Self Reflection

How not giving up led to me achieving weight loss

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed – Michael Jordan

Exercise can be one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome, especially when you’re struggling with low mood. You recognise exercise is something you’d like to introduce to your life, but you have no energy or motivation to do it. For me, it has been a battle for the last 10 years to try and motivate myself to consistently exercise.

Over the years I’ve gradually seen my weight increasing, but I told myself it was because I was still growing. 10.5 stone, 11 stone, 12 stone… 14 stone. I would look at myself and wouldn’t be happy with the way that I looked, but I never considered myself overweight. That is, until I sat down one day after just getting a shower, saw my reflection in the TV screen and realised. I had a sizable amount of fat flopping over my sides and my stomach now had three rolls unwelcomely overlapping each other. I was overweight.

I think I had subconsciously known I was overweight but didn’t want to accept it and lose the image of how skinny and in shape I used to be when I swam. I already felt low; I didn’t need to add another problem to the list.

In more recent years I decided to try and commit to exercising. I signed up to a gym and planned to go at least three times a week. One visit to the gym later and a week had passed, and I was left feeling very demotivated. A couple of months had passed and I had built up the courage to try again but was met with the same disappointment. I just couldn’t bring myself to go, whether that be from feeling low or from lack of energy.

For months on end I felt a growing frustration within me and despair at the idea I would never be one of those people who gets in shape, has a great body and actually enjoys exercise. However, one day after failing to go to the gym again I noticed myself planning to start again next week. I reflected on how, historically, it had taken me a few months to get back on track and try again, however it was now taking me a week.

“Okay”, I thought, “it’s taking you less and less time to get back on it and try again. That’s progress.” I remember feeling a lot of relief when I acknowledged my progress, it wasn’t much and I still felt so far away from where I wanted to be, but over time I was able to change my habits and be more persistent with exercise.

I decided to set myself a challenge; something that would push me but also was achievable. I set myself the challenge of doing 30 days of yoga. This was beginner’s yoga so I knew it wouldn’t be hugely taxing on my body – turns out because I had little to no strength and fitness it was much more of a challenge than I originally anticipated, but it was still manageable.

However, as usual, I gave up; I got to day 5 and decided I was too tired to do day 6. But then come a week or two later I tried again. I got to day 10, then day 14; I was getting there. Then, finally, I did 30 days. It was tough and on multiple occasions I didn’t feel like doing it, so I would substitute the days routine for one in the series that looked a little easier so I would still be keeping on track, but was able to accommodate how I was feeling that day.

I wanted to give up multiple times, but I had been there. I had gotten to day 14 and given up and felt disappointed in myself. I was so tired of not achieving my goal, I used that negative emotion to drive me forward and push me to the end of the 30 days. I felt very proud of myself for achieving that goal, but I had to make sure I didn’t lose my momentum. The yoga stopped but going to the gym started up again. Two times a week, then three.

Fast forward a few months and I’m 5kg lighter, starting to see real progress with my strength and fitness and feeling good about myself. Now, I sometimes find it harder to not do a workout or push myself because I remember all the times I have failed or given up and how I have felt when I have. I use that negative energy to drive me forward, even if it’s just pushing that little bit harder than I did before. I wouldn’t have that if I hadn’t kept trying and failing.


Persevere

Start adding some exercise into your routine; this is probably the hardest part of your journey, when you’ve just started and are trying to make the change in your life.

Choose something you think you will be able to keep to; I found running wasn’t for me initially. It is a very tough sport to start from scratch and those first few runs aren’t pleasant. I found it put me off doing exercise a lot. Walking, however, was something I could get into more. Walks along the beach or in a nice area, listening to a book I found worked for me. Increase the length of your walks or visit hilly areas if you want more of a challenge.

I also tried using the gym, but if you can’t afford to then there is so much you can do with just your bodyweight. I gave up a lot, but I kept trying. When I was at the gym and had completed I workout I usually felt good, the hardest part is re-training yourself to go out and do it, especially when you really don’t feel like it.

You will struggle, you will give up, but you need to keep going. Allow yourself time, gradually you’ll begin to fall into more of a routine.


Use your experiences to drive you

Don’t let the challenges you’ve faced, the negative emotions that haunted you go to waste. Use them to drive you forward. I remember going out running one day when I really didn’t feel like it. I was two laps from the end of my run and was concluding I was going to give up and walk.

