We Were Meant To Be Strong

A photo taken on November 1, 2015, during one of the most unwell moments of my entire existence.

I never thought I'd come to a point where I would be tracking my macros, planning out my independent workouts, and determining where within my budget I can afford to tighten up in order to afford the most ridiculously priced, yet super beautiful, pair of lifting shoes.  

At different points in my life, had you asked the question "What do you think your life would be like on January 23, 2018 at 6:36am?" I would've had a much different answer. Depending on how physical active I was or what I was currently engaged in during the time, you might've heard any of the following:

  • Prepping a carb rich meal, in preparation for a long evening of training with my private boxing instructor... or prepping to test for a high ranked belt for Krav Maga 
  • Laying in bed planning my beta climb route, obsessing about that V4 turned V100 because I'm too fucking short and I do not have the wingspan of a bird
  • Packing up my paleo meal prep with the intent to consume after completing another functional movement, strength and conditioning training session at the gym
  • Living in Denver completely bundled up and braving the cold with two dogs
  • Dead 

I've gone through several phases in my life of being fit to getting fat to being fit again, and I've survived the cycles between extreme joy and crippling pain. I've tasted the fitness rainbow— powering through Krav Maga, boxing, parkour, beginners adult ballet, modern dance, pole dance for performance and fitness, tennis, football, rock climbing, cycling, yoga, and the shortest stint ever with CrossFit.  

But the one phase in my life I appreciated the most is the one that brings the most bittersweet taste in my mouth: the time I was sick and had no idea if I would ever recover from what I was physically and emotionally battling.

It was the most humbling year of my life as it taught me a lot about the capabilities of my body and its need for survival. I had gone without eating, sometimes spending extended periods of time sleeping on the cold tile of my bathroom. I had jammed myself with all sorts of pharmaceuticals, and explored the realm of Eastern Medicine working with an acupuncturist herbalist.  I had watched my body deteriorate, and later accelerating that deterioration by own hand; I began binge eating all of the junkiest foods known to man and not bothering to ever get outside for fresh air and exercise. However, despite how much I was giving up on myself, my body refused to quit.  

Years out and recovering, I've come to experience observe a number of things about the human body.  Conducting outreach and working within homeless encampments for my day job as continued to reinforce my beliefs.  I meet with heroine addicts regularly, majority of whom haven't had a meal in several days sustaining life.  They are able to perform human basic functions like sitting, standing, walking, talking, and even riding their bikes for several miles.  Another client of mine showed me his thumb yesterday, a month after slicing it open with a box cutter.  "It's almost fully healed.  I mean I lost the tip of my finger, but look how the skin has grown back."

We can eat the absolute worst foods for our bodies, but instead of instant death our bodies adapt by putting on weight. We may not perform at the same level as others who are more balanced with their consumption, but we can still get by the day with eyes blinking and lungs breathing. Cigarette smokers use the bathroom no differently than their non-smoking counterparts. Even those who were born with handicaps or acquired them throughout their lives are still able to stand before us alive.

Whether we designed this way through creation or have become a beautiful by-product of evolution, the human body was made to be resilient and was made to find its way back to homeostasis.  

Our bodies were meant to be strong. We were made to be resilient.  We were built to survive. We were meant to get cuts, scrapes, and bruises, and our body was designed to clot, scab, and move through the stages of healing.  Broken bones were made to mend.  We were meant to get sick, and our bodies are equipped with most of the right tools to heal itself.  

Our minds are no different.  Adaptation is a form of survival that occurs even within cognitive functioning [more on that later].  So at any point in your life that you underestimate your abilities or question your own abilities to pull through, make it a point to consider all of the ways you've made it thus far. All of the hard weather conditions you lived through. The accidents you've had. The bumps and the gashes. The fractures. The stomach bugs. The nasty colds. The infections. And perhaps even the life threatening, potential death sentences your body has been issued. 

Even when you give up on yourself, your body still won't let you go.

We were meant to be tested, to get hurt, and to heal.  We were meant to live.

Never forget this.  We were meant to be strong. 

And we are.

 

 

 

 

Writers Note:
By no means, don't take this shit for granted. Treat your body well and it'll continue to work with you to sustain you.  

 

Mindset Hacks

A shift in perspective can equal a massive changes in trajectory. Operating under certain beliefs may be the one thing holding you back, creating distress, or adding to the cognitive distortions that you just aren't good enough. Here are a few of mindset hacks I introduce to my coaching and therapy clients.

