I’m Still Standing

I heard Elton John’s song “I’m still standing” earlier and now I can’t get the chorus out of my head:

“Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did

Feeling like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid

I’m still standing after all this time

Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

“I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah”

Although this is directed at a former lover and standing strong without that person, the universal theme of finding confidence after a difficult breakup, is something many of us can relate to. I didn’t intend on writing a blog after listening to this song, but it has got me thinking, so while I wait for my husband to return from running, I am going to share my thoughts (making sure I don’t get too distracted and burn dinner!)

It seems in life there is often someone telling us to be quiet, not make waves, go along with the path others have designed and neglect what we want personally. The pain of rejection often tempts us to do just that: go unnoticed and follow the crowd. I chatted with a friend yesterday about vulnerability on social media and finding the balance between sharing our story to inspire others and opening ourselves up to scrutiny and cruel remarks. Our stories are not for everyone and probably only a good idea to open our lives if healing is tied to the sharing.

Perhaps at the start of this new year, you had to breakup with someone or something that has been a part of your life for a long time. It may be a person, a bad habit, an ideal you have held onto, a dream. (I spoke a little about this in my last entry, “Reflections”.) It may be time to let it go and move forward. Stop looking back with regret and go after what you want in life. Leave your mark on this world and when people laugh when you fall, dust yourself off, stand up on the inside and keep going.

It’s not easy but ultimately being frustrated and unfulfilled is worse than pushing through the public attacks. It does not mean being rude and rebellious towards friends who don’t understand us but rather having a quiet confidence and faith in God that everything is going to be okay. We need to keep standing up on the inside and not be so afraid of making a mistake that we end up doing nothing at all.

Perhaps sing the chorus above to stir yourself up (you know you want to!) Fight those negative thoughts that are holding you back and go for it.

Life Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

‘Never underestimate the inclination to bolt.’ – P. Chodron

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I heard the above statement earlier today and scribbled it down, along with a few random thoughts, which I am now sharing with you. It’s rather messy but that is life, so I’ll simply throw out some ideas.

We are often told to withhold judgement, as it is impossible to know what storm someone is walking through. Showing empathy goes a long way in letting others know they are not alone. That connection is vital, which is why initiatives like ‘Movember’ are so important in raising awareness for men’s health, both physical and mental, because that community support is essential to help break the silence and shame and support one another.

We all wear masks, but behind the smile may be a broken heart and although nobody can see it, the pain is unbearable with every breath. Most of us have been through tough times, which requires incredible strength and courage, to enable us to get back up and keep moving forward. We joke about ‘running away’ but we know we have to sometimes face the same challenge, more than once, to win it.

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‘The strongest hearts have the most scars.’

We often use various means (hobbies or substances, work or other distractions) to distance ourselves from the way things are, when they are not how we want them to be. Our culture makes us believe if we stay busy enough the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us. When we feel uncomfortable, we want to bolt and if we can’t do that, our ‘distraction’ gives us something to do besides having our heart shattered by the painful events. It drowns out the madness of life.

This is very prevalent in our world today and sometimes the only thing to do is to not live in reverse and dwell on the pain of the past but to stay where you are, with what you are feeling, let yourself be vulnerable, and be in the present moment. This has been happening to me a lot recently, crying a bucket of tears, simply letting myself feel deep emotion instead of containing it. It takes courage to go there, resist the temptation to bolt or squash your feelings and instead, let them out and embrace who you are, while letting go who you think you’re supposed to be.

‘The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.’ – Socrates

Remember to be kind to yourself through this process and know you are enough. Don’t let someone treat you badly just because you love them:

‘Your level of belonging can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance.’ – Brene Brown

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I hope these thoughts above encourage you and help someone out there who needs to hear it. Being a runner, let me end with some quotes that parallel running and the journey through life:

‘Go as long as you can, and then take another step.’

‘Relish the bad training runs. Without them, it’s difficult to recognize, much less appreciate, the good ones.’

‘Running is so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel you can’t. But then you find your inner strength and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought.’

