Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Who Are You Trying to Please?

I remember a time when I used to care very much what people thought of me. Having the approval of other people was very important to me. "Fitting in" was something I desperately wanted. I wanted to blend in, not stand out. I wanted acceptance. 

To achieve all this I had to be very careful with everything I said and did. When you are concerned with what other people think about you and how they perceive you, you select your words carefully and you do things that you hope will gain you approval.  You may not voice your truth because it might clash with the opinion's of other people. The biggest issue that I had when I was trying to please other people was I was suffocating my true self. I wasn't allowing myself to be who I really was.

With all of the social media we have these days it's really hard to decipher if someone is being their true self or if they are being someone they think they need to be to please their social media followers or their friends or colleagues. When we are concerned with what other people think about us we can't possibly be our true selves because we're too busy creating a facade to "look pretty" to the outside world. 

A friend asked me not too long ago - "How did you get to the point where you just don't care what people think about you?" Ah, that's a very good question because I have come along way from my "care-what-other-people-think-of-me-days." 

I would say the first and foremost thing for me is knowing who I am in Christ. That was big for me. Knowing that the only one I need to worry about pleasing is God, takes a lot of other people off my radar. Knowing that God approves of me and loves me no matter how big I mess up or what my opinion is or if I am having a good or bad hair day, is very freeing. Not everyone is going to like me but God will. 

Over the past few years, my life experiences have been so extraordinary that no one can possibly pass judgment on me as they have no idea what I have walked through. Well, okay, they can, but they don't know my story as I do, so they really don't have a place to judge and I know that and that's what matters. When you know that what you know is what matters, what other people think about you and your story doesn't matter at all. Not one little bit. 

No one has a place to judge another person's life. Once I learned that I had no room to judge anyone I also learned that no one has room to judge me. And that made it a lot easier for me to "not care" what people think of me. Yes, I want to be liked, I want to be loved, I want to have friends. I am careful with my words so as not to hurt people but if my opinion or my truth offends people, there's nothing I can do about that. Offense is on you, not me. 

And really, learning to MIND MY OWN BUSINESS has been a critical piece to not caring what people think and not needing to please others. We all have enough of our own stuff to worry about that if we focus on minding our own business and making our own lives better, we don't have the time or concern for other people's approval. 

I don't know if turning the magic Four-Oh had anything to do with it but it seems like it's all kind of happened within the last year. I sure wish I had learned this when I was twenty but, such is life! We learn when we're supposed to learn. When you know better, you do better. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Your DO is not your WHO


I was confused for a long time. Pretty much my entire life. I thought that if I did enough of the right things - got good grades, performed well in athletics, dance and music, had success in my career, had a great body (after 4 kids...did you know I've had twins?!) - that I would be worthy. I really believed that the things I did were what made me valuable as a person. 

It was no surprise then, that I would end up in a sport like bodybuilding where all that matters is your DO. How hard do you train? How strict are you with your nutrition? How shredded can you get? How symmetrical are your muscles? How tight are your abs? And don't forget to have shiny hair, pretty makeup and lots of bling. I got so wrapped up in all of this. People admired my dedication and discipline. I could do things that most of the population wasn't willing to do. But I was. I was hardcore. And I was rewarded for it. People noticed. 

But inside, I was broken and I was hurting and I was so insecure. My entire life, I never felt like I could possibly DO enough to prove my worth. I always needed to be doing, to be achieving and to be reaching for something more. That's all well and good, but not when your DO becomes your identity. When your DO becomes your identity, your WHO, your soul, your spirit, suffers. 

A lot of people knew what I did, but not very many people knew who I was. I remember precisely the moment that this all became crystal clear to me. I had lost everything - my business, my physique (as a result of metabolic damage and high stress/adrenal fatigue I was not able to achieve the level of conditioning needed to compete), my social life, my alone time. I was driving home one winter morning from the gym last year after doing my cardio. It was really early and it was still dark and I was going over the day in my head. My day didn't seem all that exciting. A bunch of mom stuff on the agenda. Not how I pictured my life being. And I thought: "I can't wait until 'this' is over and I can get back to doing the important stuff." I had allowed my identity to become completely wrapped up in my DOINGS and I was feeling pretty much worthless. 

When people say they've heard from God or the Holy Spirit, I usually kind of get that skeptical look on my face and think "ohhhh kay, weirdo". But driving home that morning in the dark I heard it. Undeniable. "You ARE doing the important stuff. Being a mother, helping these kids through this trauma is the most important thing you will ever do." Like whoa! I had never had an experience like that before, but it changed me. In that moment, I realized that I wasn't "just a mom." I had been given the responsibility of helping these children heal and recovering and living healthy lives. This is a big deal. 

