Wednesday, April 20, 2016

To all my single girls out there holding it down...this PR's for you

Do you ever look back on a situation and think, "Yes! I did that like a boss!" That's how I felt after my 5k last weekend, but not for the reasons you might think. I had a huge victory in the area of owning my singleness. No one but me knew it, but that was the real challenge I faced that day.

Let me explain. For a couple of weeks leading up to the race, I was dealing with some major grief and loss issues. Some birthdays and milestones came up and triggered some difficult memories. I had not been in a good place emotionally. Therefore, I was already a little sensitive going into the race. I had committed to running it with friends though and I was determined to make the best of it. Because I was already in a tender spot, something told me to prepare for both of my friends to bring a plus one. Sure enough, they did. One friend brought her boyfriend along and the other brought her homegirl. Thankfully, I was mentally ready.

You might be wondering what's the big deal. If you've been partnered for a while or you date frequently, you might not know what it's like to walk in a single girl's shoes. Let me assure you, it ain't easy. There can be a lot anxiety walking into new situations and connecting to new people. While others might not treat you differently (most won't even notice you're alone if you're cool people), it's easy for you to feel self-conscious and internally wrestle with being the fifth wheel. Bringing buddies along at least helps minimize some of the awkwardness. But, sometimes, you have to face it alone.

In situations like these, it's tempting to get quiet and isolate from the group. That, in turn, makes things weird for everyone. Instead, do you want to know what I did? I warmly greeted the friend I hadn't seen in months. I didn't try to address why it got distant in the first place or share how sad it made me. I was just happy to see her. I interacted with her boyfriend and tried to make him feel comfortable and included. I talked and laughed with the other two friends. Every chance I got, I tried to link everyone together in the conversation, so no one felt left out. Basically, I totally rocked a potentially awkward social scenario and managed to enjoy myself in the process.

Did I mention I got a personal record on my run? That was icing on the cake. Like I said, the real victory that day was facing my fear of rejection and ridicule. I swear, some days my relationship status feels like a scarlet letter on my chest. However, unrealistic or imagined it is, the shame of being alone seems huge, very real and very scary. When I made the decision to face it instead of avoid it, I was able to overcome it.

I ring this PR bell for myself and for all the other single girls out there who know exactly what I felt like that day. There are many of us who often fly solo and do it with enormous grace and dignity. To all of you beautiful women, stay strong, keep holding it down, and hold your head high. This PR's for you.

Good sport

Recently, a newer friend of mine came in town to visit. We had only really interacted online, so it was nice to see she had the same positive energy in person that she exuded through technology. At any rate, she came out to my fitness boot camp and I had her doing a few things that were a little out of her comfort zone. After the workout, I jokingly called her a good sport. It amused me for a couple of reasons: 1) Because good sportsmanship is usually a term reserved for kids who demonstrate prosocial skills and 2) Because another friend has been known to call her husband a good sport when he rides the waves of her emotional tides. I was being playful, but when you really think about what it means, I think we can all benefit from being good sports in life. Here are a few things adults can learn from this childhood concept of being a good sport.

They play well with others
This is key. People who relate well to others win in life. We all know back biting complainers. Most of the time we avoid them because no one wants to hang around negativity. Good sports, on the other hand, are warm, positive, and likeable. They can establish rapport quickly and relate to others genuinely. Because of those skills, these individuals tend to go far in life.

They laugh easily
Another thing about good sports is they are good-natured. Some of my favorite people in the world are the ones that don't take themselves too seriously. These people can find humor in themselves and most situations. In doing so, they help lighten other people up too. Good sports use humor wisely and seem to always know when it's the perfect way to break the ice.

They are open

The last thing I'll mention is that good sports are open. They don't put themselves or others in a box. They're willing to try new things, even if they are a little scary or uncomfortable. Because they have a healthy outlook on life, they have confidence to face challenges. The fear of failure doesn't keep them from trying. As a result, they usually succeed.

Ask yourself a few things. Are you the person people want on their team? Does your encouraging style make you a motivating leader? Do you bring out the best in others? Do you lighten the mood and maintain a positive atmosphere? Do you have a healthy hunger for adventure and the openness to try new things? Then, you might be a good sport. It's definitely something I aim to be and I'm so thankful for having so many wonderful examples of people who embody just that.

Monday, April 11, 2016

No more discounts: I'm a dime piece!

I recently had a thought. I am in my feelings about something nearly every day. It's not just because I'm a counselor either. It's my own stuff and it's exhausting. I would love to not vacillate so much between loving everything about me and wondering if I matter at all. Thankfully, I am starting to see the triggers and it's high time to do something about them. It's not a lack of self-esteem. I am quite pleased with my endowment of looks, abilities, credentials, and spiritual gifts. It is an issue of value, however. As awesome as I know I am, I still struggle when I feel like people do not see it. And then my vain attempts to get them to see it, I sell myself for a discount and that doesn't feel very good. I'm realizing this looks a few different ways.
Giving it away for free
And I mean this literally. Since starting my own wellness business, I've found myself offering free promotional events or significantly reduced rates. I reasoned that free offerings would strum up business. I am learning that this is a no-no, a major rookie mistake.

There's psychology behind monetary exchange. When something is free or inexpensive, people do not value it as much and certainly do not invest in it. When something is given a moderate to high price, it is seen as in demand. If something is not easily accessible to all, then it must be more valuable. Freebies every once in a while are fine. But having extended offers where I share my pearls and get nothing in return, doesn't bode well for feeling worthwhile and appreciated. Undercutting the wisdom and knowledge I have to offer serves no one, especially not me.

