The Heart Of The Matter

 

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I have had a tough two weeks battling health problems that arose out of nowhere. I seldom get sick but when my body does come under attack, it makes up for lost time and I do it well! I eventually went to the doctor and was prescribed medication, which helped the initial problem but unfortunately, the side-effects were so severe, that I am now on tablets to counteract the drug that was trying to heal me in the first place. I even had an ECG, which revealed a ‘unique’ extra heartbeat but everything else was normal and it is nothing to be concerned about. My medical history is complicated and I always present a challenge to doctors, who have learned not to compare me to the standard norm and rather treat me as an individual case.

Comparison = confusion.

I have been forced to rest (this is extremely difficult for someone like me who loves to keep active!) and this, combined with feeling weak and scared, was a dangerous combination and I have found myself letting negative thoughts and insecurities creep in. I was confident that this year I would be stronger than ever before and after training hard, was blessed with a good Comrades marathon. Yet I have been faced with obstacles ever since and old issues keep rearing their ugly heads. I automatically began comparing myself to my peers, which is the worst thing you can do. Their bodies were bearing children, while mine remained barren. They were setting personal best times in races, when I was forced to rest and let my compromised bones heal. Everyone seemed to have their goals in check but I have felt like a wandering soul looking for identity once again.

I love challenges and will keep pushing myself to try new things but in order to enjoy this journey, I need to embrace the person I am meant to be and not worry about how I measure up next to anyone else. I have had to remind myself that who I am as an individual is more important than what I do and I don’t need to achieve worldly success in order to feel good about myself and be accepted by others.

We could all benefit from celebrating one another instead of comparing and surround ourselves with people who will inspire us to be what we know we can be. We will never succeed at being ourselves if we are overly concerned about what other people think. My body may be compromised in certain areas but there is so much that it can do and I am going to focus on that potential and feel free to be different.

No matter how much I want to do what my friends are doing, God may have a different plan for me and I need to accept that or I will be frustrated my whole life. Let us celebrate being unique and stop trying to conform or compete. Embrace all God created you to be! You are irreplaceable and the world needs you!

Adventures In A Tutu And Takkies

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The Comrades Marathon was an adventure! My race went better than expected and I am humbled by the experience and honoured to have been part of this incredible event. Many people didn’t know I was running until a few weeks before and this is because most of the time the challenges I set for myself are sacred to me and I don’t want the added attention and pressure that an audience would bring.

However, my approach is slowly changing and although I sometimes like the idea of living as a hermit or being on a deserted island (my sister and I often joke about this when we want to escape the world!) our lives are meant to be lived with others and it is better to share our adventures. I have been surprised several times this week by the genuine interest and delight people show when they see the Comrades logo on my t-shirt (which I have been wearing often lately) and it is exciting to exchange stories and feel connected.

Adventures can come in many forms. For most of my friends, parenthood is their biggest adventure at the moment, whereas my infertility has lead me to explore other sorts of adventures like writing, running and competing in fitness competitions. Whether it is travelling or starting a business, having children or running a marathon, we will enjoy life’s journey so much more if we share our experiences, even if it means we open ourselves up to pain and disappointment by being vulnerable in this way.

I have been wounded many times by people’s hurtful comments since I started opening up about my life and it is tempting to retreat to safety when this happens by putting up defensive walls and shutting others out. Then the turning point came when I realized that it doesn’t matter if others reject me. I am not going to pretend I have it all together and won’t let the opinion of others stop me from being honest and sharing my struggles, as well as my triumphs.

On the outside we may all look like we are getting by in our busy bubbles but on the inside most of us are yearning for more. As a woman, I have been reminded recently that I still have that desire to twirl in my flowing dress and feel like a princess. To let go of all the things I think I ought to be and not accept those negative messages as facts. There is no reason to feel ashamed for not measuring up to a standard the world sets. Personally I need to stop feeling less of a woman for not being a mother and not waste so much energy trying to keep up appearances when I am having a hard day.

Give yourself permission to show your vulnerability and stop wasting energy trying to suppress the pain. Choose to forgive. Share your story. Enjoy your adventure. Twirl in your tutu and let the tears flow.

 

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 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.

Learn To Like Yourself

While ‘liking’ a picture on a friend’s Facebook page earlier, I suddenly thought, wouldn’t it be great if we liked ourselves in the same way that we liked those posts? Do it on purpose, with daily enthusiasm, making an effort to search for things we can give a ‘thumbs up’ to, sifting through the spam to discover hidden treasures in between.

