“UNIVERSAL LESSON: YOU SEE THE WORLD THAT YOU HAVE MADE, BUT YOU DO NOT SEE YOURSELF AS THE IMAGE-MAKER.”
Gabrielle Bernstein, “The Universe Has Your Back”
Personal development has never been something I pursued intentionally. One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to acknowledge during my health and fitness journey is that in addition to weighing almost 300 lbs, I was toting around at least that much weight in emotional baggage. It was literally weighing me down, drowning me in depression and despair. Unwilling and unable to even leave my house most days, because I was so ashamed and embarrassed at how much I’d let myself go. I kept trying to claw and dig my way to the surface, only to be dragged back down again by the hands of my perception and self-loathing. It was a cycle I didn’t know how to break. I didn’t weigh 300 pounds just because I loved food, and I knew that part of my health journey was going to include delving deep into my heart and rooting out the negative and self-destructive emotions that brought me to the edge of the precipice I found myself on the eve before I decided to have Gastric-Sleeve surgery. I didn’t want to ever end up back in that place, literally hanging over a dark abyss of self-hatred and fear. I knew losing the weight was only half the battle, delving into my personal “why” was the key. Why had I allowed this to happen to my body? Why did I do this to myself? I was hiding behind the extra weight. Hiding behind the poor choices. I needed to figure out why. I couldn’t let this happen to me again.
Gabrielle Bernstein says something over and over in her book (The Universe Has Your Back) that really stuck with me, “Energy flows where your attention goes.” Our perceptions create our reality or projection. Gabrielle compares it to a movie reel. What we perceive is what we project on the movie screens of our life. If you find yourself struggling, whether it’s with your weight, your marriage, your relationships, your life…ask yourself, what movie have I been projecting? I began to really think about what fear motivated me in a negative way to make the poor decisions that led me to this crossroads in my life. I knew I had choices. I could keep doing what I’d been doing and continue to live in the shadows, afraid to step out. Or, I could take a different path. I could step out of my 300 pound shadow. I could stop being a spectator in my very own existence and make the decision to actually live! I could make the decision to be fully present, living my best life, not just watching from the sidelines.
Somewhere along the line between childhood and adulthood, I decided that love was conditional. I developed along the way this idea that I had to walk the tightrope of perfection in certain relationships in order to be loved and feel love. If I missed a step, if I failed to say the right thing or do the right thing, that love was withheld from me. It was taken away. Whether in my mind or in reality, it was my perception and it colored my attitudes and emotions. Food became a comfort, a coping mechanism. Metaphorically, I could hide my shame and low sense of self-worth behind my weight. If no one could see me, they couldn’t hurt me. Obviously, I see the fallacy in my thinking, but when you are trapped in a particular mindset, it’s extremely difficult to see your way around it. The self-destructive behaviors make a weird sort of sense. You begin to find comfort in the things that ultimately will bring you down.
It’s difficult to explain in words, and I’m probably botching it up, but it’s really painful to open yourself up in this way and bare your soul. I carry these feelings in the deepest parts of myself. I’m always waiting for friends and family to realize how screwed up I really am and turn away from me, realize I’m not worth loving and walk away. This is the movie, I play in my head. This is my projection colored by my perceptions. I don’t want to live this way. I don’t want to gain the weight back. I still have weight to lose, work to do and part of that work is being 100% honest and transparent. I don’t want to always feel as if I have to hide behind humor and self-deprecation. I want to shine a spotlight on the deepest and darkest parts of me, so I can change my “movie”, my perceptions and project a different outcome.
Sharing my thoughts and feelings in such a public forum allows me to feel empowered. I want to reshape these negative thoughts and structure my life in a more positive and productive way. As it turns out, losing 100 pounds was the easy part. Changing my perceptions is where the hard work really begins. If I want something I’ve never had, I have to do things I’ve never done. I find inspiration in the support of others. A big part of me expects failure. It would be easy to listen to that voice. That voice tends to get louder when I shut myself off from loving and being loved by others. The stories I sometimes allow myself to believe about myself block me from feeling supported and happy.
It is difficult sometimes for me to reconcile the fact that I’ve come so far in my health and fitness journey. I’ve lost over 100 pounds! I don’t celebrate this amazing achievement often enough. I usually say something along the lines of “yeah, I’ve lost 100 pounds, but I still have another 50 or so to go.” My emotional health is an integral part of my overall health and fitness. I can’t ignore it. To ignore it leads me right back to where I started and I don’t want to ever visit or live there again. I need to acknowledge and congratulate myself on the hard work that has gotten me this far. That sense of accomplishment needs to be the light I shine on the projection I want to play in my daily life. I don’t want to stay stuck in the negative rut of that old reality. I want to break down those walls, squash those feelings and crush that mindset. I have to be purposeful about connecting to the positive images of my success and accomplishments rather than focusing on the negative and destructive. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will I be. I am perfectly imperfect, a child of God, and learning to love myself, forgive myself is essential to my growth and progress to being the person I was meant to be.
Writing the positive story of my life makes for a happier, more joyful me which radiates a power and light that forbids me from hiding in the shadows of my old self, hiding behind those old fears and spiraling down the staircase of destruction. Being present in my life, being an active participant is my power and from that power I derive my motivation and my inspiration to continue down this new, unchartered path. Seeking the approval of others is an integral part of who I am, connecting to those feelings, recognizing and acknowledging those feelings without letting the outcomes control me is key.
I’m worthy of being loved
The above statement, a mantra I repeat to myself daily, sometimes multiple times per day. I am flawed. I am imperfect. I make mistakes. None of those things discounts me as a person worthy of loving herself and accepting love from others. In losing 100 pounds, this is what I’ve discovered. I choose to look back and see my 300 pound self cheering me on, wanting me to succeed instead of trying to trip me up or praying I fail. I understand that my intentions, my perceptions color my reality. By being the change I want to see in myself and the world around me, I turn outward judgment into self-reflection and action against the only thing I can ever truly control, myself.
If you are feeling stuck, unloved or in a place where you harshly judge not only yourself but those around you, I hope you find comfort and solace in what I’ve shared here today. I hope you take the time to stop and think about the movie you’ve created of your life and the part you want to play in it, realizing the power to change the direction and the outcome does truly lie within you. Empowering yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. So that you may more freely forgive and love others. Choosing to be intentional, empowering yourself and those around you, projecting the life you want and desire is a daily practice. I find myself having to redirect my negative thoughts and actions over and over again throughout the course of a day. Some days are better than others. Don’t let fear be the guiding principle of your internal dialogue. The point is to be intentional and purposeful in the changes you want to see and that will direct your thoughts and actions in a positive direction. Taking responsibility for the lives we’ve created can be scary. It’s much easier to blame those around us, or our circumstances. Believe me, I know. By acknowledging that my perceptions of self-worth, my negative thoughts and feelings and my destructive habits and choices were shaping the reality of my existence, my world, I was able to choose a different path, including the experiences in healing my heart, body and soul that resulted in the loss of 100 pounds and the journey to find the me God intended when he created me in His image.
The bottom line.