I took just over a two week break from blogging for the holidays. I really just wanted to be with my family and friends. I spent a lot of time reflecting and remembering what things were like for me at this time last year. Man, last year at this time I was so fucking scared. It seems like a long time ago in comparison to how I feel right now; but at the same time it feels like it was just yesterday when I had a full breakdown at New Years Eve 2018. All I could think about was how unhappy I was and how badly I wanted and needed things to change. I was determined to get myself out of my despair, and to make some serious changes in my life but I was also so unsure of how I was going to do it, or if all the things I had planned out for myself in 2018 would work out.Despite all the confusion and fear, I didn’t know what else to do. So, I put my faith in God and wrote my first blog post of 2018. I literally couldn’t sleep, all I could think about was how I needed to get my emotions, my intentions out and blogging was the only thing that felt right. It was the only thing I could do. So, alone in my room listening to J. Cole I made my intentions for 2018 public and used that post as a mark for the very first day of the rest of my life.
Writing that blog post at the time may seem arbitrary to some, but it was the grandest gesture of love that I had done for myself in a really long time. It was also the most honest thing that I had written in a really long time. I don’t know about you, but for my entire life, whenever I would get really scared, I would not be able to make a single sound. Riding roller coasters as a kid, there would be moments where the fear that comes with the thrill of those rides would literally take my breath away. My stomach would fall out of my butt, and I would be mute until the fear went away and suddenly my voice would come back. That’s what it felt like when I was in the depths of my despair. I just shut down entirely. I would ball my eyes out and punish myself ruthlessly for being in such a bad place. This would only keep me from making healthy decisions. It was a vicious cycle of me being sad and afraid, putting on a brave face because I couldn’t let anyone really know just how afraid I felt because it would only make me feel more afraid. Then I would make some unhealthy decision to try and numb the fact that I was deeply afraid, and I had monsters that I just couldn’t bring myself to face. Then I would feel guilty for making that unhealthy decision. And the wheel keeps spinning.
Eventually, I would feel so much guilt that I would feel guilty about every decision that made me happy because I didn’t think I deserved happiness. I felt like I was fucking up so much at life that I didn’t deserve to go out, see my friends, spend any money on myself; anything really. I felt like I didn’t deserve anything. I would date guys who were so emotionally unavailable that when I needed them the most they were nowhere to be found. I mean they could literally be in the same room as me, and it would fee like I was completely alone. It was fucking exhausting. This mental warfare that I was raging against myself was exhausting. So exhausting that it prevented any motivation to do anything. I would Netflix and chill with the cat on a steady basis.
I’m heavily extroverted but I would only see my friends at party situations so that it would be really difficult to speak honestly with them. These were just some of the tactics I used to keep myself at an arms length from the people who cared about me the most. I fought a lot with my family. I lied a lot to them because I was so afraid of letting them know how much of a disappointment I was. I was so ashamed. No one had to shame me, and if they did, they were just reflecting the shame I was putting on to myself. I could see how afraid my parents were for my well-being, and their fear only added gasoline to the fire that I felt was blazing all around me. It was so hard to be around them because they reminded me of all the fear that I felt on a constant basis. Everything that I was too afraid to face, they would in a lot of ways would force me to face by being afraid themselves.
These were the fears, and feelings that I had walking into 2018. This was all my emotional baggage that I had to finally face in order to move my life forward in a constructive way. Looking back now, I’m so grateful to all of the people in my life who were honest with me. The people who helped me to take a deep look into the mirror and to see myself not for all my faults, and mistakes, but as a human being. Someone who is flawed but perfect and beautiful at the same time. Thank you Alexandra Rinaldo for listening. Thank you for being patient, loving, and understanding with yourself. Thank you for taking the time to take proper care of yourself and your dreams. Thank you for loving yourself enough to commit to yourself 150%. Thank you for being honest. Thank you for choosing to step towards the light despite how dark everything seemed to be. Thank you for finding your voice. Thank you for speaking out. It is because of you Alexandra that you can look back at this time last year with kindness in your heart. You can look back with loving eyes and with pride because of how far you’ve come. The Alexandra that you were then hasn’t gone just yet but you are much closer to letting that person go than ever before. She’s fading into the background. One day you won’t be able to recognise her. When that day comes it will be bittersweet; just like this blog post; full of love.
This year, as I had stated in my last blog post; https://alexrinaldo.wordpress.com/2018/12/18/concluding-2018-my-intention-recap/ I will be focusing on bringing more love into my life. I could not think of a better way to start doing that then by spending time with the people who love me most, this includes time that I devoted completely to myself. Something that I didn’t particularly enjoy before 2018. However, it was during 2018 that I had to learned how to be happy with myself, and by myself. I had to learn to love myself again in order to find my power. Without love, there would be no way that I would believe that I had any power at all. I’m still working on it but man has the love for myself grown. I feel so much happier and at peace with myself. I’m a lot more confident and optimistic for this year because I feel like I’ve put in the work. I’m ready to reap the benefits. I made a lot of hard choices. I humbled myself like I’ve never been humbled before. I poured my heart out onto the internet. I volunteered to clean a yoga studio every Friday evening in exchange for yoga. I decided to leave fitness entirely and to change my career path completely. I left my place in Liberty Village to move back into my parent’s place for a little while so that I could take better care of my health, save some money, and switch career paths. None of these decisions have been easy but they’ve been right. I know they’re right because the more I listen to myself and trust myself the quicker my life seems to improve. I feel so much more in touch with who I am as a person then I’ve felt in a really long time. I’m going to keep loving myself in this way because I know that this love will continue to spill out into all of my relationships, and life pursuits. There is literally nothing you can’t accomplish with a heart full of love.
About two weeks ago, I was having a phone conversation with a new friend of mine. The conversation did not end well, and that was because they had said that “I need to learn how to control my emotions,” in response to me getting emotional on the phone as I was trying to explain to them my thoughts and feelings about a previous conversation we had, had. I don’t even remember what I was trying to tell them anymore because all of that got erased the second they told me that my crying was making them feel uncomfortable and that I need to learn how to control my emotions. To be fair, now that I’ve had more time to reflect on that conversation, I don’t think they were trying to be malicious in their response to my emotions. However, the damage was done. It’s fair that crying may make someone feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean you should have to hide your emotions and your feelings just because it makes someone else feel uncomfortable. This is something that has taken me a long time to learn.
The second they had told me to control my emotions the conversation, and I had completely shut down. I stopped crying and said, “I’m sorry that my crying is making you feel uncomfortable, but I have a lot of really good friends who don’t mind me or my crying. So this conversation is over. Especially since I’ve told you that I have not been able to fully express my feelings, and that I’ve actually repressed and denied a lot of my pain for a really long time.” Looking back, I regret apologizing for making them feel uncomfortable. I guess I’m so used to apologizing for being myself. I cry. I’m emotional. I wear my heart on my sleeve. So What? At least it’s honest. I’m done repressing my emotions, and my pain in order to make someone feel more comfortable being around me. I haven’t really talked to this friend ever since. It’s not that I hate this person, there is the occasional text but I know that they can no longer be the friend that I need. They cannot support me in the way I need. My feelings, my crying is NOT THE PROBLEM! I’m not a psychologist but I do know that them feeling uncomfortable and then projecting their discomfort on to me, and making me out to be the problem is actually about them. They have some repressed emotions, whether they be anger or sadness, whatever, and me expressing those types of emotions reminds them of their own unhappiness. I was mirroring the parts of their self-hood that they did not want to see. It’s cool. Like I said, I have plenty of other healthy outlets for me to express myself.
This message is for everyone and anyone, girl, boy, whatever. Don’t be afraid to express yourself in any way that feels authentic to you. I know this is easier said than done, but it is so important. I’ve realized that the more I tried to hide my depression, hold my tears back, deny my anger, and my sadness the bigger it became. My sadness, and guilt got so big that it spilled over into uncontrollable tears this past New Years Eve. By denying my feelings, and holding back my emotions I turned into an emotional mess. I became a sad, sad person. Someone who now would cry very easily (not that I didn’t cry easily before) but it wasn’t as often. I literally couldn’t stop myself on New Years Eve. Who was that girl? I have no idea. I mean it was me, but I became someone I could hardly recognize because I was repressing a big part of who I am. I have always been an emotional and intuitive person. There have been times where I would own this part of myself proudly. Those were the happiest times for me. I feel like that was when I was living more authentically. I was emotional, but I wasn’t sad.
