Tag Archives: health

Cowboy boots & Confidence

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Over the past month, it’s become pretty clear to me how much of my self-confidence is tied up in running. I didn’t start running to gain self-confidence, but as an escape from a day-to-day existence that I wasn’t happy with. But, running offered me a way to be in my physical body without worrying about its shape or weight or how it acted and appeared in space with other eyes viewing it. It became this strong, confident vessel that moved me over dozens of miles a week. I started to look up when I walked down the street.  I stopped craving, stopped needing, external (male) validation of my looks to feel attractive. I started to love my body all on my own — the muscular bits, the skinny bits and the round bits alike. When I realized how much running helped me, well, be more me, it sort of stuck and became a more serious hobby. I ran a half marathon. Then, I ran a couple more. Then, a full marathon.

Last summer, I injured my right ankle and had to cancel plans to run the Philly Marathon this past November. I got angry, then pretty seriously depressed for several months. It was only after a month or so of training for the Vermont City Marathon that I snapped out of my funk.  As I’ve written about previously on here, however, Vermont City ended with me in the medical tent instead of a victorious leap over the finish line. I hit the physical therapy and the cross training right away. I’m running whatever distance I can cover without pain, and taking days off in between these efforts to ensure I heal. I’m doing my best to stay positive and love what I can get in, however small.

But I can feel the insecurity and hateful self-talk creeping back in just a little, and that scares me. I don’t want to be back in that depressive place I’ve been so many times before. But I catch myself thinking “No one wants to read what you have to say,” when I think about posting here. I’m not feeling as motivated at work. I’m tired a lot. I giggle like a shy teenage girl instead of engaging people in conversations about things on which I have an opinion or something interesting to say. But what has really been noticeable this past month is how I’m self-conscious about my body all the time.  I’m worried about my hair. I feel awkward and fat in social settings. I’m hiding behind layers of clothing. I’m obsessing over the 3 freakin’ pounds I’ve gained (as if that’s anything). I just feel clumsy and oafish and like I take up too much room.

The other day, at the physical therapists office, I was looking down at the floor or my feet so much, he actually called me out on it more than once. But when all I can think about is how I’m a huge klutz and I feel too heavy and unattractive and then there’s a man standing there watching my stomach to ensure it’s properly engaged while I move through exercises, it’s all I can do to not end up rocking myself in the corner while swearing off food forever. So I look down. I don’t stand up straight. I retreat inside myself and become quiet, self-conscious. All things that decidedly do nothing for my form or my ability to hold a remotely intelligent or substantial conversation.

I know in my brain that I the things I catch myself thinking and feeling aren’t the remotest bit true,  that those feelings are all a little bit insane, but, yet, I still catch myself feeling them.  So, I’ve decided to kind of force myself out of it. I’m trying to act how I want to feel and I think, then, the positive feelings will follow. I’m writing about my nuttiness and insecurity here, whether or not you want to read about it.  I’m cooking myself fabulous and healthful meals. I’m being kind to others. I’m being kind to myself. Relishing the little moments. Allowing my voice to be heard. I’m standing up straight, head and eyes forward, shoulders back. Insecure, sad Rachel can stay in her corner, but this chick? This chick is struttin’ her stuff. Kickin’ butt and takin’ names. In cowboy boots. Because what screams kick-ass and confidence more than a pair of cowboy boots?

yeehaw!

yeehaw!

cowboyboots2

confident! happy!

Act how you want to feel and then the feelings will follow? Worth a shot!

Where do you derive your self-confidence? Do you have feel ridiculously, irrationally insecure?

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Thankful

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It’s Thursday!  What’s topping your “thankful for” list this week?

I’m feeling particularly thankful for having a rigorous Orgo professor last semester so I’m not entirely lost in my “oh my goodness we have so much to cram into 6 weeks of class” biochem lecture this summer.

 

Over 1000 pages of fun in 6 weeks! Whoo!

Over 1000 pages of fun in 6 weeks! Whoo!

I’m also pretty pumped about the sports massage I got last night AND my new iPad mini, both of which make me incredibly thankful for my life circumstances  and being able to enjoy such purchases.

Learning to be Happy…

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I’ve struggled with depression as long as I can remember, and, as a result, I’ve also been preoccupied with the notion of “happiness” and how to get there and stay there. Obviously I recognize that I’ll never be one of those naturally ebullient and bubbly types, but how an I better ensure that I stay within the happier part of my own individual happiness spectrum? How can I fortify myself against the inevitable ups and downs that life will deal me and my family? Can I learn to recognize when I’m slipping and catch myself before I spiral down that dark rabbit hole?