Lack to Abundance.  When you operate from a place of "lack," you view the world and its resources as "limited."  Having this mindset can breed contempt and jealousy towards those who appear to have everything you want, but feel you don't have. As a result, you pull from a place of treating everything like a competition with resources to be fought over. You also begin to view yourself in a strange light, where you evaluate yourself as having/being nothing.  

Operating under a lack mentality also means allowing anxiety to drive the bus, sometimes causing desperation to speak on your behalf. You start holding on too tight, fearful of letting go because distorted thinking makes you feel threatened that something lost will never return. 

Shifting perspective means creating a different reality to live and play in. Desperation gets replaced by trust. You stop seeing life as first come only served, but rather everyone gets to enjoy the buffet. Instead of seeing people as competition, you might start to see everyone as colleagues, allies, and mentors. You begin to establish relationships with those you can learn from in a mutual exchange, rather than enemies who are out to take what you're fighting for. You being to view yourself as having the ability to attain and achieve, versus considering yourself a lost cause for having none. And just because you don't have it right now, doesn't mean you never will. 

It's Now or Never to Not Yet, But Soon.  One of the deadliest fallacies is to believe if it isn't happening now, it never will. "I can't do it. I don't know how to do it. It's not happening. I'll never be able to [fill in thought here]." Operating under the believe something won't happen is setting yourself up for disaster and failure.

But... life is not black and white.  You have choices, which add splashes of color and varying shades.  When you see things as permeable, you make the shift in knowing you have influence.  Shifting towards the perspective towards things being able to change in time creates the mentality that you have the ability to grow.  Knowing something is coming or will come ignites a sense of hope and excitement. Something to look forward to.  

Building upon the first mindset hack, treat something has if it isn't here now but will be coming soon.  "I can't do it... yet.  I don't know how to do it... right now, but I will learn.  Its not happening, but it will soon. I haven't been able to, but I'm doing XYZ to help myself [fill in thought here]."  Keep it simple.  Just throw in the word "yet" or "but..." at the end of every all or nothing statement.  See what happens.

Need to Want. How many of us are guilty of this?  Putting so much pressure on ourselves to do something or accomplish something because we "need" to.  Sure, it's necessary, but placing the unnecessary burden of pressure creates resistance. It becomes an obligation, a chore. Something someone is asking you to do. It becomes work, and who the hell wants to do work on a Saturday? I don't.  I want to play on a Saturday.

When you "want" something, you transition into the mindset of creating desire. Wanting is the reason why you get up earlier on the days you are on vacation.  Its also the reason why you break away from you diet from time to time to indulge.  Wanting is a treat.  It removes obligation and gives you permission to do something you enjoy.  

Tell yourself you want to go to the gym instead of needing to.  Replace gym with the word laundry.  Or that article you've been meaning to write. Whatever. Want to do something.  It alleviates the burden just a bit.

Away to Towards.  Sometimes we chose to engage in the mindset of needing to avoid or run, pushing something out or away.  Barring certain circumstances that are immediate threats to our physical, emotional, and mental safety, operating under this value system can create a certain kind of energy and tone. 

Avoidance hinders your potential. It's a fast fix, a way to instantly remove yourself from whatever it is you're trying to get away from. But once you get there, then what?  When you are seeking to move away from something, you'll find yourself stopping the minute you are far enough. You stop because you achieved your goal and your emotional safety stops feeling in peril.  But what happens afterwards? Do you start backsliding into old patterns and habits?  Are you now seeking to avoid another thing?  

Instead of moving away from something, what if we try moving towards something? Like instead of going to the gym to avoid being fat, we are are going to the gym to move towards being a healthier person? Or instead of no longer dating assholes, you're now seeking kinder, more emotionally available people? 

Moving-away values cap your growth.  Having a move-towards value opens up the channels to continue to progress.  When you move towards something, you're continually allowing yourself to reach a bar and create opportunities to reacher higher.  When you are moving towards being a healthier person versus avoiding being fat, you are giving yourself some opportunity to define what being healthy means.  You can raise the bar, raise the stakes, continue to move up each and every rung.  The possibilities are endless when you are moving towards, and you play on the mindset hack of "abundance" instead of lack. 


These are just a sample of the mindset hacks I help my clients integrate into their daily lives.  For more mindset hacks and tips, feel free to reach out and we can explore more together.    

How Entitlement Creates Certain Beliefs

I used to think certain outcomes were unfair.  Like how come I didn't get this dance solo/promotion/job/slot/raise?, or, why her?

I used to think it should've been me, and for years I was salty wondering why not me?

Coming into my own, I came to the realization that we are not entitled to have anything. Yes, we are deserving of great things and happiness, but no one owes you anything. No one is entitled to give you what you want simply because you want it. We are all lucky to have the things we have and are blessed to be in the places currently are in life.  However still, some things aren't meant for you.  

