The Riddle of Me: Self-Image

Whenever you’re obese it’s incredible how aware you are of every inch of space you take up. I was always painfully aware of my size. Whenever I’d have to squeeze past a table in a restaurant or push myself past bodies on an airplane to get to my seat, I was filled with an agonizing embarrassment and self-hatred. People were judging me, most of them just avoided looking my way but some would let contempt hang on their faces. I always avoided eye contact. I lived inside my own mind, constantly tearing myself down, and never paying attention to the world around me. I could never separate who I was from what had happened to me. I was too pliable, like extremely depressed Play-Doh.

I was jealous of all the other human beings that could hide their insecurities or bad habits. I would look around and imagine some to be compulsive gamblers, pathological liars, or maybe just awful people, but they looked normal. They looked healthy. I couldn’t hide how bad I was at life. I had to wear my shame every second of every day. I was a binge eater; I couldn’t cope with my emotions or the challenges life threw at me. I would hide, eat, lie about my emotions, and sink into my depression. I never imagined my life could be any other way. I was just made this way and I didn’t have the determination or hard work to make it better.

What a harmful lie I was feeding myself. What a harmful lie that was fed to me by others.

I hated my body and mind in every sense of the words. It was like being held hostage by my bad habits and choices. No improvement, no education, no growth. I would sit for hours every day and imagine what it’d be like to run again, to eat healthy balanced meals, to pursue education and knowledge, to be loved and to love myself. Those “dreams” would consume my thoughts. I now realize when I reflect, I never believed I would be better. Honestly, I think I was just waiting for an excuse to end it all. I thought that being happy and healthy was never in the cards for me. I spent years of my life never moving towards my goals while simultaneously hating this world that never made me someone that moved towards their goals. See my point?

I chose to be a victim. I chose to always victimize myself. That was my self-image.

When I thought I’d lost everything. I had nothing to hold onto.

So, I set fire to those thoughts.

One of the worst things that ever happened to me in my life, losing two people who were more dear to me than myself, it changed me. It changed me for the better and it made me open my eyes. I now feel like I see with such clarity what the world is, what life is, and more importantly what the possibility of a life well lived is. Stop putting expectations on yourself for tomorrow, stop putting expectations on your loved one’s behavior, stop putting expectations on your life.

Pursue goals, dream, hope, but never be anything but grateful. Once you realize how lucky you are to even exist. You can start to appreciate how short, scary, and beautiful life is. Stop ruining it by overthinking. Stop hating yourself. Embrace who you are and pay attention to your thoughts. You are in control, your choices and how you choose to allocate your time determines who you are.

Stand on the frontier of life. Push yourself and everyone around you to be better. Don’t choose to be less than what you could be because the people around you are fine with standing still. I will never let another human being on this earth tell me what I can or cannot succeed at.

Set the example. Impress them. Encourage them. Inspire them.

Stop being complacent in a life you’ve made for yourself.

Today, I am about as different from the person I was 4 years ago, as I am to a stranger on the street. My thoughts, my habits, my reactions and interactions, they astound me daily. Whenever negative and harmful thoughts pass through my mind, I no longer let them control me, belittle me, and dictate what my day will be like. I recognize them like a bird flying by in front of me, I acknowledge them, and then let them go. On to the next thought, the better thought, the more productive thought, the wonderful thought.

The best example I have is that instead of letting my thoughts and emotions consume me. I merely reflect them. It’s like being a mirror inside of yourself. The voice that answers to “I” in my head is constant. That is what I consider “me”. I am not the sum of my memories, thoughts, and other people’s behaviors toward me. I am the mirror, so I merely reflect it.

People’s behavior around me no longer offends me or hurts me. I don’t take responsibility for it. I can only be truthful and direct with my words and intentions and let the pieces fall where they may. If someone is rude or does something I don’t agree with morally or socially. It’s no longer dramatic or stress inducing. I merely remove myself from their company and continue to pursue my own happiness. I hold no ill-will towards the people who are no longer a part of my life. I wish them every joy and happiness. I just know that there are some human beings that will only harm my progress or add chaos to my life. I no longer have the time or the patience to fight with people. It has made me a more selfish, productive, and happier person.

I make a choice to dwell on the positive, helpful and true. I choose to reject or move from the unhealthy, false, and unhelpful thoughts. I strive for my mind to be filled with ideas, curiosity, fascination, love, truth, and hope.

I’m constantly pushing myself to be better every moment. I’m looking for ways I can challenge myself and improve. When I look in the mirror, I no longer focus on every part of myself I want to change. I look at my eyes and contemplate their complexities and colors. I marvel at how they show me the world and my body, how they let me perceive the universe around me.

I look at my arms and instead of hating the flab and their shape, I stare at them and marvel how far they’ve come. How strong they are, how much they help me throughout my day, throughout my life, how much I’d miss them if they were disappearing. I stare at my stomach and I marvel at what’s under the skin. The intricate organs, fluid, tissue, the constant activity that makes it possible for me to be here today. I marvel at how one day hopefully; I will grow a tiny human. I can be moved to tears with the slightest thought of how incredibly my entire body is. I see the “magic” in myself now. I have changed my mind about this life.

I hated this journey for so long because I only reflected on how bad I had let things get for myself. My health, my body, my emotions, everything was a wreck. I’ve now realized how lucky I am to have been through everything I have. The loss, the weight gain, the pain, the suffering. It has given me the gift of perspective. The gift of self-love. the gift of confidence.

