I used to put on a blonde wig, and call myself Melanie. (My hair is naturally blonde but weirdly went dark at a few times in my life, including late teens).
The wig was really long, really thick, and really ‘big’ and barbie-doll ish. I felt, it made me look better. That made me feel better. Sexier. More confident. I could forget I was actually that shy and kind of nerdy girl. The school square who was trying to pretend she fit in with the cool crowd.
I was 19 and I worked behind the bar in an Eastern suburbs venue that was half pool hall; half nightclub. Everyone went there. It was so cool that I worked there; became a manager there.
And the wig transformed me. When I was in the pool hall I’d wear my real hair (or a brunette curly pony tail clip on :)) and my real name.
I’d go next door and I’d transform into one of those girls I used to so admire. Confident and sexy. The life of the party. Once I even had some guys in the pool hall ask me (Kat) for blonde Melanie’s number. That was funny, but also a bit sad.
It was also funny and a bit sad that as a blonde I’d get up to $100 tips a night (a LOT in the Eastern suburbs 13 years ago!) whereas when I was just me I’d be lucky to score $30.
I got out of nightclub management and into personal training later that year. Started getting healthy. Finally, I thought, I’m doing something that’s going to make a difference. Something that can become a career as well as fun! And something that will easily help me to stay in shape and look the way I want to look.
And it did (make a difference). It has become a career. It is fun. But the staying in shape thing and learning how to be truly healthy did not automatically follow. Nor did it automatically control the voices in my head; the voices telling me “you’re not good enough. You still don’t fit in. Everyone can see through you. You’ll never be cool”
figure out what you’re trying to prove
I don’t know what your journey is. I don’t know how much you get inside your head, whether it’s been for 13+ years like me or less or for many decades.
I have no idea what you’ve battled with and what you’ve sacrificed or done in the name of finally getting your body to look a certain way. But I do know this –
If it is a constant battle, a constant ‘thing’ just hanging over you and you feel as though you simply can’t crack it, you need to stop trying so hard. Fighting so hard in your head. Exhausting yourself with the constant need to be whatever it is you think you need to be.
Recently I did a journaling exercise on exactly that, and I’m going to share it with you now. I may have put the blonde wig behind me and moved on from an eating disorder, but I still hear the voices sometimes. And I still let them get to me.
This journaling has helped me to stop. I hope you find it useful. It may read a bit funny as I am actually writing questions to myself and then answering them to myself. I haven’t edited it; I wanted to keep it authentic for you.
“Okay, here is a question to answer to myself –
What am I trying to prove by having to look a certain way? It’s about demonstrating that I’m in control. Showing that I’m good enough, that I can fit in. Be accepted. Be one of the cool people. But why does that matter so much to me? But it’s not JUST about that. It’s also about my body reflecting my health, my fitness. And I just love the way I look when I’m sleek and lean. And I do care what people think. I know a lot of people probably think I look great now, but I know a lot of people also judge me. I want people to admire me for the way I look. But why? Because it validates me. I guess. So why is that important? Well, other people’s approval matters to me. But you’ll never meet the approval of all other people in all other ways, don’t you realise that. Yes. But looking the way I want to look – blond, sleek, toned, lean, is pretty universally accepted. So it’s an easy target to hit I guess. But WHY does it matter so much. What’s going to happen if you don’t meet certain standards? I will be upset at myself because I know I can, that’s what. And I believe I’m not reaching my full potential physically. I get disappointed in myself for a lazy day, for overeating or drinking, for not giving it my all in training. Not trying new things. Responding to fear rather than what I feel my body truly needs. And THAT is the true aha. It’s important to me to reach my full potential physically.
Okay – how can I reach my full potential physically without doing my own head in at the same time and without creating unrealistic lifelong expectations?
Create habits, based on stuff that makes me feel good and has proven itself to be successful. For example – an early evening walk when stressed may be the supposedly unnecessary cardio, but it relaxes my body and my mind. And stops me eating a block of chocolate.
