Having the Confidence to be Confident

Yes, it has been a minute since my last post.  Big thanks (and apologies) to anyone who sent me emails or left comments asking about when I’m going to post again.  I just needed a minute.

Fitness blogs started to kind of scared me.  More accurately, my participation in the Age of Fitness Blogging scared me. Everyone and their mom has a blog.   Many of them are just like mine.  The more time I spent reading them, the more I had to wonder if I was really contributing anything new to the world or if I was just being redundant.  After all, fitness experts and personal trainers are crammed in at about 1,000 per square foot of blogosphere.  And we are all so damn presumptuous.

Blogging is all about voice and audience.  Who am I talking to?  Recently, when I started to picture my audience, it was all over.  Am I talking down to someone?  Who do I think I am?  The whole premise of the blog was to send the message—hey, I’m not an expert.  I’m just this chick who got fit and learned to like herself.  Come get fit and like yourself with me!  But lately I am forced to remember that I’ve been doing this so long that I just make people feel bad when I swear that I relate to being overweight.  A friend politely pointed this out (thank you, Friend!!), and I haven’t been able to get my voice back since.

As you may be able to tell, I had started to picture the haters in my audience.  Oh yes, I have haters.  And I got a little freaked out by them. They are actually reading this right now—because that’s what haters do.  This is a very personal blog—all the best fitness blogs really are—and that leaves me wide open and vulnerable to critics and weirdos.  Which straight up creeped me the hell out.

I began to see myself through the eyes of the haters—who does she think she is?  Who decided that she was an expert?  She’s not even that great.  God, what a selfish mom.  I’d have time to get fit too if I had [fill in something, it could be anything].  Is fitness really even that important in the grand scheme of things?  And on and on.  Total existential crisis.  It’s never my peers in the industry, either.  It’s never the people I look up to whose opinions I really value.  It’s always the insecure ones who hate their bodies and take it out on me.  My existence makes their day bad.  These haters find each other and are comforted by other overweight self-haters and motivate each other on Pinterest using images of women who look much like me, but aren’t me, because the anonymity makes it ok.  Sometimes they even go out of their way to NOT do what I do.  If this makes you giggle, good.  Because once I got over the hurt of it, I couldn’t stop laughing.  I now giggle from time to time when I walk in the room and see that I’ve just ruined some woman’s day by living.  This might make me a bad person, but I tried to be nice.  And I’m not without fault—I have feelings too.

I ran away for a bit, into the safety of silence.  I closed myself off and away from vulnerability.  I stopped blogging.  I stopped actively marketing myself and my business on social media.  I made myself less so that other women wouldn’t be insecure.  But who does that benefit?  I went into the fitness industry with a specific goal—first, it was to stop hating myself.  And then, it was to help other women stop hating themselves too.  I want to affect change in body image and self esteem.  If one person reads my blog and is affected positively, then I’ve reached my goal.   So I’m going to keep writing, because I’m presumptuous enough to believe that I have something important to say.

Interestingly enough, my change of heart was inspired by a teenager.  Well, a conversation I have been having with this teenager.  She is a volleyball player on the team I coach for.  At 14, she was putting in more work than some professional athletes I know.  She is intense, she is driven, and she is not afraid to call her shots. She will work tirelessly for every claim she makes.  And she is misunderstood.  People mistake her determination for cockiness, her focus for snobbiness, and because many of them never see the long hours she puts in at the track or in the gym, they just don’t understand that she is backing it all up.   They just don’t understand her.  They don’t get where she is coming from.  And they are incredibly jealous of her unapologetic confidence.  So few people have the confidence to be confident—and when people meet the ones who do, it highlights their insecurities.

This would be upsetting to anyone, but at age 15 this is a lot to deal with.  Of course, as an adult, it’s plain as day.  Keep working, I told her—no one will be laughing when you make it to the Olympics.  People don’t understand intense people, but don’t let that stop you, I told her.  I even shared with her my favorite quote:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

Well.  Some lessons are a lot easier taught than learned, aren’t they?  And a lot easier spoken than lived.  It was easy to see why she has haters, and it was easy to recommend that she just push on and do her thing.  They’re just jealous.  But for me to accept that someone is jealous and keep pushing forward?  Well, I feel cocky and awful just typing it.  More advice to my young athlete:  accept the jealousy for what it is (it’s ok to get a few giggles in from time to time when you start to see how transparent their behavior is), let it humble you, and move on.

So here I am, back to my blog.  Humbled (and maybe a little entertained…) by my haters, forced to accept my own advice, inspired by a young athlete, and unapologetically determined to affect positive change in women around issues of body image and self esteem.

The Inspiration to Live, Learn, and Know

 

Writing a blog can be really creepy.  I write whatever is in my head, and then I send it into a vast, anonymous abyss.  I write to an invisible audience, and then wonder if it’s pretentious to even assume I have an audience.  So when people comment on it, subscribe, “like” it, or send me emails about it, I am reminded that people are indeed reading.  The feedback has been incredible, and I feel lucky for the reminder that my existence on earth can be inspiring to someone.

