My Manifestos for Healthy, Wholehearted Living

It’s been awhile since I wrote a blog post. I’m happy to say that I’m finally starting to feel that urge to write again after a crazy busy month of October that culminated with my wedding on the 28th! I’m a wife now and feeling extremely content.

Speaking of getting married, it’s one of those life events that provide you with a proverbial “clean slate”. Much like moving or starting a new job, a change in relationship status is a good time to revisit your life and the direction it’s heading. It was in that spirit that I sat down to come up with a list of “manifestos” for my life.

Companies have manifestos, a public declaration of their policy or aim, so why shouldn’t we as individuals have them too? After all, we are the CEO’s of our lives!

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***It’s important to note that this list is aspirational. I’m not saying it’s what I do all the time but it’s what I TRY to do. This list is how I aim to live, knowing that at times I will fall short. This is what I will remind myself of daily and come back to if/when I get lost.

Here they are…

  1. Be Steph

As simple as it sounds! I take pride in being a “what you see is what you get” type of person. No faking. Just be myself, always. I believe that authenticity is the best form of service. As long as I’m being me I will attract the people and opportunities that are meant for me. At the same time, I will repel those that are not. Living with the result of that authenticity is far better than spending my life being someone other than who I really am.

  1. Go Deep Not Wide

When it comes to friendships, I’d rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies! As far as how many work projects I’m committed to, I’m more interested in doing a few things I’m super passionate about with excellence than spreading myself thin trying to take on every possible opportunity. Workouts? I prefer a quick, effective HIIT workout over an hour long, less intense sweat sesh. My relationship? My love language is quality time. In ALL things, quality over quantity.

  1. It Always Gets Done

When it comes to stress management, something I struggle with, I trust that history will continue to repeat itself. All of the many times that I’ve felt overwhelmed, things always ended up getting done. So why not skip the drama and trust the process? Deep breaths, baby steps, and self belief!

  1. Enjoy The Process

Speaking of the process, it’s as important as the outcome. I don’t want to rush to meet milestones. “When are you having kids?” “Why don’t you stop throwing away money on rent and buy a house?” and the list goes on. I want to embrace the in between, the struggle, the climb, the journey… which is always so special when looking back.

  1. Love What I Love

This one’s about not seeking approval but rather allowing myself to be attracted to what I love and to pursue it unapologetically….even if other people don’t seem to understand or agree with it. I’m not doing it for them, I’m not doing it for “likes”, I’m doing it for me. Because I love it. 

  1. Consider The Source

One of my absolute favorite quotes is from a woman I admire, Brené Brown. “If you aren’t in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” Amen, sista. Enough said.

  1. Feel Deeply, Release Quickly

This is a value I’ve embraced since getting into yoga. When my feelings get hurt or when someone or something makes me angry I have learned to let myself experience those feelings. Emotions, even negative ones, are not bad. They are part of being human and are often justifiable! Maybe I need to vent to someone I trust or maybe I need to have a good cry. Then after a day or two (longer depending on the intensity of the emotion) it’s time to release it and move forward. I find it’s so much easier to “let it go” once I’ve allowed myself to feel.

  1. Collaboration Over Competition

My natural tendency is to be competitive. My dad is a college soccer coach so I was brought up that way. It’s part of me. But in the last year, much due to my yoga practice, I’ve become much more interested in collaboration, especially when it comes to the side projects I’m working on, and it’s been a blessing in many ways.  Another quote I love, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

  1. It’s Okay to Change My Mind

I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, even one year ago. I imagine that trend will continue in the future which is why the new website I’m building is simply “stephfischer.com”. (Set to launch sometime in December!) I no longer want to put myself in a box or give myself a label, knowing the great potential there is for growth. I want to be free to learn and evolve and change my mind as I follow my heart and also as new evidence presents itself.

  1. Say No More Often

This one has completely changed my life. It’s all about honoring myself and getting rid of the dysfunction of people pleasing. I refuse to live a life of obligation. This doesn’t mean I won’t sacrifice and serve others. But when I make the choice to say “yes” it won’t be out of fear of disappointing others it will be because I want to. When I say “no” it’s out of respect for myself, my time, and my energy.

  1. Don’t Explain

My no’s don’t require an over explanation, it is powerful enough on its’ own.  Even more, who I am doesn’t require an explanation. Sometimes I am misunderstood but you know what? That’s okay. I don’t need to explain myself to people who don’t care to understand where I’m coming from. It’s like trying to change someone’s political views with a Facebook post, it ain’t gonna happen.

  1. Anger Is Just Love Disappointed

This is a line from an Eagles song (my dad’s favorite band) and it’s always stuck with me because it’s so true. When people are angry they’re really just hurt and it’s worth being curious about that instead of being reactive.  If I can keep this front of mind it will help me deal when conflicts arise. It will also help me be more self-reflective when I’m the one who is angry.

  1. Don’t Measure What You Love

The frequency of my blog posts, the calorie burn of my workouts, the weight of my body, how many times I’ve emptied the dishwasher compared to my husband…when I measure these things it steals joy from my life. My writing, my time spent exercising, my body, my marriage, and anything else I love are to be enjoyed, not measured.

