I had a life changing experience this past weekend. And not in the way I expected.
I attended the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio. It had been 15 years since my last visit to the festival. I kind of ignored something that wasn’t quite right in my spirit as we prepared to attend. My thoughts were that maybe it revolved around the fact that I hadn’t sorted out some of my self confidence issues, that I needed to develop more confidence in my body and how it looks.
But, it soon became obvious that there were deeper issues at play.
Fast forward two days after the festival, and I realize that attending it was one of the best things I have done in some time. For those of you who do not know what the Arnold Sports Festival is, it is an annual event, and the namesake of Arnold Swarzenegger.
A big focal point of the festival is bodybuilding and fitness competitions. Also, a large portion of it is the marketing of products to individuals who are part of the bodybuilding and fitness lifestyle. Many of the individuals marketing products are bodybuilding or fitness competitors. I was drawn to this event in my 20s due to my love of lifting weights, and the same draw was there this year. But I was also drawn to it for reasons that have finally become clear to me now that I am 40 years old. I guess some realizations take time.
A few short weeks before attending the festival, I had announced on Facebook my intent to pursue the goal of a figure competition within two years. (Figure competitions are similar to a fitness competition, without the dance/gymnastic style routines that are required as part of the fitness competitions).
Today I came to the conclusion that it is okay for me to drop this goal and look like a quitter to whomever reads this blog on social media. I am okay with whatever the perception may be. I am not okay with the empty feeling I had while still trying to reconcile this goal as something good for me. I may never escape that feeling, and if that is the case, I may never pursue that goal.
While standing in the midst of the vendor section of the Festival, I felt very disconnected. I felt a palpable negative energy that I can only describe as….emptiness. As I looked around at all the shiny bodies I realized something. I felt sad. I no longer idolized these people like I did in my 20’s. Surrounded by shiny, beautiful people, many of whom were women who were half my age, I felt sadness for them, NOT for me, ironically, the 40 year old woman in mediocre shape!
Was I realizing that the fitness industry is corrupt? Or was I realizing that all of these people are pursuing something meaningless? Yes and No. Yes, I do think the fitness industry is off track. But like anything, this isn’t black and white, and I am sure there are still quality people involved.
Yes, I do think that there is a high chance that many of the people pursuing that lifestyle are focused on externals and living lives that avoid reality.
But you know what I really and truly realized? I realized that the woman in the mirror was the one pursuing something meaningless.
I left there was a sense of disappointment that my big goal of a figure competition was dying before my eyes, but I also left there with a burden lifting.
It took me a few days, but this morning I was able to process it all and realize what was wrong. I realized why I felt such emptiness and what I needed to do. I needed to share what was in my heart, and I needed to put more serious thought into the idea of being a figure competitor. As of this writing, I think my goals should point in a different direction. And if I ever feel at peace with the goal of competing, it is only going to be after some serious heart work to make sure I am doing it for reasons beyond the surface, which I feel may be next to impossible in an industry that makes its focus physical perfection.
I realized that pursuing a meaningless goal or life is simply a matter of focusing on the wrong things for the purpose of avoiding something we perceive as painful.
1. I was focused on an unrealistic, unattainable ideal.
How many times have you looked in the mirror and obsessed about how you do not fit the bill? Be honest!!
Fitness and Figure Competitors cannot take the criticism for all of us! The truth? This isn’t about criticizing the fitness industry. This blog post is about looking at our own lives and asking ourselves honestly if we have been pursuing the unattainable ideas of a consumeristic culture that is obsessed with youth and beauty.
A good sign that you are doing that?
You feel badly about your body or parts of your body and wish they measured up. You compare your body on a regular basis to the bodies of other people. You are surrounded by people you feel are better looking and sexier than you.
For me, it was about validating my worth by being more attractive. I had developed the belief system that the only way I could be someone of value, was to get the most “perfect” body possible and show the world how I finally measured up! And I am not missing how hypocritical that may seem given what I do for a living.
2. I was focused on keeping it shallow.
Now I know this sounds crazy coming from a life coach, but I realized that I was focused on avoiding depth. I was avoiding depth to avoid looking at something painful.
It was the same pattern I had in my younger days, as evidenced by my obsession with romance novels. I used those to escape over and over from the reality of life. I was using my goal of becoming a figure competitor to avoid painful things as well. By focusing on the external I was hoping to escape the reality of my death.
WHAT WE SEEK TO AVOID: DEATH IS COMING
And with that subtitle, I fully expect that many people will stop reading!
I hate to be morbid, but let’s be honest. Death is a common experience that will someday link us all.
It doesn’t matter what your background is. It doesn’t matter your gender, your ethnicity, your education or your religion. We all will take the same path someday.
If we allow ourselves to numb and cope and escape through porn, or sex, or food, or drugs, or TV….the list goes on…We will miss the point! We will miss out on the beauty of life.
I am thankful for it. I am thankful for people who are willing to share. My brother, a former bodybuilder, and Zlata Sushnick of Sexy Fit (check her out on Facebook or here: www.sexyfit.com ) were two people who helped me process these important lessons today. Without realizing it, maybe, they have greatly impacted my life by speaking difficult truths and honestly sharing.
I realized that I do not love myself as fully as I ought.
I realized that I waste a good amount of time trying to hold onto what was meant to be temporal- youth, and physical beauty.
I realized I needed to embrace that death. is. coming. Period. And I want to live a life that doesn’t reflect an image of perfection but an image of love and true being.
Have you embraced that death is coming today? If you are pursuing unattainable ideas, trying to grasp desperately at youth and beauty, I propose that you are not.
If you continue to stay in the shallow end of the pool, numbing yourself with food, sex, porn, drugs, TV, and your I-phone, I propose that you are not.
If you hate yourself and wish you were somebody else, I propose, again, that you are NOT living a life that is embracing the inevitable!
Take a step away from denial, numbing and escaping, and take a step towards loving yourself and embracing all that life has to offer.
Thanks for reading. I would love to hear below how you are embracing the reality of death and how that is helping you live.
Inspirational video – embracing the inevitable…