I could say that I’m an experienced weight-lifter (haha no), but that’d be a seasoned stretch of the imagination. However, I’ve been heavily lifting since December 2015- approximately 1.5 years ago. Thanks to my super athletic, form-critical, and lovingly protective boyfriend, I’ve learned how to properly challenge myself and make sure that I’m not feeding any future injuries with unhealthy habits. That said, I have developed pretty noticeable (at least in my opinion) quad and glute muscles that were definitely not there before I started at the gym.
But the gym taught me so many more valuable lessons beyond physical exertion and adding plates. It’s strengthened my mind and has given me small experiments that carry over into my everyday life. Without it, I’m not sure that I’d be this far and this satisfied in life.
It’s Okay to Look at Yourself
A year and a half ago, I was afraid of looking in the mirror. I didn’t want to see the odd lumps and bumps in my silhouette let alone the many blemishes covering my skin from head to toe. But now, I’m not afraid to catch my own eye in reflections, mirrors, or puddles. I’m not afraid to look at the shape my shadow leaves behind and I’m not horrified of what I see. And no, I’m not perfect: I’m a work in progress. That zit in the middle of my forehead? It’s not the end of the world like I might have thought before. Instead, it’s room for me to say, “hey, I have a zit in the middle of my forehead, looks like I need to drink more water etc.” and productively move on with my life.
The gym was a powerful place to start watching myself in the mirror. Though I never had enough guts to take a mirror selfie, I never faltered from criticizing my lifting form with every repetition. It didn’t take much time for my self-criticisms to turn from negative to productive. Instead of pointing out all my wrongs, I started congratulating myself and made room for improvement. This experience carried over into daily life, much to my surprise. I’d take my mini victories at the gym and I became less unnecessarily mean with myself. Now, I’ve begun to see how self-made potential I have to work with instead of all of things I need to fix.
It’s Okay to Give Up
The thing is, I never used to give up because I don’t think that I knew how. Not only did I have a mental barrier against quitting in any way, I would insist that there must be a way. But the valuable lesson I learned at the gym is that sure, there might be times where you give up even when you could keep going. Sure, there are some times that you need to give up because you lose focus. But ultimately, sometimes your body can’t handle the stress you put on it and giving up is the best option because giving up is an option.
It’s Also Okay to Take a Step Back and Re-Evaluate
As a slight tangent from the previous point, it’s okay to reach a point of giving up and look back and see what you need to do. Giving up and moving on had been actually destructive for me because it meant that I had to admit defeat- but understanding why I couldn’t do something and trying to make sure that I could see everything in the picture is one crucial step I’ve learned to barriers in the gym, with work, and in personal my life.
You Need to Accept Who You Are Before You Can Make Improvements
Not only did I not accept who I was, I refused to acknowledge who I was. How is it possible to make improvements without a starting baseline? How is it possible to assess areas for improvements when I refused to acknowledge that those areas even existed? I didn’t accept that I’m a tall, Eastern Asian female. Because I didn’t accept this, I was always berating myself for my slow progress. It wasn’t until I realized that short people can lift more because their muscles don’t have to increase in length and height and also I have the genes for little booty and slim muscle gain. But when I finally came to terms with this, it was only then that I set realistic goals that I started achieving.
Set Up the Safety Network You Need
Confidence is essential to trying new things, reaching your goals, and self-enrichment. But over-confidence (especially when you know your own limits) just leads to injury. In weight lifting, it’s straining a muscle or even permanent joint pain. Yet in life, over-confidence is like taking on jobs that you know you can’t handle or saying “yes” to the appointments that you know you don’t have time for. But then the ‘injury’ becomes psychological, social, emotional, etc. even though you could have avoided everything if you just would have listened to yourself in the beginning. But what saves you from these injuries are the safety bars, the spotter, or the person that keeps you accountable to who you are and what you know you can handle. In my life, it’s Jake. He does it for me in the gym and does it for me at home. He’s my safety net, my reality check, and my spotting partner- he keeps me from becoming injured those rare (and not-so-rare) times that I try to go overboard.
In short, these basic gym-related lessons are serious metaphors for life’s larger concepts. For all my life, I’ve known these things in the back of my mind, but now I understand them at such a deeper level of truth. They’ve helped me to stay grounded and remind myself to breathe. It seems that when you’ve found a passion and start to understand it, it starts becoming part of your life. Or, maybe I just recognize it now.