Loneliness is an awful emotion. It drives us to behave in ways, which make it difficult to recognise ourselves. It can make us feel simultaneously self conscious and invisible.
It was 2012. I had just finished my accountancy training and had started my first “proper job.” I was working for a huge American Corporation. My days were filled with SOPs, KPIs and every other acronym you can think of. Like a fish out of water, I just did not fit it. I started to wonder if I was even in the right career, or had the last 5 years of study been completely wasted?
It was a really low point for me. I never had a huge social circle to begin with, and the years spent doing ACCA had distanced me from a lot of the friends I did have. I was so lonely. The worst thing about it, was that I felt guilty for feeling this way. I had a loving partner, a wonderful family and truly appeared to be living the dream. I had absolutely nothing to complain about. So, I did what any self-respecting overachiever would do, I pretended to be fine!
Not long after starting in this “proper job” I discovered Crossfit and Paleo. This seemed to be the answer to all my prayers. Finally something had come along to fill the void. I threw myself into it with the same single minded determination I had put into getting qualified. I spent up to 3 hours every night in the the gym. When I wasn’t training, I was thinking about it, or reading about it, (I read the entire back catalogue of The Crossfit Journal in a month) or talking about it!
I was completely focused on training, and to be honest, I became an asshole! I was so fixated on this one aspect of my life, that I lost sight of pretty much everything else. My husband would plead with me to come home, to spend time with other people, to be more present in my life. But, all I could think was “he just doesn’t want me to succeed.” I kept telling myself that the next gym milestone, (the body weight back squat, the handstand push up, the kipping pull up) would make me happy. It didn’t.
My obsession was having a terrible effect on my overall well-being. I would train straight after work, for hours. I would come home so hungry and depleted, that I would be shaking driving the car. Everybody warned me I was heading for trouble, my family, my partner, even my colleagues, but I ignored them all. I knew better. I was “dedicated.” I distanced myself from everyone who was being, as I saw it, negative. I took something healthy and positive to an unhealthy and dangerous place. I risked losing everything.
In my efforts to cure my loneliness, I only ended up more isolated. The irony of this is not lost on me! Finally, I reached a turning point. I slowly began to realise the error of my ways. I found a job I love, which is both challenging and engaging enough to not allow for outside obsessions! I began to remember other things I enjoyed doing. I started reading again, and seeing people. Far from being a light-bulb moment, I very much clawed my way out of the darkness.
In this digital age, we are very much at the mercy of the social media Gods and gurus. We are bombarded hourly with images of people living seemingly perfect lives, with wonder partners, exciting careers and most of all, flawless physiques! In my desire to feel part of something, I bought into all of it. I so desperately wanted to be part of that #fitfam. I needed to prove myself worthy of acceptance by showing I could train as hard, prep as well and basically obsess as much as they did.
The funny thing is, there is no membership policy. You never receive an email, text or tweet to say “Congratulations, you are now ENOUGH, welcome on board!” Seeking validation from an online “community” is a fool’s errand. So, I have decided to stop. I have come to learn that my own self-worth is far more important than the acceptance of anyone online. I have also realised, that chasing recognition from strangers not only damages my already fragile self image, it is just plain stupid. These people don’t care about me.
In the last few months I have discovered that exposing myself to the #fitspos, is a real trigger for me. One glance at a woman with abs, and I launch into a full on body comparison. What is she doing? How come she has a 6 pack and I don’t? What’s her secret? How can I get to look that way? It’s relentless and damaging.
When it comes to social media, there are some great voices out there. They are promoting health and fitness in a sensible and sustainable way. Unfortunately they are in the minority. It seems for every 1 intelligent and insightful person, we will encounter 10 idiots. I was at The Better Life Project’s Empowered Women Workshop this week, and just one of the wonderful pieces of advice Sarah offered to us was “If someone in your news-feed makes you feel bad, unfollow them.” Simple as that! We can’t control the amount of negativity and bullshit there is online, but we can choose to limit our exposure to it.
As for my training, I still do and probably always will, love the gym. But, crucially, I am approaching it now from a much kinder place. I exercise because I love my body, not because I want to beat it into submission. I am slowly learning to accept my limitations and to listen to the voices of those who love me. Most importantly, the choices I make with my training and nutrition and for me, not to please the Fitfam. Be well xxx