Follow Your Butterflies

Don’t compare your struggles to anyone else’s. Do not be discouraged by the success of others. Make your own path and never give up. Whether I am running on the road or competing on stage, it is not about being perfect or like anyone else. It is about being the best version of myself and confident in my own skin. 

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A few weeks ago, I was chosen to represent my province, KZN and take part at the IFBB South African Bodybuilding Championships. This weekend we were in Rustenburg to compete and it was an experience I will never forget. It was incredible to connect with old friends, who have become like family, while building new relationships too. We had so much fun!

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It was an honour to be on that stage and I am beyond happy to come home with a medal and memories to treasure always.

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At times I still battle to be vulnerable in this way and overcome the self-doubt, but the support and encouragement I received during the show and now after since being home, has helped squash my fears and lift my spirits tremendously.

“The strongest action for a woman is to love herself, be herself and shine amongst those who never believed she could.”

Behind every tan and sparkling bikini there is a story and I am grateful to be able to use mine to encourage others, while being inspired by the stories of fellow athletes too.

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I am humbled to have stood alongside some of the top competitors in our country and wish our World’s teams all the best, as they prepare for the international stage later this year. We are behind you every step of the way!

Flawsome Friday

I haven’t written a post for a while. My running injury has zapped a lot of my energy emotionally and there hasn’t been much left to give. I am sitting here now having a short break at the end of the day, so thought to write down some thoughts to share, instead of simply pondering them inside my head in private.

I’ve been reminded again this week how many people outwardly seem to have it all together, yet deep down inside you can tell something isn’t right. On the outside, everything is fine, but behind closed doors, they are in serious trouble. Often these people appear confident and secure and pretend to be whoever they think others will admire. Yet they are insecure and like most of us, have deep-rooted fears of rejection.

The fear of rejection exists when we base our self-worth on other people’s opinions of us and often those that hurt us, have poor self-image themselves. I don’t want to get into a heavy topic for a Friday afternoon as we head into the weekend, so instead let me remind you that you are ‘flawsome’ (an individual who embraces their flaws and knows they are awesome.)

We are all doing the best we can, so don’t waste your time comparing yourself to others who seem to have it all together. I promise you, nobody is perfect and we are all under construction! You may still have areas to overcome, but you need to have an image of a champion on the inside and know you are a victor not a victim.

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Half-Time Sports Thoughts

Local sports fans are spoilt for choice today. It is day three of the cricket test between South Africa and England, the Sharks are playing rugby here in Durban too and then tonight, the match our household is most excited about – Liverpool versus Newcastle United. My favourite activity is running of course but I love most sports and marrying someone who watches everything (golf, soccer, rugby, cricket…) I have become quite good at knowing who is sitting where, on any log, at any given time!

Playing a sport requires practice and preparation, which will equip the team to move with confidence and believe in themselves. The professionals make it look easy but we don’t realize they all had a great deal to learn before reaching the level that we see them at today. In my own life, I have learnt that most things are harder than you thought they would be and take longer to produce results than you ever imagined you could endure. Its seems most people want instant gratification and are not willing to work for what they hope to achieve. Opportunities rarely drop into your lap. You need to work aggressively for your dreams and be a lifetime learner.

I have come a long way, both in my running successes and my personal triumphs over difficult circumstances, but it has taken a long time and many years of preparation prior to each stage of progress. I have many big dreams in my heart that I believe I am supposed to do but sometimes it is easy to get discouraged when nothing seems to happen. However, I believe that every experience in my life is preparing me for things I have in my future and I do my best to learn from them.

Small beginnings are sometimes all that we can handle at the time and it is better to slow down and learn from every day, while enjoying the journey. Press past the judgement and criticism of others, try new things and see what works and what fits right in your own heart. Have the courage to start!

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You’ve Got What It Takes

I get a lot of enjoyment from running and sharing my journey with others. While social media can have a negative side, one of the positives is that it provides a great platform to impact people (which is far better than wasting time and energy trying to impress them!)

Although many people admire ‘famous’ people, just as many, if not more, look up to everyday people too, those they can relate to and connect with. After over a month of not running, I was worried I may not get my ‘mojo’ back when I returned. Supporting friends, sharing photos and chatting to others definitely helped motivate me but there is nothing better than actually being back on the road or out on the trails to lift my spirits.

