Learning the value of – ME

I am feeling gratitude. I am feeling blessed.

These last few years been rough – but good. I had to throw my plan out the window – the career I was working  for was crumbling under my feet and I had to spread my wings to fly. I took myself across the country to experience the East Coast. I left everything familiar behind. I sold and stored my belongings – packing my life into my car. This experience was priceless.

I met one of my best friends – without her I would be lost.

I met a colleague, with whom I have endless conversations about the demise of our industry and our passions and visions for ourselves. He has been an indispensable resource.

I drove from Wisconsin to New York. Then From New York to Texas. Then Texas to Minnesota. In search of something that I did not know. I ultimately found it in Wisconsin.

Recently, during a discussion with my colleague – who is currently in Ohio, it occurred to me that I was in search of my value. MY value. I had to drive quite a ways, but I found it.

The things I learned

There are countless things that I learned. But there are several that have been ‘life-changing.’ I love how I can look back on my difficult times and see how they are blessings. I can remember dealing with knee pain and surgeries, thinking: why, why, WHY? But today, I am a much better trainer and coach because of that experience. I am much more invested in injury prevention, knowing the struggles of the aftermath. I wouldn’t exchange the years of pain for anything! But, what did my cross-country journey teach me?

I learned how to build and maintain relationships.

I learned to be confident in what I know.

I learned who my true friends are – some of this was very painful.

I learned how to let go.

I learned to enjoy downtime – something that otherwise had made me anxious.

I learned to be slow to talk (ok, so I am still working on this one).

I learned to stand up for what I believe in – this was moreso solidified.

I learned what my dietary needs were – and that I had fine-tuned my body far better than I had realized.

I learned that you can call yourself an expert, and very few will no whether you are or not.

I learned that the people in Texas really ARE the friendliest people you will ever meet.

I learned that I have a strong Wisconsin accent – although most of those telling me this had never met a true midwesterner – so they may be in for a shocker someday.

I learned how to say when enough is enough.

I learned MY VALUE.

The bottomline

I was called back to my home state. The former clients who have been displaced. I could not turn my back to the plethora of opportunities: writing, training, coaching, business development, corporate wellness, and MORE!

What is my value? I cannot quite put it into words. But I know that I offer something that very few do. When asked who my local competition is, I can confidently say: NO ONE. No one else does what I do, how I do it.

And that feels good.

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There will be haters

This is one of the most challenging aspects of adopting and retaining a healthy lifestyle: Nay-sayers. Sabotogers. Haters. Insulters. The filterless.

Remember: This is your journey and no one else’s. No one knows what you know about you, has been through what you have, or has to do what you do. We are each our own. haters

More often than not, those who are negative are in the midst of their own struggle – and the negativity towards you actually has absolutely nothing to do with you!

Shouldn’t we want others to succeed?

Yes, we should. But we have cultivated an egocentric and selfish society. Women – particularly – often want to ‘one-up’ each other. Many individuals have the need to be better than those around them – and anything that threatens this perception elicits default behaviors – or defense mechanisms. Yes, putting others down can be and IS a defense mechanism.

Some of your friends and family will want you to continue to overeat, eat poorly, or skip exercise – because then they will feel better about there own unhealthy behaviors. There is comfort in numbers!

Other individuals simply do not understand. Some have been blessed with genetics that do not allow them to put on an extra 20 pounds. Some have always lived active, healthy lives and continue to do so without hiccups. DO NOT let their lack of understanding tear you down. Their comments can make you feel like your concerns are insignificant – ignore them. And know, that more than likely these particular individuals mean no harm – they just do not know any different.

Remove negative, increase positive

It can be difficult, but sometimes you must cut the negative out of your life. At times, this may mean separating yourself from family members or long-time friends. It might mean quitting a job. It may mean moving. Sounds like it could get financially stressful! I would be lying if I said that it will not be. But what is best for you in the long term? And how does this compare to the expense of treating depression, diabetes, heart disease, etc? Surround yourself with the individuals who will be supportive and positive and your journey will be much more pleasurable!

