Fear, anxiety, not surrendering my training wheels (day 5)

As I noted in yesterday’s post , there were two events on Thursday evening that have me thinking and navel-gazing about my own reactions, actions, behaviors, and impulses. I started to write about both as one blog post, but on reflection it seems they are significant enough to break them into different posts. Besides, on my quest for posting something every day in August, I hope there is some meat with the potatoes.

When I was a kid and learned to ride a bike, I did so completely on my own and without training wheels. My dad was not available to put them on my bicycle, nor were he or my mother much interested in teaching me how to ride. Being semi-resourceful and already accustomed to having my little girl heart disappointed with strings of empty promises, I set out to learn on my own.

Down the street, there was a house with a low chain link fence. It was perfect height for tiny me to learn about 2-wheeled balance and still having something to hold onto or to grab when the inevitable weeble-wobble took over. The fence itself was maybe 30 yards long, and I painstakingly would go up and back every afternoon and on the weekends for a couple of weeks until I go the hang of staying upright on my bike. I fell repeatedly and had skinned up knees and elbows and even my chin to show for it, but I persisted. After what seemed like forever, I could successfully ride down the street under my own power without the benefit of my fence. Or training wheels.

I was really anxious those first few trips down the street away from my fence, and I kept coming back, practicing my craft with that security blanket, until I had enough confidence to go farther. But every time I fell – which that first year was practically every day – I would return to my training grounds until I was sure I was ready to go it alone again.

My friend K is killing it with her work in the gym. It is/was a lifelong dream to learn to be strong, and she has crossed off that item and is well on her way to updating it with new achievements. Thursday night she deadlifted 250 lbs., a new personal record, and she is so stoked about it. I share her excitement and am so happy for her in this latest, greatest milestone, as she has only been doing barbell deadlifting a few months. K was involved in a very serious auto accident a few years ago, and she and J have described for me how painful her efforts when she started training a couple of years ago and look at her now. She is an inspiration to me, a shining example of hard work, disciplined dedication, and overall toughness.

Yet my excitement for her accomplishment has a thread of anxiety running through it. What if she hurts herself by pushing too hard?

Fear is a long-running theme in my life, and I recognize the bias in my reaction to the news. I’m overjoyed, excited, thrilled to death for my friend, yet inside I can feel that curl of anxiety in the pit of my stomach about whether or not she should be attempting this much weight at this point in her weight lifting career. The fear, anxiety, concern is not warranted. Learning to lift safely is what brought me to J in the first place, and K is of a similar mindset. Nevermind that I used that anxiety and fear as a crutch to not do the work, at least initially, but I am self-aware enough to know when I am making excuses to give in to my fears and stay safely ensconced in my happy comfort zone and when I am being irrational and unwilling to even try.

I certainly do not want my bias and strain of gym crazy to unduly influence my friendships. I do my best stay aware and couch my concerns in a positive way that does not sound like the panic and anxiety I may actually feel.

Thoughts about perception and fears were brewing in the back of my mind writing my training recap Thursday. Partly triggered by my kitchen sink thoughts that come with training, partly by stuff on Facebook and anecdotes shared in my fat loss group.

I completely understand how my fear and anxiety will hold me back, both in my better health quest and in other aspects of my personal and professional lives. I am not brave or courageous or noble or anything else particularly admirable for setting fear aside and donning my big girl capris and turning down the volume on that negative noise aside and just trying, faltering, even failing, and getting up and doing it again until those F words fade into the background of my thoughts and activities.

I’m not an especially extroverted personality and actually feel pretty damn socially awkward much of the time. Yet I meet people, present proposals where they pay me money to do work for them, and they hire me and frequently are happy with the service I provide. It’s uncomfortable for me, meeting new clients and presenting myself in a way that feels competent and trustworthy. And even when I don’t particularly want the engagement it feels like rejection if they choose to hire someone else.

This is part of who I am, and I have learned to accept it and make it work for me. I freely admit to still having to work at not giving a shit what people think. Mentally preparing this post in my head, it has occurred to me that I fear the casual cruelty that I perceive when some random stranger says something negative to or about me. It hurts my feelings and is very hard to hear. And while I am infinitely tougher about that stuff now, I have not yet deadened all those nerve endings. Probably, hopefully I never will, lest I too become the mean and insensitive person in my nightmares.

But I have come to understand it is the words that are hurtful, not the person uttering them. The mean guy saying unkind things is simply manifestation of the internal megaphone of what I think about myself, and therein lies the difficulty of facing that person again, hearing their words in the echo chamber of my mind and forcing me to face up to humiliating thoughts I hold true about myself.

As I have grown more confident and shut down the falsehoods negative girl propagates, realistic girl has stepped up to take her place. Realistic girl is not the Pollyanna Positive that manifests for everyone around me, because I so want to perceive the world in the best light possible and think so highly of those with whom I associate. I think realistic girl keeps me grounded, so my heart is not broken 20 times daily by the disappointment of people being people.

I frame this post with that much background about my fear and anxiety because it is relevant. For so long I was afraid of change, afraid of the hard work and complicated steps involved with change, afraid I was not up to the challenge and lacked the intellect and other resources necessary to effect the change I desired. Hell, I was afraid to want to change, period.

Then one day it really hit home that I wanted to live a productive life and not be a burden to my husband and family with future me in failing health. I became more fearful of that outcome than paralyzed by my anxiety of the hard work and potential for failure in trying now to change it while I still have the physical resources and mental capacity to try.

So began the tiny little steps toward my better health quest and its unintended conseuences.

I’m trying hard to be smarter, to listen to fab trainer J and others whose opinions I trust. I am reading experts, involved with my fat loss group. Things are going well.

Then again – I wonder if I should take my newfound confidence and start *gasp* setting some goals? I have overcome my aversion to the scale; maybe I can do the next step and set more specific goals?

I don’t think I’m ready for that, and I tell myself it’s perfectly okay to be a mostly goal-less person. Objectives are good; I am striving to get up out of bed and into the gym most days. Check – habit primarily established. Healthier eating? Working on it. No particular timeline, no deadlines to miss, no falling short of preconceived expectations. Success is the series of little wins that slowly lead to long-term changes.

Training wheels, safety rails, balance aids – they do make me feel safe even if I no longer need them to keep me upright. I know they are there to help catch me and soften the falls I am likely to face as time marches on and the work becomes more detailed and complex. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. So in my better health quest, I still need the guidance of my village of experts and the give-and-take support and encouragement of our tribe. As a body of influence they insulate and protect me, mostly from myself and the doubts that would otherwise cripple me and have stopped my progress long ago.

And for that, I am infinitely grateful.

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