focused on recovery, I had the same issue.  I didn’t want to start something until I knew it would be absolutely perfect…whatever that means. When I actually got started, allowed the words to flow, and let my writing take the wheel, the finished product made me proud. So here’s to crushing perfectionism, walking away from my comfort zone (yes, walking AWAY from it…not just outside of it), and finally writing again.

This picture really speaks to me.

strength

On SO many levels.

I’ve always thought “strength” to be beautifully complex in meaning.  On first glace, you read it, hear it, see it and picture yourself (or someone else) lifting something heavy or doing a physical activity that essentially requires you to be strong.  But by reading or saying the word a few more times, the previous imagery shifts. It becomes less of a description of physical ability and more of a way to describe your mental being.  Your ability to overcome, rise above, and far exceed any obstacles, challenges, or limitations that had been previously set upon yourself.

This past week, I’ve had several moments where I’ve subconsciously reflected upon both meanings of “strength.”  In a little over a week, it will be my one year anniversary of starting CrossFit.  The weights I’m able to successfully lift, the movements I can now complete with ease are incredible based off where I started. Are they an amazing feat as compared to CrossFit population? No, not in the least bit. I’m little (hense the name “little inspiration). Heavy weights are just that for me. Heavy.  Just yesterday, I completed a workout that would have literally been impossible for me in August. Was my time fast? No. Could I have done better? Sure. But did I feel strong, accomplished, and proud? Yes. Without a shred of doubt, I felt ALL of those things.

Which brings me to my next point.

Compared to a year ago, I am mentally a completely different person.  I will go more into depth about this in a post that will come next week, but the difference is unbelievable.  Truly something that I did not think would be EVER possible.  Body image issues and eating disordered behaviors are foreign to me. Something I can’t seem to understand anymore. I’m free from any sense of control I ever felt over manipulating my food intake and body shape.  The last week, I’ve felt FAT. Yes, I said it. I’ve probably gained five pounds. Who knows. Does it bother me? Sure. Just as much as it bothers the next person whose pants feel a little tight. But it also makes me happy. Yes…you read that correctly. I feel HAPPY to feel FAT. There was a time, even as short as a year ago, that this feeling would send me over the edge. It would ruin the day, the week, the month for me…until I felt it was back in “control.” Now, I’m fine with it. I don’t give it any second thought. For once in my life, I’m excited to be normal. Rising above this is what I define as “strength.” Overcoming something I honestly didn’t think possible…that’s what makes me STRONG.

How do you define your own physical and mental strength?