Right out of the starting gate I must confess that this particular post has been difficult to write. In fact, it should have been published over a week ago. It required me to be brutally honest, which was not entirely the problem. Honesty these days, I have observed, means that invariably you will offend someone, which is more than acceptable to me.
The onerous part of writing this was that I needed to balance on the high wire of frankness without free falling into what might look like “Desperately Seeking Validation”, while avoiding “Lame Jerk Looking for Attention” syndrome.
Ultimately, this post is about what your core beliefs are about yourself. As a fitness professional of 23 years (it’s basically 2016 now, right?) I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of people who struggled with this very thing. Even after getting fit and strong. Even after losing weight. Even after entering fitness competitions. Even after completing marathons, they still thought how they looked was, well, just not good enough. I have a friend who has an amazing body. She is just a stunner. Ripped abs, arms that are works of art in their muscular radiance and hair that is always perfection. She happens to be extremely fair of face as well. The only thing she can fixate on, however, is her legs and how they are “horrible”. To me they are not horrible, but to her they are and that, my long suffering readers, is her reality. This post is not going to be about other people, though. It is about me and what I perceive to be my reality, hence the whole “crap, this is hard to write” angst I have had.
I have walked through life, up to this point, as a fairly confident human being. I’m the person that, when in a group and something has to be “taken care of”, all eyes turn to and off I go with my sword in hand ready to strike down the person who is acting in an assular way, even if it means acting rather asstastic myself.
Ask anyone who has ever been in a theater with me where I have had fellow citizens removed who mistakenly thought they were at a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I have absolutely no problem in confronting, what I decide, is bad behavior. I am confident in my ability to get things done that need to get done.
I’m also a person that really, really cares about her appearance. I get my hair done regularly (nope, I’m not a real blonde and I have been grey since I was in my twenties), I take the time to blow out my hair every day so that is is glossy and bouncy, I put makeup on before I go out, I dress in fashionable clothes designed to flatter my figure as much as possible, and I exercise because I am vain. I WANT to look good and feel capable and confident. Yes, yes, I know that exercising is good for you. I’m a fitness PROFESSIONAL (have I mentioned that?) so I know the science behind physical fitness. However, for me, looking the best I can makes me feel good on the inside because I can actually SEE that I look good on the outside. Not supermodel good, so don’t anyone lose their shit over what looks like extreme narcissism and conceit on my part. I’m not blind, though. When I look in the mirror I don’t see a troll…….until lately. Look back at the title of this blog post if you are confused about that last sentence. I’m finally understanding how you can have a disconnect between your mind and how it talks to you, and how things REALLY are.
I’m sure there are people reading this post thinking that caring about how you look is super, duper shallow and unimportant.
If this is true of you, you may just want to pack up your mule and head on down the trail. As Survivor’s Jeff Probst intones to the losers at the end of every challenge: “I got nothing for ya”. Hey, not that you are a loser!!! See, already offending, irking and miffing like a son of a gun….it’s just that, for me, I will NEVER be one of those women who just gives up. Gives up on her looks, her body, her fashion and her fitness because it is just too much effort. Just won’t do it. So, exactly how do I feel about myself at this moment? Read on…………..
Fun fact: a group of hippos is called a BLOAT. Exactly how I perceive myself right now. Both, actually. Bloated and a hippo. (Also fun facts: a group of otters is a romp and a group of ferrets is called a business).
I also feel tired, ugly, old, and unappealing. Now, now, now, before any of you start eye cutting me, or snort with derision or think that I am pleading for some compliments, just stop.
Unquestionably I am none of those things. My ever decreasing rational side of me knows this. I know what my weight is and I know how the vast majority of my clothes fit. I also know how to look in a mirror and I grasp that there is not a halfling bugaboo hobgoblin demon monster staring back at me. All of that data notwithstanding, my ever escalating irrational side has been having some rather mind blowing proclamations lately.