However, I’d been there before. I’d given up too early before; I knew I could complete the run, but mentally I was giving up. I remembered how I felt from times before and used that to take away the option of stopping. This didn’t happen immediately, but I’d given up to many times that I was fed up of doing it. The sense of achievement I got from completing the run was huge, and I learnt I have more control over my mind and my body that I thought I had. Since then, I push myself just that little bit further than the time before, because I can.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.

Mary Anne Radmacher, American author and artist
Learning

The Fear of Failure

You can call it failure; I call it life.

Ant Middleton

It has been a while since I have written a post, so I must admit it is a little intimidating coming back to it again!

A lot has changed, the world is looking a lot brighter.

www.instagram.com/theartofbeinghappy_art/

When I wrote my first blog post I was very motivated after a long period of feeling low and enjoyed the experience, but the more I wrote the more I began to feel like it was a chore to do it. That is not what I wanted from my hobby, so I decided to have short break and explore some other hobbies.

Now, I have always been terrified when it comes to investing money into things, especially when I don’t know a lot about them. My husband and I ordered a hot tub (one of those blow up ones that probably looks a little more expensive than it really is). I remember looking in my garden and seeing so much potential for what I could do to make the hot tub area a nice area to be in. However, as soon as I thought about the possibility of putting in decking myself and designing an area in the garden, I felt terrified and immediately put that crazy idea to bed. I had never done it before so it would be a little risky to give it a go and potentially waste time and money.

Or would it?

I began thinking, contemplating over the idea of who I want to be. I considered the idea that a characteristic of the person I wanted to be was fearless, well somewhat anyway. I had just finished a book by Ant Middleton called The Fear Bubble (I highly recommend it). It talks about how so many people live their life in their own safe corridors. Opportunities come up to open new doors and see what is out there but ultimately most choose to retreat to the comfort of familiarity and certainty, their corridor. It is something I’ve been doing for the last few years.

Learn a new skill? I could but if I am not good at it, I’ll feel demotivated. Go for a job I’m really interested in? Maybe, but if I don’t get it then that’s it, I’m doomed to be a failure. Sounds crazy when you hear someone else’s thought process right? Of course as an outsider you’re able to see things in perspective.

“Just because you don’t get that job doesn’t mean you’re a failure!”

“Practise makes perfect, if you’re committed enough you will get better”

In all honesty, the reason I chose to commit to renovating my garden was because I was fed up. I was fed up of saying “I wish I could craft things”. I have too many wishes I’ve sat on for a while.

“I wish I could lose this weight that’s making me unhappy”

“I wish I could draw better”

“I wish I could write a successful blog”

No, I wasn’t having it anymore. Fail or not, I was going to build some decking and plant boxes for my hot tub area. I jumped in the car and went to Homebase to scope out how much it would cost me. Cost was something I had to consider but I had decided it wasn’t going to be a reason I didn’t go through with improving my garden. If it was too expensive to buy decking, then I’d buy used wood and sand it down and put decking together with that. Ultimately fear of failure was the driving factor behind all of my doubts, as soon as I recognised that’s what was triggering the doubt I pushed forward.

The fact is, if you want things to change you have to do something about it. Staying in my corridor wasn’t working. I felt stuck in life, demotivated and ultimately very bored. I would rarely push myself out of my comfort zone and give something a go, therefore nothing changed. The moment, and I really do mean the moment, I began facing my fears and having the courage to try new things my whole world changed.

It’s wasn’t some magical feeling, where you feel like you’re on top of the world and can do anything (not at the start anyway). I felt terrified, constantly doubted my decisions and was wondering if I’d just wasted a few hundred pounds of our hard earnt money on something I was going to give up on. However, I kept going. If I failed I would try again, as ultimately all failure is, is a lesson.

“You bought partially premade decking slabs which cost more than anticipated. Next time consider looking for used wood and making your own from scratch. You’ll learn more and save money.”

“You didn’t support the wood when you were cutting it so when it got weak it splintered the end. Next time, balance it between two equally high supports.”

“Okay, you sawed your finger so maybe next time buy some gloves.”

I’m still a novice when it comes to gardening and DYI, but I have learnt a huge amount in such a short space of time. I didn’t look at any of my mistakes as failures, I looked for the lesson in them.

A story I find inspiring is one of Mandy Harvey. She is a singer and songwriter who at the age of 19 lost her hearing. Mandy had every right to give up and accept the hand she was dealt, but instead she began to practise and learn again. Now, she’s not only a professional singer and songwriter, but also has a book and has several tours where she speaks about the hardship she overcame.

