As far back as my memory goes I can remember having body image issues. I’m not a skinny person, never will be. As a young child and especially as an adolescent, I just couldn’t come to terms with that. Once I was old enough I began working out – running, lifting light weights, and eventually joining a gym where I really started to transform my body. In the beginning I got into personal training because exercise and nutrition were all I knew. It wasn’t until after I began studying Exercise Science that I realized how much I loved learning about biology and biomechanics, and even later that I realized I was actually good at my personal training job.
Looking back, I spent at least twenty years worrying about and working to improve my physique. A few years back my life changed drastically. At that time, I was in the best shape of my life. And since that time, perhaps out of desire and definitely out of necessity, my focus has turned inward. So much more to worry about on the inside than the outside. Who am I? What do I believe in? What do I want for myself now and in the future? How am I going to achieve those things? What do I need to change? Who do I want to surround myself with? Etc., etc., etc.
It’s taken nearly five years, but I seem to be running out of questions to answer. Don’t get me wrong. We are all works in progress. But, finally, I feel like my world and my everyday actions are in line with my beliefs. The incredible sense of happiness, peace, and pride this provides is the ultimate satisfaction.
The next step is improving upon that! To me that improvement involves my physique.
I’ve never lost the desire to look great naked, but for a while, it just wasn’t high on my priority list. On top were other more intellectual and emotional changes I wanted to see in myself. I’ve never stopped believing that one of the best ways to value yourself is create a strong, healthy body to live your life in. But I feel like I had to completely demolish all that was “Melissa” and start from scratch. The way I’ve chosen to rebuild has been deliberate. My physique is the finishing-ish touch. (Again, we never truly finish.)
I don’t know that I will ever again put the amount of effort into my physical appearance I did ten years ago. Because I don’t want to. I’ve learned that my body does not define who I am, so I don’t have quite as much riding on my physique these days. (But at the same time working hard to accomplish something I believe in does define who I am, and I do have a lot riding on that.)
The other day I was contemplating why it has been so difficult for me to get motivated to make these physical changes. I’ve certainly worked harder for them in the past year than in the four years prior, but that’s not saying much. A few awesome workouts with a trainer here, some piddly early-morning workouts there, and couple jogs with my dog does not a fantastic physique make. What happened to that fire I used to have? It’s got to be inside me somewhere.
To help spark it I decided to write my “today” self a letter from my “future” self who has achieved what I want to achieve in the Pick Things Up And Put Them Down (spoken in a mock Schwarzenegger voice) department. I thought it would be an exercise in motivation (and boy was I right), but what came out of it as I began to write was incredibly surprising to me. Not at all what I was going for, but perhaps the most raw and honest piece I have created in a long time. I’m a little nervous posting it because it is so personal, but, that’s kind of the point of creating this blog, right? So, welcome to my innermost thoughts, people.
Dear Former Self,
You did it! You made changes that you’ve been saying you wanted to make since you left your former life years ago. You Whole30’d and tea’d and laundried, and gardened and wrote your way to a place where the next big challenge facing you is your physique. Congratulations! Now, we both know we feel our best when we are strong. We both know how amazing it feels not just to lift, but lift more one week than you did the week before. We both know that being at a comfortable weight is one thing, but being in shape is a completely different story.
What I know, dear Former-Self, that you do not is how fucking awesome it feels to finally conquer this hurdle. To put into place this final piece you’ve been struggling with for years. To, after all this time, find the (literal) strength you used to have.
I know you are scared of it now because it reminds you of an insane point in your life when the only things you felt you had left in the world were the weights you lifted and the man who helped you lift them. I know you don’t want to go back to that place (and…for the record, you won’t). I know you’re afraid of pushing yourself that hard because anytime you do, it makes you think of that person and that time. Don’t be scared. Once you start doing it on your own, like REALLY doing it, you’ll see why I say this. You’ll get to a point where those thoughts don’t cross your mind anymore. More importantly, you’ll learn that you had it inside of yourself the whole time and that you NEVER actually needed another person to be there in order to make that kind of change.
Don’t underestimate how empowering it is to finally break this last chain to that old life. To do something on your own that you’ve only ever done with the help of another person. To accomplish something that you’ve only accomplished at a time before you became you. To place this final piece into the puzzle. Of course it’s scary. But Melissa, you can’t let your fear keep you from l being who you want to be! You’ve done so much internal work already. Don’t let a few crazy memories stop you from making yourself look on the outside the way you feel on the inside.
You’re amazing. You’re more than capable. You. Are. Strong. Now, go prove it to yourself, again.