One sided pursuits
Another thing that chips away at one's self-worth is unequal relationships. I have written about this before. All of us can take on the pursuer or distancer role in our connections at different points. But the healthiest, longest lasting relationships are the ones where there is equal investment and shared power. Despite knowing this, I still find myself trying harder with some acquaintances than others.

For instance, I appreciate random just thinking of you texts. When I think of someone, I will generally text to tell them so. I like that about me and don't think there's anything wrong with that. The problem, however, is when I don't get the response I would prefer. If someone doesn't respond as warmly or enthusiastically to my gesture as I might hope, it bothers me. Or if it seems as though I am always the one reaching out to say hi and they rarely check in with me, that begins to wear on me as well. Am I not good enough to be in someone's thoughts throughout the day? Is it so inconceivable that someone might want to reach out and tell me they care? These questions are rooted in emotion, not facts, I well know. But on the days when I'm already "full of the feels," as one friend would say, I am tempted to question my worth.

Which brings us to bribery. It's hard to even admit to doing this at times, but let's be honest. If you give someone something out of the goodness of your heart, not expecting anything in return, it's a gift. If you give something in hopes that it'll endear them to you, invoke a reciprocal gesture, or bring them closer to you, it's a bribe, plain and simple. But how often are we all guilty of this at different times? Maybe you have a non-committal friend or significant other who only spends time if you foot the bill. Maybe he/she is always busy with this or that, but then suddenly frees up when you agree to cover them. Again, every once and a while, treating is fine. But it goes back to reciprocity. If someone rarely, if ever, extends the same courtesy, it's imbalanced. The lack of balance can really wear on your soul.

What am I saying? Don't be generous with your time and resources? Don't be thoughtful and considerate of the people you care about? Don't be warm and openhearted? Of course, I'm not saying that. Those are wonderful qualities that everyone should cultivate in increasing measure. The issue is when you give and expect too much, ask too little, and all but beg people to love you and validate your existence, that's when you have problems. That's when you're likely to get hurt and stay hurt often. That's when your self-worth begins to erode.

So, let's end by saying this. Stop it. Just stop it. Let's stop allowing unconscious behaviors and relational patterns to keep triggering the same childhood wounds. Let's stop creating personal or professional situations (that's right, creating, because we play a willing role in it) where we feel rejected, passed over, devalued, and less than. We already know from painful experience that it doesn't feel good and we deserve more. I don't know about you, but I'm done with being in my feelings everyday. I'm done with the emotional roller coaster brought on by my need for others to validate me and assure me of my worth. I'm tired of living life from a one down position. That's not who I am. I am an incredible human being, full of love and light, created to be a blessing on this planet. In a word, I'm a dime piece and I'm done giving discounts.

Friday, April 8, 2016


Yesterday on the trail I ran my fastest 5k. It didn't come easily. I knew in the first half mile that it would be a push. I think part of what helped me PR (personal record) was not wanting to embarrass myself next weekend when I run with my younger, more athletic friends. The sad thing is that even though I did my best and ran my fastest, the moment was instantly robbed by the thought that it wasn't good enough. All I could think about was how my friends could easily shave 3 minutes off that time.  It made me think how often the good enough gremlin plagues me, at least in my fitness journey.

I wish I could tell you it ends with the running comparison, but it doesn't. Over Christmas my cousin-in-law and I were playing around with partner workouts. I knew she was into heavy lifting so I asked her to squat me. She put me on her shoulders, all X number of pounds of not light me, and proceeded to squat me three or four times. I thought that was so hard-core that I wanted to do it too. I told her that I would be able to squat her by the next family reunion. Well, I'm three months out from that family reunion and I am nowhere near ready to squat a grown woman. I haven't trained for it. And realistically, I know there is no functional reason for me to do so. But because I can't, I struggle with not feeling good enough.

Is that the end? No. When I see yoga friends and people I follow doing crazy inversions and balancing poses, I feel like I'm failing at life because I can't do the same. And when I see gorgeous fitness models posting their bikini pictures, part of me wonders if I should do it too. Maybe if I really shredded, waxed, and baby oiled my body, then I would be like the pretty cheerleaders who were on homecoming court and always had a love interest. Because that's not me, I fear I'm not good enough.
I'm sure I could offer many other examples, but you get the point. I feel silly writing all of this out, but it's true and I want to be authentic. Even as a therapist, who challenges cognitive distortions like this all the time, even as a body positive personal trainer who preaches function over form and strength over aesthetics, sometimes I'm still vulnerable to these plaguing thoughts. 

I would be lying if I did not acknowledge that fitness, at least in part, is about finally being in the cool kids club. I never played sports or even had the confidence to try out for teams. Now that I've found fitness and I've become fairly decent as my own version of an athlete, I want even to push even more. There's nothing inherently wrong with striving. Striving to reach your potential is a good thing. Striving for personal validation is not.

The whole good enough battle is a slippery slope. When is it ever enough? When you're an elite athlete? When you get a certain degree or certification? When you win a competition? When you lose a certain number of pounds? When you're a certain percentage of body fat? When you do finally hang with the cool kids? No. None of those external things will ever make you feel worthy. None of them. You know what will calm the anxiety and replace it with peace? These grounding truths: You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). That's right. Imperfect you is lovingly and perfectly designed by your Creator. You know what else? You are God's workmanship, His poem, created in Christ's image to do good works which He's prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). He delights in you, His handiwork, and everywhere you lack, He becomes more than enough for you.

So, going back to my point from the beginning, I ran my fastest 5k yesterday. The moment was initially robbed by the good enough gremlin, but thankfully, it didn't last for long. I was able to say, "Enough!" to the good enough gremlin and celebrate my PR. And what's even better is that my performance didn't even matter. On my best day, on my worst day, I am 100% loved and accepted by God and that makes me enough.