Saturday, December 1, 2012

Losing yourself a little at a time

One of the things that struck me as I worked on my book was how I had managed to lose large parts of myself without even realizing it and how much my life was on hold because of my weight. If you had asked me seven or eight years ago if I was putting life on hold because of my weight, I would have emphatically said, "No."

I would have been wrong though.

Now I was not one of those people who refused to buy new clothes until I lost some weight or who wouldn't go swimming because of how I looked in a bathing suit. At least not most of the time.

However, what I realized while stepping back and looking at my life as a whole is that losing yourself is not some discrete event like losing your keys. It's something that comes on very gradually through a series of poor choices that seem reasonable at the time.

The other thing I realized is that there are many forces in our lives telling us we can't do this or we shouldn't do that. Sometimes they are disguised as helpful advice.

I remember when I bought my first Macintosh and so many people told me that I was stupid because even though the Mac was cool and they wanted one too, you had to have a PC running DOS if you wanted to make a living as a programmer. Actually, they said the same thing when I learned to program DEC computers instead of IBM. In both cases, I worked for decades on those technologies and made a living just fine.

For me, other people telling me I can't do something usually backfires. I either ignore them or become ten times more determined to do what I planned. What works, if you want to bring me down, is to make me doubt myself. It helps if you couch your soul-killing as "constructive criticism." I'm a sucker for constructive criticism.

But the person who is my own worst enemy is myself. It's the negative voices in my head that tell me I'm not good enough or talented enough or I'm going to make a fool of myself that hold me back. We all have those negative tapes and, while they were set up by other people, by the time we're adults, they are fully owned by us.

I think triathlon is one of the few things I've tried where the positive voices were much louder than the negative ones and that's probably why I love it so much (and miss it so much).

You noticed I didn't include losing weight as a thing where I have more positive voices than negative ones. I know I'm not alone when it comes to this, but losing weight brings out my crazy and so does trying to keep it off. Even when I'm doing well, everything that happens is an opportunity to drive myself over the bend second guessing myself and worrying that I'm going to screw it all up.
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