They say thirty is the new twenty. I would never want to be twenty again. It wasn’t that twenty didn’t provide a decade of adventures; meeting the love of my life, traveling the world and I am so grateful for all of it. It is more about the awareness that came with thirty and it continues to come. I am much more myself than I ever was in my twenties.
As a twenty-something, I believed every story I was told. I took critical feedback and played it on a loop; a boss telling me he wouldn’t have hired me, every magazine cover telling me how I could lose weight in 4 hours, and even childhood stories crept in there where the girls were told they had to do dishes after dinner. All of these ideas manifested for years; I needed to be “perfect” at work, I was always on a diet and I need to be a “good” women and ensure the housework is done. These ideals were a false sense of success and when I achieved them, I thought I could finally be fulfilled. I created this ideaology for years and trying to uphold these ideals did not provide any happiness. In fact, it often times would suck the joy out of everything.
But I believed these stories like they were gospel.
I believed these stories because someone told me they were true. I tried to live up to someone else’s standards and it didn’t provide any fulfillment.
In my thirties, life is different. I left the job that didn’t feel right, I am continuing to make peace with my body and not trying to control every food morsel or day of exercise. I surround myself with people that believe the same things and have positive things to talk about. And anything that doesn’t feel right, I drop it like its hot. I can’t quite put my finger on how all of this happened but I do know a few things are true .
Friends Are Like Elevators; They Either Bring You Up Or Down
I went through a dark time in my career where I was questioning my ability to be successful, my line of work and if I was cut out for what I was doing. As fate would have it, I met someone that helped me see that I could be passionate again. She assured me that just because someone says something, it doesn’t mean it is true. Logical, right? This friend was a breathe of fresh air and helped me challenge the negative views I was starting to form. Four years after we happened to be roommates at a work conference, we celebrate our friend-aversaries, we have have gone to Bahamas, San Fran and Cuba together and I feel so lucky to have someone that is always there for me. I can always call her when I needed advice, have great news to share or need a “get your shit together” moment. She was monumental in my mental shift and she helped me trust my instincts; she helped me understand that sometimes people really at just a$#holes and that’s okay. You need friends like this in your life to help balance things out and if your current friends don’t make you feel better about life and all the wonderful possibilities out there, it is time to get some better friends.
Don’t Believe Everything You Hear
I never questioned anything I was told. I wanted to obey, avoid conflict and believe whatever people told me. The problem with this approach is that doing this not only stripped me of being in control but made my life a living rollercoaster. I was only happy if I was getting positive praise from my boss, teachers, parents, insert an older person with authority here. It made it very difficult to be happy on my own terms. I am a self-confessed approval-seeker and combining that with being a perfectionist is a recipe for being heavily reliant on others for happiness. Other people’s opinions can be wrong and there are many paths to success so believing everything you hear leads down a dangerous path. Secondly, those people may be a$*holes and not looking out for your best interests. So the moral of the story is use your own opinion to form your judgements; no one can tell you what is right for you. Don’t allow others’ opinions to overshadow yours because only you know what is best for you. Trust what is in your heart, stick to your guns and believe it with all your might.
Change your habits, change your life
I aways believed I had to be perfect; workouts, eating, insert idealistic, boring way of life here. Working in the fitness industry, I assumed everyone was “perfect” and I would crumble when I didn’t stick to something. It would often turn into a downward spiral and it would take weeks to get back into the right habits. What I realized is that it is the small habits that make up the daily, weekly and monthly results. I often tried to change too much at once and it was difficult to stick to. I didn’t take enough notes on why I had been successful in the past and therefore, when I went off track, it wasn’t clear what things I needed to change to get back into those good habits. I now know that early morning exercise makes me feel great. Morning and evening meditation is the key to composure. Planning and packing meals makes eating healthy much easier. These habits formed after many years and I still have days, weeks and months where I need to convince myself to get back into these habits but I no longer beat myself up for not sticking to it. I try to understand what happened and it is all about the data that I have collected over the years. If I look at my exercise habits, I need to be in bed by 10am to get up at 5:30am. I need to have a workout planned for the morning if I am going to get up. I need to have some momentum with my workouts and be excited about the plan. I have incorporated the November Project on Wednesday mornings where I have a ton of friends that are there waiting for me at 6:29am. If any of these things are out of balance, my early morning alarm may be a snooze fest. It has taken years to find out my triggers and I am still finding them. Use a bad day, week or month as good data. We don’t fall apart with our goals in one swoop; it is the accumulation of certain behaviours that make up a successful day. Most of all, be kind to yourself as compassion goes much further than self-hate.
Exercise Impacts Your State Of Mind
I used to think that everyone exercised 5 days a week and got up at 5am to do so. I thought this was the norm but my mother-in-law tells me it isn’t and I realized that maybe this idealist view is out of whack and this is the perfectionist coming out. There are absolutely other things that can get in the way. I don’t have kids but I understand that life can get in the way and it isn’t always the easiest thing to commit to. I can tell you that exercise changed the quality of my life. When I wasn’t consistent with my workouts, I would easily fall victim to mood swings, not being able to handle much pressure and being an emotional rollercoaster. The more I workout consistently, the more I can handle, the better my mindset is and the better my quality of life is. It isn’t easy and somedays I don’t feel like doing anything but I can tell you that 20 minutes makes a difference. If you want to do jumping jacks, crunches, planks, push-ups, whatever is easy, it will make a difference. I am now at the point that I don’t feel it is fair to others to be around me if I don’t exercise. I have more patience, enthusiasm and am just a better person when I workout. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it is about just starting with something. You can build on something. A 20 minute walk is all it really takes to feel the effects of those endorphins kick in and then all is right in the world.
The greatest part about all of these life lessons is I realized I am 99% comfortable with getting older. I LOVE this wiser part. I love being more of myself and learning what is really going to matter when my chapter of life closes. I won’t remember how “perfect” or not “perfect” I was, the size of my pants or how much stuff I have. It will be about the memories of love, peace and happiness; the moments I shared with family and friends, and how I left my mark on the world. That is all we really have to give and remember.