Sometimes I question how many people take pause to understand why it was meant for someone else.  Sometimes I wonder how many people take a moment to divert their attention away from themselves to pay special focus to why and how something was a better fit for another person.   Are we so heavily burdened by how something does not belong to us that we chose to emotionally rob someone else of what's truly theirs?

I've spent years being guilty of this behavior, and it wasn't until I began to challenge my thinking that I began to understand I wasn't always in the right.  I started to accept and acknowledge my ego needed to be checked and my sense of entitlement needed to be abandoned.  

In retraining my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to reflect this newly integrated concept, I began to shift my perspective to acceptance. 

If not everything is meant for me, does that truly mean that life actually is unfair?

No, life is pretty fucking fair.  We only chose to throw a tantrum and say it isn't when we don't get what we want... what we've convinced ourselves we are entitled to have.

So how do we remedy this? 

Accept that not everything you want will be yours.  Acknowledge what you have won also means there is another person who has lost out an opportunity you've claimed as a prize.

When you develop a sense of compassion for others, you'll begin to understand how the world works in a much different life. You begin to understand your place, your role, and how you impact the environment.  When you start to see things within the context of the bigger picture, you stop measuring fairness in terms of losses.  Instead, you'll fully internalize the meaning of balance.  In the grand scheme of things, everything in life works out.  

As a result, life stops being about things being fair or unfair. It stops being about you.  The conversation broadens, and your sense of compassion and self compassion heightens.  

Life feels so much better that way.

My Fucking Feelings (#3)

It will always be outside of my ethical constitution to engage in any type of heat-seeking, winner-takes-all, emotional warfare against another person. The minute I get any indication of a person trying to play a game of "one-upping" me, I take it as an opportunity to take a lateral step to the side.  

It's only a competition if BOTH people play the game.  And quite honestly, I don't have the energy to compete with anyone other than myself.  When someone treats life like a zero-sum game they have to win, it makes me feel a little sad for them.  Clearly I don't share that same mentality, so it hurts to think someone can be stuck in that kind of holding pattern—the desperate need to compete and beat out another person because they view what the world has to offer as so limited and scarce.

There is a time and place to be competitive. I've chosen to live my life to only accept competition within the context that scores are being kept, rankings are involved, and a winner is chosen or earns their title as a result of skill, not manipulation. It's a decision that any party who enters this realm is making the decision to take part. 

But to treat everything else like we're playing against one another in the Super Bowl?

No thanks.  I'm good.

The world I've decided to live in doesn't entertain that kind of competition.  I've deliberately made the conscious decision to engage in empowering others instead.  I don't believe in elevating my platform for the sole purpose of stroking my ego and feeling better about myself because I'm "better than someone." I believe in leveling up for the purpose of raising up the world and others around me.  

So when I see this bullshit where someone is attempting to make something a competition, I bow out.  I don't need the attention and praise that bad.  I don't need to "win" or "beat someone out" in order to feel better about myself.  I'm sorry, but that kind of external validation was something I used to seek in a former life, the old Aileen who was pretty fucking immature and insecure.

I don't see this kind of behavior as a threat.  I see it as a cry for help.  I see it as someone searching for some kind of way to pacify the inner child that was told they weren't good enough. So instead of being inspired by someone else to attain something they want, they feel an instant tinge of jealous and are prompted to compete out of feelings of fear and lack. I see it as an attempt to put a bandaid over a bullet wound, as sadness attempting to cover up it's bloody tracks.  

I have no interest in enabling this kind of behavior, so if you see me politely dipping out through the side, understand it's nothing personal.

It's just not me.  

My Fucking Feelings (#2)

After four years of being a member, I put in the request to leave Equinox.
It was more than just a gym, but a representation of my entire journey.  When I left LA Fitness, I was leaving for the sake of elevating the stakes to train harder at a gym that would better suit my needs.  And here I am, again, at the brink of another change in trajectory and breakthrough.  

Both my trainer and my powerlifter boyfriend have said the same thing: I belong in training arena that engages my athletic abilities and enhances my strength.  After an assessment conducted at B's training facility, I've been invited to return and work with one of the weightlifting coaches there.  

Natural talent.  Or so, I'm told. Great mobility, power, strength, and understanding of dynamic movements.  With the potential to compete.

"You are always better than you think you are."  

I had to write that on my mirror this morning to serve as a reminder. I had to encourage myself to see beyond present day and acknowledge the potential everyone else sees. 