Now, I’m relearning how important it is to feel all your feelings. Let them out in a way that is healthy and productive. If you need to cry,? Then fucking cry. If you’re angry? Then find a way to express that anger. Maybe you need to blow off some steam, go for a run or workout. Maybe you write an angry letter and then burn it. It is a lot less damaging to release your negative emotions then to repress them and bury them deep. Doing this only leads to more destructive behavior. Trust me. I’ve seen it in myself, and in some of my close friends. You put on a strong front, act like everything is fine, because deep down that’s all you really want. All we really want in life is to feel safe, happy, and loved. When we don’t feel safe to be ourselves, we do bad things to ourselves and to others. Our pain manifests in violence against ourselves or others, self-medicating, emotional eating, eating disorders, the list goes on. We see this all the time with ourselves, our friends, celebrities. EVERYONE DOES THIS. It is only human to have emotions and feelings. They are not bad. Being angry or sad is not bad. It’s not fun, but it’s life. When we feel this way, we just want to be heard. We want to know that how we’re feeling is okay, and that we’re going to be okay. That’s literally what EVERY SINGLE HUMAN ON THIS EARTH WANTS! I really do think that we would be healthier as humans if we allowed ourselves and others to express their emotions and feelings in a way that is healthy and productive. A lot of the violence, and pain that we experience in this world would be reduced if we were allowed to talk openly about anything and everything. However, that is not the case. I’m hopeful that one day we might reach that point, but in the mean time the best thing we can do is to make each other feel safe. To listen openly and honestly to our friends and family. To give each other the love that any human deserves. When we feel loved and safe we are capable of doing amazing things for ourselves and for others.
Growing up, I’ve been teased for my emotions. I would try to hide my tears even though I did a very bad job of this. I would turn my face away from people and cry silently by myself. You’d be surprised how much what your parents, teachers, and other kids say to you effects you. I was told by one of my grade eight teachers (who was a woman) that my emotions would be seen as a weakness by other people and I should learn how to manage them. A lot of people believe this. That crying is weak, and that is should be done in privacy. I’ve been told my whole life that “I’m too sensitive,” or that “I care too much.” I’ve definitely internalized these things and believed them to a certain degree. Enough for me to feel the need to hide my feelings, my emotions, and the negative things that have happened to me in order to have other people feel safe around me. This was the most damaging thing I ever did to myself. It’s a lot of work to constantly pretend that everything is okay, and really it’s a waste of time. People can eventually see right through your feeble attempts to be someone you’re not. So why bother? I’m done. I’m tired. That time and energy I’ve started to redirect to myself, and my own well being. I’m learning to see the power and strength behind my sensitivity, emotions, and intuition. Some of the most beautiful pieces of music, art, dance, whatever, comes from real, raw emotions. There is power in being honest, their is bravery in being yourself and expressing every part of you, even the parts that make you feel uncomfortable. That’s how you grow. When you allow yourself to be yourself, to feel all the feelings, and to live in the moment, that is when you are the happiest. They say happiness is a choice, and I agree. However, it is much easier to make the choice to be happy when you’re able to fully express all of your other emotions too. I’m a much happier person now then I was at the beginning of 2018, and that’s because I’ve found ways to express my feelings and emotions in a healthy and productive way. I’ve found a way to be more honest with myself and with others. I do feel like I’m living a fuller life now then I was in the past. I don’t have much more material things, or a ton of new friends, but because I’ve stopped fighting myself, I have a lot more energy to focus on the things that do make me happy. I put my feelings, my emotions, my heart into my work, my blog, my journal, my food, my workouts, my solo dance numbers in the comfort of my home, my casual showers singing, my yoga practice, into me. I’ve been opening my heart up slowly but surely and I think it’s paying off.
Originally I wanted to talk about my fitness career and how it has evolved over time to the place where I am now. However, once I started writing this piece I realized that really it’s about how I equated my career with my self-worth. I have never truly admitted this to anyone, and it’s funny how I’m posting it online, but for some reason this just feels right, so I’m not going to question it. I’m sure some of my loved ones already know what I’m about to say because I’ve been circling around it for a while now, but I have been dealing with depression. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. It’s been really hard for me to admit, and I’ve been trying to fight it as hard as I can on my own but I know now that, that isn’t getting me very far. I do believe that depression is a very personal battle, one that you can only truly overcome on your own. However, not talking about it, or not talking about your fears only makes things harder. It’s like trying to climb a mountain with rocks in your backpack instead of food and water. And man, I’m tired. I’m done fighting alone. I think I knew that this piece was coming, I think I knew in my heart I had to write this, but I could only write it when I was ready. Hence the almost two-week break from my last piece.
I’ve realized that my biggest fears and my greatest joys surround fitness and my career (my career is in fitness) so really they are one in the same. It is very much my personality to always want to be surrounded by loads of people. I am highly extroverted and I’ve never really liked being on my own, until recently. I also have a tendency to respond more readily to outside expectations rather than expectations that I have placed upon myself. I am always the dependable friend who you can call on any time of day and I will be there for you 110%. I think that is why I love my job so much. It is so easy for me to think of others first, and to readily respond to their needs first. This is not to say that I don’t ever do what I want, but for the most part what I want is what others want. These are some of my greatest strengths but they have also been a hindrance for me, because they were always the easy thing for me to do. These things made it easier for me to pretend that everything was fine in my life, and to not tackle the things in my life that worried me the most. It was easier for me to focus on others, a coping mechanism if you will. I knew and/or believed that others needed me, so therefore I had to be the “strong one.” At least this was the expectation I placed upon myself. I didn’t want to burden others with what I was feeling or going through so I didn’t talk about it much, or at least not to the detail I would have liked. I am the type of person that feels this need to be brutally honest about everything. I need to talk about everything, but for some reason there were many things that I had a very hard time talking about. This was foreign to me and it never really made me feel good. But now the “strong one,” feels left behind. It’s no one’s fault, and that I guess is the hardest pill to swallow. It’s really hard when you’ve found yourself in a bad place, a place that you never thought you would be, and then to look back on your life and the decisions you made without shame, guilt, or regret. It’s really hard to not punish yourself, and make yourself feel small. However, what I do know for a fact is that when you find yourself in this place, a place that you no longer want to call home. A place where your fears are big (real or imagined) this is the time where you need to build yourself up. This is the time where you need to be brave. Because you will never free yourself of the regret, guilt, and shame if you don’t forgive yourself first. You did your best with the knowledge you had. Now you know better because you are in a place you never wanted to be in the first place. It is really hard to not take this personally because it is very personal. It’s your life!!! But crying, wallowing, and making yourself feel small will not make these problems go away. If anything they will continue to fester and grow.
I made the decision to be brave this past September. That is when it truly dawned on me that I can no longer live my life the way I was, something had to change. I realized that the way I was living was bringing me nowhere near the life I always wanted. I needed to take a step back and refocus myself onto myself. I needed to take the time to heal, and to realign myself with my core values, with the things that brought me the most joy, with the things that made me feel the most like myself. It started off small. I started to cut out habits that I had formed as a way of distracting myself from my worries and my pain. I then started to get myself to do more fitness classes with my friends, and I even started running outside (in the winter) with my friends. A task I truly hated because I am a terrible runner, let alone running in the cold. But I also enjoyed it because it got me moving. I felt great after every run, and I was so proud of myself for even trying. I also started to really clean up my diet during this time. I really started to eat more vegetarian. I don’t know it just feels right to me.
Eventually, my healing process lead me to make a soul map. This was a powerful tool for me, and it really helped me to put a lot of my thoughts into perspective. My weekend in Collingwood for New Years with my closest friends was the tipping point for me. It was the point where I could no longer hold my bottled up emotions in and they spilled out uncontrollably. Not my finest hour, but I’m so glad it happened. Because it opened up the flood gates and it was really the catalyst to my healing. Ever since that day I have been making a conscious effort towards my healing every single day. I journal, read, meditate, sing and dance, listen to podcasts, do yoga, eat the best I can, and so on every single day. It is because of all this I have been able to face my fears, to be honest with myself, and ultimately honest with everyone else. It is a big reason why these past few blog pieces have been so deep. It just feels right. I’m doing this for me, putting it online, and into the world is so therapeutic to me because the second I hit the publish button it is no longer in my control. By posting it I am surrendering to whatever happens. Not only is that super scary but it is also so comforting too. It’s weird. I’ve noticed that with my last two pieces, yes they drained me emotionally, physically, and mentally to produce, but at the same time they gave me so much energy and happiness. I have not reread them. I might one day, but for now I don’t feel the need to. Also, the song I’ll be missing you by P Diddy and Faith Evans no longer makes me cry. I know that talking openly about my depression will free me from it. Maybe not right away, but it no longer has so much control over me anymore. Even just typing about it at the beginning of this post was such a release. So much so, that I’m not emotional anymore about it (right now at least). I do feel that I can now speak in person to people about my depression and actually call it what it is. It doesn’t scare me anymore because now it has a name.