Now it’s your turn!! Create your own list of manifestos for your life, as many or as few as you’d like! Message me your list on Facebook , along with your address and I’ll send you a free gift! In a future blog post I’ll compile everyone’s manifestos so you can see what others came up with! Send me your lists from now until December 1st and then I’ll send your free gift!

 

A Beautiful Thing Is Never Perfect

We got home from our wedding trip last night and we go back to work tomorrow. But today I allowed myself a “buffer day”, much needed time to ease back into things by sleeping in, grocery shopping, doing some laundry, making dinner for my new hubby and I, and reminiscing on our weekend which feels like a whirlwind now that it’s over…

Our little cliffside ceremony in San Diego was so beautifully imperfect and I’ll cherish it forever and ever.

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First of all, I never thought it would start on time when the guys returned from their wedding day golfing just 2 hours before the ceremony was to start.

Admittedly, I was a bit stressed when we arrived to the location 15 minutes behind schedule (about 30 minutes before the ceremony was set to start) and the archway wasn’t on location yet.

I wish I’d just chilled out, channeled my yoga mindset from earlier that morning, and known it would all come together. But to be fair, the timing was pretty important because of the sunset and the fact that we were at a place called Sunset Cliffs. Plus, I’m easily excitable. That’s just me.

As it turned out everything started on time, we got gorgeous sunset pictures afterwards, and hindsight is still 20/20.

But anyways, back to the ceremony..

Archway or not, my sister, photographer extraordinaire, and her second shooter flew into action snapping photos of us with our family members and whoever they could wrangle together.

During the middle of this, I looked up and saw Joe and Alex, our best man and brother in law, unloading the archway that Alex built and hustling it down the hill towards us. Finally, there it was in all it’s glory!

Meanwhile, Nick’s younger cousins were directed to one of our vehicles to haul down the bags of landscape rocks we’d borrowed from our vacation rental house to make an aisle with.

The archway was set in place and our small group of guests, about 20 or so, started pitching in by lining up the rocks, draping the fabric on the archway, attaching the flowers to the top with wire, re-spacing the rocks because the aisle wasn’t long enough….and just like that, we had ourselves a little chapel on a cliff!

We raced against the clock snapping photos in all of the combinations of people we could think of up until one minute before 4:30 and then we had everyone take their places…

Well okay, we hadn’t really decided on “places” and we hadn’t done a rehearsal. I think we all assumed we’d been to enough weddings so we knew how this went right?!

My dad and I walked off a ways and prepared for our walk together down the aisle that had been created. Suddenly, Joe shouts “the rings!”. My engagement ring, which is also my wedding ring, was still on my hand and Nick’s was on his right hand (for safekeeping during travel). He collected the rings from us, we all had a giggle, and got back into our places.

That’s when I heard Mollie’s beautiful voice start singing “When You Say Nothing At All” a cappella and told my dad that was our cue! We started walking but according to Mollie we were “running”… (like I said, easily excitable) so she gave me a subtle slow down signal and we made like snails the rest of the way down the aisle.

I was too in my head to notice the extremes in our paces. After all the beautiful chaos leading up to this moment I was thinking “Eek! We’re doing it! It’s happening! Pay attention! Be present! Oh shoot, look up at Nick! There he is. Okay, focus on him.”

My dad passed me off then he wasn’t sure where to go (that whole not rehearsing part) but he figured it out and found his place standing next to my mom, behind me.

The ceremony began. I listened to the pastor’s words while also soaking in the scenery around us. The waves rolling in and that German Shepard over there that was walking dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. “He’s on a leash Steph, he’s fine. Pay attention. Look at Nick.”

Readings were read, the homily was given, vows were said, and rings were exchanged. Then came the “surprise”…

This past summer, I’d come across a reading that was so perfect for Nick and our relationship. I knew I had to include it in our ceremony so I had asked the pastor to let me squeeze it. But I didn’t tell Nick I was doing this and this part wasn’t listed in the programs everyone was holding.

Just as other parts of the day and weekend went differently than I’d envisioned, I could never have predicted Nick’s response to my reading. It was better than I could have ever imagined.

I made my groom cry.

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He started tearing up right away, maybe from the surprise, and then the tears kept flowing as I read. At one point I even wondered if I should stop. But I knew they were happy tears. I’d gotten through to my man. These were the most special 45 seconds of our relationships so far.

Perfectly imperfect. That’s how it all came together. It was so beautiful and I’d do it the same way over and over again.

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For family and friends who weren’t there, below is what I read to Nick:

“Nick, I’ve asked you many times over the last few years to tell me exactly why you love me. Even though I know you do, I ask you to articulate it for me and it drives you crazy, I know. Since I can’t guarantee I’ll never ask you again, I found a children’s poem that will help you answer that question in the future. Conveniently, it also perfectly describes the way I feel about you. The poem is…

“I Like You” by Sandol Stoddard Warburg

I like you and I know why.
I like you because you are a good person to like.