The move to leave Equinox is more than just saying goodbye to a beautiful facility. It's about closing one chapter in my life to start a new one. It's about finally admitting to myself how I outgrew the life path I was on, but continued to hang on because I didn't know how to move forward.  It's about embracing a new set of challenges, about understanding I'm walking into new territory where the learning curve is steep. 

I've been here numerous times before. When I decided to start bouldering despite being terrified of heights, yet eventually being able to top out on a V3.  When I decided to join a co-ed football league having never played on a team sport growing up, yet became a valued member of a multi-championship winning team.  

You can't predict the course of your journey before you start. You never know where the road will veer after the first few steps. You never know until you show up.

Here's to a new phase in my life, my fitness journey, and my quest for greatness.
 

(I'm fucking terrified.)

Time versus a Broken Heart

Life is a collection of experience, some of which result in a broken heart. A wide range of reasons for the heart to ache, the most devastating kind of pain brings us to pull tears from a place deep within. It goes beyond the heart, into the soul, with the tears becoming the signifier of a bleeding soul.  

I've known my fair share of heartache—from being diagnosed with medical conditions that could suspend my life to saying goodbye to an expired relationship.  The most soul emptying heartaches are ones we never felt like we could control. We had absolutely no say in the matter and were left to deal with aftermath of cleaning up after ourselves, picking up the broken pieces of ourselves littered across the floor.  

I've come across a lot of stories of pain lately: stories shared within my client sessions and discussions amongst friends. Despite not wanting to pull from clichés, the automatic response I've reacted with has been, "Time will be your ally."

But is it really, though?  I've been reflecting back to this sentiment lately, questioning whether or not I actually feel a sense of connection with this blanket statement. 

My answer is no.

Sometimes time is not your ally, but a greater source of pain.

I've been broken hearted before, and time was not always my ally. Sometimes, time was a saboteur in my healing process. Too much time meant an idle mind, allowing me to engage in endless hours of crazy making trying to understand a decision or result I couldn't comprehend. So I went searching for answers in ways not conducive to my healing, including digging around in places that would draw out more pain.  Consciously aware I was engaging in some unhealthy behavior, I couldn't help but go there.  I have no reasonable explanation other than "I demand answers to questions I won't ever be able to ask."  

Time sometimes served as an agonizing reminder of how much time had passed without me being able to move on. I'd watch the world around me move as I felt completely still without progress or momentum. 

I didn't cope by giving myself time. I coped by giving myself space—from the situation, the person, the place that originated the pain. I coped by removing myself from the source of pain, and placed myself in an environment to support being on the mend.  I accepted that closure is not always beautiful on arrival, and sometimes we don't receive the kind of closure we need.  And in those instances, we have to find a way to create it on our own.

There were plenty of times I resisted it, running back to the source of heartache. I wanted to move on (so I kept telling myself), but my actions proved otherwise.  I wanted to move on... but only under the condition of healing by having whatever broke me be the thing to heal me. 

We all want to believe we can heal by having whatever broke us be the one to fix us, to "unbreak our hearts." In returning to the provenance of pain, we find a false sense of security and comfort trying to convince ourselves we can stay so long as we adapt in whatever ways we need in order to hang on. In placing responsibility for the cause to be the cure, we are leading ourselves down a continued path of repeatedly ripping our hearts in half.

Perhaps this works for a little while. Perhaps we do find comfort for a minute before being smacked in the face with the reality of how we are holding onto something that has already let us go.  

You owe it to yourself to love yourself with the most compassionate heart, understanding your right to grieve your losses and to be sad. You owe it to yourself to cry as hard and as long as you need to. You owe it to yourself to acknowledge your broken heart as a result of disappointment in your reality not lining up with your expectations. 

Most importantly: you owe it to yourself to accept reality, no matter how hard it is. You are responsible for the mending of your broken heart, and part of that reality is knowing you have the ability to heal it simply by allowing yourself to acknowledge it's time to pursue another dream.  

Walking away isn't giving up; it's giving yourself a chance. Exercise your right to be in control of your healing and provide yourself with the honest feedback of what is keeping you from moving forward.

You don't have to let it go. You just have to let things be.

 

My Fucking Feelings

Today, I made the compassionate decision to acknowledge and sit with my fears. Today, I made the loving choice to understand what I fear and why I'm so afraid of it.

Today, I gave myself permission to guide myself through the painful memories that took place—the events in my life where these fears were first born. Today, I acknowledged why my heart rate rises and why anxiety courses through my veins when I feel threatened.

Like showering in cold water on a winter day, it's uncomfortable.  To sit with some of the most uncomfortable feelings is to encourage yourself to peel back the layers.