It has been really hard for me to allow myself to feel the things I need to feel. I’ve been fighting it for so long. I’m naturally an annoyingly positive person and I guess part of me thought that if I allowed myself to openly feel the negative things I was feeling I would no longer be that positive person. I now know that, that isn’t true. How do I know that? Well for starters, just because you aren’t being completely open about your pain doesn’t mean that other people can’t sense it, and no matter how fast you try to outrun your feelings they will always be there. Because you can’t outrun your feelings. If your life is out of alignment with who you truly are (and not who you think you are aka your ego) the universe will constantly remind you. The universe will keep smacking you down until you’ve finally had enough; until you can finally surrender and let it be.
I always knew that fitness and the gym was such a great metaphor for life. It really, really is and I don’t care about how corny it makes me sound. First of all, one phrase that my coach would always say to me when I was training for my bodybuilding shows was “trust the process.” I will never forget it. I fully trusted the process when it came to my bodybuilding training and I followed his guidelines to a tee! I did EVERYTHING HE SAID AS BEST I COULD and I knew that the rest would follow. I knew that if I put in the work, the results would show, and well… It worked! Man, I went from 8th place Bikini in November 2014 to second place Figure in 11 months! I look back and it makes me laugh that I had so much trust in myself, my coach, and the process when it came to bodybuilding but I had a hard time applying that trust to myself when it came to my career. It makes me sad that I allowed the negative experiences in my career that I came across post university to have me questioning myself, and the process. It’s a trap! It’s really hard to not take events that happen in your life, especially negative events, personally. It’s really hard to separate yourself from the bad job, or bad boss, or the fact that you’re not making any money. I’ve experienced all of those things trying to “make it” in the fitness industry. I always knew this was my calling, but I didn’t realize how challenging it was going to be. Instead of taking these experiences as lessons, and motivations to work harder to get past the grunt work and into the light, I allowed myself to become arrogant. I allowed myself to become a victim of circumstance, and because I was thinking of myself as a victim, all the terrible things were happening to me. In my mind, I wasn’t doing it to myself but rather life was doing it to me. I was thinking that I should be farther along in my career, not realizing just how much work is involved to really “make it” in any career, let alone my own. For some unknown reason I thought I deserved more than what I was getting. I’m re-learning that things don’t just come to you. I’ve always known that, but sometimes when you think that life has gotten the best of you, it’s hard to see through the fog of your own mind. Like I said before, put in the work and trust the process, the results will come. The more clear your are with your outcome, and you have aligned everything in your life with that outcome, eventually you will succeed. I’ve been there, done that, and here I am doing it again. I’ll be doing this process again and again for the rest of my life. The only positive is that I know what it’s like when you don’t trust yourself and the process, and I don’t ever want to feel that again. I can’t promise that I never will, but because I’ve learned it once before, it will be easier in the future to keep the faith.
The second major gym metaphor/lesson that I’ve learned is that failure is good, and if anything its welcome. The only difference is, failure in the gym doesn’t hurt as much. I mean it hurts! But in more of a physical sense, it BURNS!!! But it doesn’t have a lasting emotional and mental pain that failure can have in real life if you allow it to. Failure is essential to your physical fitness. You need to fail in order to fully understand where your fitness ability lies. You will never know how much you can physically do until you do it until failure. That’s when you know where your physical breaking point is, and you can only build from there. Literally, your muscle’s potential for growth if you do an exercise to failure is exponential! Getting to failure in the gym is HARD! It hurts A LOT! And the whole time your brain is screaming MAKE IT STOP FOR GOD’S SAKE!!! Man, I remember my coach would make me do bicep curls until I physically couldn’t curl anymore. Then he would help me get to a static bicep curl hold and make me hold the bicep curl until my arms fell limp. Like noodles. They would just fall and I couldn’t stop it. He was like “you’re not done until you can no longer physically curl your arm.” Damn… most people don’t get there. I did, several times. It hurt so much, but at the same time it felt oh so good! Why? Well, first of all it was over! Thank God! The pain was over, and all the was left was this feeling of exhaustion and accomplishment. Holy shit! I’ve never pushed myself so hard in my life and it feels so good! Now, apply that to your life. Sounds simple right? Nope it’s not. It hurts a lot. I would argue that it hurts more. If you fail in real life it’s not just you who may feel the impact of your failures and that sucks. However, what I’ve come to understand is that failures and obstacles are brought into your life because you were meant to overcome them. And they will keep manifesting in your life until you learn to overcome them. They are lessons. It is when your fighting through the pain, the fears, this is where you have the highest potential for growth. Failure informs you of what you’re capable of, the same way failure in the gym does. It took me some time to really understand this. The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone and risk failure, the more potential you have to grow. I see that now. It’s hard, and I’m still working through it but if you truly want to have an exceptional life full of purpose, you need to fail. Failure is good, and it is welcome, a new mantra to live by.
There was a full paragraph that I edited out where I was outlining the points in my life where my depression was the most apparent. I was describing the times where I wasn’t writing my blog regularly, working out regularly, etc. I’ve realized that no one cares, and I don’t need to prove to anyone that I am no longer living that way, so I deleted it. Happiness, success, love, they all speak for themselves. These are all the things I will forever be working towards. To me happiness is balance, and what I’ve learned recently is that balance is a verb and not a noun. You must always practice balance, because the second you think you have balance, you’ve lost it and you need to find it again. I’m proud of myself for the progress I’ve made, and I know that my depression does not define me. I know that even though I’ve been suffering from depression, I’m still a positive person. I’m still here, fighting through the pain, and trusting the process, the results will come.
I’ve realized that feeling inadequate is a perfectly normal and a very human thing to feel, even though many of us are not able to easily admit to feeling this way. The reality is, we have all felt inadequate in some way. We may not feel this way all the time, or we are unconscious to how inadequate we actually feel; but at the end of the day, at some point in our development we have felt like we just don’t quite measure up. This may be in one specific area of your life, or in more of a general sense. The point is, no matter how much we try not to compare ourselves to other people, we just can’t seem to help ourselves. You will do it less often when you’re generally happy with how things are going in your life, but at some point you will do a check in to see how other people are doing just so you can get a sense of where you are in life… Whatever that’s supposed to mean. The thing is, there is nothing wrong with wanting to know how people are doing, it can be a very positive thing, when you genuinely want to know how things are going in someone’s life and THAT’S IT. The thing is, you need to be mindful of your intentions behind checking up on someone. You need to be mindful as to WHY you care about whatever that person is doing right now in their lives.
Generally speaking, if you truly cared about someone and how they were doing, you would most likely ask them directly. Whatever we see on our social media platforms only gives us a small idea of how people are actually doing. We all know that whatever most people are posting, are either their ideal selves, or the parts of themselves that they are most comfortable sharing. Social media was meant to connect us, but in a lot of ways it has been used to separate us from one another. Instead of having more genuine conversations with one another, where we talk about what’s really going on in our lives, we look to social media as a way of finding that information out. It takes a lot less effort to scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed to keep tabs on the people in your life, then to engage in a meaningful conversation. It is much easier to watch someone’s “story” Snapchat or Instagram. If we know for a fact that most people are only sharing parts of themselves on social media and not the whole picture, why do we constantly look at our “news feeds” on these platforms as a means of measuring our own personal success? Why do we punish ourselves like this, and feed our feelings of inadequacy? Even when we are talking with our friends and family, are we really being honest about our fears? Are we secretly afraid of being judged? Or are we afraid of becoming someone else’s problem? I know a lot of us never want to feel like a burden to someone else. This is a big reason why it is so much easier to pretend on social media, and have superficial connections. The nitty gritty isn’t pretty, and it doesn’t feel nice. It’s also very hard to admit. It is very hard to admit to yourself that you are deeply afraid, let alone to anyone else.
Where do these fears and feelings of inadequacy come from? From my experience it comes from a lack of trust. It comes from a lack of trust within yourself, and a lack of trust in God/the universe, whatever you want to call it. Because of this lack of trust, you therefore become hyper aware of the supposed “success” of others. Their lives seem much easier, happier, and more fulfilling than your own. You don’t actually know this for a fact, it’s a story that you have told yourself to explain your own unhappiness. For whatever reason, you have chosen to believe that you aren’t enough (good enough, smart enough whatever), that you don’t have enough, and you are aren’t doing enough. There never seems to be enough, and therefore you are never satisfied, and you are never happy. Instead of living a life of abundance and gratitude, you end up living a life of scarcity. In our egocentric, capitalist society, there is always an element of scarcity. You can never have enough things, enough money, enough fame, enough success. There’s never enough. This is a story we tell ourselves, and it leaves us feeling left behind. What about me?! Well you wouldn’t be worried about that, if you felt as though you would be taken care of; if you felt as if you could take care of yourself, and that the universe or God was always looking out for you.