In other situations, you must ignore the negative. This takes practice – and is incredibly difficult. For example, I have had many sabotagers trying to coherce me into eating foods that were unhealthy. I learned to ignore them. I learned to walk away. Practice saying: Thanks, but no thanks.

Above all, the most important positive voice is your own! Your positive voice can be the best defense against the nay-sayers and sabotagers. When you hear negativity or criticism, you immediately know different with thoughts such as, “I am strong.” “I am on the right track.” “I am taking care of my heart, body, and mind.”

The bottomline

I do not have anything impressive or extraordinary to share on the topic. I just know, that I face negativity from those around me on a daily basis – and I know that you do too!

I know that sometimes the negativity is my misperception of things said – or not said. Knowing this, I can disregard the ‘negative’ and move on.

And yes, YOUR positivity is 10x stronger and more powerful than the negativity of others.

How do YOU manage haters, nay-sayers, or sabotagers?

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Muscles = You must be a bodybuilder?

It is really funny actually. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked if I am a bodybuilder. I have been asked by roommates. I have been asked by strangers at the mall. I have been asked by strangers at gyms where I workout. I have been asked by strangers at gyms where I work. I have been asked by men, women, boys, and girls.

My friend Emily gets asked this as well. Neither of us looks like a bodybuilder. It has become a bit of a joke between us.

You must be a bodybuilder

I have narrowed it down to the fact that we are women, with muscle, who look like we know what we are doing in the gym. This accounts for the comments in the gym. And more than knowing what we are doing, we are not afraid of the heavy weights and are actually drawn to them – I would much rather do 4-6 reps of heavier weight than 12-15 reps of less weight. And for some reason, people associate heavy weights with bodybuilding – when bodybuilders actually use lighter weights for the bulk of their training.

I have determined that the everyday individual’s logic is:

If you know what you are doing in the weight room and you lift heavy weights, then you are a body builder.

Can you offer me any insight?

I am not a bodybuilder

When I let myself dwell on the comments, I can get down on myself. I have shared much about my battles with body image, and comments can trigger rampant thoughts. Out of season, bodybuilders often carry a significant amount of subcutaneous fat – a result of the considerable amount of calories required to build muscle and support the training regimen. I think, I know my body carries some subcutaneous fat, and I am okay with that – but how big do I look? 

There was a period in my life when I thought I would train for a competition. That season of thought has long since passed – there is no need for me to purposefully harm my body and risk significant metabolic damage. For what result? To stand mostly naked, in insanely high heels, and holding uncomfortable poses on a stage in front of individuals who are judging me? I will pass. While I like goals, and my body would likely adapt well to the physical training, I have no desire to put myself in the position of being judged based SOLELY on my appearance.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I am an athlete – I compete in the game called life

Opposed to bodybuilders, I train for life. I train for getting in and out of the car, impromptu hula hooping contests, unexpected basement demolitions, and so forth. While a bodybuilder may appear strong, most individuals would be surprised by their lack of functional movement and use of those big muscles (this is a broad statement and is not representative of ALL bodybuilders). This falls along the lines that models cannot do pushups – there is an overall disconnect between appearance and reality.

Compliment or insult?

When I have been asked if I am a bodybuilder, sometimes it comes across as a compliment and other times as an insult. The first few times, I let it get to me. Now, I just shake it off. Sometimes, individuals just do not know what to say and that is what comes out.

I love being strong and muscular, so I chose to take it as a compliment every time. And now every time either Emily or I hear it, we laugh and it causes a day’s worth of amusement.

The bottomline

I am not a bodybuilder. None of my friends are bodybuilders. I trained a friend for a figure competition – she is not a bodybuilder. We are strong – and have trained for life and the many obstacles it throws our way.

Further, I am not opposed to bodybuilding or figure training, it is just not for me.

The point is this: not all muscular individuals are bodybuilders. So stop asking us that! (You may give us a complex.)