And I cried... way more tears than I anticipated when revisiting the pain.  It isn't being hung up over the past; it's about the being triggered right now and reliving previously painful events.  Moreover, the fear that the past will recreate itself in my present day.

Fear, you are not an enemy but an ally.  You are here to teach me something.  And I am willing to learn what that lesson is.

Today, I am choosing not to run from my fears.  
Today, I am choosing to hug them.  To heal them.

Today, I am choosing to disassociate my present and future from the past.
Today, I am choosing to trust in the process and to trust in myself.

Today, I am choosing to surrender to the unknown and believe in fate.

The Real 1%

I've said it time and time again, but I will say it again once more:

People want to change... but only if it's convenient and easy.  People reject the commitment to change when they realize it's difficult, uncomfortable, and may not fit within their ideal timeframe. 

Being in the business of "healing and transformational change" as a Clinical Social Worker, Therapist, and Life Coach has taught me a lot about the science behind change and transformation.  

And being a fucking relentless little human being has taught me everything I need to know about the struggle accompanying change.  

We use a lot of fancy clinical terms within the therapeutic community and a number of buzzwords within the life-coaching hub. We talk about the stages of change and a person's readiness.  We talk about barriers to change: negative biases, cognitive dissonance, and cognitive distortions

I've spent most of my professional career dissecting the science behind change, and a lot of my off-hours observing change through others and within myself. My obsessively compulsive mind has led me down the rabbit hole of trying to understand the reasons behind why some people "can't, won't, and don't" just change. How can someone not want to change if they know the benefits of an alternative? Or why won't they make the change if they know XYZ is a detriment to their livelihood?   

You can have a change in trajectory and undergo a paradigm shift overnight. I can agree to that. However real change—I'm talking the kind of change where you cannot even believe you were once that person from your past—is the outcome of an obsessive commitment to consistent efforts regardless of how high or low the motivation is.

You hit two major breaking milestones within your transformational journey: either you experience discomfort or you hit a point of boredom.

Discomfort can come in a variety of ways. When discomfort first hits, a person is often slammed with the thought this isn't right for them. "If something is meant to happen, it should come with ease" becomes the common misconception. However, we all have to defer to the old adage of "Nothing worth having comes easy."  

If a person can get past the phase of discomfort, they might be met with the next sucky phase: boredom. Perhaps they've attained their goal, or maybe they've just begun to lost interest in pursuing said goal. Or perhaps they're floating around in the middle and beginning to grow tired of being tasked to continue to keep pressing on. When the excitement and endorphins wear off, the motivation to continue can sometimes wane. This is when a routine becomes a rut. Without any refreshing jolt to the system, boredom can overtake the desire to press on.  

Two major breaking points, and truly only 1% of the world's population actually see themselves through.

Only 1% truly commit to being this zealous in their pursuit to raise their quality of life.  

Only 1% truly indulges in their desire to be persistent in pushing past the two breaking points.  

Only 1% seeks beyond striving for greatness, but actually thrives in it.

Only 1% will accept and surrender to the reality that real change is a matter of continued efforts that go the distance, beyond discomfort and beyond boredom. 

Only 1% are willing, ready, and able to put themselves through the physical, mental, and emotional anguish that tests every part of their being.

These are our inspirational leaders, the people who motivate us.  The people who inspire us.  The people who guide the way and light the path.  These are our heroes.

Yet so little of us know that these people could be us.  

We could be part of that 1%... 

Revelations :: 2017

I don't make resolutions; I prefer to evolve.  

But— before any evolution can take place, there must be a revolution of self.  

Far be it from me to become hyper-obsessed with the fate of 2018 without taking a moment to take stock of 2017. 

  • You're allowed to make changes to your initial vision board.  Especially when new visuals enter the picture.  Edit, and edit often.  
  • If you created it over a decade ago, destroy your old blueprint
  • Plans change as YOU change.  
  • Goals are meaningless without a reason so powerful, it brings you to tears speaking about it.
  • Do not rely on motivation to carry you through the day.  Motivation is fickle, but what will get you through the days you want to give up is DRIVE.  
  • If you don't ask, the answer will always be no.
  • If you don't speak up, some things will never change.
  • Logical decisions can never be made from an emotional place.
  • Sometimes even the people who love you won't know what's best for you.  That said, ask yourself the hard questions and know that the answers are within.  Take as much time as you need to find them.
  • If you find yourself needing to defend yourself or justify your actions, you are fighting a tireless battle against someone whose mind will never change.  Don't be responsible for their change.  Just focus on yours.
  • Every day is a choice.  If you make the "wrong one," take it as feedback to chose the other way tomorrow.
  • Surviving the shittiest moments are a result of having one hell of a sense of humor and being resourceful as fuck.
  • It's only lonely at the top if you forget to invite people to do life with.
  • You don't have to believe everything your mind tells you.
  • Participate only in the conversations that stimulate your growth and challenge you to break ground.  This includes the inner dialogue you have with yourself.
  • No one is out to get you.  They're too busy being in it for themselves (and themselves alone).
  • Language is everything.  As is mindset.
  • Text less, talk more.  FaceTime is a fucking godsend.
  • Never go searching or attempting to recreate something from before.  You were different then.  Welcome the "new-new" with open arms, an open mind, and an open heart.