The person asking the question “what about me?” Is your ego talking. It is the small me. It is the small version of ourselves that we sometimes confuse for our actual selves. It is the part of ourselves that is always measuring up to others. It is the part of ourselves that is always trying to define itself by separating itself from others either in a positive light, or in a negative light. It is the part of ourselves that doesn’t see past our own self, it is the part of ourselves that is only truly concerned about ourselves. Our ego may trick us into thinking we aren’t selfish because we seem to care about our friends and family. However, a lot of times these people are seen as an extension of ourselves. If we stop concerning ourselves with ourselves, we might actually be happier. If we stop worrying about our lives, and start living our lives we would be a lot happier.
Below are some questions that I found in this book called Big Magic, that really got me thinking about what speaks to my soul. It got me thinking about the things that bring me such joy. The kind of joy that makes me want to shout from the hilltops and share it with the rest of the world. That feeling, is the feeling that you need to chase, no matter how challenging it may seem, because it’s not always going to be easy but it will always feel right. A quote from the happiness project, “happiness is feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right.” You need to know what it feels like to feel “bad,” so that you know what to avoid so that you feel good, but sometimes even the things that make you the happiest don’t always make you feel good, but they always feel right, and that’s super important. When things feel right, they are in line with your values, they are in alignment with your purpose, and ultimately they are in line with your being. You just need to trust in that feeling, in things feeling right, even though it may be difficult at times. Keeping all of that in mind, reflect on the following questions and how they relate to you. What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail? What do you love so much that the words failure and success eventually become irrelevant? What do you love more than you love your own ego? Why should I go through all the trouble to make something if the outcome might be nothing? Well the answer to the last question should be, because it’s fun right? What else are you going to do with your time here on earth, not make things? Not do interesting stuff? Not follow your love and curiosity?
Think about all that and how it applies to your life. We don’t know how long we have on this earth, and we should never take that for granted even though most of us do, because literally anything could happen to you. So with that in mind, how do you want to spend your time here on earth? How would you fill your life with happiness? You know the answers to these questions deep in your heart, you just need to quiet the thoughts in your mind long enough so that you can come to understand it, and believe in it.
About a week ago was February 1st, the beginning of the month, and it was also Groundhog Day. You might be asking yourself, who cares? Trust me, I feel you; who cares about Groundhog Day? It does seem like a very pointless holiday, however, it helped me piece together all of the things I’ve been learning this month through practicing mindfulness, or presence if you will (yoga, meditation, and writing a personal journal), and through my quest for happiness, which I will now change to my quest for balance. How did this holiday inspire my writing of this piece? Well, I remembered the movie Groundhog Day (1993) starring Bill Murray. This is a very funny movie, that I watched a long time ago with my Dad. I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it, but basically the take away lesson of the movie is this; if you don’t learn from your mistakes you are doomed to repeat them. As they say, history always repeats itself, but I’m here to say that it doesn’t have to. In the movie Bill’s character gets stuck reliving Groundhog Day over and over again, and he is the only one conscious of this phenomenon. So he is stuck in his own personal hell, until he finds a way to break free of this cycle of it always being Groundhog Day. This is a very good metaphor for your everyday personal life, because if you think about it, we tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. If you reflect on your life I’m sure you can think of the many times you have lost or broken your phone, or the countless partners you have chosen who were never quite right, or just about anything in your life that you just can’t seem to get right. Why is that?
Well, first off, you can’t fix anything that you can’t see. If you’re not aware of this pattern, and I mean fully aware of it, then you can’t possibly fix it. There’s a difference between what you think you know, and what you actually know. You may “think,” you know why you keep doing the things you’re doing, but from my own personal journey, I’ve realized that thinking alone isn’t going to fix the problem. A lot of times, your thoughts are what stop you from being fully present in the moment. Your thoughts aka your fears are what cloud your judgement, and have you in this endless cycle of unhappiness; because what you end up doing is playing out your thoughts in your life, and therefore your fears end up becoming your reality. How do I fix that? How do I escape this “Groundhog Day” cycle of history repeating itself, and of me having a hard time being completely happy? The answer: 1. You need to work on being present in EVERY situation, or at least as much as possible. The more aware you are of your surroundings, the people in your life (good or bad), the opportunities around you, your thoughts, your feelings, the better you’ll be able to make healthier choices for yourself, and the better you’ll be able to find balance and/or happiness. 2. Once you are more present, and aware of yourself, the better you’ll be able to understand your past choices and accept them for what they are. You first need to accept the reality that you are in before you can change it. You MUST be honest about your reality, and who you are NOW in order to make a positive lasting change. If you’re always thinking about the person you should be, or the person you used to be, you will never be happy with the person you are now. You will never be able to change the things that are stopping you from being the person you know in your heart you could be because your head is telling you all the reasons why you can’t. “You can’t run like you used to, so why bother trying.” “You’re so fat, you need to be more like so and so, they have the life that you want.” Your thoughts or your Ego is what is stopping you by telling you stories about who you are, and what you can and cannot do. Even if you “try” to accomplish something in your life, like working out regularly, if you keep calling yourself “fat” for example, if you fail, the blow is easier on you because you have already told yourself you’re fat and so therefore you aren’t capable of regular workouts. You have told yourself this story about how you’re a fat person, and most likely you’re not even aware of all the choices you’ve made in your life that fulfill this story of you being a “fat” person. This is how you get stuck in your own personal hell, or Groundhog Day, and you can never escape it until you realize how you put yourself there in the first place.
It’s so funny, because in a way by writing this article, I’m also repeating some of the words I’ve said in articles that I’ve written in the past about chasing your dreams, letting go of your ego etc. I’ve touched on this subject many times, and each time I have learned something new, but not enough to break through the cycle. Life really does come full circle all the time, it’s as if a kid was scribbling a circle overlapping another circle over and over again. Even this article is coming full circle from the article I wrote at the beginning of 2018 about Resolutions. The only way to not repeat this circle, and to break the cycle is to pay attention to the lessons you face each and everyday. You may have a moment of clarity where everything makes sense, and you feel as though things are finally got things right, you’re on the right path, and then for some reason you lose it. You fall back into old habits. Maybe not to the same degree, but you still aren’t as far along in your progress as you would like to be. The key here is to not let this idea slow you down, because that is all it is. Only you have told yourself that what you are doing, who you are right now etc. isn’t enough. That is your Ego talking. Your ego is the voice in your head that is always talking to you, your ego is your thoughts, and your thoughts cause emotional responses that only reinforce your original thoughts. Both your emotions, and your thoughts will then dictate your choices, and your actions. You need to be mindful of this. This is the first step to breaking through a Groundhog Day scenario.
This may seem simple enough but it’s really not. The Ego does a really good job of convincing you that it is who you are. It convinces you that you are whatever you call yourself, fat, skinny, fit, pretty, ugly, old, poor. It also convinces you that what you “have” is a part of who you are. If you have a spouse, you’re married and that has a status, or if you own a house you are a homeowner, and again, that has a status. These ideas only feed your ego. Your ego will feed on anything in order to help define itself. I have cancer, I’m sick, therefore some people may use that to define themselves as a victim. Either way, having cancer is your reality, whether or not you are a victim is up to you. The situation which is cancer is neutral, it neither makes you more or less of a person. However, the stories that you tell yourself, about yourself do make you feelmore or less of a person, but that doesn’t make it true. Also, the situation of cancer isn’t permanent. You can either overcome it, or succumb to it, again this does not say anything about you personally. It just means you’re human. Another example, what happens if you lose the house? Do you lose who you are too? Does it make you less of a person? For your ego, it does. Your ego will have a hard time with this loss, and it will therefore redefine itself through your thoughts and emotions maybe as a victim of loss. Your ego will separate you from the present, it will cloud your judgement, and make this loss a personal loss. You are not your house, your body, your career, and so on. Why? Because none of this shit matters when you die. All of these things are temporary, and when they’re gone the world still turns, and you are still you. All of those things can be taken away at any minute, and so you shouldn’t limit yourself to these things. They have value for sure, and they are a part of your life, but they aren’t who you are. They are a part of who you are, but they are subject to change, and when they do, for good or for bad, it shouldn’t change the person you are.
The problem is, to do that is difficult. You cannot simply remove your ego from yourself, it is a part of you. Especially when we live in a very egocentric world, it can be difficult to break free of this cycle of constantly needing more things, more money, more status, more of everything because your ego is never satisfied with the now. Once you have achieved a goal, or something good has come into your life, it is very easy to then slip back into the cycle of looking forward to the next big thing instead of being appreciative of what is happening now. This is unconsciousness. Never being present. Always looking to the future for more, or dwelling on the past. You are never satisfied with who you are now, because who you are now is never good enough. You are living in a constant state of scarcity or lack. And social media feeds your ego even more so than almost anything else we have in today’s society. It is a big reason why so many of us feel unhappy. First of all, most of us only post photos of the things we’re proud of, the things that make us feel good about ourselves. This boosts our ego, “look, I’m fit,” or “look I have a new house.” Then other people feed our egos by liking or commenting on our photos. This approval makes us feel good, our ego needs that and will then post more photos like it to get the energy it needs. However, as most of us know, none of that is real. A lot of it is filtered and it is only a fragment of our lives, so why do we put so much emphasis on it? Why do we care so much? Simple answer, our ego. Even negative feedback is still a reaction, your ego is still getting attention and will then fight back in order to reinforce itself. Either way your ego gets stronger. Basically, there is nothing wrong with wanting to share things on social media but be mindful of why you’re posting it in the first place. Do the likes and comments on your photos matter? Is it ever really satisfying? Because if it was, then we wouldn’t always be on it, always posting, always seeking more attention. Even if you don’t post much on social media, a lot of us use it to measure ourselves up against others. Again, this only keeps you in a state of lack, and it never moves you forward. You never grow, and you never end up where you want to be because you’re so focused on what you don’t have.