So many of us are not at peace with who we are. We focus on our weaknesses and are extremely critical of ourselves. I have been guilty of this too. We all have areas we need to improve on, but God knew that you weren’t going to be perfect, even before you were born and He still loves you! Why can’t we love ourselves to?

Having a poor self-image is a major problem today. We’ll never experience God’s best if we walk around feeling inferior. We let a war rage within us and instead of speaking positive declarations over our lives we let negative words drop down into our spirit. Sometimes these come from outside influences but more often than not, it is our own internal dialogue that feeds our insecurities. This leads to problems in our relationships, because as the saying goes, ‘you can’t give away what you don’t have’. If you don’t love yourself, you will never be able to properly love others. This doesn’t only affect you but will influence every relationship you have.

I struggle with never feeling I am doing enough. I am not a good enough wife, I am not working hard enough…but I am learning there is no point in meditating on that rubbish. It is important to see ourselves as God sees us. He approves of us and is more interested in what we can become, than what we are! This idea excites me, and motivates me to keep pressing on, keep growing and know where I am weak, God is strong! I now do my best to ask Him for help when I am struggling, rather than get down on myself. This is hard for a perfectionist to do, but I am ‘under construction’ and realize that by having weaknesses, this in turn allows me to trust God and lean on Him.

God may not be pleased with every decision you make, but He is pleased with you. He accepts you. He approves of you. Shouldn’t you do the same? Shouldn’t I do the same? Let us start right now! Click ‘like’. You deserve a thumbs up today!

Avoid Comparisons

The main theme of this blog is “Choosing Joy” and the joy that I am speaking of today is found in doing the best we can, with what we have and not comparing ourselves to others.

We are constantly fed the lie that we need to be something other than what we are and that a certain product or prescription or lifestyle can help us achieve greater recognition and happiness. However, if we strive for this illusion, we are guaranteed to end up miserable. Confidence begins with self-acceptance. Personally I think the only true way that this is possible is through a strong faith in God’s love for you and His plan for your future. That is something you need to pause and think about for a while. God loves you. Once you accept God’s love for you, you will realise that being loved and loving, make life worth living.

God does not require you to earn His love and He does not look for people who are worthy of His love either. His love is unconditional and He looks for people who need His love – that’s you and me. I think this topic deserves a few future blog posts of its own, but I wanted to introduce it now, as it came up at my posing practise yesterday (I am pleased to report that walking in heels is getting a little easier!) One of the ladies in the group saw me vibrating from fear before doing my solo routine, and said “God loves you, be confident in that”.

It was just what I needed to hear and to be reminded that I have what it takes because I am a child of God and He is pleased with me and I can do all things with His help. So can you! If you are always comparing yourself to someone, you are in fact rejecting the very person God created you to be. Entering the fitness industry this year is a real test, as it is easy to feel critical towards myself, especially when you are literally lined up alongside others and it is automatic to start comparing and wishing you were more like the woman next to you. These negative thoughts and defeated attitude can become rooted and sadden our spirit, while also preventing us from achieving higher and becoming all God intends for us to be.

This doesn’t mean you cannot make progress and improve. I do look to others for inspiration but we can’t let them be the regulation or rule that we follow. God won’t help you be someone else. Recently, while at gym, I caught myself thinking, I’m never going to have long, shapely legs like ‘Mary’ next to me and immediately this train of thought started to bring me down. Wishing won’t get me anywhere. It won’t help my calves and quads develop! Instead, I can work hard to build the best legs that my unique body and structure can possibly achieve. While comparing ourselves to others isn’t beneficial, negative self-talk isn’t either. I lay awake in bed at 4am this morning (our alarm went at 3:30am for my husband to get up and run a race and I couldn’t fall back to sleep) because I was rehearsing all my mistakes from the day before and stewing over how I battled to present myself in a confident manner at posing practise. I had to quickly shake off those negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations about my improvements from the previous week and instantly a new level of boldness rose up within me. A friend had complimented me during class but I struggled to receive the praise. You believe what you say about yourself more than you belief what someone else says. Unless you change what you believe on the inside, nothing is going to change on the outside.

Reprogramme your mind and pay attention how you talk to yourself. Always remember, God loves you. Be content with who you are and don’t compare yourself to others. Celebrate your uniqueness! And finally, appreciate others for who they are, while being confident and enjoying the wonderful person that you are too.