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Attacking life as an obstacles course

Last week, some friends, strangers, and I completed an obstacle course workout at TNT Fitness. Amazing! Looking at the obstacles from a distance was a bit daunting. My heart raced. I was concerned that my knee, hip, and shoulder would inhibit my ability to successfully complete some of the obstacles. I worried that I was not strong enough to conquer the obstacles ahead.

photo (37)

Strong – there is no other choice

I did not feel strong enough for the obstacles laid out before me. I did not feel equipped.

As usual, I put my game face on and I prepared for the obstacles. Do not think, just DO IT!

Those who know me personally, know that I overthink. I was thinking about the hip that was sore. I was thinking about the calluses that I had recently ripped off my palms. I had to center myself and stop thinking. When I find this space of not thinking is when I find my strong. photo (38)

Not traversing the wall was not a choice. Not flipping the tire was not an option. Skipping or avoiding obstacles was not an option. Digging deep and being strong was the only choice. And we worked as a team to help others get up and over – sometimes lending a helping hand and often cheering and encouraging one another. My strength came not only from digging deep within myself, but also from trusting others.

“Mini Mt. Everest” was a mental challenge for me. I was afraid that I could not do it. My friend Mo went first – and he stood at the top waiting for me to come. I was confident that if I did not make it, he could reach for my arm and help to pull me up and over. The best part, this gave me the confidence to do it.

With my physical strength, I managed to overcome that obstacle alone. But I drew my confidence and mental strength from others.

Translating this strength onto life’s obstacles

My life has changed pretty significantly these last few weeks – in positive ways. But there have been numerous obstacles. One after the other. And there will continue to be one after another.

Just like last week’s obstacle course workout, not attacking those obstacles is not an option.

I have a vision for my life – my personal and professional endeavors. I have a rough timeline for where I would like to see myself in 5 or 10 years. There are education and experiences I desire to obtain. But God and friends have a different plan and timeline for me. The vision, the same, but put on fast forward.

I do not feel strong enough. I do not feel equipped. These are the same thoughts I experienced prior to the obstacle course workout.

The bottomline

Life is an obstacle course – and I need to learn to treat it like the one that I recently conquered. I conquer fears one at a time, and I suppose obstacles in life are to be overcome in much the same manner.

Much like the obstacle course workout, I have friends who are reaching out to grab my hand – ensuring that I do not fall or hit my face. The faith others have in me today, helps me to build my confidence and push forward with determination. The obstacles are inevitable, but I know that the hands are there to grab onto.

I am ready to attack this life as the obstacle course that it is!

Are you with me?

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Striving for perfection

I like structure, order, and routine. I like for things to be perfect. I like things neat. I like things complete. I like things where I leave them. I like things in the order that I am used to having them in. I like complete sentences and proper spelling. I like to arrive ON TIME. I like legible handwriting. Some individuals would mislabel me as one with obsessive-compulsive disorder (These characteristics fall more closely within the scope of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, anyway).

I am a perfectionist.

This past weekend I made my roommate a birthday cake. I slightly modified the recipe – making the cake smaller (thank goodness!) and reducing some of the unnecessary sugar accents. When assembling the multi-layer cake, my need for perfection was evident – I even made commentary about it during the process. I wanted every edge to be straight and lined up. I wanted perfectly perpendicular angles. I wanted it to support itself perfectly without collapsing. I wanted the corners to match up perfectly – the candy bar border doing its job of containing the dark chocolate ganache. I wanted it to look just so. And for what? To cut it and eat it. But it was important to me that my work was presented as flawless. This cake was representative of my workmanship and abilities – nothing but the best! I wanted it to be P. E. R. F. E. C. T.

per·fect (adj)

1. conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type.
2. excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement.
3. exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose.
4. entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings.
5. accurate, exact, or correct in every detail.

Origins of perfectionism

I am not blaming my childhood; but rather, using it as an explanation. Childhood sets the foundation from which the remainder of life is built on. I was raised to believe that I had to be perfect – everything I did needed to be perfect or it needed to be done again. Eighteen years (and plus some hours, days, and months) of being told, “Do it right or I will have to do it myself.” or “You will do it until you get it right.” is difficult to erase – specially when the assessor is a perfectionist. As a result, I placed all of my self-worth in the ability to be perfect – produce perfect products and results.

