A few weeks ago, as I was doing a home workout, I had a flashback to moments in the gym when I was training for the bikini competition. In that moment, sweating in the privacy of my home, in my larger-than-then body, struggling to stay motivated and engaged in my workout, I longed for those moments in the gym when I felt so validated by my body.
The reasons I choose to move my body now are (most of the time) grounded in actual compassion for myself and my health. I move because my body aches less when I do. I move because it helps release tension in my shoulders and neck. I move because it helps me let go of the frustrations of the day, helps me process challenging encounters at work. I move because I know it helps my body stay healthy – lubricates my joints, protects my heart, brings blood rushing to my brain and other vital organs. I move because it gives me energy. I move because it helps me sleep better.
Notice that I call it “moving”. With time and effort, I’ve been able to move away from the rigid idea that I need to “workout” to attain a certain physical aesthetic or a certain social status. Don’t be fooled, I am still riddled with insecurities about my body, how others perceive me, my value as a woman and potential partner, my worth. However I’ve been able to divorce those as the fuel for moving my body.
But I have to be honest, sometimes I miss those days when I was training for that bikini competition. The work I’m doing now is way more subtle, it’s more private, but damn it’s hard. It’s hard the way waking up at 4am to workout before a 12hr shift in the ICU was hard. It’s hard the way I had to push my body constantly to do more reps or eat less food. I mean, it’s a different kind of hard, but it’s hard all the same. And the extra challenging part of this inner work is that there is not much in terms of external validation.
When I was training for the bikini comp, I could post progress pictures on Instagram and get validation from friends and followers. I could get that dose of feel-good-hormomes to help me push past the challenging times. I constantly posted about my workouts, my meals, my body, my progress. All you have to do is scroll down my Instagram page to see how much this hard work consumed my world.
It’s not bad. In other ways, I’m just as consumed now with this new challenge of self-improvement.
But now when I run into challenging times, it’s not so easy to get that external validation I once got from posting on social media. I realize that this is such a beautiful opportunity to dive deeper into my own insecurities, my need for external validation and the ways I search for validation. But I also know it’s important to sit with our emotions and experiences.
So for a bit, I’m going to dwell in this feeling of longing for the good ol’ days. The days when the things I was working on were external, and I could post about my progress on the media, and get compliments about how great my abs and glutes looked when I flexed.
This journey I’ve been on for the past two years now has led to so much growth. At times painful growth. I’ve invested way more time, way more money, and I’ve shed so many more tears as I’ve worked to transform my mind and heal my soul. And sometimes I wish I could post progress pictures of all this messy work so I could lean on all of you, so I could be reminded of why I do what I do, and feel like it’s all worth it in the end.
With time, I’m learning to depend more on my Self to feel validation, to feel like this work matters. I’m learning to reach out to friends and family that know and love me when I need to feel connected, rather than posting on social media to get a temporary and false sense of validation.
If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed I’ve been less active in the last month. After thinking about it for a while, and deliberating with my therapist, I came to the conclusion that I needed a break from social media. I realized I was constantly reaching for my phone and especially instagram when ever I felt any uncomfortable emotion.
The first week was really hard and I noticed how many times in a day I was reaching for my phone. I deleted most social media apps from my phone. For a while I replaced Instagram and Facebook with Twitter and the News. But slowly I learned to wean myself off and be more present. Instead of logging into Instagram when I feel lonely or disconnected, I call or video chat family and friends. I sit with my boredom and difficult emotions. I’m learning to cope. Actually cope. Instead of numbing, or getting false validation.
I still go on Instagram a fair bit, and I don’t think I’ll ever delete my account. But I’m happy I’m learning to disconnect from the online world so that I can reconnect with myself and my real-time life.
I’m hoping that with time, I’ll continue to learn to self-validate. That it will get easier to do the work that I need to do without relying on the notion that others must think what I’m doing is great.
But for now, there are still moments where I need validation. Moments when I wish I could flex and show off the growth in my mind the way I used to flex and show off my glutes.