When I think something is important
you think it’s important too
We have good ideas
When I say something funny, you laugh
I think I’m funny and you think I’m funny too

If you go away, then I go away too
or if I stay home, you send me a message
You don’t just say “Well see you around sometime, bye”
I like you a lot because of that
If I go away, I send you a message too
And I like you because if we go away together
And if we are in Grand Central Station
And if I get lost
Then you are the one that is yelling for me
That’s because you really like me
You really like me, don’t you?
And I really like you back
And you like me back and I like you back
And that’s the way we keep on going every day

I like you because if you find two four-leaf clovers, you give me one
If I find four, I give you two
If we only find three, we keep on looking
Sometimes we have good luck, and sometimes we don’t

I like you because I don’t know why but
Everything that happens is nicer with you
I can’t remember when I didn’t like you
It must have been lonesome then.
I like you because because because.
I forget why I like you but I do
On the 4th of July I like you because it’s the 4th of July
On the fifth of July, I like you too
Even if it was the 999th of July
Even if it was August
Even if it was way down at the bottom of November
Even if it was no place particular in January
I would go on choosing you
And you would go on choosing me
Over and over again

That’s how it would happen every time
I don’t know why
I guess I don’t know why I really like you
Why do I like you
I guess I just like you
I guess I just like you because I like you. ”

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The Beauty of Letting Go

Oh, Autumn.  It really is the best season of all, isn’t it?

Depends who you ask.

For most of my life I thought of summer as the best season. I mean, why wouldn’t I? My birthday is on the summer solstice (June 21st) and those three blessed months of June, July and August represent freedom! Or at least they used to.

Then one day I realized…

I still have to work as much in June as I do in February and October and every other month. Also, it’s really freaking hot and humid outside and I’m rarely comfortable. I don’t get to spend my days on the lake because #1, I don’t have a boat and #2, I have bills to pay. Therefore, I really don’t see what the big deal is about summer. I like it but I don’t love it.

So I’m now officially on the fall bandwagon with everyone else. For all of the reasons everyone else is; the chill in the air, cute scarves, pumpkins, apple orchards, boots, light jackets, football games, chili, the colorful leaves. It’s an absolutely gorgeous time of year!!

But what I like the most is what it represents. No, not freedom, in fact this is an extremely busy time of year for me at work.

This season represents change and how beautiful it can be.

Finally, I get to my point.

You see, I’ve changed.

Lately, I haven’t felt inspired to post or to blog. I’m just over it..for the time being.

I’ll want to write about something and then I’ll remember my website is howetoFITNESS.com and I’ll think “this is so not about fitness this is about LIFE”. I feel a disconnect.

I’m fine. I’m more than fine, I’m happy. But I’m also really freaking busy right now between work and wedding planning and self care. I’m just “in between” and that’s okay, I’m going to live here for a bit

I’m not going to post just to post. I’m not going to talk about stuff I find pointless, like the fact that I had a handful of mini size candy bars today or that I didn’t feel like working out but I did anyways.

Who cares? Not me. I’m so bored with that rhetoric. I don’t want to talk about bodies or calories or recipes or workouts at all. I want to talk about passion and purpose and ideas and mindsets and…

But not right now.

The “problem” is, I’m not feeling pissed off or angsty or emotional or anything else that makes for great material. I’m in a pretty neutral state at the moment.

This past Monday, I met with my friend and website gal. We are working on my new site and the deadline we set to have it done is December 16th. Tomorrow, I even have a photo shoot scheduled and guess what? The pictures aren’t going to be fitness related. They are just going to be ME. Not me doing a push up or me with a barbell…just me being me.

There was nothing wrong with my first official “photo shoot” 4 years ago (pic below). Change is beautiful, evolution is necessary.

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That’s why my new website will simply be my new married name; stephfischer.com. No “fitness” attached, not even “healthy living”. Just…me. Free to change and evolve and be whoever I want to be at whatever season of life I’m in.

Maybe when I have a new domain name for my website I’ll feel more inspired. Maybe tomorrow I’ll feel inspired. Who knows. Either way, I’m not going to force it.

If there’s one thing this fall season teaches us it’s that changing and letting go are good things. Let them happen. Don’t resist it. Don’t force it.

In the past 6 months I’ve let go of friendships, grudges, labels, and mindsets that no longer serve me and even if it hasn’t been easy…it’s been beautiful.

Embrace it. Celebrate it.

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Being Seen

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The other day, a friend said something that I thought was really profound.

She expressed how when it comes to her workouts, she feels pressure to “be seen” at group classes…even when they don’t work in her schedule, even when she needs rest or time with her family, even when she could work out on her own at a more convenient time.

Yes, I could relate. This pressure to “be seen” is so real.

As someone who has long promoted and built a career around group exercise, I’ve always considered the accountability aspect of group classes to be one of the biggest selling points. Being seen is the reason why.

We all have this deep need within us to be seen by others. We want our efforts to be acknowledged. We want to connect. We want to belong. Basically, we want our lives to be witnessed.

By the way, social media didn’t create this need in human beings, it only made it easier to fill.

It’s like when you’re having a really good hair day and rocking an awesome new outfit and you go out and about running errands…and you don’t see anybody you know. What a waste!