It’s easy to live our lives pretending that no one is watching—but someone always is, and that is a great reminder of the responsibility we have to each other.  Moods and outlooks on life can be contagious, so I am reminded to be careful of the kind of mood I’m projecting.  Anger begets anger, pessimism begets pessimism, but a smile and positive outlook are also really catchy.  My goal–and I humbly fail regularly–is to affect positive change in the world by simply living in it and contributing my talents and assets in a meaningful way.

The emails that I have received have served as reminders not of my own success but of the people who have been most influential in my life.  I wonder if they really know how many people they reach just by planting a seed in one person.  While my list of inspirational people is a mile long, the most inspirational people in my life are the women who taught me (and some are still teaching me) how to overcome anything life throws my way.  And in this post I want to honor them.  I don’t know if any of them read my blog, but if they do I hope they recognize themselves.  I hope I can do them justice with my words so that they can also inspire anyone who reads this blog.

I like to think that my life didn’t start until my daughter came along.  So I’ll start there, with a woman who showed me what a mother’s unconditional love looks like (five kids of her own and countless “adopted” children, and each with a uniquely headstrong personality!).  Fresh from a divorce and scared to death, I met her at a time when I really needed a mother; she became an amazing source of strength and nurturing that helped me through one of the toughest times of my life.  She taught me about what it meant to keep going even when you don’t think you can.  She encouraged me to finish college when I didn’t think I could, and helped me to find the resources to make it happen.  She taught me to slow down and enjoy the present while remaining open minded about where the future might take me.  I’m not sure I’d be here, in GA, finishing up my MA in Women’s Studies if it weren’t for her.  What’s truly remarkable is that she has a long trail of others who have been similarly influenced by her; she is someone who affects positive change in the world by her very existence.

The next one on my list is a woman who, according to my memory, taught me the word “empowerment.”  She was my boss at the worst job I’ve ever had in my entire life, and she actually fired me!  But during my time working for her, she shared with me a wisdom and a patience that I have rarely encountered since.  I was working three jobs and struggling to make ends meet as a young and terrified single parent.  Every day seemed to get worse and I wanted to just give up, but with a child I had no choice but to keep trying.  She taught me how to take control of my situation by sharing the story of how she put herself through school with two children and a severely limited income.  The story of her sacrifices and triumphs kept me humble and driven throughout my own struggles.  She gave me practical advice on how to get on my feet and she impressed upon me how important it was to get back in school.  But most of all, she taught me what it means to be a survivor.  There are many different kinds of victims, many different kinds of pain, but no excuse not to survive and seek fulfillment no matter what life throws at you.  To this day we are still in touch, and over the years we have watched each other struggle and win.  I am so lucky to call her a friend and mentor, and I am still inspired by her.

I could go on and on—there is no limit to the number of women who have inspired me over the past six years.  But there are two more who deserve mention in this blog.  I think we can all think back and remember a teacher who made an impression on us.  I am lucky because I have had a lot of great professors in college.  But there are two who deserve special mention.  The reason I list them together is actually the very reason they are so inspirational—they are best friends who many years ago started as student and advisor.  They value their students and each other so much that they learn as they teach, and they grow lifelong friends in the process.

 

The wisdom and understanding they impart on their students is above and beyond what can be expected of any professor. Their combined credentials are diverse and impressive, and they somehow find a way to bring them together even when teaching in totally separate classrooms.  If I ask a question of one, she reminds me to also consider asking the other.  They are well-read and are never at a loss for the kind of knowledge that the University expects them to share with their students, but their workdays are not limited to the classroom.  In fact, I think they do more teaching outside of the classroom than in it! The first time I asked for a book recommendation, I was invited to meet for coffee!  Soon after, I realized that my professor was going to become a lifelong mentor.  To this day, I turn to them both for wisdom and advice.  They teach many subjects at the university, but now that I have graduated they continue to teach me patience, understanding, compassion, appreciation, joyfulness, and the responsibility that we all have to each other.  And they have a great way of catching me red-handed when I’m not getting a very good grade in peaceful living!  They have taught me (and are still teaching me) two of life’s most important lessons: how to learn, and how to know.  Neither is easy, and I still haven’t mastered them yet, but I am humbled by each lesson I am taught.

For anyone who has been inspired by this blog, I wanted to share with you the women who deserve the credit.  I am so fortunate to be surrounded by intelligent, strong, and successful women.  Some have passed through to teach me the lessons I needed at the precise moment that I needed them, camping out in my heart but not making a permanent home in my life.  Some pitch a tent from time to time, coming and going as necessary and always with the unspoken invitation to return.  Others have laid down foundations and are beginning to build houses, and I look forward to being neighbors for quite some time.

Another strong single mother I was lucky enough to meet in college. 🙂