As a near my 30th birthday, I have been working hard to overdome my childhood experiences – but it is extremely difficult to stray from what is known – particularly when you have been rewarded based on your perfection (or so was perceived). Graduating with honors and earning promotion after promotion led me to academic and professional success. The problem was, I was never satisfied. My work was never perfect (although I did have a managing editor who required 100% accuracy to meet job requirements at review time) and could always be better, in my eyes.

Perfect or not at all

perfect

“If you cannot do it right then do not do it at all.” What a mentality! But it has stuck with me. I do not do things that I am not good at. I have difficulty doing things that I am only mediocre at. It is better to not show up than to be late. I wear little to no makeup – because it is better to have none than to have imperfect makeup. I rarely style my hair – because it is better to have messy hair than imperfectly styled hair (this would show that I put the effort in and could not do it perfectly).

Similarly, I am often hesitant to try new things – for fear of not being able to do them well (not specifically failure). I like to stick with what I know and what I know that I can do well.

Overcoming perfectionism

I do not know how to overcome perfectionism – oh, how I wish I did! A specialist once told me that he had never worked with an individual with such an ingrained need for perfection. Mental exercise after exercise have not broken through the stronghold. I do have temporary periods free from perfectionism. If I had to quantify it, I would say that I am 20% better than I used to be – meaning that I only need to be perfect 80% of the time as opposed to 100%.

I want to be careful and note that I am not labeling perfectionism as a negative personality trait. However, it disrupts my life and therefore requires change and improvement – from my perspective.

Perfectionism leads to procrastination

If I am concerned about not being able to complete something perfectly, I procrastinate until I can procrastinate no more. I will avoid things at all costs – often times even tasks that I have never performed before because I am frozen in fear that I will not complete it perfectly. I have discussed that most fears are not real. Why is my fear of imperfection so powerful and life impacting? I have vivid memories of sewing projects that had to be done over and over until done perfectly – when all I wanted to do was go outside and play. I remember baking dozens and dozens of muffins, cupcakes, breads, cookies – only done when I had enough perfect ones to present. Do you know how much time I spent re-doing things as a child? Too many – and I find myself slipping into that habit on occasion as an adult. I would rather procrastinate and avoid – and use that time for something I enjoy!

Perfectionism and this blog

My perfectionism inhibits my ability to publish to this blog. This post has sat for several days and I know that I will never be satisfied. I have several dozen posts sitting as drafts – discontent with one aspect or another. I want them to be perfect. In my mind, my posts can only be impactful if they are perfect – anything less would be a waste of my readers’ and my time. Whoa! Yes, I said that – that is my automatic negative thought process.

There are times that I post hastily, more often when I am infuriated with a health and fitness topic or gimmick.

The bottomline

One of my greatest obstacles in life is my perfectionism. I am aware of this and have been working to reduce its averse effects for the greater part of ten years. I have made great strides in the last few years, with the help of professionals, colleagues, and friends. But perfection is a bit of a double-edged sword. It has led to career success. It has led me to develop incredibly effective and useful strategies for completing tasks (e.g., organizational processes, routine development). My perfection continually pushes me to be better – never complacent with what I have nor where I am. Perfectionism is frequently rewarded.

But my perfectionism causes me to freeze – preventing me from personal growth. It cultivates an intense fear of failure. I know that is not healthy and I am working on it. I have written about conquering fear and I know that it is possible – it just takes baby steps sometimes.

Are you a perfectionist?

How to push yourself in a workout

Working out is hard. In fact, I honestly cannot think of anything that is easy about it. If you think that it is easy for anyone – then the only one you are fooling is yourself. Personally, because I experience a varying degree of pain on any and all days, I need to talk myself into each and every workout. You think I am superhuman? Think again! What I have is mental toughness.

photo (11)

I miss having a trainer. I miss being told what to do. I miss the accountability and the need not to think. Even after becoming a trainer myself, I continued working with my trainer – and I believe that made me an even better trainer for my clients.