Like I said in my first article of 2018, “there’s no such thing as a life that’s better than yours,” Love Yourz by J.Cole. There is always going to be someone out there who seems to have more, who is more, but you will never know what you have unless you stop looking to others as a measure of your own success. “There’s beauty in the struggle,” again a quote from the same song. Basically, there’s beauty in the present, you just have to wake up and smell the roses. Be grateful for what you do have, appreciate the love in your life, and then share that with others. These are the things that are pushing you forward. The more you open your eyes to the things, the people, and the opportunities around you the happier you’ll be. It is so much easier to see the ego in others, and therefore it is much easier to pass along good advice. However, a lot of times those same people are a reflection of the ego in you. You tend to gravitate to the people who share the same thoughts and opinions as you, so a lot of times, those people also share a lot of the same fears as you. The ego that you see in them you can also recognize in yourself, that is why it’s so easy to see it in the other person. Hence the Alice in Wonderland quote from my first 2018 article “I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it.” Usually the advice you give to others is the same advice you need to hear yourself, the problem is you were to blinded by ego to see it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all need to pay more attention, or else our egos and life in general are just going to get the best of us. I know this, because ever since I’ve made a conscious effort to be more present, I’ve realized how much of my life I haven’t been present. Always in my own head. I used to joke about it with family and friends that I sometimes live in La La Land. I never really thought of it as a problem, I just thought it was who I was. Alex just lives in her own world sometimes. But that’s not true. I’m not the only one who does this, and it doesn’t have to define me. Because living in a dream state, worrying about the future and fretting about the past alienates you from the present. Your thoughts can consume you and take you to a different place, and sometimes when you realize that you’ve left this planet for a second it’s too late. Something usually negative has happened to shock you awake, a fender bender, dropping your phone, breaking a glass, all usually occur because your head wasn’t in the game, you were distracted. More and more people are no longer living in the present. Distracted driving is a real thing. Our phones, social media, only feeds our thoughts, and fears. They help in keeping us distracted from the things happening right in front of us, instead we are worried about our next meeting, a deadline; constantly fixated on the things we need to do, to have, or accomplish. Fender benders, breaking your phone are just small examples, but a lot of the things that go wrong in our lives are because of us, whether you’re ready to admit that yet or not. Obviously, you don’t have control over everything that happens to you, but if you look back and you’re really honest about your mistakes, a lot of the time, it had nothing to do with you skills, or knowledge, it was mostly because your head wasn’t in the game. The moment you realize that “you” or the person who you think you are isn’t the problem, but the thoughts and fears that you constantly replay in your life are, that is when you can really make positive and lasting changes in your life. Why? Because the choices that you make out of presence, and mindfulness will come from a place of love and not fear. Presence allows you to separate your fears from reality, it stops you from personalizing everything in your life as a reflection of who you are for better or worse. Good things will happen, and bad things will happen, and only you can control your reaction to those things. However, the only way to make a positive change is to first take a moment, take a deep breath, try to calm yourself down, relax your mind from spinning out of control, and follow your heart. You know what to do, you know who to be, it’s your head that’s trying to tell you “protect” you with fear, but only your heart truly knows pure joy. Fear and joy live in the same space, the key is to live a life with courage. What is courage? Courage is accepting your fears, knowing that they exist and doing what makes you happy anyway. The more aware you are of your own thoughts and fears, the smaller they become, until they fully disappear. You can be and have whatever you want, you need to fully believe this by acknowledging and overcoming your fears. This is what I have been learning, and this is what I’ve been practicing and will continue to practice. This is something that you must strive to do always, if you don’t ever want to live in a Groundhog state again.
Last week I wrote a piece about New Years Resolutions, and how you should pick your goals not based on what you think you should do, or have, but based on what makes you happy. If you haven’t read that piece yet, I highly suggest that you do; because in a way this is a part two to that article. New Year’s Resolutions should be based on what makes you happy, and not based on what you think you should have… However, if you’ve read that piece? Awesome! But either way, I’m sure you will find this second article helpful. It has been just over a full week into 2018, and I have to say that I have never felt more productive! I haven’t taken so much time to focus on myself and my happiness in a really long time! Even though it’s been just over a week, I feel like I’ve already accomplished so much, even if it doesn’t really show on paper. How can that be? Well that’s basically what this article is about. So far, I have laid down the foundation to turn my goals, intentions, and resolutions into reality, and now I’m going to show you how you can do the same!
First of all, in order to make your goals and intentions for 2018 a reality, you must first figure out what those are. You need to set some time aside to reflect and do a little soul searching. Over the Christmas Holidays and into the New Year, I have done a lot of soul searching, I literally did a Soul Map. The blog where I found the Soul Map was recommended to me by a very close friend of mine, it’s called Love Warrior by Catie Fenn. The Soul Map was an excellent way to get me thinking about 2018 in a very productive way. It forced me to really reflect on my current life, the life that I wanted for myself, and the gap between the two. It was definitely an intense and emotional experience, but it was well worth it. It is really hard to be completely honest with yourself. We don’t really take the time to self-reflect and to be alone with our thoughts because we’re afraid. We’re afraid of the truth. It is in your own heart where you will find your own truth. You know yourself, and what you need more than anyone else, and you know how to get those things. The problem however, is trusting yourself. There are quite a few of us, myself included, who have lied to ourselves about who we are, and what we are capable of. We have told ourselves false stories to “protect” ourselves from failing, but that never moves us forward! And that, in itself is failing!
Now, some of us have been telling ourselves lies for so long that we don’t know what the truth is anymore, and no matter how much other people try to remind us of that truth, it’s really hard to believe, and it’s really hard to accept. It’s funny, this is a direct quote from me to a close friend about 3 years ago, “I wish you could see yourself, how I see you…” Oh how the tables have turned! If you are having a hard time being positive towards yourself, there is no shame in asking for help! Another thing I have learned personally. This is me finally taking my own advice… Self reflection is very important to setting your goals and intentions, however, your self reflection cannot be self-destructive! That is counter productive. There is nothing wrong with admitting your faults. In fact, it is quite healthy. The key is to not dwell on your mistakes. Forgiveness takes time, especially when it is towards yourself, but the only way to get to a point of acceptance, is to understand that whatever mistakes you have made in the past happened for a reason. For whatever reason, you weren’t ready, and that’s okay. Now, you know where you went wrong, and that is the first step in making it better for the future. You can no longer focus on the what ifs, or should haves, you need to focus on the present moment. This is a lesson I’ve learned over the Christmas Holidays, and more importantly, on New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve was when I let go of the tremendous amount of guilt I was feeling. I was feeling guilty about the mistakes I’ve made in the past, and how dishonest I’ve been to myself, and those around me.Letting those feelings go has been a major step for me to start thinking about the future. What can I do today to move towards happiness, self-acceptance, and forgiveness? These are the questions that you should be asking yourself during your time of reflection.
Now that you have done the Soul Map, or whatever form of self-reflection that you find helpful, you can start to form your intention for 2018. What do you want to see happen for yourself in 2018? Your intention will help you figure out your goals for the year to come. Your goals will reinforce your intention for the year, and your intention for the year will reinforce your goals. Your intention is your “why” behind your goals, it is your purpose. We all need a purpose or a reason why. It is our purpose that gives us meaning in our lives, and helps us to discover why our goals are so important to us, and therefore, will help us to carry out these goals even when it gets tough. For me, my intention for 2018 is to “rediscover myself and my power.” My ideal self is someone people can rely on. I get so much joy in helping others. I have realized though, that I can’t help anyone until I am able to help myself. Hence my intention, rediscover myself and my power. It is when I feel the most powerful, that I can do the most good for others.