So it made sense what she was saying. We sometimes go places we don’t want to go at times we don’t want to go at in order to “be seen” by the people that matter to us.

But it got me thinking about when this accountability stops being a good thing and when it starts to get us out of alignment with our authentic selves.

For example, I don’t work a consistent schedule and I actually prefer it that way. So some days I won’t come in until 10:00am because I know I’ll be there until 7:00pm or so that night, like if I’m teaching classes. I’d feel the need to explain that when I walked in.

“Good morning Steph!”

 

“Hey I’’m not lazy! I’m going to be here late tonight that’s why I didn’t come in until now!”

I wanted to “be seen” as a person who was working hard. But at some point throughout my self-confidence journey that started to feel really inauthentic to me. I thought, “Why am I feeling the need to explain myself? I know I work hard. Why is it so important to me that they know?”

Just to see how it felt, I stopped justifying my comings and goings and I realized that I liked that better. It sort of felt “rebellious” because we all have that fear of what others might be thinking which is why we offer explanations.

Instead of choosing fear of others’ opinions I’ve decided to practice choosing love for myself.

Earlier this fall I decided not to run in the Ragnar Trail Relay for a multitude of reasons. When making this decision, it crossed my mind to say something like “I’m not doing the race anymore but instead, I will run 10 miles that day!” or some other crap. I don’t know. I’d seen people do things like that before when they couldn’t be at an event for one reason or another and it sounded noble and cool.

Then I realized I didn’t want to do some sort of “honorary” run any more than I wanted to do the actual race. It didn’t have meaning for me. What would the point of it? To prove I’m good enough? That I could have done it I wanted to? To make sure no one thought I was lazy?

If we’re only showing up places for the validation we get from being “seen” then maybe that activity isn’t serving us as much as we thought it was.

Accountability is really an awesome and useful thing. I’m just starting to think that it shouldn’t be the most important thing in our lives, the driving force behind everything we do. Let’s be accountable to our own needs, wants, and desires too. And yes, sometimes external accountability does help us achieve those things that we want. Use that to your advantage because it works.

But I have a dare for you…

The next time you’re exhausted and you want to hit that snooze button to skip your 5:00am group class and get more rest, do it, go back to sleep AND DON’T EXPLAIN IT TO ANYONE.

The next time you’ve had a long hard week and you just need some “me time” but you had plans with your friends to go out…TELL THEM THAT! Don’t over explain, don’t apologize for your needs. Just state your reason and let it be. If they’re really friends, they’ll be fine with it.

You get the idea.

Being seen isn’t always about arriving where you’re expected to be when you’re expected to be there. To truly be seen, be your authentic self. Stop explaining your life away. Worry less about the opinions of others and more about your opinion of yourself. Embrace who you are and how you feel. Choose for yourself. Be real instead of being impressive. Rebel a little bit.

Less fear, more love.

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The Feedback That Brought Me To Tears…

This morning I woke up to an e-mail from one of the women who just completed my self-confidence course. After reading it I sat down on my bed…and I cried. Read what she wrote and then I’ll explain why it brought me to tears…

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“STEPH-A-NIE! STEPH-A-NIE! (Read that like a chant)

What a humbling and wonderful way to end your confidence course! I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!

I have been procrastinating finishing this last tool because that would mean the course is over! Please add me to the Facebook group of course “graduates”, that is a community I would love to be apart of.

Where do I begin to thank you? I appreciate all the hard work you put into and continue to put into this course. No matter where women fall under the “confidence spectrum” they could all benefit from this course. I also wanted to say thank you for putting into practice what you preach. You have a way of opening up and being vulnerable that immediately makes women feel comfortable and at ease. Those skills allowed me to hit the ground running with this course – I immediately felt comfortable and trusted you!

 I love your view of life! That quote about life being about the journey and not the destination has become sort of a cliche but you brought fresh ways of thinking about it.

 I, and as you pointed out many other women, feel this immense pressure to be the “perfect package” and to be it NOW! Hot body (of course), beautiful and put together all the time, successful, a family, a great career.. the list goes on. THANK YOU for helping me to realize this is me, right now. This is who I am. Why waste my days striving for something that no woman has ever achieved?

 And I also love how you talk about self-improvement and that it is OK to want to improve! BUT only after you accept you who are – today. I completely agree that growth can only come after we accept the version of ourselves we are right now.

There were several moments in this course that I broke down in tears. When I read your message about the things women say about themselves and saw my own words on that list.. “I’ve never seen myself as beautiful” – that was so powerful. If a friend, or my mom, or one day if God grants me one – my daughter! ever said that… It would break my heart. Like I said earlier, the way you ended the course was such a strong reminder for me. I am a precious child of God! Would He create something that wasn’t beautiful!?!

Steph – please keep up the great work, you are making such a powerful impact on so many women’s lives! Hopefully one day I’ll run into you somehow and I can give you a big hug!

 Thanks again! And let me know if you ever design another course – Ill be the first in line to take it!”

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Yep that did it! Tears of joy flooded my eyes. I cried because I felt the power of having made an impact on another human being in a huge way. I cried because I knew my message had gotten through and touched her in exactly the way I intended it too. I cried because all it required was being myself and speaking my truth. That honestly blows my mind.