I recently picked up the book “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin which, while sometimes annoying with her didactic tone and what seems like a fairly “charmed” life that she often takes for granted, she also makes some really thought-provoking realizations throughout the book that have made me re-examine my own life and how I approach it.

 

Goal-setting, but in a small and visibly achievable way, is central to Rubin’s Happiness Project and is a tool that has worked for me in the past for activities like running, but for some reason, I’ve never translated onto my relationships with others or more mundane tasks that make up my everyday. I’ve never explored becoming more myself in the context of concrete goals, and I think that there’s really something to this exercise and remaining more positive and, well, happy.

Rubin uses each month during the course of the year to focus on one aspect of her life. While I don’t think that this particular approach is what I want to do, Rubin did inspire me to sit down and think about the things that make me happy, the things that make me who I am (rather than those things I wish I could be or think I should do/be because others want me to be that way or do those things.

I love performing small gestures that show how much I love, appreciate and celebrate the lives of those I care about, I enjoy being active and healthy, especially with others, I enjoy reading and writing and being creative (though not necessarily in a traditionally artistic sense), being present for family and friends is very important to me, having space and time for quiet reflection and recharging keeps me energized, staying productive, organized and de-cluttered helps me focus — I want to live my life in a way that was authentic to who I am and makes these things central to each day, regardless of what else might be going on. After the Boston Marathon bombings, I also found myself in a heightened state of appreciation and love for the normal, everyday things I would typically take for granted and I wanted to make sure that even after time had faded the memory of the bombings and dulled that sensitivity, I remained more appreciative and aware of the beauty in the people around me and the life I live.

So I sat down and thought about some short-term goals for the summer months that would align with these values I identified for myself. I’ll have to write another post in September to let you know how I’m doing!  In any case, these are my short-term goals:

*be more productive!

*incorporate strength training, yoga and spinning into weekly workout schedule

*learn to play bridge with A

*take a creative writing, photography, swimming and/or music class

*finally get personal trainer certification

*land one or two freelance writing opportunities

*get re-certified in CPR

*finish 3 books

*update blog regularly

*make new recipe cards for new recipes you’ve tried this past winter

*complete a week-long juice fast

*learn to have a daily meditation practice

*take more walks, especially with A

*clean out dresser and closet — de-clutter!

 

So, although Rubin’s book at times has gotten on my nerves, I’d still highly recommend it! It’s certainly made a difference in how I think about my every day, and, if you decide to pick it up, perhaps it will do the same for you, too!

Do you have any goals for the summer? What are the things in life that are quintessential to being you?

 

 

 

Run, Run, Run

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Running discovered me pretty late, and when it did, it was anything but a passionate love affair, at least at the beginning.

See, I had met running before and we had never really gotten along. But then my roommates in college seemed to like running so much, I tried to like it, too. Our love that first year was short-lived, but I remembered how good it made me feel when we were really focused on one another, in those hour-long sweat sessions at Gold’s Gym. Life got busy and complicated, though, as it often does, and we parted ways for awhile.

We met again on a chilly fall evening my senior year in college. It was unexpected, but running felt like the only way to escape from the messy tangle of relationships that had ensnared me. I needed somewhere calm, somewhere that didn’t involve a fight or confrontation, and running opened its arms wide and without judgement. We didn’t meet often, over the next several years, and I was often drunk or crying, but running didn’t care and always managed to soothe me, to talk me down from the ledge.

Then, the winter after I graduated and I turned in one rocky relationship for one that felt more stable (and eventually ended in marriage), running decided to stick around. We got together several times a week, even through a cold and icy winter, for short 30 or 40 minute therapy sessions. Sometimes our time together was intense and physical; other times quiet and reflective.  Our relationship deepened.

The years ticked by, and as I approached my wedding date, running and I moved to the next level, too. I needed a distraction, a stress-reliever, and once again, running held my hand through the process. We picked our first race — a half marathon — and worked together to get my legs and my heart to that finish line and then down the aisle. We grew so strong together as we entered into a commitment we were both sure would last a lifetime, vowing to work through injuries and burn out, busy schedules and competing priorities.

Running, I didn’t love you when we first met, I didn’t even like you, in fact, but these days I miss you when you’re not a part of my day, like I’d miss my arm if I woke up without it. You’ve given me a confidence in myself both physically and mentally that I never would have discovered on my own. You’ve kept me sane when life has gotten out of control. You’ve challenged me and helped me grow in all aspects of my life. You’ve filled my life with joy, and even though we’ve had our disappointments, even though we’ve failed each other on more than one occasion, we always come back to each other full of forgiveness, ready to start a new day together. Running, you are my passion and I love you more each day (even when I say I hate you).

