Being Different Is Okay

“The sun is glorious in one way, the moon is glorious in another way, and the stars are glorious in their own way; for one star differs from and surpasses another in its beauty and brilliance.”
(1 Corinthians 15:41)

I spoke about goals before, and I think another good one to have is to find out how to succeed at being ourselves. Sometimes it feels as if life is one big maze and it is easy to get lost! It seems everyone expects something different from us and there is pressure in every direction.

We can’t get angry at others who put demands on us, if we are the ones who can’t say “no” when it is necessary. I am a people-pleaser, and it is often easier to say “yes” to a lot of people, simply because I am too insecure to tell them how I really feel and fear being rejected by them. However, I am learning to take a stand and not feel manipulated by others anymore. I realized that if I don’t take responsibility and decide in advance what is important to me, I will end up letting other people decide for me.

We all celebrate and grieve in unique ways too. For example, it isn’t fair to judge someone, based on how they respond to tragedy. This week, I overheard a couple commenting on how ‘strange’ it was to see a friend, who recently lost a child, ‘already out and about as if nothing had happened’. As a woman who has suffered with miscarriages, I know the wrenching loss of a child in the womb. I have grieved with friends who have suffered the same and despite having shared similar experiences we are very diverse in our methods of coping with the pain.

There is no need to compete or compare, yet even in times of great loss we may find ourselves doing just that. Rather let God be God in your life and trust that He has a plan tailor-made for you. Don’t be afraid to be unique but instead celebrate how valuable you are and take time to do things you enjoy. Remember, being different is okay!

“Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.” (Frederick Buechner)

Conquering Criticism (part three)

Sometimes we are in danger of spending more time worrying about what other people think, than we do thinking about our own dreams and goals. This weekend I took part in the African Naturals Bodybuilding competition and placed second. It didn’t take long for some hurtful comments to come my way and for my achievement to be labelled as insignificant, owing to the relatively small number of athletes that participated and so forth. It almost robbed me of celebrating my victory, but I soon realized this could only happen if I allowed it to and I was the one in control of my attitude and needed to decide to enjoy the moment and be grateful for another incredible experience. Even the drug testing procedure was new to me and there were lots of laughs to be had in the bathroom while little plastic tubs were passed around and I think my blushing could be seen right through my tanned cheeks!

I almost didn’t start my journey as a fitness athlete, simply because I am a people-pleaser and was afraid of what others would say or how I would be judged. It saddens me to think what friendships and opportunities would have been lost if I had given in to that fear of rejection and I am determined to never again allow that to stop me pursuing something that I believe in my heart I am meant to do. Not everyone is going to be excited about your dreams. Joyce Meyer always says “new level, new devil” and this is true. The more visible you are, the more critics will want to take stabs at you. However, God is in control and He has the final say, so stop listening to the critics. Don’t be a people-pleaser, be a God-pleaser.

I was told at the start of this journey that I needed to toughen up and grow thick skin and I understood and appreciated this advice. It came from a friend who had my best interests at heart. I have not let circumstances, like the negative feedback this weekend, make me become hard or bitter, nor have I let the critics change me. I have learned to not take things personally, and I am happy to say I have stayed tender on the inside and true to myself. One example is I always wear a big smile on stage and while some say it is my best asset, my expression has also been called ‘cheesy’ by others. However, I really don’t let this bother me because it is who I am and I am not going to change from being who God made me to be.

Don’t let the way other people treat you determine your value. Be confident in who you are and stay focused on what God has planned for you.

Conquering Criticism (part one)

Insightful criticism can be helpful, especially if it is pointed out by someone who has your best interests at heart. Unfortunately, most criticism is often meant to hurt and is undeserved and unwarranted. This type of criticism is more of a reflection of the critic than their target and often based on jealousy. I have seen glimpses of this in the fitness world, however, I am fortunate to have a sincere circle of friends who support each other, which makes it easier to let it go and not to take it personally. That is the key: do not take it to heart. It often stems from a competitive spirit and instead of celebrating with you, the critical person tries to tear you down. Naturally, this is relevant to every day life and certainly not only confined to the sporting arena. It occurs in homes, offices and beyond, which is why it is important to learn how to handle it in the right way.

