There is a four letter word which will do more to ruin your body-confidence than anything else and I would like to see it and all versions of this word removed from how you talk about yourself and your life. That word is FAIL.
Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking the following phrases:
- I’ve failed to complete this
- I’ve failed the challenge
- I feel like such a failure
- I have failed to fit into that dress
- I’ve failed to lose weight/change dress size/fit into that item of clothing I used to wear
- I’ve failed at life
You probably have one or more of these phrases going through your head each day and onc you have kids that sense of failure just packs the pressure on because you don’t want to fail your kids.
‘Fail’ is a destructive and counter-productive word that should be consigned to the same black box as ‘beach body ready’ and all those other negative messages in the world that make you feel like you aren’t acheiving.
Before I tell you how you can change your thinking to rid your life from FAIL-itis I want to tell you how my year of exercise started. I received an email from a vegan running blog challenging me to a whole year of running challenges. I thought, ‘why the heck not?’ and took it up. The first month’s challenge was to run at least a mile very day for the whole month. In Januray. In the Peak District.
For 12 days straight I ran through rain, snow, winds. I got soaked by inconsiderate people driving through puddles right next to me. I ran early in the morning before the kids woke up and at the end of a long day after I’d put them into bed. And then I got a day that it was impossible for me to fit in a run. Not just that I couldn’t find the time but it was completely and utterly impossible. I’d had 4 hours broken sleep, needed to get up and get the first train to London, spent a day in a meeting and then get a train back home, by which point it was so late I just collapsed into bed. I had failed.
So I missed the next day and the next. I thought I would just pick up the challenge in February but I didn’t. Nothing happened in March or April. I did the odd exercise video here and there, some yoga and my wonderful outdoor fitness class on a Monday. In June that ended for good. By the end of July I could no longer fit into some of my clothes with ease. Last month I joined a gym; this is most unlike me.
But does this story sound familiar? Do you start a challenge, get part way through and from external circumstances or as I like to refer to it as ‘life’, you stop for a day and that’s it the mojo has gone?
If so, here are my tips for combatting that:
1.Accept life happens
Missing one day of a challenge or even a week doesn’t mean you have ‘failed’ it just means you have a whole, complex life that needs attention. Be it children, work or family these things can sometimes gulp up your time in ways you weren’t expecting. Accept it, acknowledge it and get back on it. But most importantly the challenge is only with yourself so you are fully within your rights to…
2. Shift the goalposts
You know those cheesy, inspirational quotes that keep telling you you are only in competition with yourself? Well, theey are right. So who is to say that a 30 Day Shred needs to be 30 days straight? Is there a rule book somewhere that if you don’t do it without break days then you’ve not done it? Are we seriously saying we only accomplish things if we play by some rules set up by others or worse our subconscious? Because that is total rubbish. Had I shifted my goal posts at the start of this year who knows where my running life may have been right now, I may have even enjoyed running. I doubt it but you never know. Sod the rules, change the goal posts, succeed.
3. Focus on the achievements
How often when doing anything to do with your health or wellbeing do you focus on your achievements rather than your end goal? Here’s the thing about health and wellbeing goals, as soon as you get near to them you push them further away. There’s always more you can do, better improvements you want to make. This is human but it also means we don’t always appreciate where we are right now and what we have done. Like that photo of you from 10 years ago that you take out and think ‘I looked so young, and thin. If only I’d appreciated that then’. Well big news: you are young and thin – especially to the 10 year older you who will be looking back at photos from now thinking the exact same thing. Appreciate yourself as you are now and celebrate the things you have achieved. Whether it is all-weather running for 12 days straight or lifting the next level kettlebell or simply going to a group. All of it needs celebration and every time you feel like you’ve ‘failed’ then think of at least five things for every one negative.
4. Find your motivation
Failure saps motivation and feeds further apathy for doing something positive. When you find yourself missing stuff and not really wanting to get back into it, have a motivation plan. The hardest day is not the first day but the 10th or 20th or whatever your breaking point it to turn it into a routine that is part of your life. It turns out that my motivation is not really competition (with myself or others) so could take or leave a challenge. They tend to interfere in what I want to do in my spare time anyway. My motivation is sometimes fitting into some clothes I can no longer wear, or putting quid in a jar every time I do some exercise knowing that in a few months I’ll be able to afford something expensive that fits. This works really well for short classes and HIIT training. Or currently the big money investment of a gym membership for 6 months is keeping me ‘getting my money’s worth’. My motivation is never fixed, it changes from time to time so I need to change with it.
5. Take the internet with a pinch of cynicism
How many times have you looked at your friends’ wonderful social lives, clean homes and sparkling children online only to find out when you meet them in person those images and posts they put out there are a small snap shot in time and they actually need your help and support? Or they are bored and it was their first night out in months? We don’t put out the things that are going wrong in our lives because that’s the part we hold back for those close to us. The same applies to all the ‘after’ pictures you see. We hold ourselves up to unobtainable lives projected out on the internet of strangers who we think are happier, healthier and more fun that we are. We aspire to a lifestyle that is impossible to acheive. We all do it and we all, deep down, know that what we see on the internet is a shell to live much like our own behind the filtered images.
Hold that mirror up to those you see in real life alone and more importantly only measure yourself and your successes against you alone. This isn’t easy, it is human to compare and feel there is something better out there. It is what makes us strive to improve ourselves but it also makes us miserable.
There’s no easy way to do this because we all love social media and our online projections of ourselves. You should no more remove yourself from that world than you should start thinking this is how people live. Just the next time you see some posts of someone you know having a really great time, check in with them. It might not be as it seems.