At the point the pictures below were taken, I didn’t think very much of myself.
I had stepped away from competitive racing in triathlon and duathlon, yet I still felt like I needed a goal. Something to focus on. So I signed up to and completed this fitness photoshoot.
I was going through a divorce at the time, and whilst it had been my decision to split, it had thrown me into a journey of wanting to ‘find myself’.
I know this sounds incredibly cliché, but it was how I felt.
I had spent the first 32 years of my life focusing on what was expected of me, or what I ‘should’ do to fit in with ‘the done thing’.
As a result, I hadn’t allowed myself the space to get to know who I really was and what I liked, just for me, not because there was any external validation attached to it.
I hadn’t realised it at the time but one of the things the expectations I put on myself led to was feeling uncomfortable in my body. I had felt this way since I was a kid. Since then I was never without niggles in the back of my mind related to body image and what other people were thinking of me.
But when I started racing in triathlon and duathlon, I also started following quite a strict nutrition plan. As a result, I found a way to control my weight that finally worked.
I told myself it was to be lean and light to improve my speed, and partly, it was.
But it also secretly fulfilled my need to not be ‘fat’ – to lose this bit, or trim down that bit.
The fitness photoshoot in the pictures took this one step further.
I followed a process with the idea that ultimately I would look as fit and lean as possible.
Part of me felt ashamed that I was doing it.
I didn’t like putting so much store by aesthetic appearance.
It felt uncomfortable to me.
Part of me also knew that if I got to the photoshoot and I was the ‘fittest’ I had ever been, and I still didn’t really like myself, then I would know for sure that I needed to approach it a different way.
And so I completed the process.
By the time I got there, I was the tiniest, the leanest and, in terms of appearance, the ‘fittest’ I have ever been.
Yet I was still so unhappy in myself.
I would poke and prod at myself, still thinking, “if I could just get rid of that bit”…
I mean how crazy is that!!!
There’s barely anything left on me to get rid of.
But, you see, that’s where our mind plays tricks on us, depending on what we fill it with.
We see what we want to see.
And at that point, it fit with my belief system to see that I still wasn’t good enough as I was.
Not only that though.
My body had started objecting too.
It stopped functioning as it should in a number of different ways, and I knew something had to change.
And so I made the decision that I was going to approach it from a different angle.
The changes I had chased for years were motivated by hate for myself.
I felt I had to be different…better…in order to be accepted. In order to be good enough.
But at that point, I realised that no amount of achievement, or external praise would give me what I truly wanted.
In order to feel good enough, I had to change from the inside first.
I had to learn to like myself and see myself as good enough, as I was, and not just once I had achieved something, or looked a certain way.
I can tell you that it’s been a long old journey since then, but worth every single moment of it!
I no longer have those little niggles in the back of my head about my body.
They aren’t there to distract me or hold me back from doing things because I feel ashamed of my shape and size.
In all honesty, for the most part, my shape and size doesn’t feature in my thoughts much at all any more.
And, my god, does that feel good!!
But one of the things I have learned along the way is that, in order to feel a sense of fulfilment and contentment with yourself and your life, any changes you make need to be motivated by a love for yourself and the things in your life.
If your motivation to change is based on not feeling good enough as you are, any sense of feeling good enough will be dependent on maintaining that change, or the external validation that comes with it.
It’s not a long term solution and leaves you endlessly chasing things that won’t really make you happy.
Change, motivated from a place of love will always, ultimately, be more successful than change motivated by a feeling of hate or dislike for yourself.