Change is not easy.  It's not convenient.  In fact, it's incredibly messy and uncomfortable through and through.  The reason why it doesn't happen for most people is because they don't want to push past the point where they begun to turn corners and unearth some deep rooted shit.  And the deeper you go, the more pockets of discomfort you'll experience.  Is it worth it in the end?  I have no idea—I'm still knee deep in sorting through my own bullshit right now.  But so far, so good.  

Here's to another year of revolutions.  

Emotionally Starved

I hate the term "needy."  It perpetuates the belief of being required to be completely self-sustaining, which goes against the human design of being tribunal creatures who thrive off connection and social engagement.  

I hate it because it suggests there is something wrong about having needs, and more importantly, the desire to having those needs fulfilled.  The negative association with the word "needy" implies some absurdity with having needs for attention, affection, support, validation, and appreciation.  

Being "Externally Dependent" is not the same as being "Emotionally Starved."

The difference between the two?  Who were you before you began to feel "needy."

A generally independent person with a strong support system and solid coping skills typically will have less reliance on the outside world to find fulfillment and validation.  A generally healthy, strong partner has some sense of understanding about who they are and what value they hold.

An emotionally starving person is someone who used to glow, yet now struggles to find the light within themselves to continue shining bright.  They are one who once felt cherished and special, yet has begun to question what they mean to their most important people. 

An emotionally starved person can react in two ways:  fight harder to seek affections, or disappear into a dark emotional hole.

A physically hungry person can result in a number of behaviors, including the most drastic and considerably crazy.  When you are starving and have certain needs unmet, it comes as no surprise your willingness to do what it takes to satiate your need.  "Crazy behavior" isn't exclusive to the mentally unstable.  When your stress levels are off the charts and you're finding yourself pushing past your frustration tolerance, it can result in the most drastic and dramatic behaviors.  

Being deprived and having unmet emotional needs is exactly that— being hungry.

Prolonged deprivation has it's long term consequences: an emotionally starved person, having gone so long without needs being met, can easily find themselves becoming externally dependent.  Having spent so much time in a dark emotional hole can lead a person to develop the belief their needs are not worthy of being met, thus creating a series of cognitive distortions.  

An emotionally starved infant grows into an externally dependent adult, incapable of generating self love. 

The next time someone makes references to someone being "needy," challenge yourself a little and approach with curiosity.  Is this person externally dependent or just emotionally starving?

Focus on Mastery

With high societal pressures, the advent of social media has perpetuated this belief we need to have it all.  At once.

A college degree. A high paying, yet emotionally fulfilling job. A fit body. The perfect partner. The house. The kids. The dog. The vacations. The perfect mindset.  The intellectual depth. The everything

Our realities are pressed against the curated details of the lives of people we idolize.  Even those role models who embrace their authenticity, we cannot help but find ourselves asking what their secret to happiness, success, and wealth are.  So we buy their books.  We listen to their podcasts.  We follow who they're following, what guests they have on their shows.  

Sooner or later, our days become filled with the seemingly automatic response of searching to better ourselves.  Day in and day out, we move towards trying to improve.  

There is nothing unhealthy about self development, but there is such a thing as being addicted to self improvement.  It is not uncommon to be so dissatisfied with all the areas of your life that you begin wanting to change everything at once.  There's nothing wrong with wanting it at all—the difficulties with self improvement emerge when we try to make ALL of it happen right now.

Exhaustion isn't a result of working hard.  It's a result of doing too many things at once, for an extended period of time.  

A few months ago, I broke my long standing hiatus with intensive and highly focused strength and conditioning.  Two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with a condition that left me medically delicate and was recommended to to reduce the intensity of training.  I traded in weight lifting for "wait sitting."  I turned in my kettle bells for kettle corn.  Yoga pants were renamed "multi-purpose pants."  I kept my muscles warm with blankets instead of generating internal heat.  I became used to living a sedentary life, living completely comfortable in my discomfort.