In her book, Sensing the Rhythm, she speaks about how most people stay inside their own boxes, their comfort zones, similar to the corridors Ant Middleton describes. She describes how she went through a period of feeling very low and her life and dreams had fell apart. However, one day her dad asked her if she’d like to sing along to him playing guitar. Naturally, she thought it was a crazy idea because she was deaf and things wouldn’t be necessarily be able to. However, from that, she was able to see a world of possibilities open up for her again as she was able to sing along and keep in tune and rhythm. Mandy recognised she wasn’t hopeless in her situation; she could change it.

Mandy goes on to talk about saying yes when the time is right. If she’d said no to joining her dad in what seemed like a hopeless cause she may have never climbed out of her box and grown as a person, opened that new door out of her corridor.

Since I made it my mission to work on my own self development, I have pushed myself towards saying yes and opening myself to new experiences. More recently, I have not let fear of failure dictate what I can and can’t do.

I thought I was going to fail miserably at my garden, but I’ve done a good job that I’m proud of and have learnt a lot – I’m now progressing onto making some garden furniture.

It’s not fully done yet, but I’m proud of the progress made so far!

I thought I’d fail at my first interview for a job as historically I’ve never made it when I’ve looked to pursue my dream, but this time I passed it. I learnt from my previous experiences and used them to inform me this time round.

I had the courage to step out of my comfort zone and the resilience to take the positives from my failures. I honestly believe progression leads to happiness, which is why so many of us are unhappy as we feel stuck. Don’t let fear of failure stop you from growing as a person. The more you fail, the more you’ll learn and grow.

Sure, it may be uncomfortable and you may mess up, but next time round you’ll do better. I have had some awful experiences failing but I wouldn’t change them. I have learnt a lot and I’m beginning to feel happier as I’m not the same person I was a year ago, even a few months ago. The idea of failing may be terrifying, but the idea of never trying and letting your life drift by you, that is what is truly scary.

Things turn out best, for people who make the best of the way things turned out

John Wooden, American basketball players then Coach

Self Reflection

Failure and Depression

Fear
“The darkness is coming. It yearns for life, hungers for it – like a pack of wolves on a hunt. But she’s not stopping. Not this time.” – Hellblade, Senua’s Sacrifice. The drawing is of an anime I love, Ajin.

Do you ever have those moments where you find out some new information, a missing piece in the puzzle of how you’re going to conquer your depression and you feel so motivated and in control?

An idea someone shares with you, a book you read, song lyrics, a blog you read online…

You think to yourself “Yes, this is me. That idea has filled in a gap for me, something that I didn’t know about myself previously that now I understand. Now I know this I can finally make a change and get myself out of this.”

So, you chuck on your sports clothes and go out for that run. Or you grab a pen and paper and start to write that book or draw that picture you’ve wanted to do so long now. You feel great but you hit your first hurdle, this is harder than you anticipated. You begin to notice a weight pressing down on your shoulder, as if a hand lay rested of it; you shrug it off. You push through it as you are in control and you know you can achieve your goal.

A thought crosses your mind “See, it’s just the same as before. You’re still struggling. You haven’t found the answer; you’re never going to make it out of this… it’s too hard.”.

You struggle to refocus on what you’re doing, working toward the better you, but the weight becomes overwhelming. You’re no longer carrying just a hand on your shoulder, but a full body collapsed over you. Every step you take on your run, every word you go to write, every line you go to draw has the extra weight pushing through it. You feel exhausted and give up, you’ve failed… again. Things will never change.

I’ve had my fair share of experience with the feelings of failure and like you’re stuck; never able to take steps forward, only back. Every time I tried something new or tried to push myself to follow through on a goal I so desperately wanted to achieve, I would fail. It would hit me hard and I would feel like I was sinking further and further away from where I wanted to be.

Negative thoughts started to seep in and take control. It had been so long since I was able to achieve something worthwhile that I felt like being a failure was who I had become. I felt like I had lost who I used to be, someone who was highly motivated and could achieve anything I put my mind to. Instead, I found myself in a hole I kept trying to jump out of. However, every time I tried to jump and didn’t make it the weight of my fall just deepened the hole. I felt like I was doomed to repeat the process for the rest of my life; this is who I was now as much as I tried to fight the idea of it.

However, one day I started watching a reality show on TV: SAS Who Dares Wins. I remember watching Ant Middleton talk about his struggles but how you just have to push through them. I quickly Googled his name and noticed he had a book out (now two books out) and several interviews where he speaks about failure.