This beautiful e-mail message landed in my inbox because one day I decided that I can just be ME. I can use what I already have within me to help others. My struggles, my victories, my failures, my insights, my strengths, my vulnerabilities, my unique gifts…none of it is for me to keep to myself. I am meant to share these things with others!

 Everything I needed, I already possessed. When I finally believed that and was brave enough to put it out there…amazing things happened.

It’s the same way with self-confidence. You don’t need to obtain anything to have it. You don’t need a new wardrobe, to lose 30 pounds, a different job, a relationship, a degree, or anything else to be self-confident. It’s already within you. You just need to strip away all the lies you’ve been telling yourself, all the messaging that the media has been feeding you that make you believe you need “fixing”…and just BE you. Be free. Be confident.

Thank you Becky for this amazing message. Words like this fan the flame within me as I continue on this mission.

28 Random Things About Us

Sometimes my blog isn’t about “healthy living”, sometimes I just write about whatever I’m feeling because hey, it’s my blog and I can write about what I want! Even if it’s just for myself! This month I’m feeling lovey and I’m excited to be getting married soon! Relationships are a HUGE part of healthy living, are they not? Romantic or otherwise, the people in our lives have the biggest impact on our overall health and happiness.

Tonight, I felt like making a list. We are getting married in 28 days on the 28th of October and here I have 28 random facts about Nick and I’s relationship…

  1. We were both in the Mankato West 2003 graduating class but we never spoke in high school.

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  1. We “met” a decade later on Match.com
  1. The first time we spoke actual words to each other was at Blue Bricks in Mankato, MN.
  1. The first show we binge watched together was ‘Dexter’.dex
  1. He planned a surprise birthday party for me when I turned 28 (a couple months after we met) but not when I turned 30. That’s the honeymoon stage for ya..
  1. I planned a zip lining excursion for his 30th but admittedly didn’t even get him a card for his recent 32nd birthday. So basically we’re not very consistent with the birthday thing.
  1. Anyone who has met us in the last 2 years assumes we met because we’re both fitness instructors but the truth is, he became a BODYPUMP instructor 6 months after we started dating. I like to think that I “discovered” him.side-plank

8. My sister had (still has?) a “celebrity crush” on his sister, Mollie, who is a superstar performer. I joke that I’m only marrying him because I know she’ll be internationally famous one day and I want claims to her stardom.

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  1. We rescued a husky together after 7 months of dating, it was almost our demise, but now we can’t imagine our life without him.

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  1. He cooks and I clean. It’s just better for everyone that way.
  1. He’s an extroverted introvert while I’m a straight up extrovert.
  1.  He pretends not to like my little shih-tzu, Rowan, who I had before I met him, but I know he secretly loves her. It’s all an act.nick-and-ro
  1. We spend more time talking to each other in the “voices” of our dogs than we do actually talking in our regular voices.
  1. We got engaged on the “Top of the Rock” (Rockefeller Center) in New York City and his sister got it on video. I will give him mad props for the rest of his life for such a great proposal.

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  1. I totally knew it was coming but that didn’t make it any less awesome.
  1. The first movie we watched together was “Pitch Perfect”, we’re both obsessed with it.
  1. Neither of us has a tattoo which seems rare these days.
  1. We’re both way too competitive and shouldn’t be allowed to play board games together. But we do it anyways. It’s an issue.
  1. Nick is a fox and I’m a hedgehog. Meaning that he has many interests and likes to do a lot of different things while I have a few things I’m super into and those are the only things I like to do.
  1. If Nick could change 3 things about me he’d want me to be a die-hard Vikings fan, he’d want me to enjoy camping, and he’d want me to like beer. I just don’t have much enthusiasm for any of these things.
  1. We do share a mutual love for the Minnesota Wild.wild
  1. Nick once told me that what he loves about me most is “the way you carry yourself” and that is one of my favorite compliments.
  1. I knew as soon as I met his family that I fit right in. I’ve never once felt like I had to be anything but myself around them.fischers
  2. Nick fits right in with my family too. Also, our dads are like the same person.
  1. Our favorite place to relax and unwind is up in Ely, Minnesota at the cabin.
  1. We’re both really good at bean bags (corn hole, whatever you call it). Well okay, Nick’s better than me but as a team we’re pretty hard to beat.
  1. Investing in thorough pre-marital counseling has been the best thing we’ve ever done for our relationship. I think we’ve grown more as a couple in the 6 months we’ve been engaged than in the 3 years that we dated before that.
  1. We’ve gone through some ups and downs over the years and have almost broken up a time or two, most of it in the first couple years. By no means are we a perfect couple. But I always just had a feeling….

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Don’t You Dare….

People often ask me how I keep coming up with things to write about or if I ever run out of ideas. Sure I do. But I know something will always come to me as long as I just keep living life and paying attention.

This past Friday morning at 9:59am I had no idea what my next blog post would be about. Then I had a 10:00 meeting that inspired what I think is about to be one of the most important messages I’ve written.