My return to training was not triumphant.  Two months in, and I still do not feel like a glorious, majestic beast who nails every single movement, lift, and HIIT circuit.  It feels like every other rep, I'm receiving feedback on how to improve my form.  Sometimes, it clicks during one rep or one exercise... only to falter during the next series of exercises my trainer has planned in my program.  

Last week, I walked out of my session wondering which was more sore—my body, or my ego?  

I've been trying to keep up with everything being asked of me:  balancing one arm on the bosu ball; while holding a dumbbell in the other,  focusing on keep my lats engaged AND avoiding  the nasty habit of pulling a shoulder shrug, while attempting to do a single arm row; all while keeping my core tight, glutes activated in a plank position.  

It's a lot to ask someone who struggles to do a bent over row, without the bosu ball and the planking.  

This complex movement set provided some insight:  sometimes we try to do too much, at the same time, and often times when we barely have the proper foundation or form for only one of them.

I decided to highlight this experience and pull the lesson from the exercise.  Too much focus on too many things leads to exhaustion, frustration, and often times added expended energy trying to keep up.  

I decided to commit on perfecting one thing, first, until moving on to work on the next.  In the course of my gym training, I decided to spend the next several works paying extra attention to strengthening my hamstrings and working to establish my form and technique for a better deadlift.  I decided to commit the next 4-6 weeks to building around this one lift I'd like to improve.  Once it became second nature, it's on to committing myself to another muscle or set of movements to bolster and strengthen.

If I were to continue down the path of trying to make everything happen all at once, the body would struggle in all areas trying to keep up.  The mind operates in the same fashion, with burnout and emotional, mental, and physical fatigue being the outcome.

Choose to commit to one thing at a time.  Choose to picking one part of your life you'd like to place a greater level of committed focus to improving.  You do not need to ignore all of the other areas in your life needing work, but drawing specific focus an attention allows you to pull from a place of wanting to move towards mastery.  And upon hitting a point of satisfaction, you can use that increased self confidence to help you rebuild, reform, and reprogram another area of your life.

One at a time.  

To The Friends Who Need To Realize Their Own Worth

As previously published on Thought Catalog.

It isn’t easy being vulnerable with anyone. To be utterly, unapologetically authentic and forthcoming, sharing your deepest darkest secrets is something that doesn’t always come easily. We’ve been taught to cover up the ugly parts, mask the pain, and respond with routine answers of “Things are good,” and “I’m fine,” whenever someone asks how we are. We keep silent about too many things, at the risk of misinterpretation or judgment for the irrational fears and self doubt we all share.

It takes a lot of trust to tell someone what’s really going on behind the scenes, to share all you’ve shared.

In the time we’ve known each other, you’ve introduced me to some of your demons and let me read some of the previous chapters of your life. I’ve watched you bludgeon your self-esteem with unkind words. I’ve stood back and watched you take a mental marker to your flesh, grading parts of your body like an overzealous professor. I’ve watched you treat your successes like failures simply because you were disappointed in being millimeters shy of your mark.

I’ve bitten down on my tongue each and every time you berate yourself, hoping a couple of compliments and words of encouragement would be enough. I cannot tell you how much it hurts to witness you struggle and suffer from the abuse you take from your own hands. It breaks my heart to know you are losing sleep to feed your insecurities in the middle of the night.

While a good friend loves and accepts us for who we are, a best friend knows when to call it quits on being soft and when to intervene.

The relationship you’ve developed with yourself is unhealthy and a threat to your livelihood. I may be overstepping my boundaries with this aggressive overtake, but I will no longer stay silent about the abuse. I will not stand back and watch you engage in any more harmful behavior.

If I could jump inside your head and slap your inner critic, I would in half a heartbeat.

I will not condone the act of you measuring yourself against a standard of perfection God himself would not be able to achieve. I will not pass judgment, but I will challenge your every distorted thought with a heavy dose of reality of how awesome you truly are. I will interrupt your regularly scheduled self-loathing to inform you how ninety percent is not a perfect score, but still a distinguished achievement. I will constantly remind you of the many ways you are a majestic beast, a glorious human being who deserves to be celebrated in all the ways possible.

I suggest you to see yourself through a different lens, in hope you see something you overlooked. I will encourage you to see yourself through my eyes, hoping you’ll learn to love and accept yourself as I do. Standing before you would be this remarkable person who worked their way up and maintains enough humility to stay grounded.

You’d love the way your eyes soften when you smile and the sound of your giggle. You’d witness how endearing falling asleep during a film is, and how undeniably cute it is you continually deny it, despite knowing it happened.