How do I get myself feeling powerful? This is where I developed a to do list for 2018, as well as concrete goals and action steps to help me live out my intention of re-discovering my power. A tool that really helped me with this, was from this workshop that I did this past Saturday; we did this chart where we placed our “life buckets” career development, financial health, emotional and mental health, physical health, relationships, and intentional living in order from what we think needs the most focus in 2018 or what we think is the most important to us in 2018. Then we set an intention for each of our life buckets. Since I already thought about a lot of these things, it was a lot easier for me to order my life buckets and for me to set an intention for each of them. After we set our intention for each bucket, we then set a S.M.A.R.T goal for each bucket for next week, then next month, then a goal for the next 6 months, and finally next year. What is a S.M.A.R.T goal? It is Specific; meaning it is well defined, and it is directly related to your intention. It is Measurable; you need to know when you’ve reached this goal, so you should have a framework of some sort in place to keep track of your progress. Achievable; you need to figure out how you’re going to achieve this goal? What are the action steps you are going to take to make this goal a reality? Relevant; this is the why to your “how.” Why is the action you’re planning going to bring you closer to your intention? Time bound; it is important to set a deadline for your goal. Make sure you give yourself enough time, but not too long, that you forget about it. Looking at the goals and the to-do list that I’ve made already and adapting the S.M.A.R.T formula to them, really helped me gain focus. It also made me feel so much better about being able to complete my goals for 2018. The workshop that I went to was FREE (awesome!) and it was called How to: Ditch the Resolutions & #livealittlextra in 2018 by Brittnei Gaudio, who is the founder of #itsalifestyle. I would definitely check her out if you live in the Toronto area and you would like a little help mapping out your year. It can be very overwhelming thinking about all the things you want to change in the New Year, but by breaking your goals down into smaller goals, with an action plan, and timeline to complete them, makes everything seem so much more manageable!
Another very helpful tool that I was given by Brittnei Gaudio, was Gretchen Rubin’s Quiz: The Four Tendencies. This quiz was based off her book The Four Tendencies. I’m currently reading Gretchen’s book The Happiness Project, and after taking this quiz I have put this book at the top of my reading list! Once you’ve completed the quiz, you will find out what your tendency is, and you will be given a free detailed report on your tendency as well. After completing this quiz and finding out that my tendency was “Obliger,” (not that this was a surprise to me) but it really got me thinking about how I have used this to my advantage in the past, and how it has been a hindered me as well. The Four Tendencies best describe how we respond to expectations. As an obliger, I tend to be better at meeting outer expectations, than inner expectations. This makes a lot of sense to me; I have a really hard time saying “No” to people and it is also a big reason why I have become so unhappy recently. It is so much easier for me to take care of others, and to meet their expectations of me, then it is for me to do the things I know I need to be doing for myself (especially if these things seem daunting or hard).”Obliger: I do what I have to do. I don’t want to let others down, but I may let myself down,” quote from my free tendency report. This may seem pretty terrible, but it doesn’t have to be. I like helping others, but I also know that I need to be able to help myself first so that I can better help others.
Now that I know my tendency, I can better motivate myself to do the things that I want to do. As an obliger, no matter how badly I want to do something for myself, it won’t happen unless I adapt an “accountability strategy.” When I look back to times when I was most successful at following through with my goals, I was very aware of my tendency, without having put a name to it. For example, when I competed in bodybuilding, I had a lot of external sources of accountability that kept me on track, and eventually got me to my second place win! I had a coach who checked in with me every week. We both posted photo updates of my progress on social media, so I had the online community holding me accountable. I also expressed my wishes to compete to all my friends and family. I constantly reminded them of my show date, not only because I wanted them all to be there to cheer me on, but because it also helped me stay motivated. I knew that all the people who matter most were going to be there, and I had to win! Not only for myself but for them as well (I wanted to give them something to celebrate). I literally let anyone I possibly could know about my intentions to win my bodybuilding competition, I wrote about it on this blog, I talked about it with my clients, my group fitness classes, anyone who would listen. This all helped me do the best that I possibly could, because in my mind all these people cared about my competition. In reality, they probably didn’t (at least not everyone cared), but that really doesn’t matter. To me they cared, and because I thought they were watching, I was diligent about doing everything possible to be successful. I even went to the Wayhome Music Festival and packed all of my competition diet food! I was so proud of myself the day of my show, I already felt like I won, and after prejudging, I knew I was between first and second place. I was over the moon because I set my sights on something, and I obsessively worked towards it until the very end. For me, I need to talk about my intentions with others ALL THE TIME. I need EVERYONE to know exactly what I plan to do, and how I’m going to do it. Then I go out, and do the things I told everyone I was going to do.
My advice to you is to is to find out what you want for yourself this year. Create an intention for yourself, and then use that intention to figure out what your goals are for this year. Make sure that your goals are S.M.A.R.T! Once you have your why, and your action steps for the year, figure out what your tendency is, how do you respond to inner and outer expectations? Once you know what your tendency is, reflect on that. Try to remember times when you were most successful, what did you do then that got you to your goals? What strategies did you implement for you to be successful? Now that you know what you want, what you’re going to do to get what you want, and how you’re going to do it, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be successful! I have come to realize that your greatest strengths aka tendencies can also be your greatest weakness. The key is to understand this, and use your strengths to your advantage. I know that I am an obliger, and as such, I have created a large network of people who I can rely on. They are the same people who I have told my goals to, and have asked to check in on me regularly to make sure that I achieve these goals in 2018. I need to be held accountable to myself, and I need help doing that. This is another reason why I’m writing this blog; so that I may be able to help someone else while also helping myself.
Happy New Year! It’s officially 2018 and many of us have done some reflecting on the year past, and I’m sure many of us are now looking forward to the new year and all the possibilities that it brings. You don’t really need New Year’s Eve to decide to make a change in your life, but since many of us have decided to at least think about some of the things we want to see in 2018 (many of these things being fitness related) I decided to write a post that may help you with some of your fitness resolutions or your resolutions in general.
Over the past few months, but especially over the Christmas Holidays, I have been doing a lot of reflecting myself. I have thought a lot about the things that I want in my life, how I am currently living my life, and the gap between these two things. My intention for 2018 is to close the gap. However, I have also realized that if happiness is something that you ultimately want to achieve, losing 10 lbs, or getting that new job, won’t necessarily bring you the happiness that you desire. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more for yourself. You should always strive for personal growth, but it is the growth itself that brings joy, not the tangible goals. This is something that I’ve been learning, something that I couldn’t get out of my head last night. The lyrics from the song Love Yourz by J.Cole, “no such thing as a life that’s better than yours, no such things as a life that’s better than yours, no such thing, no such thing…” kept playing in my head over and over again. I literally had to apply some meditative breathing to slow down my thoughts so that I could actually get some rest. J.Cole is one of my favorite rappers. I love his music and his message, and I especially love this song. I think it’s such an important message, one that I think we need to keep reminding ourselves of. Most rappers flaunt all the things they have, as if that is important, and then you have J.Cole telling you that none of that really matters, because there’s always going to be someone out there who seems to have more than what you have. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and you’re never going to be happy until you love and appreciate the things you do have. When you are unhappy, or if you feel like you could be more happy, it’s easy to look to social media and think about all the things you don’t have. This will only keep you unhappy. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” as they say.
Social media only shows the glamour, all you see is “success” but you rarely see the struggle. You rarely see the journey that it took to get to that point. Referencing the same song Love Yourz “there’s beauty in the struggle…” This may seem hard to believe because so much of us are so focused on the end goal. We are so focused on having the perfect body, the perfect partner, the perfect life. It seems like we are always looking to others to fulfill ourselves, as if someone else has a better idea of how we can be a better/happier person. When you look at Instagram for example, it seems like these people have perfect lives, and perfect bodies. All you see are these beautifully presented dishes of healthy food, with these beautiful backdrops. It all looks so good! Who wouldn’t want that?! But no one ever really questions whether or not they really need those things to truly be happy? Instead, we are constantly focusing on the things we lack. I’m not saying that social media is all evil. It certainly is not! It’s a great place for us to connect with one another, to share ideas, and to lift each other up. It all depends on how the platform is used. It’s not the tool itself that’s bad, but it is how we use this tool, our intentions behind it. Constantly looking at your phone at beautiful images of other people is not going to change your life. You can most definitely learn from other people, but they cannot fix your problems, they can’t make you a happy person. Also, posting images of only the beautiful parts of your life is not going to mask the things that you are not happy with. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t celebrate the positives in your life. You most definitely should! All I’m saying is that running away from the things that scare you will not make them disappear. It’s very easy to pretend on social media, but what happens on Instagram or Facebook really doesn’t matter. For the most part, what we see on social media really doesn’t change our lives, only we have the power to change our lives.
