I came to a pretty phenomenal realisation today while I was sitting in the sunshine brainstorming blog topics. For various reasons, I have been slightly bombarded by some negative thought patterns the past 2-3 days. As a result, I haven’t been feeling as strong and balanced as I have in the past few months. For me, these thoughts always have a similar foundational thread- lack of self love and insecurity. The issue for me is that sometimes I don’t bring awareness to them, until they have managed to take me over. So, I was sitting in the sun wracking my brain for topics. Then, it came to me- why don’t I write about what I am obsessing over RIGHT at this moment. I mean, that’s what I end up writing about anyways. It has become clear to me that the blogs that are the most popular and that I enjoy writing the most are the ones where I write about what is on my mind at that very moment. It isn’t about something that I am fabricating or that I am pulling from a hat. They are current to my mind and my feelings, they speak the truth of that moment (for me at least).
So, as you can tell from the title- working out and exercise has been on my mind a lot as of late (or truly, ‘bettering’ myself). In order to illustrate my position towards exercise, I need to break it down for you- basically in a way for you to understand what goes on in my head. So, first of all- if you are a regular follower of my blog, you already know that I used to have a bit of an exercise addiction and eating disorders. So much so, in fact, that I worked at a gym and would sometimes spend up to 5 hours a day, 7 days a week, at the gym. Fast forward my last year of university (a time which coincided with when I became a vegetarian) and I decided I needed to stop with this obsessive exercise, and give myself and my body a break. Fast forward to now… 3 years later- and I still have not adopted a solid exercise routine since. I don’t mean to say that I have just been sitting on my butt for the past 3 years… that is definitely not the case. There have been intervals of yoga, running & interval training. However, I don’t “exercise” or “work-out”, like I used to. I don’t wake up in the mornings or finish work in the evenings and go to the gym or yoga 5-7 days a week.
The thing about eating disorders, that I am coming to terms with more and more with time- is that more often than not people with eating disorders also have issues with exercise/physical activity. Thus, much like they need to re-create a healthy and loving relationship with food and themselves; the same process needs to happen with exercise and physical activity (and ultimately, their body). So, as I have come to learn, it is not as simple as ‘getting back on the horse’ (so to speak) and starting it up again. What needs to change, is what happens in the mind. For me, this is still something I need to work on. When I start to think about working out and exercising- my mind immediately goes into overdrive. I start planning how my body will look after a few weeks. I start getting excited for how my body will change. I start to get obsessive. I start to get unhealthy. Soon enough, I am in my head about what I am eating and how much I am eating. It’s a slippery slope- and I get awfully close to the edge of the cliff sometimes. The thing is, I have grown so much in the past few years- and I am much more comfortable in my skin now, than I ever was.
So, what gets in the way? Fear. The second that I start getting into a new routine or think about it- I have this fear that I am going to fall back into the same dark, painful hole that I was inhabited. I think this is a common theme with everyone in life. A fear of starting something, or getting into something- because of a previous painful experience. The most obvious example- Relationships. How many people abstain from getting into a relationship in fear of getting hurt or repeating patterns from a past relationship? I know I do. I definitely am guilty of this. We are always trying to protect ourselves. From what? From living? This form of self-protection that we think we are serving ourselves is both an illusion and also is not helping us. By staying in this place of ‘safety’- we are stopping ourselves from living and experience absolute joy and truth.
What’s funny is that as I’m writing this I am realising the depth of my own advice. I am not too happy about the thought of taking it, though I know that I do want to. My fears around exercise and working out go like this: I have a strange belief that working out makes me bigger & fatter. Basically, I feel as though this is what has happened in the past. What I don’t bring into account is that these experiences were usually accompanied by disordered eating (bulimia) and other destructive behaviours (e.g., over-consumption of alcohol). I fear that as soon as I start working out- I will get carried away and obsessive and lose my sense of self. I fear that I will eat more and over eat/lose my balance. I will go back into what I did before. I won’t be the best at what I do. As with anything, these are all beliefs and thoughts. They are not experience. So why do I choose to give them strength?
I have to admit, I have a inaccurate perspective of my body. I place all responsibility upon other people’s judgements and views of me. How silly is that? Although this is something that is not as prominent as it once was; my view of self and sense of self love is reliant upon other’s views of me. Sometimes, I feel as though I am quite curvy. Other times I feel thin and athletic. More often than not, I base how I feel about my body on what people say to me/their judgements. For instance, if someone says in passing that I am thin or petite/tiny (or have lost weight), I am on cloud 9 and quickly believe it. It becomes a part of me. I walk around proudly and with confidence. Conversely, if someone tells me that I’m curvy I will obsess on that thought for days.. over and over again- wondering what exactly they meant by that. Did they mean I’m fat? round? chubby? (aka am I unloveable?) For instance, in the past 2 months- one boy told me that he didn’t think I was petite and that instead I was ‘perfect’. I’m sure some people would love this comment and feel elated. Me, I was devastated. I obsessed over it for days after and was very upset and judgemental of myself. Another instance, someone told me that I was curvy. To be honest, I am still obsessing over this (clearly, I’m writing about it). I then start to compare myself to every girl I see: did they mean curvy like her? Do I look like her?
So what do I do in these situations? Do I ask the person what they mean? To explain in shape? Does it matter? Should it matter? How do I let go of this reliance on people’s judgements of myself in order to be ok, and love myself?
This is the issue that comes up with working out– for me, it puts more emphasis and attention onto my body- changing it, making it “better”-… instead of just loving me for how I am (and who I am) right now. Of course, the flip side is that loving my body means giving it exercise and physical activity to keep it healthy (keep the blood flowing, increasing muscle mass, metabolism). This is where hiking comes into play for me (or any form of outdoor activity). Outdoor activity with animals that is void of the judgement that comes with being in a gym filled with people (and my interpretation of their ‘judgements’) feels a lot more desirable at times. So what do I do? Face the fear right now? That’s the idea. I’m just still processing.
I’ve been attending a Satsang with my mum here in Maui. During these meetings, I have become quite aware of certain thoughts that come into my mind, and the power that I give to them. So, I have decided to take grasp of an opportunity in front of me, and attend the 6 day silent retreat. At this point, I really am not sure what to expect from it. All I know, is that I am sure it is going to be very challenging at times. Not only am I going to be left to my thoughts and my head- but I will not be able to lean on the support of my friends and family. In many situations in my life- I will rely on my loved ones for their opinion and their advice. I become incredibly indecisive. What should I do in this situation? What do you think I should do? It’s so silly really- why do I rely on the opinions of others. How can they know better, than me? Since I have been doing this since I was a little girl- it’s a pattern that is not easy to break. I am ready for it to break though. I am ready to trust myself. I am ready to love myself. Enter silence. In each instant, I will have to rely on myself; I will have to trust myself. I won’t be able to distract myself with Facebook, Instagram, TV Shows, WhatsApp, Facetime or the Internet when I am in a place of discomfort. It’s going to be me, myself, and I.