The formula for my posts is: Inspiration + Personal Experience = Making a Connection

Well, the inspiration was the new yoga teacher that is joining my team at the Y. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I’ve never met a yogi that I don’t like. I don’t know what it is… yoga people just seem to “get it”, ya know? It’s that whole awareness thing (yes, that’s the whole point of yoga – not flexibility.)

So anyways, this yoga teacher just happens to be old enough to be my mother and she calls me a “kid” which I take no offense to. I don’t know how we got on the topic, just two yogis talking about life I guess, but we began discussing the self-love movement that started in the last couple of years.

The WHAT, you ask?

Yes, it’s a movement. You see, about 40ish years ago “aerobics” became a thing. Those were the days of Jazzercise and then step aerobics. Women everywhere were becoming cardio queens and going on diets because deep down, all women have some body image issues going on and they figured this would solve the problem! (*sigh*)

Back to the conversation in my office last Friday….my yoga teacher friend said something that hit me like a ton of bricks (and I’m paraphrasing here)… “When I was your age, no one talked about accepting or loving ourselves. We were all just trying to look like Twiggy. It was all about losing weight, all the time.” (She asked me if I knew who Twiggy was, I said I thought so then googled Twiggy later and I was right, I did know. But all I really needed to know is that she was nicknamed after a twig…)

twiggy

Here comes the personal experience part. You know that phenomenon when you look at an old picture of yourself and you think “Wow I looked great, I wish I had known that!” because you know that the you in the picture wasn’t feeling good about herself when the picture was taken?

I just had that experience the other day when pictures from my friend’s wedding popped up on Facebook for their 6th anniversary. I was a bridesmaid and as I scrolled through the pictures I thought “dang Steph! Looking good!” but I know at the time I was feeling “fat” and insecure and was comparing myself to other bridesmaids who were smaller than me.

It all goes back to Twiggy (seriously, who gave her that nickname?) Women have just had it drilled into our heads for decades that we need to be smaller. Have smaller bodies, have smaller opinions, have smaller voices, just shrink into the background so you don’t make anyone uncomfortable okay?

Sorry, I’m getting off on a rant.

Now I’m back to talking about that awful feeling you get when you look at an old picture and you start kicking yourself for not enjoying that moment in time because you were drowning in insecurity. Maybe you still are. When will it end?

It will end when you decide to appreciate where you are right now today. We are always wishing for a past or future version of ourselves. But why? We can’t go back and that future self is just imaginary at this point. We need to enjoy the now.

Don’t you DARE let yourself look back on entire DECADES of your life and have that same feeling of looking back on an old picture.

Don’t you DARE spend all of your time and energy looking in a mirror and thinking about what you should “fix” about yourself when you could be using that time and energy looking out into the world to see what actual problems you can fix.

Don’t you DARE let yourself believe that being desired aka “looking hot” is more important than pursuing your desires.

If you are around my age (I’m 31) then you are SO LUCKY to be a young woman living in a time when self-acceptance and self-love IS talked about. If you’re 21 you’re even luckier! I spent my whole 20’s thinking I had to fit some sort of ideal of what a fitness professional “should” look like and hating that I didn’t.

I’m just grateful I only lost one decade. If you’re 41, 51, 61….you still have the chance to change your perspective and to start accepting and loving yourself.

We are so lucky to live in a time where this whole idea that you just might be alright, enough even, just the way you are has been presented. Now all we have to do is believe it.

Hold up.

There’s a catch. This whole “self-love movement” is a backlash. It’s the pendulum swinging the other way. I love the message and I preach it. It is a much needed breath of fresh air and so necessary. Women need to hear this message, it’s so important. But like anything else, it can be taken too far.

There’s nothing wrong with having fitness goals or weight loss goals. The problem is when they take over your life and steal your joy. It is simply too easy to slip into unhealthy and obsessive behavior if you are setting goals from a place of self-hatred and wanting to “fix” your body.

That is why I decided to create a self-confidence course and why I’m so passionate about it. It’s not because I hate fitness. I love it! I work full time at a gym and I teach group exercise classes. I’m not living some double life here. I just realized that I had things in the wrong order.

Self-acceptance and self-love come FIRST then self-improvement.

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For years I was helping clients strengthen not only their physical muscles but also their comparison muscles and their self-loathing muscles. They wanted to “fix” their bodies and I was subscribing to that and helping them.

If I ever own a group fitness studio again (which I probably won’t) I would make taking my 28-day course a pre-requisite before they could attend a class. The desire for self-improvement has got to come from a place of love, not hate, if it’s truly going to be a positive change. Otherwise, we’re just going to have a bunch of really fit and really miserable people on our hands and no one wants that.

I realize I’ve been all over the place in this post but it’s coming straight from the heart. I don’t want a minor regret, wishing I had appreciated how I looked 6 years ago, to turn into a major regret of wishing I hadn’t wasted my entire adult life wanting to be less of who I was in any way. That’s not going to be my story. Don’t let it be yours either. Don’t you dare.

You Have Permission

Remember when you were a kid and your parents wouldn’t let you quit your soccer team, or piano lessons, or whatever it was that you were committed to because they were trying to teach you a really important and valuable lesson to build up your character?

I do.