Nothing lasts in this life. I choose not to grieve over what I have had and lost, I choose to embrace what is around me. I choose to look in the mirror and not only feel peace, but love. I have such a clear view of who I am, what I’m capable of, and what I want out of this life. It’s similar to the feeling of falling in love, except I’m not depending on anyone else for this euphoria and purpose. It’s me.

Now when I’m in public, traveling, dancing, existing. I no longer apologize for the space I occupy. When I stand, I feel my strength. I am confident. Losing weight does not make you a better person. It will not fix your life. Your size is insignificant in comparison to your life and happiness. Let weight loss be merely a side-effect to a balanced life, to a balanced you. Love yourself and the rest will follow.

So I guess what I’m saying is it all comes down to you. It all comes down to your choices.

What’s it going to be? Do you want to start loving being you?

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The shock and the cheese

I want you to think about what is rewarding to you. If you were going to treat yourself, what would it be with? Clothes, food, a night out, a vacation? If you had to describe your “happy place” – what would it be?

My happy place in 2013 was sitting on my couch, incredibly focused on whatever show I was binge-watching at the moment while I stuffed my face with a mountain of fast food I had run out to get myself. I was genuinely happy when I was doing that. I had trained my mind and body that those actions were rewarding. About 30 minutes after I finished my food and the credits started rolling on my show. I would feel absolutely sick. Maybe I’d just keep eating? Maybe I’d follow it up with a cigarette? Maybe I’d go take a nap. I didn’t care, my day was over when I put my butt on that couch.

My happy place now is my walk back from the gym, reflecting on my work out, thinking about my day, on my way to eat a big pile of food in my kitchen that usually consists of eggs, spinach, and hot sauce. I know that once I get back home, take a quick shower, make those eggs, and then start my day, I’m going to be unstoppable. I’m going to start checking things off of my to-do list, I’m going to clean out that pantry that has been daunting me with it’s pile of crap, I’m going to write, I’m going to be active and happy for the rest of the day. The difference in my daily habits then and now are night and day.

That change did not happen overnight, and unlike most things I ramble about, it did not come from mindfulness.

It came from switching the shock and the cheese.

I want you to picture a rat in one of those big white mazes. There are two pieces of cheese in this maze. One of them will shock him whenever he goes to grab it, the other one will fill his belly with cheddar goodness. If he runs this course enough times, he will find the path to the pain-free cheese. He will map that route in his little brain and he will reward himself with his golden prize at the end. Over and over and over.
Does this sound familiar?

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Even though you’re human, and your end goal might not be cheese. (I love cheese)
You have done the same exact thing in your life. You have created habits, thought patterns, behavioral patterns, and rewards in your life every single day. You are constantly running away from discomfort, pain, sadness and you’re falling into habits that keep you distracted, complacent, and even though they might feel good in the moment – They’re keeping you from what you want. In my life, obviously sitting on a couch, hating my choices and my body, getting further and further away from my goal wasn’t what I wanted but I didn’t know what to do? How do I stop doing the things I have done for years?

I had to take control of my thoughts, actions, and habits to get me to where I wanted to be and it all started with a simple question. Why? Why am I eating right now? Why am I crying right now? Why am I SO agitated right now? Why don’t I exercise? Why don’t I take more pride in how I look and feel?

I am challenging you to wake up every single day and start questioning your behaviors.
Are you doing things that make you happy?
Are you thinking thoughts that make you happy?
Are you surrounded by people who make you happy?
Do you feel proud with the choices you made and the interactions you had at the end of the day? If your answer is no. You can change that. You are in control.

I can tell you what I eat and what I did to lose 130lbs. I can tell you what music I listen to and how long I sleep at night. Those things might give you information about me and a healthy lifestyle but it’s not going to make you healthy unless you start reflecting on your own life. I will not be there to knock a box of mac and cheese out of your hands, I will not be there to stand in front of you and drag your butt to the gym.
You are going to have to make a choice to do those things. 

This does not just apply to weight loss. This applies to so much more. Maybe you have relationships you want to improve, maybe you want to get out of the 9-5 and try something new, maybe you just want to be a person that you’re proud of. It’s possible.

Among the pile of self-help and behavioral psychology books I’ve been reading this last year, I found an incredible gem. If I could, I would force every human being to read this book. I would make them go through it chapter by chapter and apply it to their own life. It’s an incredible read and it will change your life and daily habits (if you let it).

“Motivation is triggered by making choices
that demonstrate to ourselves that we are in control.”
– Charles Duhigg

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Charles Duhigg’s book isn’t like other books I’ve read about habit. It’s not just giving you the science side or the emotional side. It’s taking the information he’s learned from successful, motivated people and he’s giving it to you in a way that just makes sense.

Why do we continue to live these lives that upset us so much? Why do we make these poor choices that directly contradict our goals? It’s not because you’re some crappy person that has no control over their life. It’s because you’ve developed habits that are rewarding you in the moment and hurting you in the long haul. Guess what? You can stop doing that.

Once you stop thinking about living a better life as some overhaul or event that’s going to happen, you can start seeing what a slow and magnificent process it really is. Whenever you are presented with choices, take control. The only person who is in charge of your emotions, success, relationships, and life, is you. So why don’t we act like it? We have to start taking responsibility for our well being. Stop making excuses for why your life is the way it is.

Bad things happen. The things you love and cherish will leave or change.
That’s reality. It’s up to you to decide if you’re going to let every bad thing that has ever happened to you define you and keep you as a person you don’t want to be – or just maybe you give all of those things you’re not in control of the middle finger, and you push yourself to be something unexpected. It’s your choice.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Stay cheerful, stay strong, stay consistent

Dev