Humans are so complex. Our desire to belong is so strong and innate. Our subconscious is constantly humming to the never ending drum of “Do I fit in here?” “Are these my people?” “Do I belong in this group, place, time or space?” I made a pretty significant discovery lately about how to debunk the myth of belonging and as it turns out it has made me feel stronger, more confident, healthier and right at home.
About 4 and a half years ago my family made a drastic move. We not only sold our house we had lived in for 13 years, moved to a new community and changed schools for both of our kids, but my husband also quit his job, let go of his salary and opened a business. Talk about a leap of faith! This transition put a lot of pressure on me to be the sole provider for my family and consequently I found myself working more and exercising less. Stress + working more + exercising less + owning a delicious bakery = gaining weight and falling out of shape.
In my old neighborhood, I had the perfect routine down for exercise. I belonged to a local place with lots of exercise classes where I went about 4 x a week to workout. I enjoyed the people, the owner, the instructors and the workout was just right. I felt like I belonged there. It wasn’t too hard or too easy and all the women in the class were just like me – busy, working mom’s trying to stay fit and healthy.
When we moved, I searched for something similar, but didn’t have much luck. Every class I tried wasn’t quite right. They were either too hard, too easy, too far away, too boring, times that didn’t work for my schedule or not my style. I felt like the goldilocks of gym memberships, but ultimately I was so discouraged because I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere in the workout world around my new home.
The places I tried were either filled with big bodybuilder guys lifting heavy weights, sweating and grunting (not for me) or the local zumba class I tried which was more like me and 12 seniors hula dancing mixed with slow motion pantomime (also not for me).
I tried to self-motivate and jog, walk or do yoga, but that wasn’t quite enough. I even signed up for and completed a triathlon, which was victorious and exhilarating, but something I trained for and completed alone. It didn’t satisfy that desire to belong.
There was this one gym that wasn’t too far from my house and it always intrigued me. I had clients who went there and raved about the workouts, but I honestly felt like I didn’t belong there.
In my mind I told myself “everyone there is super fit!” “WAY more fit than I am.” “It’s going to be way too hard for me.” “The instructors will be super intimidating and push everyone to the limit.” “I won’t be able to keep up.” “It’s just not for me.”
I had 1,000 excuses how it wasn’t going to work, but my curiosity kept me wondering – what if I did it? What if I could actually workout there?
But I didn’t just go to a class without doing more research, because I might be a therapist, but I’m also still human! I needed a little more reassurance. As I got closer to having the courage to sign up for a class, I started stalking the gym’s social media pages searching for images of 44 year old busy, working, out of shape mom’s happily doing their workouts! I didn’t find any of those, but that didn’t stop me from having the courage to pick up the phone and call the gym. I’m not sure what I expected when I called? Maybe something like “You’ll fit right in here!!” or “Don’t worry – we have tons of out of shape mom’s working out here all the time!” But what I did find was a super friendly, supportive woman on the other end of the line who took the time to explain how they structure their workouts and price options for classes or memberships and in her voice I heard kindness and encouragement which was just the nudge to tip me over from fear to action.
That afternoon, I dug out my sports bra and tennis shoes, filled up my water bottle and walked through their doors to my very first class. That was back in early October and I’ve been going ever since!
The classes for the first few weeks were really hard for me. My personal mantra was “don’t throw up, don’t pass out!” But as I kept going my goals shifted to “don’t quit, don’t compare yourself to anyone else, praise the courage and go at your own pace.” I told myself – remember that you’re here, showing up and that’s better than not doing anything at all.
As I looked around, I did that thing that we all do to try to see where we belong and I found that some of the people in the class were younger than I was, some were older, many were more fit and some less.
But I was comfortable being there because I made the decision to belong.
Now I look forward to going to class. The instructors are very encouraging and supportive. I still feel challenged every time, but some of the exercises are getting easier for me and I’m pushing myself to pick up heavier weights, push harder on the cardio circuits and perfect my form.
In November, they posted a challenge to try to get 20 classes in 30 days. I went more than I ever thought I would and made it to 17 classes, which was a lot for me! I got my workout mojo back and even posted this flexed muscle shot to my friends and family – feeling proud of how hard I was working at sticking with it!
So what’s the moral of the story?
- Stop telling yourself myths about what you can and cannot do.
- Everyone has to start somewhere.
- And maybe most importantly – YOU get to decide where you belong!