It’s funny, I recently started reading this book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and on the fourth page I already found a nugget of truth that really spoke to me, “they say that people teach what they need to learn.” I read this line on the Go train yesterday and had a moment of realization. I am constantly teaching others to love and accept themselves. I’m constantly motivating others to be the best version of themselves, when I should really be doing that for myself. I’m always seeing the potential in others and doing all that I can to help those people realize that for themselves, but what about me? A quote from Alice in Wonderland, “she gave herself very good advice, though she very seldom followed it.” Here I am at the brink of 2018 feeling a huge amount of guilt because I know that I haven’t been the person I know I am. It was a huge weight sitting on my chest, it felt as though I couldn’t breath. Literally, just before midnight I had a breakdown. Thank God for my friends who were there for me, who helped me realize that I need to let this all go. I need to forgive myself for my mistakes, and I need to move on in order to be happy. I need to trust myself more. I know all there is to know about being happy because I’ve experienced it before. I know what makes me feel the most fulfilled. I know myself through and through, and I know that lately I have been lying to myself. So much so, that I’ve learned to not trust myself anymore. Now I find myself in a place where I don’t recognize who I am anymore. My intention for 2018 is to rediscover myself and my power, because I know that I am a strong and powerful person.
Now you may be asking yourself, why is she telling me all this stuff? What does any of this have to do with health and fitness? What does any of this have to do with my own resolutions and goals? First of all, I’m telling you all this because I felt like this was a big step in me being honest with myself, and being honest with the people who care about me most. I have not been as happy or motivated as I have been in the past. My life isn’t bad, but it’s not where I want to be, and I’ve come to realize that, that is okay. I may not be the person who I aspire to be yet, but that does not mean it’s impossible. I am everything that I need to be right now, and once I believe that completely there is nothing that I can’t do. I hope that this helps some of you realize the same thing. You are smart enough, strong enough, pretty enough, you are enough, and your life is enough. You have everything you need to be happy, and if you don’t, then you have the ability to change that.
What does this have to do with health and fitness? Your health and well-being is linked to your overall happiness. You will never have happiness if you don’t take care of your needs. Everyone has different physical, psychological, and emotional needs that need to be met on a daily basis in order to be happy. So, if happiness is the ultimate goal in life? Then you need to choose your fitness goals accordingly. Looking “perfect” won’t necessarily bring you happiness. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve done two bodybuilding shows, and at my second show I won second place. Looking back, I realize that it wasn’t the show itself that brought me happiness, or the body that I had. I mean I looked awesome, and that made me feel good, but, I didn’t love the things I had to do in order to achieve the condition I needed to be in for the stage, which is probably why I don’t plan on returning to the stage any time soon. But I did love all the things my body could do. I loved the challenge of prepping for a show. I loved the fact that I was taking time to take care of myself everyday. I wanted to win! And in order to win, I had to make myself a priority. I had to have all my meals prepped, I had to workout twice a day, and in order to do all of that I had to make a schedule and stick to it. This got me to be more organized, and productive. I loved that my show was an excuse for all my favorite people to come and support me, and celebrate with me. Even though they would have done this regardless of what I was doing. So, if you think about it? I loved all the byproducts that came from doing a show, not necessarily the show itself. The lesson that I’m trying to share with all of you is this: when you make yourself a priority and you take care of your needs first, you are more likely to be happy. And when you’re happy, you are better able to help make others happy as well.
This is a lesson that I am re-learning. I have allowed life and circumstance to get the best of me, and because of that I haven’t been meeting my needs in order to be happy. I haven’t been working out everyday. I haven’t had all my meals planned and prepped. I haven’t been as organized as I normally am, and therefore I haven’t been as productive as I could be. The list goes on. However, I know how to do all of these things. I have done them before, and I know that I need these things in order to be happy. I need to feel productive, healthy, strong, and accomplished in order to be happy. I need to be around friends and family. I need to have fun, and let loose. I can go on and on, but basically for my New Years Resolutions this year, I do still have tangible goals that I want to achieve, however, I’m focusing more on my intentions for this year. What do I want to see happen for myself this year? Like I said earlier, I want to rediscover my power. Working out everyday, eating food that I’ve prepared that is healthy, setting a schedule and sticking to it, getting enough sleep, challenging myself in and out of my career, being with my friends and family, all of these things make me feel powerful. When I feel powerful, I feel like myself, and that is when I am the most happy. I like to think of myself as a fighter, and that is what I intend to be by the end of 2018. Best of luck with your own personal goals and intentions, but my advice to you (and to myself) is to love yours. Love yourself, love your life, be grateful for all that you have and for all that is to come. There’s no such thing as a life that’s better than yours, and you only get one, so once you believe that, you can be happy.
It’s ironic that I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about motivation, but could not bring myself to do it until now. To be more committed to my blog this year was one of my New Years Resolutions. I started off writing pretty consistently, but then sure enough I began to lose my motivation. Motivation is a very fickle thing, and it is something that companies, human resources departments, life coaches, personal trainers, and so on are all trying to master and figure out. The thing is, it is very difficult to keep someone motivated, even if it is purely for their own benefit.
As a personal trainer, it has often been assumed by some of my clients, that somehow I will make them want to workout. This however, is far from the truth. In reality, I will be of most use to someone who is already motivated to workout. As the saying goes, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. There is a reason why this cliche is used so often! If someone is already motivated to workout, the job of the personal trainer is to teach, and perfect that person’s training techniques. Teach them new routines, and help them reach the goals that they were already motivated to reach on their own! The key to any professional who’s job is to help improve the lives of others, like a personal trainer, a dietition, a therapist, and so on, is that they are only of use if that person is already motivated to go through the difficult task of changing their lives! No one can make someone WANT to do anything! Especially if it’s going to be unpleasant! Personal growth of any kind is unpleasant sometimes. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. These are what I like to call growing pains. The benefits of growing as a person are tremendous! We are living things, and we are meant to continue to learn and grow! People are the happiest when they feel as if they are living up to their potential, when they feel as though they are living their lives fully. However, this is not the case for a lot of people. Instead a lot of people live a life of complacency, where things are just “fine.” Where they are living on autopilot, going about their daily routines, and nothing really changes. It’s comfortable, but it gets boring, and therefore it gets sad.
This may sound dramatic to you, but it’s really not. If we all took the time to reflect on our lives, there will be something that has always been on your “to-do list” but you can never seem to get around to doing it. This could be finding a new job, loosing some weight, working out on a regular basis, getting out of a unhealthy relationship, going on that dream vacation, the list can go on forever. A lot of times, people live their lives on autopilot for so long, not really taking control over the things that don’t make them happy until their unhappiness is unavoidable. For some reason, a lot of us convince ourselves that we’re “fine,” that maybe having the body you’ve always wanted is not meant for you. That you’re fine with the body you have, or that maybe you can live with the job you have, it’s paying the bills, so you’ll just stay. There is nothing wrong with being okay with your body, whatever it may look like, or for staying in the same position for years, if it makes you happy. But happy, proud, and content, are not the same as “fine.” A lot of times when we avoid the things we know we should change, we lead ourselves to our own “rock bottom.” This is different for everyone, rock bottom for one person could be loosing their job, declaring bankruptcy, having a major heart attack or health scare, divorce, whatever! It may not even be that drastic for someone to realize that something has got to give.
In fact, that is what I’m trying to get us all to realize! When we were children, it was the responsibility of our parents, guardians, and teachers to parent us. Whether or not they were successful at this is another story. Generally speaking, when we were children the goal of our parents and guardians was to nurture us and to force us to do the things we didn’t want to do, so that we could grow into responsible adults. Now, it is our job to be the responsible adults our parents intended us to be, and to take care of ourselves! To make ourselves do the “uncomfortable things” like eat our vegetables, have at least three square meals a day, go to bed on time and to wake up on time (basically set yourself a regular sleeping routine) do your homework aka get your work projects done on time, and the list goes on. In fact, it is quite obvious that now as an adult, your responsibilities have grown. There is more that you are expected to do on a regular basis, but in order to do all of these things successfully, you have to force yourself to do them! No one is going to make you go to bed at a decent hour so that you had enough sleep to tackle your work day, make yourself healthy meals, and to have enough energy to workout, read, or do anything else that contributes to your overall well being, happiness, and growth.
When I was a kid, I lived a very good life. My parents cared a lot about me and my sisters. They put a lot of work into parenting us, because they cared and still care so, so much. I definitely find them to be a little overbearing sometimes, but at the end of the day I know I am very blessed to have them as my parents, because they taught me a lot about being a responsible adult. They would take me to my after school activities like swimming lessons, and dance lessons. They would make me do learning books in the summer, practice my cursive writing, and play educational games like “Jumpstart Grade 3,” all in the hopes that it would help me grow into a better person. Whether or not I always lived up to these standards as I became an adult is a different story. I will say though, that I am the most happy when I feel as though I am being productive. When I feel like I am living up to my potential, chasing my dreams, and kicking butt! When I am going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday, working out everyday, eating well (food that I have made myself too), being fiscally responsible, working hard at my job, reading, writing my blog, and making time for my friends. This is when I feel like superwoman! Like I can do anything, and everything is possible. This is when I am the most happy, the most positive, and the most energetic. However, this is a lot of work. It is a lot of self-parenting, and sometimes I fall off the wagon. For whatever reason, one or two of these items start to slip away, and eventually if I let it go on too long, some other things start to dwindle, and I start to not feel like myself. I start to loose my energy, and my happiness. I start to feel stuck. I’m sure a lot of us know what this feeling is. We have all felt this way when we have stopped parenting ourselves. When we have lost our motivation, and we are no longer forcing ourselves to get uncomfortable anymore. When we stop forcing ourselves to get uncomfortable, we stop growing. Our lives become complacent, and we start to get bored. Your parents aren’t around to sign you up for that yoga class that you’ve been meaning to try, or to talk to your boss about your performance and to ask them for a raise. That is all up to you now. It sucks, but it’s true. If you want something in your life, if you want to be better, or to have more, you have to force yourself out of bed, and to do the uncomfortable work that is takes to get those things.