The big things that stop us in life stop us from achieving is failure and fear. The fear, woom! Okay, we won’t even go there, challenge it because like you said, once you get past that and you feel like you’ve got that sense of achievement. Even if it’s a small sense, even if you fail but you learn something about yourself. You’re going to grow therefore you re-attack, you re-expose. And then you’re going to learn something that’s what life is about is this small progression in the right direction in life. You want to be doing that till the day you die because that’s what your purpose in life.

Ant Middleton , Paracelsus Recovery interview

I had never really considered failure this way, as a necessary part of life to learn from and grow as a person. Failure always had such negative associations with it. I never used to tell people I was going for a job interview as if I didn’t get it I didn’t want to be seen as a failure; I didn’t want my shame to be compounded by people telling me “Sorry you didn’t get it, I’m sure you’ll get the next one!”.

I would choose easy things to draw as I didn’t want to highlight areas in my skillset that are weak. If I tried to do a more challenging drawing and failed, I would feel horrible and retreat back to my comfort zone so no one could see the limitations of my skill. Or I wouldn’t draw at all. I would switch on my PS4 and play a game, something I knew I was good at. I choose the easy option.

A lot of people who shy away or they have the easy option and they choose the easy option and therefore, you will not build resilience if you do that. The easy option is something in life that is presented to us on a plate where if you decide to step off that path to challenge yourself that’s where you build up resilience and ultimately you expose who you are, you expose your emotions and you learn to deal with them, that’s what resilience is, it doesn’t have to be climbing Mount Everest, being in a special boat service, being in a special forces, being in the military. It is about taking on the challenges that will challenge you and test you.

Ant Middleton , Paracelsus Recovery interview

Historically I never reflected on what I could learn from my failures. I would fail at something and attribute that to myself; I was a failure. However, by doing that I never took the time to reflect on what I did well and what I could improve on. I would take one step forward toward my goal, but then two steps back as I would feel like I was back to square one and it would put me off trying again.

However, Ant Middleton describes failure as a journey. You take one step forward and you may fail, but now you’ve been there and got that experience. You may not have done it right the first time, but the next time you go for it you will be able to draw from your previous experience. If you’ve taken the time to reflect on what you’ve done well, but more importantly on what you can improve on you can learn from that. You’ve been down this road; you know the way and you recognise the wrong turn you made last time. This time you can avoid it and you may end up taking another wrong turn, but then the next time you try you’ll know to avoid that road too. However, if you don’t reflect on your negative experiences, all that experience is lost.

When you take the negatives in your life and use them to build a narrative of who you are, often self-hatred comes soon after. You become trapped in your own narrative and punish yourself for your failures and shortcomings. The easy option becomes your natural response to every situation. When you start to feel uncomfortable or feel people may see you for the failure you are you retreat further into your safe zone, but with that comes unhappiness. You become a prisoner to your own fear and failure so those dreams you have become just that, dreams. That comparison to where you are now and where you want to be only build on your unhappiness. You become stuck.

Stuck is where I found myself for many years, however at some point I decided enough is enough and began to put myself in uncomfortable situations, it was awful. I would fail and feel humiliated and retreat back into my comfort zone. However, I would then push myself again… and again… and again. Until I got to the point where if I recognised myself backing away from a situation as I was scared of failing, I would make myself do it.

From doing this and learning from my negative experiences, I have grown massively as a person. I used to be scared of picking up the phone and making a call, now I won’t think twice about doing it. I may feel anxious about doing it, but I will do it. I would never have become a trainer where I had to talk in front of a group of people (first couple of times doing it were horrible). I wouldn’t have started up this blog, I would be paralysed by my fear of failure and what people might think.

More recently I’ve learnt that this mindset can also be applied to smaller, everyday things. Such as making the decision to attempt a drawing instead of watching some TV. Or going to the gym and trying out the weights section instead of shying away and not achieving what I wanted to in the gym.

When you put yourself out there and try to better yourself or your quality of life, you will hit roadblocks and feel like you’ll never make it to where you want to be. Hitting that block is nothing to be ashamed of. This is a journey and it is the first time you’ve been down this route; no one expects you to know what you’re doing or where you’re going. I can’t promise some people won’t form their own judgements that do not help you; however, I can promise you that they do not matter. All that matters is that you do not forget those failures and you keep trying. Everyone fails, but not everyone learns to use those failures to their advantage. Be open and honest with yourself about your failures, you can do this.

Garden
It took about 50 different photos to finally get one I was happy with. I nearly gave up after the first round of photos I took as I felt like I just wasn’t skilled enough to capture what I wanted. However, I kept trying and got a pretty nice snap out of it in the end. From the rotting and dying plant, grows a pretty flower.