I’m glad parents do that. I’m going to be that type of parent one day too. My kids won’t just quit something they’ve committed to the second they don’t love it or they feel challenged by it in some way that they aren’t used to being challenged. That’s some smart parenting right there.

But guess what? I’m not a kid anymore and neither are you.

I’m a 31 year old woman who knows who she is and I get to make choices that keep me in alignment and harmony with my true self…even as “who I am” grows and evolves!

I give myself permission to quit stuff that’s no longer serving me.

I give myself permission to change my mind – as many times as I want.

I give myself permission to try things on and take them off if they don’t “fit”.

And that’s okay!! That’s what life is!!

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The highest expression of self-confidence is being your true self and not apologizing for it. Your unique personality, all of your quirks, and every experience you’ve had is for a reason.

But you’ll never figure out what that reason is if you keep trying to imitate others. You’ll never discover your purpose if you’re wasting energy forcing things that don’t feel right to you. You’ll never evolve as a person if you stay stuck in old ways of thinking.

I’m Stephanie. I’m a little bit lazy in the mornings and I don’t like 5:00am workouts even though, practically speaking, they are a very good idea. I’m a decent runner but I don’t love it as much as other people seem to so I’m just going to leave that on the dressing room floor. (Yep, I quit Ragnar) I like to eat healthy but I’ll never say no to pizza.

I’m very open and opinionated so if you appreciate that in a person you’ll really like me! But if you don’t…well just be glad for all the things I don’t say because even I have a filter.

I’m super passionate about encouraging others to be healthy, awesome and courageous in life. If I’m not careful I can easily deplete myself in the process. That’s why I preach self-care – it’s a good reminder for me too!

I used to think aesthetics and peak performance were the purpose of health. I’ve changed my mind about that. Now I believe true health means being gentle with yourself; physically and emotionally. I consider half an hour writing in my journal or talking to my sister just as beneficial for my health as a 30-minute workout…it all depends on what I need at the moment.

I’m happiest and most energized when I’m connecting with others and I love to laugh and be silly. That’s me.

Who are you? Are you honoring that person?

Give yourself permission to be yourself, whatever that looks like! Then give yourself permission to actually LIKE and accept yourself. This is the surest path to self-confidence :)

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5 Misconceptions About Self-Confidence

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I was inspired to write this post by the women who were in the test group for my 28-Day Self-Confidence Tool Kit. I was the one leading the course but I learned as much from them as they did from me on the topic of self-confidence. It’s an area I’m increasingly interested and passionate about especially because of my background as a fitness professional.

Isn’t it funny how we just assume others see things the way we do? When I decided to create this course, it was because I had these two thoughts:

  1. Everyone wants to be more self-confident.
  2. Fitness/Weight Loss isn’t the answer.

What a shock to learn that not everyone shares those thoughts! There were women in my test group who went into the course not agreeing with me on at least one of those two points.

Now I wasn’t so surprised that some of them believed they really just needed to lose weight and they’d feel better but heck they’ll give this course a try anyways. If I’m being totally honest, even though I’m in a place of more self-love and self-acceptance than I ever have been in my life…deep down I believe that I’d be happier if I weighed 15 pounds less. I don’t act on it because I know better but it’s still there and probably always will be. And that’s okay.

But I was very surprised to learn from one woman that, until taking my course, she had viewed confidence as a negative character trait. That blew my mind. Then it opened my mind. To the fact that we aren’t all on the same page when it comes to self-confidence, what it really means, and whether or not it’s something to strive for.

So I’ve come up with this list of common misconceptions that some people have about self-confidence.

  1. It Is Synonymous with Arrogance.

Being self-confident doesn’t mean you think you are better than everyone else. It’s not thinking you are less than anyone else either. It’s about not comparing yourself to others at all. I think the opposite is actually true and that arrogance and “cockiness” come from a place of low self-confidence. If anything, humility should be synonymous with self-confidence.

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  1. It an Extrovert Thing.

Some people assume that all extroverts are confident or that you somehow need to possess the qualities of an extrovert in order to confident. I’m a huge extrovert but I haven’t always been confident. In the same way, introverts aren’t any more or less likely to be self-confident simply because they recharge by being alone. I don’t think there’s a connection there. I’ve seen confidence express itself in loud ways and in quiet ways. It can be bold or it can be understated. It just depends who is carrying it. I think confidence attached to any personality type is beautiful. It’s equal opportunity and available to all.

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  1. It Cannot Co-Exist with Doubt and Insecurity

This is a huge one. A lot of women assume they’ll be self-confident when they reach their goal weight. But it will never be enough. That line of self-worth will just keep moving further away if you’re measuring it by the scale. It’s not just body image either. If you are waiting for any of your self-doubts and insecurities, in any area of your life, to go away so that you can be confident then you’ll be waiting forever. Self-confidence is about acknowledging the insecure feelings and fears that exist within us but not allowing ourselves to be controlled by them.

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  1. It Is Something People Are Born With…Or Not.