The year has only just begun but I am already inspired by my running family who are training towards their goals and the sense of belonging and community is something I don’t take for granted. I have found that loving acceptance and being a healthy example if far better than preaching or criticizing others when we are trying to encourage them, especially those new to our sport. In running, like in life, we need to respect other people’s motivation for doing things and their reasons for taking on new challenges.

We all have the ability to inspire others. It’s contagious! Whenever you feel like giving up, remember there is probably someone who is watching you. “Accidental inspiration” was a phrase I heard recently and I love it. By simply being real and telling your story, you may be inspiring someone. You’ve got what it takes!

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Fishing For Compliments

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I recently watched an episode of a reality show where a woman in her early twenties created a fake online profile and cultivated deceptive relationships that were based on a lie – she pretended to be someone she was not. Although the scam was a success at first, it eventually ended up hurting her and those she interacted with and after much damage had been done, she came clean by revealing her true identity. Many tears were shed.

This young woman’s heart was filled with shame and she felt she didn’t measure up to the world’s standards, having experienced rejection time and time again. Like many of us, she had come to believe that some parts of her were flawed and most of this thinking was a result of wounds she had received growing up. If you don’t believe you are worthy of love as a child, it is difficult to believe you are worthy of love as an adult. I think many of us can relate to this. I know I certainly can. It’s only by God’s grace that you slowly start to heal and realize how valuable you are.

Her painful past was causing her to have a warped view of herself and the way she interacted with the world. She turned to social media to seek romance based on false pretences, yet creating fake profile photos and elaborate hobby lists didn’t fill her void and the more she tried to be liked, the more extravagant her stories and lies became. Thankfully, by the end of the show she managed to find the help she needed to free her from this prison and accept herself for the beautiful person she truly was.

The desperate need for affirmation and love sees many people turning to others, often complete strangers, for approval and validation and social media is their platform of choice. It is a vicious circle as everyone tries to keep up with everyone else, when in reality we are all battling with similar insecurities and would be better off being honest about our struggles.

There is no need to reveal your heart on your Timeline if you don’t want to but I think part of the reason we are often “tired” is because we spend so much time and energy trying to keep up appearances and upload our own version of a fake profile picture by wearing masks and pretending everything is fine, when clearly it isn’t.

The good news is that you are not alone and I don’t have all the answers but I do know that sometimes a good cry is a healthy way of letting yourself grieve. There is no reason to fear abandonment, shame or rejection if you let the tears flow. Even if you do it in private, simply letting it all out, allowing yourself to feel again instead of suppressing the emotions, is an important step in the healing process.

“The tears … streamed down, and I let them flow as freely as they would, making of them a pillow for my heart. On them it rested.” (Augustine – Confessions)

A New Script

“She never seemed shattered; to me, she was a breathtaking mosaic of the battles she’s won.” (Matt Baker)

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19-06-2007: “I already rattle from all the pills and now another four a day have been added to the mix. The pharmacist thought there was some mistake as it was an unusually high dosage and I had to have the doctor confirm this. But it is necessary because of my vulnerable state and we can’t take any chances. I’m overdosing but legally!”

28-06-2007: “Oh Lord, I am crying out to You from a very scary place. The pain is so strong it’s burning through my chest and eyes. Clawing its way through my body, wanting to rip my spirit to shreds. It’s going to be so hard to fight, again. How can this be? …Today makes no sense at all.” (Whole Pieces)

The highs and lows of the infertility journey cannot be explained in words. It is a lonely road, no matter how many friends you have supporting you. It is an ugly journey and you feel stripped bare (physically and emotionally) from all the treatments and medication, injections and scans. You are prodded and poked and by the end of it you are left feeling anything but ladylike. I remember feeling like a dirty rag, useless and discarded.