I miss having someone screaming at me not to quit. I am the kind of person who does not get much benefit of the supportive cheerleading, “you can do it” feedback. I need the, “get your ____ of the floor!” and “why are you stopping?” feedback. And we all require different feedback – in different tones, intensities, delivery methods, and frequencies – and believe me, I do not scream at my clients (I am NOT Jillian).

After my national travels, I have landed in a small town where I know no one. I workout alone. I observe, looking for equally driven individuals to workout by my side, but I am coming up empty. I watch the trainers – nah, I am not impressed (I know, it does take a lot. I have thus far only been markedly impressed with two trainers I have worked with – David Brown and Aaron Feldman). So, without a trainer and without a workout partner – I must push myself.

Is this so bad?

I am actually learning a lot about myself. I have increased my self-efficacy because I am learning that I do not need to be dependent on someone else. The best part is that I have been making significant progress towards my 2013 goals. The primary means by which I am improving my self-efficacy – setting, tracking, and achieving these goals.

Further, I am increasing my mind-body awareness. This is incredibly important for me, considering my physical limitations and increased risks for injury – I MUST be body smart (we all should!). Over the years, I have gotten good at thought control, ‘ignoring’ the pain and pushing through. And because adrenaline is a natural pain killer – any pain I may have felt often subsides. With that said, I can be known to push myself too far to compete with others around me. By working alone, I am more aware of my bodily cues and working within my safe zones. Working within MY zones and ranges is likely correlated with my significant progress towards my goals!

The downfall

There is a lot to be said about having a great trainer or workout partner. Healthy competition will push you to limits you never knew. The biggest thing that I miss is having a trustworthy spotter. I feel like I have lost some strength because I often lift alone and there is no one there to spot me up – I do not take as many risks. Accountability, reinforcement – the benefits of working out with others are endless and worthy of their own post.

How to push yourself

It is helpful to keep in mind the purpose of your workout. WHY are you here? That motivator is powerful. But there are many ways to push yourself if you find yourself working out alone.

  1. Focus on the now. Do not worry about anything else. Focus on the movements, feel your muscles, feel the ground, and bring your mind to the moment.
  2. Track your progress. Keep a notebook and track your workouts. If you are running or biking, track your distance, speed, duration, incline/resistance. With strength training, track your repetitions, sets, tempo, and weight. Use these numbers to challenge yourself to do just a little more the next time you perform the workout.
  3. Music. Select music that makes you want to move. There are times I use no music at all, but more often than not I find that beat and I get lost in it.
  4. Use progressions. Start with simple and familiar exercises. Setting yourself up for success up front builds confidence and will allow you to take more risks down the road.
  5. Plan your workouts. If you have your plan, you are more likely to work harder. You will spend less time roaming the weight room. Having confidence and knowing what you are doing make the world of a difference.
  6. Ask an expert. I know these are tips to help you push yourself, but I believe that everyone should have at least a few sessions with a qualified fitness professional. This will familiarize yourself with the equipment and exercises – leaving less room for hesitation and uncertainty! And you may have guessed it – this build confidence.
  7. Reward yourself. It is important to reward yourself for all work well done. Every step forward is progress towards your goal. I will work for coffee!

The bottomline

This list is endless and these are just a few tips to get you thinking. We are not always lucky enough to always have a workout partner accessible. Nor can we all afford personal trainers for all our lives! Life is such a personal matter – and working out is a part of this life! I can give you hundreds of ideas, but if they are not meaningful to you are they really going to help? Yes, it requires some thought and preparation, but are you not worth it?

How do YOU push yourself?

References

Martin Ginis, K. A., & Bray, S. R. (2010). Application of the limited strength model of self-regulation to understanding exercise effort, planning and adherence. Psychology & Health 25(10), 1147-1160.