Training weights hard in the first 3-4 hours of the day, usually after some writing, has shown itself to be very effective at making me feel good. Proud. And lifted up for the day.
Pushing myself to do things that scare me now and then – Tough Mudder, the fire trail, running flat out up the 1000 stairs, the yoga competition, even climbing the rope at the gym.
Being truthful about when a day of rest is truly in order and when I just need to create energy by setting the timer and heading out to the garden or gym to move my body until the timer goes off.
Never for a minute accepting that I CAN’T push myself to the same degree that I used to. Doesn’t mean I can or want to or will ever again do regular 3-a-day workouts, but I can match the insane intensity of the circuits from years gone by. And why do that? Because it makes me feel amazing. I love the lung-burning, the sweat, the madness. I love being truly ON with my training.
Eat to make me feel good after AND during, not just in the moment.
Learn and study, and seek help. Learn to understand my body beyond just what to eat and how to train.
It’s okay to stop and relax. Let the stress go.
What is holding me back from reaching my potential? When I allow myself to be too busy. When I get focused on obsessive exercise rather than balance, and I allow other values (such as time with Alyssa, time for learning) to be pushed down as a result. When I stress eat. When I lie and tell myself that it doesn’t matter, that I can skip this day. And the next. When I respond to tiredness and therefore get sucked into it, rather than thinking about ways I can build my energy physically, emotionally and mentally.
When I lose sight of joy in my life! I am definitely more ‘on’ physically when I am on purpose and passion with my writing and my work, when I feel I’m making a difference.
What else helps?
Gratitude helps. Using my creative muscle. Doing my A-tasks first. Getting up early every day. Setting 30-day challenges. Stopping to think – what is the desired outcome? And where will this behaviour lead me to a month from now? A year from now? A decade from now?
Being at least mentally prepared with what I’m going to eat. When I feel like eating crap, eat the good stuff first, and see if I still need the junk. Usually I don’t. Which almost disappoints me a little bit; I almost feel as though I’m mourning the gradual loss of my chocolate addiction. Having a plan for when I’m going to train. Sticking to it most of the time. 90%+. But making it work for my lifestyle, i.e. being willing to do a workout at home now and then rather than the rigamarole of going to the gym and putting Alyssa in the daycare. Sometimes that’s fine. Sometimes it feels wrong and I just want a less harried day; a day where I can stay pretty much in one place. Not on my couch 🙂
What else helps? Early to bed. Reading a lot of self-development. Constantly forcing the question – where do I want to go? Am I happy with the past I’m creating right now?
Getting expert help. Recognising that it’s NEVER just about calories and exercise for anyone over 20 years old, and usually not even then. That there are hormonal things to be aware of, issues of toxicity, possible digestive upset, supplement needs, food intolerances. And a bunch of other stuff. No, it’s not the magic answer – you still need good food and hard, regular training. But it’s part of the puzzle.
Journalling helps. Spending the first half hour or so of my day working all the ‘crap’ out of my head. Asking myself questions about the stuff that’s been niggling at me. Kind of like this 🙂
But then moving on. Filling my mind and my life with the stuff I want more of. Focusing on that which I want; blessing that which I want, and most of all taking smart actions towards that which I want.“
why do you really want what you want? what are you trying to prove?
It’s okay to have something to prove. You’re never going to want anything for no reason!
But I think it’s good to figure out what that something is for you, and then decide if it’s actually leading you down a path you like the look of or not.
And I know – it’s a lot of stuff to work through. And it’s tough to do. Me, I do a lot of it a lot of the time (as in, a lot of what I wrote above on reaching my potential). I’m not perfect yet. And I’ll hope to never get there ;). I want to learn more and more to enjoy the journey and the continued growth. Don’t you?
Melanie was a great girl for a while. I’d even go so far as to say I loved her. But now? She’s stuffed into a box somewhere in my garage. She never was cut out for the real world.
Life is Now. Press Play.