It was that moment that I realized I had put so much value on what I DO rather than WHO I am. I heard Joyce Meyer say something the other day that said it perfectly - "We are human beings, not human doings." Enjoying what you do, being passionate about you is important and it's necessary but it doesn't define you. It isn't WHO you are. I was confused for a long time and I let my DO and people who didn't know me define my worth. The sooner you learn that what you DO is not WHO you are, the happier you will be. 

Friday, October 2, 2015


Tomorrow is the Washington Ironman NPC bodybuilding competition. It was 7 years ago that I stepped on stage for the very first time at the Ironman in 2008. It was supposed to be a "bucket list" thing and it quickly turned into a passion, a distraction, a coping mechanism and mostly, a way of transition from one life to a new life. 

I was married at the time of my first contest (you can go back through the archives and read the contest prep blogs for that specific show which was what inspired me to start this blog in the first place) and I was very miserable. Unhappy would be an understatement. I was miserable and I was not living, I was surviving what felt like hell on earth. Preparing to compete provided a worthy distraction and an outlet for me to meet new people who would eventually empower me to make the changes in my life that were long overdue.

I kept competing because I really loved the way it felt to be distracted from my misery. I loved and craved the positive attention that I got from people that I was not getting at home. After I divorced I continued to compete because I still needed that distraction from the struggles of being a newly single mom, dealing with a toxic ex spouse and trying desperately to heal the wounds of years of verbal and emotional abuse. 

19 shows later, I was still as broken as I was when I started competing in 2008. Competing provided me a means to thrive as a fitness coach, working primarily with local moms. It gave me the opportunity to make great connections with people who encouraged me to pursue my dream of owning my own gym. I found my passion in the fitness industry. I was hardcore and I thought everybody else should be too. Hardcore served me for a period in my life. I don't regret it and I think it was necessary to an extent. But now that I look back, I see that it was a means of transition for me from a very sad life (that still doesn't feel like mine) to a new life that allows me to live in balance and help other people transition into a more fulfilling life. 

Last fall, I got on stage for contest #20. It was in a local church and it was a very different process preparing for the contest than I'd ever done before. I was not extreme. I was not obsessed. I also did not share the journey publicly...which was a first. I got on stage that October morning last year and I felt like I was somewhere that I didn't belong. Not because I wasn't ready - I was. I just knew...that I knew that I knew...that my passion for competing and my need to get approval from others was gone. 

6 months later, almost to the day, I was baptized on that same stage I stood on the fall before. I never thought I would end up attending that church, nor did I anticipate my baptism. On the stage last October, I knew I was being called to pursue something different. I knew that my bodybuilding had done it's job serving as my transition vehicle and now something else was going to step in. 

I'm still kind of waiting for that...I know the direction but the path is still a bit unclear. Transition is uncomfortable and sometimes physically painful. It's not easy. It's awkward and it there is so much uncertainty when we crave absolutes in our lives. There are none. So for now, I sit in that awkward place of transition as I go from a career in fitness to something new and very different. 

His plan is so good. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Learning Trust

Like many people, I learned the hard way that pretty much no one was worthy of my trust. I had been hurt, heartbroken and let down more times than I care to count. And so, the best way to handle that, it seemed to me, was to trust no one at all.

I became a very independent person. I put up walls to keep other people from getting too close to me. If I kept them out, I wouldn't get hurt and no one would let me down. No one really knew me. I never let myself be too vulnerable with anyone. Maybe you can relate. This is a common approach to life after we've been hurt and disappointed.

The truth is, I made one bad decision after another. Bad decisions with good intentions. These bad decisions were made against what my intuition was telling me. I knew in my gut I was supposed to turn left but I made a right turn anyway. Not only could I trust no one, I couldn't even trust myself. My intuition would get loud and I would still do the opposite of what it was telling me.

Trusting no one and building walls to keep people out is really lonely. When my life took a serious turn a few years ago, I was left with no choice - I had to trust some folks. That was a challenge. It was my first step in faith. I was out of options and I had to let some people into my life to help me and my children. It was really hard and it was really scary.

I think the biggest thing God asks of us is to trust Him. When we decide to follow Jesus, we surrender everything to His plan and that means we have to trust Him in everything we do...on a daily basis. I have to surrender many times daily because it is still in my nature to want to control my life, to worry about the future and to be anxious. I think the best part of being in a relationship with God is having that ability to completely trust Him for everything. It's not easy, especially for most of us who have trust issues to begin with. We don't trust what we can see and here God is calling us to trust what we can't see. That takes big faith.