White, S. M., Mailey, E. L., & McAuley, E. (2010) Leading a physically active lifestyle: Effective individual behavior change strategies. ACSM’S Health & Fitness Journal, 14(1), 8-15.

Attaining excellence

As an undergraduate, one of the professors for which I TAed said, “Your potential is your greatest burden.” Dr. Keniston is a bit of an eccentric and I was not real certain of what he meant. I shrugged it off as a little crazy talk. As the years pass, I become more and more aware of what he saw in me then. He saw excellence waiting to be unleashed.

EXCELLENCE versus TALENT

Chambliss (1989) defines excellence as the “consistent superiority of performance.” I am the youngest of five children – and the only girl. I believe each of us can be described as talented, natural athletes. While my brothers were actively involved in sports – some becoming star athletes, I had little interest. BUT, I was often approached by coaches after hearing about my gym class performances (they hounded me to do shot put!). For us, a few exposures to a sport and we were a bit like seasoned pros. Talent? It likely has more to do with physical and muscular body structure. Does talent explain why my first attempt at a shot put had me out-throwing the conference’s high school champion during gym class? And each attempt thereafter? Neither did my excellence have anything to do with the amount of time I spent practicing nor money spent. The more I think about it, the more I think that we use the word talent loosely and synonymously, for example to describe natural ability. Excellence is built.

EXCELLENCE

I bore easily. I need to be challenged – physically and intellectually. Excellence can be mundane in a few of ways and even requires it.

  1. Excellence necessitates discipline and consistency of practice (Chambliss, 1989). For example, I excelled in bowling and was praised for my consistency and ability. I remember practicing, throw after throw and becoming bored by the mundanity. I remember thinking at times, this is too easy.
  2. It requires social rewards and motivation. Day-to-day motivation is critical along with long-term goals. For me with bowling, although I excelled, I moved on and lost interest and enjoyment and I have not bowled for nearly 7 years. There was no reward valuable enough – winning again wasn’t enough!
  3. Mundanity is critical for the psychological challenge (Chambliss, 1989). Chambliss (1989) stated that winners do not choke. In bowling, I was the anchor and known to perform consistently, even under pressure. My habits and routine that I had developed over the years helped me maintain that consistency. It was mundane to me – no thought required, no anxiety, just go do what I had always done.

The burden of EXCELLENCE

Excellence is not invigorating, energizing, nor exciting. Excellence requires work! Dedication. Determination. Discipline. Sweat. Grit. Heart. We often perceive professional athletes as being spoiled with loads of money – did they not work for what they earn? It is rare for an individual to be successful as a professional on natural ability alone. Excellence is not an innate characteristic – it is developed and honed over time.

Excellent attainment is influenced by both social and psychological factors. For example, there can be significant social pressure to improve and perform as an athlete (Chambliss, 1989). This often leads to an athlete being told that if he/she works harder he/she will perform better. Conversely, a subpar athlete may be told that they will never be good enough – all motivation and drive may then be lost. Who knows if that athlete may have been excellent given different social circumstances! Fortunately, social rewards and motivation are not the only factors influencing attainment of excellence. Psychological factors include motivation, discipline, focus, confidence, and many others.

The bottomline Excellence

In what areas of life do you desire EXCELLENCE – Faith, professional achievement, home identity, academia?

Do you pursue excellence?

Do you practice discipline and focus?

Do you bare confidence?

If not, what can you do TODAY to change that?

We are each capable of excellence. Go out and BE EXCELLENT!

References

Chambliss, D. F. (1989). The mundanity of excellence: An ethnographic report on stratification and Olympic swimmers. Sociological Theory, 7, 70–86.

6-pack abs? GOAL 2

I want a flat, washboard stomach. I want my physique to be a clear reflection of my core strength. I have to admit, I am most insecure about my torso. I am not quite sure where the origins of this insecurity rest. To be quite honest, I have an amazingly well-trained core – but my physical body doesn’t necessarily show it.  It took me a long time to recognize my core strength because I cannot SEE it in the mirror. Let’s do planks or sit-ups or side planks…I’ve mastered these feats. While there are of course limits to my physical abilities, it seems I completely disregard all that I CAN do because I don’t have those 6-pack abs. Am I obsessed? No. Do I beat myself up over it? No. But I’m not yet satisfied. Is this another case of something that will never seem good enough for me? Maybe…

Goal 2 – To do THIS:

crunchThe crunch, supporting myself on a heavy bag with my legs. I have done something similar in the past. To be more specific: to do TEN crunches off the heavy bag.

