I need to possess a good aesthetic, or I am not worthy of peoples love. Not until I look like the image of the ideal woman in my mind I will deserve the respect and love from others. Therefore, I need to work hard, really hard, in the gym to get there.
School could be tough sometimes. Comparing your appearance to the 10 other girls in your class was exhausting. Then there were another 150 gals at the wrestling comps on the weekend. I am unsure when this sort of thought process started. Perhaps it was when I went from being the ‘popular’ girl in my class at primary school to high school where I was a nobody. It was certainly more noticeable at university when the bodybuilding craze swept through Halmstad. I studied at university in Halmstad, Sweden – home of the Eleiko barbell.
By the time it was 2012, I was 24 years old, the above narrative was a ‘truth’ that had formed in my mind. I believed that I could not fully be worthy of love and respect unless I looked good.
[What a load of shit]
This notion manifested itself as eating well below my calorie requirement, mindless intense workouts in the gym and working three jobs. I kept busy. The gym became the primary outlet for living up to this false belief.
The result was losing touch with my own body. The belief that my body needed to look good to be loved and respected was one of several false notions concocted in my mind. Keeping busy meant for me that I didn’t hear or feel my body. My body including my mind, heart and my physical body. Without knowing, I was practicing being the new Robot model Disenchanted 2.0.
What is the problem with being a machine you may ask? Yes, what is the problem with being robot-like…
I can only fully talk about this from my own experience. Being a machine for me implies that I’m going on automatic, racing through my tasks with little to no conscious consideration. I may as well be asleep because I have no idea what I just did felt like. That is what machine means to me.
There are undoubtedly several reasons why false beliefs form in our minds. Looking back, I can see how the competitive nature of wrestling, being dressed in a wrestling suit among hundreds of other boys and girls watching you, would make me compete not only in wrestling but also in looks. Somewhere along the way losing wrestling matches was correlated to not feeling worthy of love and respect from the people around me. When wrestling wasn’t a thing for me anymore aesthetics took its place fully in this false belief.
This particular belief was deep-rooted and was with me to my mid to late twenties. Have I fully gotten rid of it?
Over the years of observing myself in this frame of mind I have noticed there’s a certain state that comes with it. Whenever I would go into the gym and smash myself, I would have no awareness of how I was moving and what that felt like. Heck, I wouldn’t even remember what I did exactly. This was me being a machine… When I was doing my training and nutrition like a robot I did the things planned with no thought or feeling. The focus was fully on what not how.
In this state I could learn little to nothing about physical training or myself. Instead what I practiced was patting myself on the back from training so hard that people soon would start acknowledging me. This ‘soon’, would never come by the way.
The climax of this negative scenario was me becoming gravely disconnected to my own body. I didn’t recognize who I was nor how to be.
The Confronting Truth
Confronting your own thought process is essential. For me, false notions have often been created due to external factors like ‘I need to win this wrestling match to be respected’, ‘I need to weigh xx KG to look good in a bikini’ or ‘I need to do squats because that’s the best exercise for building leg strength’.
My old narratives made me feel forever inadequate. My self-worth was on par with one dollop of whipped cream on Pavlova, when we all know a whole lot more than that is desired.
The cool thing is – Once you recognize these patterns in yourself, you can begin changing these notions. If you are the person telling yourself, you cannot be loved if you do not have the ideal body (painted in your mind), You can also make that belief evaporate from the face of this earth. And if it’s someone else telling you, tell them to fuck right off.
[What you can’t see, you can’t see]
The first step is to recognize the voice telling you such crap. I cannot fully convey in an article how to do this. For me it was a slow painful process. It took me years before I could hear and see these things more clearly.
I needed a teacher to guide me on these travels. I thank my teachers Dave and Mushtaq every day for finding me, guiding, pushing and supporting me on this endeavor.
The Work begins
Dark woods and faded trails with no visible stars to guide us. Where am I, and who am I?
Creating narratives that are not true and letting them decide how I behave took me farther away from feeling like me. Using external factors as the way of gaining love and respect from others does not work. There’s no such thing as winning a bodybuilding competition leading to forever love and respect from your loved ones. It is a momentarily exciting event and that is it.
To start the process of changing beliefs that are simply untrue and do not serve you on the path to unveiling the essence of what is you, the intention to change needs to enter the equation.
But, how to do this? Find what it is you really want to do. Not what you think others want or expect of you.
Figuring out what it is you truly want to do in your physical practice may not be straight forward. Sometimes it is difficult knowing what and how. Writing down a few things that comes to mind and asking yourself, one by one, if this is something you want to do, may be a good start.
Once you’ve got a list of things you are drawn towards. Put a plan together to learn it thoroughly. If you need help learning these things, ask someone who knows. Avoid letting your false beliefs taint your plan and lead you off path. Make sure the intention for your practice is as clear as vodka!
Practice using your breath* to create the space you need between you and your thoughts and emotions. This will help you stay in the present moment as well as building long-term qualities like paying attention for an extended duration, patience and improved ability to listen to your inner compass, knowing whether you’re on the right track, or not.
*If you have not yet read my recent article on breathing, you can read or listen to it here.
Once your physical practice including its intention is set, and you are breathing in the present moment you will have an easier time to pay attention to what you are doing. Ask yourself: What can you hear? What can you see? What can you feel?
The work is simple, not easy. Just like the process of learning how to play the guitar takes practice so will this. Repetition is powerful.
When you walk on to the gym floor to do your work out, remember why you want to be there. Make remembering your intention a habit. Think of it in the same way, at the same time, in the same place every single day. I dare say that by doing so your body could create an innate state for holding that intention in that environment as you do that activity.
If we were to consciously consider all the components of a physical skill every time we do that skill, forever, it would take up a lot of bandwidth and energy. The mind is also slower than the body, so it doesn’t make sense to do that. We would work very inefficiently. This is where ‘embodiment’ comes in. To embody something means we can practice a skill or movement consciously and with repetition and time we can express a good way of doing that movement without having to use the mind to think about it first.
So, by eliminating false beliefs to work on something that we firstly; want to do and secondly; is useful. We can embody cool physical skills that continue to help us grow as human beings. This scenario would not occur if you had false beliefs in place, you would get stuck in the quicksand. Perhaps your calves would grow koloft* trying to get out of there but that’s about as good as it gets.
Recognising and changing your false beliefs and your whole life might take a different shape.
Enjoy the journey,
*Koloft means tastefully thick.