Today was Day 45. Not a number of any special significance, but I felt the need to reach out in this way, to talk about some stuff that’s been brewing for quite a while. In a way, my walking program and quitting sugar are aspects of a much larger and more complex narrative that I’ve been exploring for much longer than 45 days. I’m not a personal trainer or a life coach, I just wanted to share some thoughts in the hopes that someone will take courage from them. Yes, my journey is all about me, and I’ll be talking about several things that are related to my subjective experience, but I see a lot of the same hurt I am in the process of healing within myself, and I want to do my bit to support the healing of others.
We say this to comfort others, to let them know that whatever has gone wrong isn’t the end of the world or to render acceptable a perceived infraction. But when do we ever say it to ourselves? When do we ever think to give ourselves permission to be less than perfect? Perhaps some of you are better at this than I have been. I have a history of being brutal with my mistakes, with my social faux pas, and with my imperfections. No one ever taught me that I should learn how to say this to me, and so I would eat myself alive inside. This is a large part of why, when I feel shamed or called out about something, I withdraw entirely. Because I cannot forgive myself or imagine how anyone else could forgive me.
I’m not going to get into why this is the way I think. That would involve an entire discussion all its own about parental responsibility and toxic relationship dynamics with nurturing figures. The place for that is not here in this entry. I want to focus on moving forward and learning to build myself in my own image, not that of another. So, a part of that reconstruction was necessarily giving myself permission to not be flawless. I know I will have hard days and nights ahead, in which I’ll want to throw in the towel, eat the chocolate, or simply be felled by illness. It’s okay.
What matters most is that I don’t stay in that place. I am learning to give myself permission to mess up and also to hold myself accountable for getting back on track. I think that’s part of being legitimately kind to yourself–not talking yourself into thinking that one misstep is the end of all your progress. Another aspect of that is not comparing yourself to anyone. Ever. On my Instagram feed, there are a lot of amazing people in fantastic shape doing things I can’t do. Yet. When I feel a pang of envy or the urge to speak negatively about myself, even in my own mind, I have to stop. Because my mission isn’t to attain a “ripped” physique or participate in any Beach Body challenges. It’s about making a whole person out of these salvaged bits. And that’s going to take time.
That’s Not Who I Want to Be, Anymore.
In this broader narrative of self-exploration and self-building, if there’s one thing I’m learning, it is that I must be patient with my process. And I wish I could look at you while you read this–you have to be patient, too. It will happen. Whatever “it” is, for you. If your plan for yourself has integrity, it will survive your realization that you won’t always hit what you aim for on the first try. The key is to keep practicing, I guess.
In the past, and sometimes, in the present, I was a person who didn’t want to seem “bad” at anything. I didn’t want to be seen as a novice, which meant that I talked a good game, but avoided trying anything with others that I hadn’t done before. I missed out on a lot of things, and I also puffed myself up so big that, when the moment of truth came, I didn’t have what it took to repair myself. I had no substance or strength. I was a coward, something I regret allowing myself to become.
But nothing is final until I’m dead. So, now that I’ve made up my mind to be something better than I was, it means that I have to peel back all that armor and ego. Slowly. With trips and falls. But it will happen. I’ll practice being real and raw and honest with myself about the things I need to repair and rebuild until I can do it in my sleep–until I can be gentle with myself and gentle but unflinching with others, too.
My Inner Child Pets the Cat Too Hard
If you’re not familiar with the phrase, petting the cat too hard, imagine a toddler trying to love “kitty” and “kitty” desperate to escape. Preferably alive. It refers to a way of being–an intensity of persona that can be tough for many to withstand, much less embrace. I am one of these enthusiastic souls. But at some point, when I was shown or told that it wasn’t “cool” to be a human laser, whether the mood was happy or not, I encased this bit of me. The person most people meet is sarcastic, blunt, and fierce but standoffish in a variety of ways.
To call that a mask is to intimate that it isn’t also a legitimate part of my adult personality, which would be incorrect. It is a big part of the person I’ve grown into, and I don’t see the sense in discarding it entirely. What I have discovered is that I need to let that inner child out more often, so people won’t be so shocked when I “suddenly” care a lot about something. It’s a part of giving myself permission to be authentic that I talked about in the previous section. I do care a lot about some things.
But I want to embrace the enthusiasm and energy that go with that in a healthy way. To say, “Yeah, I do care about that/like that/dislike that.” And leave it at that. I don’t need anyone’s permission to be passionate or authentic. I don’t need to apologize for it. But I also don’t want to create scenarios where I feel that it’s necessary to seek permission to suddenly be myself or to be ashamed of it.
This wasn’t entirely the entry I wanted to write. I say, “entirely,” because once I got started, I realized that what I wanted to say to you was just so much bigger than I had time or space to convey. I’ll leave my new commitment to being a part of the body-positive movement until next time. I suppose what I really want to say is that, you can do this, whatever it is you’re struggling with, afraid to think or talk about, or know you need to work on in your life. You can do it.
It may not turn out the way you imagined. There may be (and probably will be) road blocks tossed up by the world, your circle of family, friends or coworkers, and even yourself. Something in us always balks at major renovation–erects some formidable self-doubt barricades and employs the most powerful weapons you have in your arsenal against you. But you’ll get it done, and in the end, you may find that you aren’t the same person who began your journey.
Don’t ask permission. Don’t apologize. Just haul off and make a start. A little one. If you can’t begin the main project you want to right now, pick another that will feed into it. But get on it. Love yourself enough to refuse to listen to excuses. It won’t make problems disappear, but it will give you something to hold onto while you deal with them. You are worth every ounce of your own attention and worthy of love from yourself. Whatever else you do, be able to look yourself in the eye and not flinch.