What is real? A bit about body image

photoI am sitting on the couch, looking down at my pants. These pants are years old. I have had conversations with friends about how much we love our out-dated Old Navy yoga pants. The pants once black are now more of a charcoal gray. I look and see the excess material – they are baggy! I’m getting ready to go workout, and I’m wearing a pair of yoga shorts (oddly enough Old Navy) beneath the pants. And…they are baggy. Just yesterday I was feeling large, considering what it would take for me to be less of a ‘big girl.’

Don’t get me wrong, I know that I am not fat or overweight. But I am a big girl – large structural build and significant muscle mass. This often bothers my psyche. Today’s media flaunts rail-thin women – no fat and no muscle. It’s no wonder the female body image is so distorted. Fashion is designed for the thin woman – no butt nor hips nor shoulders. Some clothing is designed for a bust. But an athletic girl like me….it’s no wonder I spend most of my time in sweats! I can’t find clothing to flatter this figure. Further, it’s no wonder I feel big!

Looking down on my pants today was a bit of a reality check. What is real? While I have been feeling big, tangible evidence shows that this is not true! My pants are too baggy! If I could still read the inside tag, I know it would read M for medium. That’s not big! I know friends and acquaintances have been saying I look thin and like I’ve lost weight (I lose during times of stress!). What they see is real, isn’t it? My own view is distorted – after years of looking at the mirror do I see what is real and true today? Or do I see the me I saw 5 years ago, last year, or last month? Have images of the past been permanently burned into my retina, replacing what is real and right in front of me today?

Or…am I comparing myself to the models in the fitness magazines? Those women get touched up. I know this, but knowing and believing are two very different things. This is a constant battle!

Do you see the REAL you? I often think that others see the real me more than I do – physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. I believe that they see the real me more than I like to admit… My challenge to you today is to ask yourself this questions – and please be honest!

1. How do I see myself?

2. How do others see me? (hint: use real-life experiences and statements to draw this picture!)

3. What is REAL?

Those RED Shoes

I’m drawn to shoes. My mother tells a story about how she lost me in a department store when I was a toddler. Where did a store associate find me? The shoe department. I guess I was destined to be a shoe lover. And I am mesmerized by red shoes

Oooh la la…my latest pair!

Red shoes make me feel feminine, pretty, and a little risque. I think that wearing red shoes gives the perception of confidence. The right heel on the shoe says don’t mess with me. Christmas Eve 2011 I attended church service with a family I hold near and dear to my heart…charcoal gray wool skirt, red sweater, and metallic red Nine West pumps. The reaction to the shoes from the entire family when I walked in the door was pleasant and positive. I felt good!! Over a pair of shoes? Granted…everyone was used to seeing me in sneakers at the gym, so…

When I’m having a bad day, I like to curl my hair and put on my red shoes. For the girl who dresses for the gym 90% of the time, this can throw people for a loop. But I like to feel pretty. And don’t most women desire beauty? When I put on my red shoes, it almost as if I’m empowered. I’m unstoppable. I know, an object doesn’t have that kind of power, but I have given it that power and I am okay with that. And I often remind myself of 1 Peter 3:3-4:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

This does not mean it’s wrong for me to wear my red shoes. The verse was written to warn women not to follow the customs of some women who spent hours working on themselves. God would rather see women work on inner beauty, which I do every day. Do you? This is the kind of beauty that lasts forever, regardless of whether I have my red shoes on.

P.S. I wouldn’t say that I collect red shoes…I don’t buy every pair that I see. But I sure do have quite the selection. I’m still on the search for the right pair of ballet-type flats.