That "intuition" I believe is the Holy Spirit, directing our steps. We can tune into it and follow it or we can ignore it and choose to make our own decisions that go against that still small voice. Trusting God means trusting His voice and learning to know what that voice sounds like. In those times when my intuition was speaking so loudly and I ignored it, I really had no idea that it was something so much greater than just an argument in my head. Now I know that is the Spirit and I tune in and I pray and I follow.

We are all works in progress and trusting God is something that we have to work on everyday. It doesn't come naturally to us. But what I have noticed is that when I put my trust in God, it takes the pressure off not only me, but the people I am in relationships with. I don't expect them to meet needs that only God can meet. And when I trust God, I know that He will use the people He wants to use to meet my needs and work in my life. Just as He uses me in the lives of others. I'm also learning that when I listen to His voice in my decision making, I tend to make fewer mistakes. Go figure!

Life is not about being independent. It's complete dependence on God. And I love it because it really got tiring trying to figure everything out for myself. Knowing that God already has a plan set out for me and that it is a really good plan is a freedom I never had when I was self-reliant.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dear God, Point Taken.

Today I had the rare luxury of a Saturday morning to myself. No kids. No clients. Just me, to do whatever I felt like. I felt like hiking and it's getting later in the season so my hikes are probably getting numbered. I went to an old favorite, Lake Serene. I often refer to Lake Serene as "God's Stepmill" because the WTA (Washington Trails Association) has built stairs into the mountain as the grade is pretty steep. It's a workout for sure and a perfect trade for my gym stepmill today.

I hadn't been to Lake Serene in probably 5 years or more. I used to hike it often enough that I always knew exactly where I was on the trail and what was coming next. While it was still very familiar, it had been long enough that I had forgotten the different land marks and was no longer able to decipher how far I was from the lake. It seemed like it was one staircase after another. As soon as I'd get to the top of one there would be a switch back to another staircase. It just kept going on...and on...like this for what felt like eternity.

Even once I had cleared all the staircases, I entered into a rocky area that was challenging to navigate and I could never see farther than the next switchback. I had no idea where I was in relation to the lake, my destination. Every time I would make another turn and see another challenging terrain ahead, I would think: "Oh my gosh, seriously!!! How can I not be there yet?"

And then I laugh. I'm pretty sure God laughs at me and what it takes to get my attention and to teach me a lesson. I'm also pretty sure that He knows getting me out in the woods by myself, free of distractions, is a good way to get through to me.

While I was hiking today I kept wanting to quit, to turn back and be done with it all. I've never felt that way before when I hike. It felt just like how I've been feeling about life in general lately. The terrain ahead seems challenging to navigate and I feel like I've been navigating challenging terrain long enough...why am I not there yet? And I can't see what's coming next in my life and that is scary and it's frustrating and it is requiring me to grow in faith and it's testing my endurance.

I want to get to the lake already. I want to sit down and eat my snack and drink my water and enjoy the view. I want to rest. I want to relax. But there's no shortcut to the lake so I have no choice but to keep going. It's like my life - I want to be on "the other side" already. I want to rest and relax and just enjoy the view for awhile.

As I kept going on my hike today, there were a lot of amazing things - views and waterfalls - that I would have missed if there had been a shortcut. I know that God isn't delivering me from my circumstances because there's stuff he doesn't want me to miss along my journey, there's growing he wants me to do along my way to the "lake" where I will get to rest and relax awhile before I go back down the mountain and find another mountain to climb next week.

Because life is like that. What goes up must come down. After you've climbed one mountain, you're on to another mountain to conquer that will have it's own set of challenges and spectacular views.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Complexities of Healing

We all know that when you have a wound it will scab over as it is healing. Pick at the scab and the wound usually starts bleeding again. The healing process is interrupted and the body must heal the part of the wound that was reopened. This is the best analogy I can give to the way I experience healing from trauma. Healing is not linear. Healing is not predictable. Healing is not "neat and tidy". In fact, healing is messy and it's not pretty and it's very unpredictable with lots of ups and downs, highs and lows. 

Healing is frustrating. 

I decided to share my week publicly because I think it will help other people who are trying to heal - whether it be from trauma or otherwise. Healing from whatever hurt you is a process regardless of how the wound was made. The process can be confusing, lonely and frustrating. 

It started last weekend. My girlfriend who is a mother of twin girls who are close in age to mine posted a photo of her girls as toddlers on Facebook with a caption saying she missed that age. I broke. It was like the flood gates opened. I couldn't stop it. I messaged her because she's knows everything and I knew she would be safe and offer support. I missed that age too. I missed when my girls were so happy and without a care, as children should be. I wished I could take them back to the age before they were hurt. I wished I could turn back the clock. I also felt an incredible sense of guilt as I thought of my girls at that same age. It's hard not to do the "what ifs" and while I've gotten much better at it over the last couple years, it still happens from time to time. 