Actually, I think we’re all born with it but then we lost it. I look at my 6 year old niece and how she carries herself, how fearless she is in approaching people of any age, and how it never occurs to her to not be totally confident in herself. Who care that she’s missing nearly all her teeth?! She sure doesn’t! Look at any child and they are this way. I’m not sure at what age it goes away. To me, building self-confidence is less about learning and more about UN-learning. It’s about getting our confidence BACK that we had as a child, when we were just being ourselves and not looking for approval for it.

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  1. It Means Not Caring About Others…and That’s Just Rude!

This was the misconception that the woman in my test group had. She understands now that self-confidence doesn’t mean you don’t care about other people. Being self-confident means you don’t base your self-worth on the opinions of others. It means that you value yourself enough to balance your needs with the needs of others. It means that you set boundaries to honor yourself even if others disapprove. Self-confidence has nothing to do with being unkind to others but it has everything to do with being kind to yourself.

how rude

What do you think? Did this help to clear up any misconceptions you might have had about self-confidence?

Meditation is Supposed to be Hard

I’ve long known, admired and respected today’s guest author, Betty Ann! (To me, she’s always going to be Elizabeth because that’s what she went by when I met her back in college) She and I have crossed paths many times as fellow fitness instructors and wellness professionals in this beautiful city of Mankato, Minnesota that we both call home! I’m all about “community over competition” so I was thrilled when this woman of many talents offered to write a guest post for my blog! She gave me a list of topics to choose from and this one jumped out at me immediately.

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When I first started teaching BODYFLOW I didn’t value the meditation portion at the end of class so I would cut it short. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of it and I didn’t realize how much I was cheating my participants. Now it’s my favorite part of class! I chose this topic for Elizab errr Betty’s post because I think it’s one that a lot of my “followers” might need to hear and I like to challenge you guys….

If you find yourself rolling up your mat and sneaking out of the studio during those 5-7 minutes of relaxation and mediation at the end class because you don’t see the point and you need to hurry along to that next thing (yes I’m talking to you)….I urge you to give this post a read…

Take it away Betty!

Meditation is Supposed to be Hard

The first meditation class I took was led by a Buddhist monk in a universalist church (I figured if I was gonna meditate, I was gonna MEDITATE! …You can tease me later). The monk gave us a simple breathing exercise and then we were instructed to sit quietly and practice. And we sat. And we sat. And we sat. Only I didn’t sit, I fidgeted. And after only a few seconds my brain began whirring away and I was lost in thoughts, completely forgetting about my breath. I figured I had failed. Meditation over.

I was wrong.

What I didn’t know then was this: Meditation is supposed to be hard. I had naively reasoned that meditation would be this easy, blissful experience that would just happen magically. Nope. The mind definitely has plans of its own, and magical bliss just isn’t in the blueprints.

Our minds constantly chatter – go ahead and listen in for a minute right now, what’s it saying? That chatter is compelling, it draws our awareness and attention from the present moment experience, labeling it, judging it, taking us into the past or the future. It can be helpful, or harmful, or neutral. Acceptance and awareness of what is, as it arises, is lost in all that noise. And sometimes its a lot of noise.

Cutting through all that chatter is hard and that is exactly what mindfulness meditation, the practice of awareness and acceptance, asks you to do. Meditation is to step back from your thoughts, to bring awareness to the mind’s chatter, to stay grounded on the shore rather than being swept away as your thoughts roll in and out in constant waves, to recognize we are not our thoughts, but the awareness behind those thoughts.

So, yes, getting carried away on a stream of thought is part of what makes meditation hard. But here is the good news! Getting distracted and “failing” (like I thought I had) to meditate is a-ok. Because then you have recognized you weren’t aware, and that recognition brings you into awareness, and boom! you are meditating again. So sure, meditation is hard. But don’t sweat it, its supposed to be.

Be sure to set your self up for success, too. A forty-five minute meditation class was probably not the best way to kick things off, considering I impatiently fidgeted and internally swore to myself for the duration of that session. Try shorter meditation sessions (1-2 minutes) and increase duration gradually. Seek out meditation exercises that jive with you, maybe its breathing, maybe its sound, maybe its a body scan, find what works best for you.

And don’t lose hope.

Sometimes meditation is easy and blissful, but not always and not even all that often. Ease or difficulty aside, the scientifically studied benefits of a regular mindful meditation practice are remarkable, so give it a go, and be sure to struggle a least a little, ok?

Benefits of Meditation:

  • Stress reduction (I think I can probably stop here, but…)
  • Improved focus and memory (Where are my keys?)
  • Enhanced physical performance (PR, here I come!)
  • Improved processing of emotions, lower risk of depression (Enough said.)
  • Helps you be more aware, less judgmental, more compassionate (Be a better person!)
  • Better immune system (Goodbye cold season!)
  • Better sleep (And… best for last! Zzzz.)

betty

About the guest author: Elizabeth “Betty Ann” Harsma is an educator, yoga instructor, and wellness professional based out of Mankato, MN. Betty is also a dancer, musician, and circus art enthusiast, practicing meditation to help her balance the tendency to do all the things, all the time. Follow her on Instagram @happybettyann

References:

“The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself” by Michael A. Singer (2007)

“Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness” by Jon Kabat-Zinn (2013)