Impressed by your creativity and talent, you’d know your current position in your career is merely a stepping-stone for something larger. You’d be in awe of your own physique, accepting all of the smooth and bumpy parts as one brilliant design of human architecture.

We are all chasing after some ideal: the perfect body, partner, career, home, social life, family, or ideal situation. I am guilty of wanting the very same things and giving into that ugly voice inside that points out every single flaw. We are products of our environment: a society that has long infected us with the belief anything short of perfection means we are losers and failures. Innocuous messages come to us regularly, encouraging the constant need for achievement without a second wasted celebrating our little wins.

Constructive criticism is not very constructive at all; instead of feeling empowered to make changes, we are inspired to belittle our achievements and highlight the flaws to be fixed. Far too often, we receive messages encouraging self-destructive thoughts and limiting mindsets to reject the rest of who we are in order to be accepted. We have been set up for failure in our quest for success without being consciously aware of it.

Don’t buy the false truths your inner demons try to sell you, because the price you pay will leave you feeling bankrupt.

You are not the things your own mind has bullied you into believing, and I will be damned if I allow you to take another sledgehammer to your ego.

Until you learn to be your own best friend, know I am here and ready to incessantly pester you with constant reminders of why you are one of the most beautiful humans I have ever met and one of my favorite people.

Thank you for listening with an open heart and an open mind. I care for you enough to stand in the way of anyone who is in your way… even if that someone is you. You are worth every bit of the attention I have put into our relationship and deserving of the love you feel deprived of—your own. One day, you’ll begin to believe it, too.

Please let today be that day. 

I No Longer Have your Love, But I Have Something Better

To the man who broke my heart, around this time last year…

You came into my life during a time when the only person I was willing to date was… myself.  Despite my unwillingness to give anyone else a chance, it was your charm, charisma, and the little gestures that won me over.  You had me choosing not to sleep because reality was becoming far better than any of my dreams.

Being with you was like riding on the bare back of a rescued elephant—surreal and filled with different waves of emotions.  The initial excitement; the flashes of fear and anxiety of falling off and being trampled; the anxious sighs of relief after surviving the walk over bumpy terrain; and the pure sheer bliss in connecting with something so magical and beautiful, I could not help but feel lucky.

Despite all of its beauty, our relationship was far from perfect and you were incredibly flawed.  But I loved you and you were the kind of problem I wanted to have.  Or so I thought.

You were the highest of highs… and the lowest of lows.

You were the nightmare that rivaled the imaginary monsters that used to scare me during my childhood.  You were the storm that refused to pass, the constant downpour that convinced me that I would never, again, get to feel the warmth of the sun.  You were the barrier, the obstacle, the ten-foot wall – the reason why I struggled to move forward and constantly felt stuck.

When you left, you left me broken.  I became nothing more than an empty shell, a body missing both a heart and a soul.  When I lost you, I wasn’t just grieving the loss of our relationship.  I was grieving the death of me.

One year has passed, and I still miss you sometimes.

However, hindsight is always 20/20.

Your presence was a gift.  Little did I know your absence would leave me an even better present:  the opportunity to rebuild.

I could not bear to listen to music without being reminded of you.  So I traded in your beats to find comfort in self-development gurus narrating their works, sending me hope and encouraging messages through the airwaves.  All of the time I devoted to you became absorbed by my career. Newly discovered passions became fueled by the energy I would have otherwise spent on you. Your warm embrace was replaced by the supporting hands of the most surprising set of friends who lifted me up when I did not have the strength to stand or the will to carry on.  I no longer had your love (that is, if I ever did), but I had something better—mylove.

The void in my life and hole in my heart no longer felt like sad empty spaces.  They became rooms that I could decorate and fill with new experiences; new memories, new hobbies, and a newfound appreciation for life.   How the many areas of my life began to flourish with the abundance of this new love.  My renewed confidence allowed accomplish more than I ever imagined possible with or without you my life.  Even if there were days I missed you and wished you were with me (and trust me, there were many), I knew I was with the person I really needed to be with: me. 

You taught me that ripping the chapter entitled “us” out of my life story meant having an incomplete narrative.  You are a far greater influence in my life than I would ever have dreamed or imagined.  The role you played in my life was significant, and it was one that you played very, very well.  You were the catalyst that highlighted all of the things in need of change.  As the old adage goes, the best kinds of relationships are the ones that make us want to become better versions of ourselves.  Although you are not here to see how far I’ve come or how much growth has taken place, just know that you were the one who helped me evolve and grow.

Even though you have become nothing but a fragment of a broken memory, I still hold you in the highest regard as the man who, in the most profound way, taught me what it meant to love.

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for you. 

 

This post previously appeared on Thought Catalog