Weighty

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I’ve never been a skinny girl.
In fact, I’ve always had a round belly and an equally round face. Hips. Legs without that yearned-after gap slender girls have.  As a child, I was cute in a chubby sort of way, with ringlet curls and a penchant for girly dresses, overalls and funky colored tights. I loved Marvin the Martian and often bummed around in Looney Toons t-shirts and leggings (hello, child of the ’80s), rocking out to Meatloaf and the Bangles with my mom. I didn’t think about my body and how it looked compared to other girls or in the context of what others might think about me. I didn’t think at all about what I put into my body. I had no interest in sports and was never pushed to be athletic (minus my 2 year stint with karate) or to join any sports teams. I read, I wrote poetry, I aced all my classes, but riding my bicycle? No thanks.  When I was little, I was blissfully unaware of what it’s like to feel shame and I undressed in front of friends while we played dress up without worry, swam nearly-naked at one of my father’s colleague’s house parties, wore clothes that didn’t fit my body without a second thought.

I don’t remember when my mindset changed — probably sometime around middle school —  but cute and chubby morphed  into impossibly awkward, my ringlets changing to an unruly mess of hair (made worse by terrible haircuts), my sense of “style” became a source of anxiety, and I was suddenly acutely aware that a round belly and short, fat legs were not what all the traditionally beautiful girls were sporting. I was uncoordinated, slow and weak in gym class, and somehow that mattered in a profoundly public way. I went from shameless and carefree to insecure and self-loathing overnight. I was unfortunately fat and ugly and there was no way out of that body. When I see pictures of myself from this time period, I still hide them from my friends and husband, as if those who love me now, as an adult,  would hate me if they saw me during this gawky, adolescent phase.

I grew out of the ugly, but the worry and self-doubt over my appearance only got worse as I got older, but I was conflicted, having been raised to be strong, independent, and not fit into a mold.  So, I still dressed differently, but I daydreamed of being model-thin, with perfect, perky breasts, flawless skin, grace, poise. I still had curly hair, so I cut it until all of the curl was gone, and dyed it black. I remember wishing that I’d get into a horrible accident, convinced that having to be bed ridden and tube-fed for months would be the weight-loss miracle I hoped for. I ate almost exclusively one type of Kashi cereal for a year. I stole weight-loss pills from the pharmacy I worked for and hid them in a box in my nightstand and took them every night before bed. Instead of judging my self-worth more on the classes I aced, the poetry contests I won, and all the community work I had taken on, I was only concerned with what others thought of my appearance. When my boyfriend at the time talked to me one day about all of the girls he thought were pretty (and I was not on that list), I tried to emulate them. I didn’t let myself off the hook — every time I looked into the mirror all I saw was a worthless, ugly, klutzy girl.

College was a little better. I had worked through things with the boyfriend and he came with me to Boston, desperately in love with me. Other boys noticed me. I did well in school. I made friends. I let things slip a little, gained weight back. I broke up with the boy and felt ugly and unwanted all over again. That nagging, insulting little voice took up residence once more in the back of my head.  I lost the weight again, this time with Weight Watchers and a gym membership and not a borderline eating disorder; I started hiding behind makeup; I started dressing like other girls. But I only ever felt pretty or sexy when men told me I was — this feeling was never self-generated. I never felt comfortable in my own skin.

I’d love to tell you that one day I snapped out of it, but to be honest, feeling beautiful is still a struggle for me, but I have definitely come a long way from the girl who wished a terrible accident upon herself. Running has given me the greatest gains. It has helped me gain confidence and given me a sense of grace I have never felt before. I feel strong and capable when I lace up my sneakers, and it doesn’t matter what I look like. It’s the only time I don’t feel like I need makeup to leave the house, the only time when men in trucks honk at me that I feel angry instead of, secretly, like my appearance and worth has somehow been validated by their horn or cat-calling.

I guess the confidence running has instilled in me has also trickled over to my non-running life, too. I enjoy dressing in clothes I find pretty and flattering, not those some male in my life finds alluring. I don’t automatically compare my body to every other female’s in the room, I don’t feel clumsy and out of place every time I’m in a group.  I enjoy eating healthy and working out because I know how much better I feel inside and out and how much better I function in my day-to-day existence. I am not obsessive or restrictive anymore. When I gain a few pounds these days, I don’t fixate (though sometimes I do need to remind myself not to), and, most importantly, I like who I see in mirror. She isn’t perfect (but who wants to be?), she doesn’t look like anybody else (and that’s a good thing), she still doesn’t have a gap between her thighs (but these legs have run marathons, climbed mountains), and she doesn’t need anyone else to approve of her to feel whole (but she does still have a compulsive need to wear makeup when leaving the house).