By: Jennifer Fisher, TheFitFork.com
When my friends at VIM & VIGR asked me to share my thoughts on “self-love” in honor of February, I immediately responded “Yes, who could love ME more than me – I mean, have you seen my Instagram profile?!” All joking aside, it’s hasn’t been all that easy to for me to love me. I was shy as a kid, awkward and self-conscious as a tween, pushed the envelope as a teenager, and put too much stock in others' opinions as a young adult. Despite how I felt on the inside, I projected an image to the outside world that I had everything pulled together. But that wasn’t really the case. Fake it until you make it.
Over the past four decades, developing myself physically and mentally as an athlete also showed me how to self-love, not self-loathe – no more faking it, that was a bad plan! Maybe I didn’t love myself those early bumbling years on the balance beam or that season a track coach rudely grabbed my side and said “too many candy bars.” Thank goodness I grew up, listened to me, became proud of who I was despite failures (such as missing an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying time by about a minute) and have had successes (I’m the mom of three awesome teenage guys). These days, I have confidence in spades; accept who I am because I am perfectly made, as we all are; I take care of my body, mind and soul to the best of my abilities, forgive myself when things go off plan, and challenge myself daily with new goals.
I’m not a super touchy feely person, nor do I like to sit around all day talking about feelings when I could be running. But, I must ask – do YOU love yourself? I’m not talking about the way you look – I find it strange that studies report high-exercising individuals have greater self-esteem than low-exercisers, because it’s all focused on body image and satisfaction. Okay, great, we athletes feel good about the way we look. Flex, flex, big whoop. Who you are on the inside is so much more important. Does your inner beauty match your outer? If you dig deep, I think you’ll find it’s much more stunning!
How a person shows love to him or herself can vary widely, but this the mental check list I go through when I start to feel depleted and down:
Do I have confidence in myself? Key for me; I’ve gradually grown into this feeling of assuredness. Today, I never compete in a race or event thinking I might fail. Even though I might not win, I own the start line and the experience! I squash negative self-chatter as soon as hear my brain turn it on. And, I can now speak to a room filled with hundreds of people – I’m the most social introvert you’ll ever meet!
Do I accept myself? I’m perfect just the way I am. I embrace my age, a few stretch marks, my veiny arms, scars from falls – they all tell a very interesting story about my life. I no longer hide under a towel at the beach; although I’m sure I looked better in a bikini 30 years ago – who cares! I also accept my “inside” self, both the positive personality characteristics and the flaws.
Am I taking care of myself? I focus on nourishing foods that support wellness and athletic performance, recovering from daily exercise with rest and good sleep, and developing my spiritual side.
Do I forgive myself? I don’t let “setbacks” set me back – I let it go and move on. Even a total fail is an opportunity to learn, grow and become a better person. No self-punishing allowed.
Am I challenging myself? Taking on new challenges (daily, monthly, yearly) is vital to my self-esteem; I get restless and go into a funk when complacent.