Trading in Fear and Angst for Gratitude and Appreciation.
Sounds more like a psychology/counseling blog than a fitness one, right? I hear you.
But a few years ago, I started to really see how much one aspect of living affected the others.
I really believe in a Mind-Body-Spirit connection, I’ve dubbed it the ‘Human Trifecta,’ and that when one part is out of whack, the others suffer. I also believe that bolstering one aspect of the Human Trifecta can bring the others up as well.
What does this all have to do with trading in fear and angst for gratitude and appreciation, and where does this fit into a fitness context?
Here’s my belief, based on my past and current experiences in fitness and living as a whole: fear and angst will shut you down, gratitude and appreciation will open you up to the greatness and possibilities that are out there.
And in the context of fitness, I’m talking about the fear and angst of not being thin enough/lean enough/hard enough/good enough versus appreciating the body you have and all the amazing things it does already, as well as the amazing things you can become capable of doing.
Angst will ‘hang you up,’ make you feel like you’re carrying a ton of bricks. It will blind you to the good fortune and abundance of possibilities before you–you will only see what is ‘wrong’ and be preoccupied or even obsessed with what you fear.
In a fitness/aesthetic context, this can take the form of always needing to lose those ‘last 10 pounds’ or fixating on your ‘muffin top,’ ‘saddle bags,’ ‘back fat,’ body fat percentage, observable 6-pack, etc, etc, etc.
How many of us can relate to those feelings, or have had that experience?
Let me ask you this, has any good ever come out of those feelings or preoccupations?
Did putting energy into that fear/angst get you closer to your ‘goals’ or give you any sense of relief?
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
― Jack Canfield
Gratitude and appreciation allow you to acknowledge your gifts, blessings and physical abilities and attributes–just as you are/your body looks at this very minute.
Appreciating what you have will put a little more ‘pep’ in your step; it will allow you to move forward with purpose and hope.
Knowing these ideas to be true is different than putting them into practice–believe me, I know.
In the past I thought once I was a certain weight, a certain leanness, had a certain amount of muscular development, was a legit personal trainer and fitness instructor THEN I would be confident, satisfied–I would have made it.
Only…it never happened.
–I’d reach one goal, then there would be another flaw or fixation to work on.
–I showcased my abs and got attention for those, then I felt a massive pressure to maintain them in a visible state (be super lean) or I would be looked at as a fraud.
–I started comparing myself to other trainers who had other physical/aesthetic assets I felt I didn’t, and I felt I paled in comparison–which led to some ugly, ego-driven, fear-driven thought processes.
“Comparison is the thief of joy,” someone once wrote. Boy, is it ever.
Comparison is also the fueler of fear.
So instead of appreciating what I had, what I could do, what I brought to the table, I lived in the place of ‘not enough’ for longer than I care to admit.
And then I just got TIRED.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I chose to change my mind, aside from knowing it was in the early part of 2014, but I do know it came from a sense of exhaustion–just being worn out by competing in the fitness instructor/personal trainer rat race of who ‘looked better’ or was ‘more shapely’ or more popular…I just could not do it any longer.
I remember thinking “What if…” What’s the worst that could happen if I stopped being so scared and anxious and fearful of paling in comparison?
What would happen if I said (and accepted) that I was okay ‘as is’–not complacent or defeatist like ‘this is the best I’ll ever be’–but just that I was at peace with where I was at in that moment.
- Would I gain 20 pounds?
- Would I stop working so hard?
- Stop caring about my physical appearance?
- Would it mean I was less invested, less passionate than my peers?
- What would happen if I stopped looking at and loathing my ‘flaws?’
Maybe it was turning 40 last year, maybe it was enduring another deployment (having my husband in Afghanistan, always being a little ready for that phone call or knock on my door), maybe it was the realization that the fitness center I worked at no longer served me or my needs–and in fact took far more from me than they ever gave me in terms of support and positive energy….
I think it was the sum and total of it all, and all happening at the same time.
Whatever the impetus was, I realized it just wasn’t worth living with that gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach or with the negative/’less than’ self-concept ruling my daily existence.
So I let myself off the hook and began to try a new approach.
I decided it didn’t matter how I ‘stacked up’ against my peers, it mattered how well I felt in my own skin.
I stopped allowing myself to wonder what other people thought because it didn’t matter anymore.
How I felt others viewed me wasn’t going to be a motivator any longer.
I started actively taking note of my strengths and abilities, and to focus more on growing those, on learning more and becoming more skilled as an athlete and a trainer.
I also acknowledged both the strength and aesthetic aspects of myself that I wasn’t entirely satisfied with and on which I would continue to work. I acknowledged them, and then made a plan of action and moved on.
And I realized fully how much I love moving, the liberty of being able to move more, lift more, DO more.
The results of my appreciation/gratitude paradigm shift?
NO weight gain, better muscular development–because I do what I love to do, not what I think I need to do to look a certain way–and a feeling of having lost 1,000 pounds off my shoulders, of living with a feeling of peace in my gut rather than a hard lump of fear.
I can’t even explain adequately the personal liberty and peace this change of mindset and thought processes (now a daily practice) have given me.
What I can say is that THIS way of thinking, this way of life, is where it is at.
Recently, a dear friend sent me a copy of The Five-Minute Journal, and it’s helped me to structure my practice of acknowledging the good in my life, and showing gratitude, into daily morning and evening events.
Making this a daily, regular practice helps keep me ‘in the zone,’ because little fears still try to creep in and it’s this practice that keeps in me an open heart, appreciating what I have, what I offer as a person and a trainer, rather than dwelling on what I am not.
It’s not necessarily easy, and it takes a bit of mental training/practice, but WOW is it worth it.
So maybe you’ll consider starting your day or your week with appreciation practice, especially if you’re someone who’s been focused on your ‘flaws’ or living with anxiety and fear.
Try this: Name/list 3 to 5 things you like or appreciate or feel grateful for about your body (or your life in general).
It could be a certain body part, a certain feature, or an ability or talent.
And if it’s hard for you to find nice things to say about your body, it could be as simple as the fact that you’re still breathing, that your heart is still beating, that you’re still mobile/able to move freely under your own power.
Whatever it is, write it down.
“Cultivate Gratitude: Gratitude is the opposite of depression and anxiety. It’s the conscious experience of appreciation of the gifts in our lives and the results are tangible.”
~ The Five Minute Journal
Starting each day or each week with gratitude and a positive self-concept will free you from your fears and angst; it frees you to move closer to your goals and to a more ideal or harmonious way of living.
Get gratitude and get busy really LIVING. You’ll never want to go back.