Tis the season. The season of giving. Sometimes we receive amazing gifts, thoughtful gifts, beneficial gifts. But in some seasons, we receive not so great news, heartache, unwarranted advice, and sometimes gifts that make us look up and say “what the…”.
When I was young and in elementary school, I remember having a Christmas gathering at my aunt’s apartment. We—my parents, aunt, sister, grandparents, and I—all sat around together in her living space. I tore gift after gift open excited for the new clothes and new toys I would play with later in the day. Then I reached one gift that knocked me down. One gift that shattered my view. There in front of me sat a VHS (yes, this was a thing before streaming videos) of Mousercize: A Disney home workout video created for children. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work out with Mickey Mouse?
Saying a polite thank you, I sat on the floor of my aunt’s apartment holding back the tears, my cheeks flushing with heat. That was the first time I felt shame. I felt guilt. I felt insecure. I felt self-doubt. I felt embarrassed about how I looked. When you have all those flooding your system at once, rapid firing at your identity, it’s really really hard to take a step back to examine what benefit could come from it, especially when you are a child. It was the first time I let someone else suggest how my fit and my healthy journey should run its course. I allowed this moment to push me down instead of letting it propel me forward. I shut down. I became passive and accepted that this was the path I was on now. I didn’t think it was possible to change. If others saw this for me, I had to see it for me, too. Just because others treat us poorly doesn’t mean we should treat ourselves poorly. But, I did. For years.
For years I created a lifestyle based on how I was treated by other people, based on their suggestions for me, and based on their lives instead of creating my own. I led myself to believe I had to fit into a certain box in order to be successful, attractive, worthy. Most of the time as I clawed toward my idea of perfection in the eyes of others, I was only pushing myself down further. I created a goal for myself and a life I was never meant to be in in the first place. Until I let one person’s suggestion change the course of my journey, change my attitude, and change my perspective on how I should live my life…and no it wasn’t Mickey Mouse.
For years I took my thyroid medication because I needed to in order to regulate my Hashimoto’s condition—to supposedly alleviate my fatigue and manage weight gain, hair loss, mood swings, and dry skin. Those things still came around though. They were never truly eradicated. Even though I was taking synthetic thyroid to trick my body into thinking they shouldn’t stick around, they still hovered. However, when my endocrinologist suggested that I might not need to be on my medication, this was new territory for me. You mean, there is a possibility that I’m not stuck on this path? Going off my medication, I knew I would need to adjust my lifestyle. Find ways to assist my thyroid’s function, instead of letting it suffer. It wasn’t easy at first, but then I started to see the results of my willingness to push my previous mindset aside. I’ve been off my medication for 8 months now and have yet to experience any of my symptoms. I have been tired on some days but haven’t experienced fatigue like I used to (even on medication), I’m still losing weight, my hair has stopped thinning, my mood and attitude don’t swing like they used to (I’m a female…I will still have some moods on occasion), my eczema and dry skin are clearing up—all because I took the chance and cut out certain inhibitors in my diet. Instead of forcing myself to fit a certain mold and feel stuck in a path, I seized the opportunity to try something different. I had to focus on the root of my issue first: my thyroid itself, not the symptoms of my condition. Even though I had the medication regulating my thyroid function, still consuming foods that can be detrimental to my thyroid itself was still causing my body to fight itself internally.
With my medication, I was only treating the symptom of my condition not the root of it. This is something I feel we tend to do in every aspect of our lives.
We don’t take the time to examine what the true root of our problem is and focus on digging away at that. Instead we focus on maintaining the pain of the aftermath, thinking that will suffice.
It won’t. I changed one attitude in my life, causing a whirlwind of changes in every other aspect of my life, including the way I saw myself. At 32, I am discovering the importance of finding my own way and loving myself, but above both those, I am discovering what it is to be the person I want to be and not the one that is expected of me (or what I think others want of me). The other day my mother and I were discussing my haircut. I was telling her how the salon always enjoys when I come in because they like to put fun designs in my side and undercut. She mentioned something about the world changing and what the world was coming to. When I responded that my haircut is fun, and I enjoy it, she said “but no one else really has it”. I laughed and said, “So I am unique, and I don’t conform. I’ll take it”.
I’ve lived my life for too long letting other people decide what’s best for me, what I should do, how I should live. It’s too exhausting living like that. You will just set yourself up for unachievable expectations, rejection, regret, negative energy that swarms around you, spinning you up into a misguided cocoon of so-called protection by doing this. Eventually you will get burned out. Eventually other people’s words and actions won’t be enough. Eventually you’ll believe you aren’t enough. Don’t let the words, actions, or suggestions of other people that don’t benefit you dictate how you choose to move in your journey. Most of the time this will lead to you finding ways to just accept survival, remaining a passive voice in your own journey. Choose to listen to those that help you thrive. Don’t let anyone else navigate your journey for you.
Don’t listen to the shame. The guilt. The insecurity. The doubt. The embarrassment.
Find your own confidence. Find your own security. Find your own ease. Find your own boldness.