I have learnt that it is important to share in other people’s successes. Whether it is on the competitive stage, or for me personally, another relevant example is sharing in the joy of a friend’s pregnancy, I know if I keep the right attitude and be happy for the other person, at the right time God will do something wonderful for me too. On the flip side, if I get jealous and critical, my attitude will trap me and I will never rise higher. Instead, I let the success of those who place better than me at competitions, inspire me and when I hear of miraculous stories of friend’s falling pregnant, I think if God can do that for them, He certainly can do it for me too!

It is also good to remember that not everyone is going to like or understand you and you do not have to feel the need to defend and explain yourself to those who criticise and question your dreams and goals. If I search my heart and know I am doing what God wants me to do, that’s all that matters. And the same goes for you! Rid your mind of negative, defeating thoughts, enlarge your vision and let God be your vindicator.

Powerful Preparation (part two)

Perhaps at the top of last week’s post should have been prayer, as it is always the most important part of any plans or preparations we make. It opens the door for God to get involved and meet our needs. I don’t always remember to do this, but usually when I start feeling frustrated and confused, it doesn’t take me long to realize I need to take time to pray and it quickly makes all the difference. Receiving His daily grace and strength is essential to enable us to face each day with joy and peace, no matter what may come our way.

It is also important to know your strengths and weaknesses. This will prevent you wasting time on preparing for something that you are not going to be good at doing anyway. I always try to give a personal example to illustrate what I am saying (making myself vulnerable to possible ridicule) and here is another one to explain my point. My husband often teases me that I am a big Chad Le Clos fan. He could be right and I may have joined a long line of blushing locals to get his autograph after his Olympic victories! My star-struck state may have the potential to inspire me to suddenly want to improve my below-average swimming skills (to give me a good excuse to train in the gym pool when Chad does!) However, I am a weak swimmer and my motivation would clearly be misguided. Jokes aside, we often want to do something to impress people, instead of following what we know in our heart God wants us to do. Don’t be afraid to admit what you can’t do or allow your weaknesses to make you reject yourself. Instead, give them to God and let Him use them. If you do make a mistake, don’t be too proud to say you were wrong. It is better to have tried, than to never do anything because you are afraid and then live your life wondering what may have been. At the same time, you must be bold enough to know your strengths, as this will give you confidence in your abilities.

With preparation comes sacrifice. I have had to miss certain social events because of training or simply the need for an early night’s rest. Sometimes I just want to be alone and study God’s Word (I need to pray and talk to Him daily or I would not cope; it really is that vital for me). There is nothing wrong with these other activities and entertainment, I enjoy them like everyone else, but I know for this period of time, I need to occasionally separate myself from them. It doesn’t always make me popular, but if I try to please people and say ‘yes’ to every invite, then other areas will suffer, and I am not prepared to let that happen. One such area I protect fiercely is my role as a wife. This is very important to me and I need to make sure I save enough energy to be able to give my husband what he needs and have the time and enthusiasm to attend to things at home that are my responsibility. Overcoming the need to be a people-pleaser is something I constantly have to deal with. I know that God gives me all the affirmation I need, and I don’t need to seek it elsewhere, yet I am a work in progress in this department! I believe this ongoing lesson has been part of my preparation for the onslaught of opinions and advice that have come my way over the course of my infertility struggles and other journeys, including my current goal of becoming a fitness athlete and stepping on to that stage.

Sometimes you have to persevere past the judgement and criticism of people, often family or friends, and listen to God and follow your own heart. Don’t let others control you or you will end up frustrated and resentful. When you try do something different, opposition will come but you need to confidently press through that challenge and don’t let it defeat you or keep you from your dreams. What others think of you is between them and God. Don’t let it concern you.