Come Monday morning I was sitting in the office of the Family Advocate at my children's school. She says, "tell me about your family" and I fell apart. The flood gates - open again. It caught me off guard. Usually I can tell my story without much emotion - dissociation is the main way that my brain has coped with the trauma. The way dissociation works is your mind basically makes it like an "out of body" thing. For me, it's like I'm telling someone else's story. This couldn't have happened to me and my children. Dissociation does not allow the mind to heal, it just allows it to cope. 

By Wednesday I was doing two IEP meetings for my twins, holding back tears the whole time. As I sat in the meetings I was angry. I was angry that it took me 2 1/2 years of fighting for the authority to have my children evaluated for this process. I was angry that my twins missed 2 1/2 years of services for learning disabilities that would have helped them immensely. I was angry that I had to fight to give my children what they need. I was angry I had to fight a parent who was unwilling to do what was in the best interests of their children. 

As my children and I transition into a new time in our lives the healing process takes another turn. The dissociation has helped me to be able to fight for my kids. It's given me the bandwidth to take care of what I've needed to take care of on the legal end and with the medical and education services they need. By dissociating, I've been able to forge ahead, full speed. By dissociating, I can use my anger to fuel my fight. But sooner or later, the anger has to go because it's not helping any of us. 

Healing comes in waves. I don't want it to come in waves, I just want to be healed, darn it! I also know that to heal it, I have to feel it. Feeling the grief of what trauma has done in your life and to the people you love is downright crappy. It feels awful and it's not fun. But the only way out is through. I know that. 

In the midst of my own healing process, the best piece of advice I can give is be patient. Be patient with yourself. Be patient with the process. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

One Trick to Improve Your Relationships

Having relationships is hard. No way around that. If you're not going to live on an island by yourself, you're going to have to have relationships with people. I'm not talking about romantic relationships alone - friendships, family (parents, sibling, children), coworkers - all of the people in your life. You have a relationship with each of them and being good at relationships is something that takes work, skill and a lot of patience.

I don't think I've ever met anyone who did not have at least one relationship in their life that caused them grief...or what we all like to call "drama." There's at least one person in each of our lives that is a test for us. And for most of us there's not just one of those "drama" relationships. Every relationship requires work - some more than others. 

There is something I have learned that has greatly improved not just the more challenging relationships in my life, but even the ones I would classify as "easy" and "low maintenance." That something is really simple, almost too simple. 


Yep, pray. It is our nature to react to things that hurt us or offend us or just plain irritate us. In our reactive state, we don't give much thought to what we say or how we say it. We don't give it time to sink in. In our reactive state, we call at least 3 other people (that's not a statistic, just a random number I decided to use for the sake of making my point) to "vent" our annoyance and frustration and possibly anger and almost always, offense. If we picked our people carefully, they all agree with us and fuel our negative feelings. You get where this is going. 

I've been working for years on responding, rather than reacting. It's difficult because it's our nature just to "pop off" with whatever emotion we've got going on when the situation occurs. But that's where we mess things up in relationships. Reacting is never good when it is charged with negative emotion. In my walk with God, I've become a "pray-er" and so naturally, this seemed like something I would do in my relationships. And I wondered, what would happen if instead of getting all worked up, I stopped and prayed and handed it over to God? It was worth a try.

What has praying done for my relationships? It has reduced the drama almost completely. Praying takes the need to control the other person out of the equation. It gives the relationship and the situation perspective, a godly perspective. God always calls us to forgive wrong doings, so prayer will always lead you to forgive. Prayer also may lead to conviction and allow you to see where you have played a part in the situation. Sometimes praying about a relationship issue has led me to doing...nothing. Instead of needing to be right or needing to confront the other person, I realize that what I'm supposed to do is simply let it go. 

But sometimes prayer leads to letting a relationship go altogether. Sometimes we are in relationships with people who are toxic in our lives. Prayer has shown me that some relationships need to end. And that's not always an easy answer to hear, especially if it's someone who has been in your life for a long time. It might not feel good but if it is truly what is meant for your life, you will feel a sense of peace about letting go of someone who is not meant to continue on your journey with you.

Prayer makes me happier in all of my relationships. Handing a relationship problem over to God is one less thing I have to worry about and try to control. When I give my relationship issues over to God in prayer He can work in me and in the other person. 

Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and then thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Jesus Christ. 
Philippians 4:6-7