I am grateful to my husband for loving me when I was so hard to love. My self-worth was low and the guilt I felt was overwhelming. The shame was also a heavy burden I carried daily. Only now, with the self-awareness I have developed during this journey, can I see how I struggled for years trying to be the perfect wife and doing anything and everything for my husband, in a desperate attempt to make up for what I haven’t been able to provide. A child.

I think many of us women feel we have failed in one or several areas of our lives, as we continuously strive to be what we think we ought to be and find ourselves falling short every time. We never feel good enough. My own infertility journey certainly didn’t help in this regard and I have had to fight my way back out of that pit and remind myself that God placed within me a femininity that is powerful and worth recovering again.

A trusted friend, who has shared this pain and understands the journey herself, took some photos of me at the end of last year, which I have kept close to my heart. I wanted to feel like a ballerina: a girl who is free and lovely and able to twirl in her tutu without fear or inhibition. These pictures were just for me, to have a tangible image of a version of myself untainted by the brokenness and heaviness of my past. The kind of woman that I know God intended for me to be, for you to be, because we are worthy and beautiful and have no need to hide in shame.

“There is a strength in you. I see it.” (William Wallace to the Princess in Braveheart)

 

All The World’s A Stage

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“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” (W. Barclay)

I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling yesterday and am not sure today is any different. However, I want to write something, even if this is simply for me (to pop up as a ‘Facebook memory’ this time next year!) and share how honoured I was to place in the top 10 at the NABBA National Championships this weekend and then unexpectedly receive an invitation to the W.F.F World Championships next month too!

When I was presented with the invite on stage, I could feel my lip start to quiver and my eyes were burning as I desperately tried to hold back the tears. (I didn’t do a very good job, as many people commented on my reaction afterwards, which was a little embarrassing.) The expression of such raw emotion wasn’t only because I now have the privilege of representing my country next month (which still doesn’t feel real), but also because of what it means to me, every time I stand on stage:

To rise above feelings of insecurity, fear of rejection and inadequacy; to work hard for months and believe in myself no matter what others say. To not compare myself to others and know I am not a failure because I am not perfect (all these things I am still working on, but it’s getting better!) These are lessons we can all apply to everyday life. Let God meet you where you are and use you in the most amazing way. Allow Him to direct your steps (even if it means those steps are done in high heels on a stage!)

I may never be a top contender in this bodybuilding field (especially if I keep returning to my other passion, running, during the off season!) but I am using what I have to the best of my ability, I enjoy it and I believe this path was part of the plan for my life all along. Every one of us experiences hardships and we have to keep fighting to not let those circumstances smother us or dictate who we become.

“God is always working to make His children aware of a dream that remains alive beneath the rubble of every shattered dream, a new dream that when realized will release a new song, sung with tears, till God wipes them away and we sing with nothing but joy in our hearts.” (Larry Crabb)

Conquering Criticism (part two)

In part one, I mentioned when someone is critical of you, do not dwell on it or get upset or revengeful. If you sink to their level, they have won, so rise above it. I have to remember this as I tend to get defensive if someone attacks me and I will try prove my point with lengthy explanations. This causes unnecessary stress and robs me of my peace, so I am learning to shake it off and instead CHOOSE JOY. It is amazing how one nasty comment can wipe away your confidence, even if many positive compliments came before it. That is why it is important to move forward quickly and stay focused on your goals and do what God wants you to do. You may have to do this when leaving your place of work and shake off the politics or gossip, to avoid taking it home with you and letting it weigh you down. You may even have to do this when leaving a friend or relative’s house! I have been in both these situations and let it get the better of me. I spent days dwelling on their criticism, feeling rejected and almost letting it ruin my life.

We have to accept that not everybody is going to like us or accept us, no matter what we do. Life is too short to keep those people happy anyway. The truth is, they won’t be happy until they deal with their own issues on the inside. So don’t let critics distract you from focusing on what you should be doing. It uses up your energy and then you will be too drained to pour love and time into the people who mean the most to you. I love being a wife and when I have walked through seasons in the past, where I let hurtful remarks eat away at me, it robbed my husband too, as I was distracted by something that didn’t matter. Trust God to make your wrongs right. Ignore the critics, take the high road and choose to enjoy your life anyway.