Believe it or not, eventually the things that you thought we hard or “uncomfortable” will become second nature, maybe even enjoyable? It really is a mindset. Eating well, working out, learning outside of work, these can all be very fulfilling. The only thing is, you have to get yourself to do them. You will never benefit from these things unless you force yourself to do them on a regular basis. Give yourself all of the gifts that your parents (hopefully) gave you growing up. Teach yourself to eat well, sleep well, go to work and be your best, and then participate in extracurricular activities that keep you active, and engaged. This is how your parents tried to make you a successful and responsible adult, someone that they could be proud of. Now it is up to you to do all of those things to make yourself someone that YOU could be proud of!
Happy Belated Valentine’s Day to everyone! I hope everyone had a wonderful day yesterday filled with love ❤ I personally think Valentine’s Day is great! There are a lot of people who hate Valentine’s Day, or think it’s stupid, but I don’t. I think it’s great to celebrate love. If anything, most holidays are an excuse to celebrate some form of love. Whether it be to celebrate the love for your God, or religion, the love of your family and friends. Either way, Valentine’s day is another holiday to spread love, gratitude, and joy. Even if you don’t have a partner to spend Valentine’s Day with, it doesn’t mean you’re alone, and it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t celebrate either! In fact, I think Valentines Day is a great day to be thankful for the love that is in your life, and to spread a little love to those who you think might need it.
Now, a lot of people use the excuse “Valentine’s Day should be everyday, why do we need a day to show the people in our lives that we care?” This is their reasoning for not wanting to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and if you do a great job showing the people you love, how much you love them everyday? Then good for you! Because I know most of us don’t. Generally speaking, I find that holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even Valentine’s day remind us to be grateful for the things that we have. They bring us together. A lot of times, we tend to focus on the things that are lacking in our lives. We are always trying to be better, to do more, to have more, and so on. Even though I think self-improvement is very positive, and I think we should all have goals, but we must also be mindful of the things that we already have!
We should never forget our strengths, and our values. We should never forget the people, and the things that make us who we are, because that is what gives us strength to carry on each day and conquer our dreams. Love gives us strength. Dreams come from the heart, as Cinderella sings in the animated Disney version “a dream is a wish your heart makes…” And because of this, your intentions for yourself and for the world are positive and good. This is because they were made with love. People who are really good at what they do, generally love what they do also. It is a passion of theirs, and because they are passionate about what they do and who they are, that energy spreads like wildfire, and inspires others to do the same for themselves. Whatever your goals, and dreams may be, never forget why these things are important to you. This is because every time you remind yourself of the “why” behind all that you do, it will also remind you of the love behind all that you do.
I was inspired to write this piece not only because it was Valentine’s Day yesterday, but because one of my client’s had told me about their bed time ritual, where everyday in their personal journal they would write down the things they were most grateful for, the things they accomplished that day, and the things that they would like to accomplish tomorrow. I thought this was a great way to not only keep yourself motivated, but to remind you of the positive things in your life. Sometimes, when we’re working so hard towards a goal it can sometimes feel hopeless. Like you’re getting nowhere fast. But that’s mostly because we have forgotten how far we’ve come! It takes a lot of courage to pursue your hopes and dreams for yourself, whether it be for your health, your career, or whatever your goals may be! This is why I think it’s so important to be grateful for the things you do have, and for how far you have come, so that you can then have the strength to keep moving forward. Valentine’s day, is a holiday that we made to remind us of this. To remind us to be grateful to those we love, because it is the people and things that we love that keep us pushing forward in life!
The winter solstice is coming up next Wednesday December 21st, 2016, this means it will be the shortest day of sunlight for the entire year, also making it the darkest day of the year. It comes as no surprise to me, that we celebrate Christmas, and other Holidays during this time of year, as an attempt to bring some light, and happiness to one another on these cold and dark winter days. However, despite the celebrations, the lack of sunlight can have a dramatic effect on your energy levels and mood. Below is a list of 5 ways to lift your spirits this winter that won’t put a strain on your pocket-book! Because I’m sure the holiday season is costing you a pretty penny already 😉
Brighten up your environment. Open up your shades during the day, and let as much natural light into your space as possible. If your desk at work does not get any direct sunlight, or if you don’t have access to a window, then on your lunch break sit by the window, or find ways to get to window through out your day. For example, on your way to the bathroom, or to a meeting, take a route that passes by areas that are well-lit with natural light. OR if all else fails, leave the office for lunch, go out for coffee, and get outside! Even though it may be cold and a little uninviting, you will feel so much better after getting a brief amount of fresh air and sunlight, trust me!
Watch your diet. During this time of year, and well, winter in general, we tend to gravitate towards “comfort foods.” These types of foods are high in fat, and high in sugar. The reason why these foods are considered “comfort foods” is because not only do they taste awesome, the high amounts of carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, and the high fat content gives you a sense of satiety or a satisfying feeling of fullness. Or, if you’ve had too much, you may feel a little sick or “stuffed.” I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have some holiday food here and there, but do not go overboard! It is so hard to keep yourself from overeating at this time of year! And sure, these comfort foods taste great, and feel great going down, that feeling is only temporary! If you want to feel great for a longer period of time, feed your body with nutrient dense foods! Sure, pie tastes great, but it doesn’t look great, and it doesn’t feel great if you’ve had too much. Also, if you overeat these comfort foods, you basically put yourself in a food coma, which makes it very difficult for you to be motivated to do anything else but lie on the couch. Not only will you feel “fat,” and “gross,” you will lower your energy levels, and lower your overall mood. So, my advice is to eat as healthy as possible, and keep the Christmas treats to a minimum!
Exercise! I’ve written an article in the past about the effects of exercise on your mental health called How Fitness Continues to be a Beacon of Hope for Me . It talks about how fitness has helped me overcome times when I’ve felt very unhappy with how my life was going, and it can most definitely help you! Exercise, especially doing cardiovascular exercises can help you naturally create “happy chemicals” in your brain called endorphins. Actually exercise can be as powerful as taking an anti-depressant! Also, doing interval style training can help alleviate stress and anxiety. So, if this time of year has you feeling really stressed out and anxious? Then take a spin class, or do some interval training on some of the cardio equipment in the gym. Either way, you should get your body moving this time of year, especially when all you want to do is hibernate. Hibernating, and hiding from the world will only isolate you more, and have you feeling the blues even more so.
Turn up the volume of your favorite music! Ever notice how Christmas music is always happy, hopeful, and cheerful? I don’t know about you, but I love to play Christmas music at this time of year. Not only does it get me into the Christmas spirit, it really does lift my mood. I just can’t help but feel happy when I listen to it. Especially when I’m doing Christmas things, like baking, or decorating the tree. However. I know that many people find Christmas music to be a little annoying, especially because it literally plays in every store, and almost every coffee shop that you walk into. So, if Christmas music doesn’t make you happy, play the type of music that does. Music has a tremendous ability to really affect people in a positive way!
Volunteer, and help others! There is no better time, then the holiday season to give back to your community! Volunteering your time and helping out others really does feel good, and it can help you get a sense of purpose. When things seem so dark and lonely, it’s a good idea to reach out and give a helping hand. It may help you to realize you are not alone, things are not as dark as they seem, and you can really make a difference in someone’s life. It is so positive to be able to give back in some way to your community. Not only is it positive for the people who directly benefit from the work you’ve done, but for you as well. Everyone wants to feel like their lives mean something, and that they are needed in some way.
These are all my suggestions for helping you overcome those winter blues. Heck! You can apply all of these things to your life in general, and I can guarantee a higher quality of life! Go outside, get some more sunlight in your life! Eat well, and exercise! This will help you feel better both mentally and physically. You will have more energy throughout the day, and you will be a better version of yourself to conquer whatever life throws at you! Listen to music (that’s if you enjoy music) and dance, sing, do whatever makes you happy! I literally dance everyday and some point, music makes me so happy 🙂 And last but not least, give back! I know we all live busy lives, but it really does make you feel good from the inside out to be able to do something genuinely nice for someone for no reason other than it was a good thing to do. Merry Christmas guys! Don’t let the winter darkness get you down!