I promised myself that if I were ever to start a fitness blog, then I would have be real. Extremely real…uncomfortably real. If I am going to discuss fitness, health and body image, then I can’t pretend that I don’t have issues. I currently have lots of them. As I knowingly informed one of my friends, who told me that I might want to dial my drama down a bit, “I know exactly what I am doing. I am very self aware”. In other words, I am extremely cognizant of the fact that I have some
adorable unusual idiosyncratic problems at the present time.
So here it is: I am struggling with how I feel about myself right now. I have not reached the point where I have lost touch with reality and hunkered down in my bedroom clothed only in my husbands pyjamas, a bottle of a very fine wine grasped in my hands and a bowl of heavily buttered popcorn by my side, but I’m not in a healthy place.
I can’t stand looking at my body right now. Not that I was spending hours looking at it before. That’s my point though. I did not think about it much because I thought I looked pretty good. Here…see for yourself. This picture was taken in October of 2015 in Puerto Rico. I knew I had cancer at this time, but I was managing my stress by drinking tropical cocktails and being regularly told to “check myself” by my best friend Carol.
When I look at that picture now, though, I think to myself that I will NEVER look like that again, but more importantly, I will never FEEL that way again. Confident, happy, content. It’s a VERY negative way of thinking and I completely understand that, but it does not alter what my reality is at this moment. I don’t feel sexy, I don’t feel pretty, I don’t feel happy and I don’t feel like ME. It does not matter how many people tell me otherwise. I had a wonderful completely unsolicited comment about how I look the other day from someone and all it did was make me cry. I hate not believing someone when they tell me something positive.
So, what is the “cure” for this? Time. Time and patience. I utterly comprehend this intellectually. However, are we not all creatures that live in the moment? If not, you should be. You can’t live in the past, so we should try not to dwell on it, only learn from it. You can’t live in the future because you will miss today’s moments. I’m not luxuriating in my situation right now but I am trying my hardest to get through it and you can’t get through something if you don’t acknowledge it.
The truth is that we all can suffer from self loathing. Here is my truth: I absolutely hate what cancer has done to my self worth. Specifically, I loathe worrying about whether it could come back perhaps turning me into a dreaded hypochondriac. I abhor what it has done to the look of my body. I detest my body’s weakness after six weeks of forced muscular conditioning rest. I am frustrated with my inability to run without having to stop for walk breaks. I am worried about the constant low level pain I am experiencing. I am repelled by the distension of my pelvic area and most of all, I detest that I have such a dark and depressing take on who and what I am right now. Having written all that, I am not wallowing in this…though I know that it would appear otherwise based on my moaning about my current well being. I’m just being brutally honest. I don’t want anyone telling me….”but you look beautiful” or “you’re being so stupid” or “you are just crying out for attention” or “there are other more pressing problems in this world”. I know, I’m not, not really and no freaking kidding.
Right now, for me, there is a real disconnect between my self worth (which like everyone’s, should ideally be high) and how horrible I feel emotionally and physically. It affects my ability to be normal, which is what my surgeon told me that I would want to feel ASAP. Clearly, as I gain body strength back again, I am expecting that my self worth will bounce right back.
I have every expectation that this will happen. In the meantime, I will be seeing a psychologist to help me through this. Belonging to the cancer club is something I could have eagerly done without. It has not really suited me at all. I need to let it all go, but I can’t do this alone. I can’t even talk about this to friends and family because I fear the dreaded eye roll. Besides, it gets incredibly boring for other people to listen to your health issues, even if you find it endlessly fascinating.
It is hard to verbalize what I am going through without sounding needy, whiny and pathetic. It is much easier to write about it. I can imagine everyone being supportive and helpful as they read this post. Again, I know I am being irrational…just keep referring to the title of this post and you’ll be fine…….as will I, eventually.
Dear readers: Are you a Facebook user? If you liked this post, and my style of writing, I invite you to go to my Capable Fitness with Gail Facebook page and click the “like” button. That LIKE button is right there on my cover picture of me and Seamus O’Malley. You can instantly go there right now by clicking this: https://www.facebook.com/capablyfit/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel. You’ll find doable exercises, delicious recipes, actionable fitness advice, inspirational messages and some laughs as well, all delivered to you on a daily basis. I’d love to have you on board as one of my “fans” and hearing what YOU would like to see on my page.