Struggles + Strengths are Two Sides of the Same Coin.
Now that we’ve all moved into perfectionism recovery and are a little more gentle with ourselves, it should be easier to evaluate our progress: to see that we’re constantly progressing (whether it feels like it or not!), and that there is an easier (and more realistic) way to examine ourselves.
Our strength lies in the struggle: where we show up completely, we discover what we’re made of, whether we succeed or not. The real success lies in the courage to try, because learning new skills (changing our eating habits, picking up a barbell for the first time, finally investing in ourselves after a lifetime of putting self-care on the back burner, etc.) is one of the bravest things we’ll ever do! The fear of the unknown is real, and, at our first setback, we can feel like it’s a waste of time (been there, done that…in fact, I remember in 10th grade, I told my biology teacher that I didn’t do things I wasn’t good at. 15-year-old logic. How can you develop skills if you never try?).
I tend to evaluate my progress from the strengths perspective, as this method of thinking was transformative for me. What we do best and what we want to change the most are often two sides of the same coin, variations on the same behavior. Examining our struggles in light of our talents, dreams, values, hopes, and capacities forces us to consider our positive qualities and where overcoming the struggle is possible. We aren’t dismissing the struggle, but reminding ourselves who’s boss (spoiler: it’s you.).
Remember a couple weeks ago when we examined our core values? If growth and courage are two of them (I find they are, most of the time…and they certainly are in fitness and nutrition goals- that’s sort of the point once we get beyond vanity, isn’t it? ;) ), it’s important to cultivate this culture of learning – trying, failing, examining what worked and what didn’t, rework the plan, and coming back stronger. If failure isn’t an option, neither is growth.
Expect for things to not go perfectly the first time (if they do, I’m jealous, because they almost never do for me without some serious God moves), because who you want to be is not who you are right now. And that’s okay. If you’re an athlete (but probably everyone by the time we’re 25), you’ve heard that if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not reaching your potential. And it’s true! I’d hope I don’t cap out at 28. Getting to my more BAMF self is going to take some work.
An important thing to remember is that defeat is not unworthiness – just because you didn’t succeed in your very first attempt (or even your second or third!) doesn’t mean you’re “bad” or can’t accomplish your goal or don’t deserve to.
I think here would be a good place to talk about something that scares the hell out of most of us: disconnection. Since we are wired for connection, the fear of disconnection (which usually comes through failure of something, be that making a weight cut for a competition or failure to stick to our diets – both things I hope we’ve seen aren’t measures of our self-worth by now, but, hey, that’s a process and a challenge to remember in the moment – or losing a job or failure of a marriage or anything in between) is very real, because it comes with VERY real pain.
Disconnection can often lead to shame: the belief that whatever “bad” thing that happened is who we are (different from guilt, which is about what we did. See the difference? One is about a moment or an action, while one is about an identity). Shame kills engagement, innovation, honesty, vulnerability, self-esteem, self-efficacy (the belief that we’re capable of accomplishing tasks), change, belief, hope, creativity, learning – shame is not your friend.
It causes us to operate in a mindset of scarcity: that there is never enough, that we must hoard all the opportunities and resources for ourselves, that we must isolate ourselves and not ask for (or receive) help because we suck anyway, and/or that we can’t let anyone in to sit with us in our uncertainty or struggle because if they see how awful we are or how much of a fraud we are they’ll leave us. Scarcity lets us off the hook, because, with our shame mindset, we say, “that’s just who I am,” taking the possibility (and power!) of real change off the table.
We have a choice: operate in scarcity or in enough-ness. Although popular as the opposite of “scarcity”, I’m not into using the word “abundance,” because “more than enough” is really constantly striving for more and more – we never really get there. Let your soul rest: enough is the goal.
To get there, we have to cultivate what Brene Brown calls “shame resilience”: not holding back our ideas or feedback for fear of being ridiculed or failing or stepping on someone else’s toes, but taking up the space that we are allotted by our existence. Shame resilience is the ability to look failure, disappointment, or disconnection in the face and say, “this hurts and might even be devastating, but courage is my value, not success. I will be okay, because I tried my best and there are places I belong.”
Lean into the struggle and be grateful for it: the process of building strong armor includes finding some dents. :)