The Consequence of Insecurities: What's Not So Obvious

 
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Insecurities are a silent killer. It’s perfectly normal to have them and I have yet to meet anyone without them, so the presence of insecurities would likely not alarm anyone, nor I, but the more I observe myself, the more I see how normalized insecurities have become. Insecurities are what has hurt me in fulfilling my truest potential. Online resources and the billion-dollar self-help industry can attest to the prominence of insecurities, so I’ve never felt abnormal in possessing insecurities. In fact, psychologists can attest that insecurities are a normal part of human development. To some degree I would say yes, but what if insecurities are so inescapable that it inhibits one from moving forward with anything. Yes, humans are prone to insecurities, but the normalization of its existence is what had inhibited me to think there wasn’t another way.

For a while, knowing how normal insecurities are allowed me to let my insecurities dictate my life. What I didn’t think about was the degree of my insecurities and how it inhibited my actions. I used to think outside circumstances or the situation I am in was what was stopping me from being able to feel, be, or do certain things but I realize now that the contribution to these internalized limitations are in fact a mirror to my exaggerated insecurities. My limitations are not concrete. My limitations are not what’s actually stopping me from doing things, but rather I am harnessing unhealthy levels of insecurities which translates into fear and therefore inhibits me from taking actions. I therefore also have stopped myself from optimizing on my own potential. Doesn’t that sound silly?

Looking out from within, it’s easy to see why blaming external factors becomes the coping mechanism of choice (like blaming genetics or blaming circumstance); a sort of denial and aversion to accepting my own autonomy in my actions. Also, another convincing factor to blame something other than myself is that blaming something else shifts the responsibility away from myself. Of course, I am not saying that there aren’t realities that aren’t happening around me which are beyond my control, nor am I saying that there are certain unarguable limitations (like how humans can’t fly-- though humans did invent airplanes and rockets), nor is the outside world completely passive in shaping my actions. What I am highlighting is how I tend to only attribute limitations to external factors before giving room to contemplate my insecurities which are contributing to the limitation I encounter.

Most limitations, for example like “I can’t move to a new city” or “I can’t start a new routine” are all created limitations. It is not true that I can’t do either of these things if I wanted to, which is therefore different to how I can’t fly without a machine assisting me. This fact alone has been a monumental awakening, as I never thought the responsibility to breakdown these inhibiting limitations was within my autonomy. Upon closer observation, my conclusion is that most of the limitations I encounter are in fact created due to my own insecurities. I’ve somehow managed to go through life allowing these created limitations to trap me in my own reality. I forget that the truth of my experience lies in my mind and if I believe I can’t do something, then that’s the truth that will play out.

This is what I’ve struggled through over the years. I’ve struggled by creating limitations in my mind which aren’t actually true. I’ve struggled to take action because of these created limitations and when I look back at my life, I do admit, I sometimes feel regret at the missed opportunities I feel I’ve let gone by. I had allowed limitations and fear dictate how I lived my life and looking back, I no longer want to life that way. I still sometimes lie awake fearful of what tomorrow will bring. I am fearful that I will live a meaningless life. I am fearful I will miss critical opportunities in my personal and professional life. I lie in bed thinking about how insignificant my life feels today and how it may stay the same tomorrow. All these struggles are struggles I still live with, but what I’ve come to realize is how these limitations only exist in my mind.

The liberating truth about all the work that I’ve done over the years on myself and the research I’ve done on this matter is that I now I know that I have the power to change my truth. I have the power to change my reality. I have the power to breakdown my insecurities. I know that it takes serious effort to change and stop myself from inhibiting my own potential, but the light at the end of the tunnel is that I know I can change. That change is possible, that change can happen, that change is within my control, and that change is the responsibility I have to myself. My fixation on limitations due to my insecurities has held me captive for so long, but I now know it only has power over my actions if I allow it.

Jumping out off the corporate world and becoming a full time fitness professional and starting my blog was and is still one of the scariest endeavors I have undertaken. I have no idea where life will take me, but I am optimistic about what the future holds because I am now aware of the power insecurities has over my actions. I now place a lot of effort in debunking my own insecurities as I want to live a life free from regret and what ifs. I want to continue to take actions towards my dreams and ambition and I will continue to work on releasing myself from the captivity of my insecurities; that alone, I know, is a journey that’ll take a lifetime.

 

Why The Most Common Goal Being Set Is A Cause For Failure

 
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It’s time to get specific, very specific. One of the most common things I hear as a fitness professional is “I want to get toned and fit.” That’s a good goal, at least the desire for improvements is there, but that’s also one of the most generic and un-motivating goals anyone can set for themselves. Honestly, it’s a ‘goal’ that sets most for failure. Here’s why:

Reason #1 - The desire lacks a specific goal for individuals to work towards.

Here’s the reality, in the world of health and fitness, there’s no real limit to how healthy or fit a person can get. The longer I work on my health and fitness, the more results, the more benefits, and the more gains I reap. Health and fitness is a spectrum versus a singular achievable destination. I know exactly how long my flight from Singapore to Bali was, but with health and fitness, there’s no real measurement to the distance because there’s always room to do better and there’s always room to improve. I can continue to improve my flexibility, improve my strength, increase my endurance, increase my muscle mass, reduce my fat percentage, etc. because the capacity for improvements is endless.

Reason #2 - The desire is undefinable.

Everyone has a different preference and definition to what “toned and fit” is because it lacks universal identification. Toned and fit is a description, not an identification. Body type preference also comes into play here, what I find toned and fit may be too much or too little for some people’s expectations. For example, some people may want larger bulkier muscles, while others want leaner muscles, or others want bigger butts while others prefer to focus on their abs. There’s a multitude of desires when it comes to what each person wants, so if I can’t even define what I want, how can I expect to achieve it?

Reason #3 - Everyone’s body is different.

Everyone has a different idea of what the ideal body is but the reality is, each person is born with different body types, with different genetics, with different metabolisms, and therefore with different capacities. Before identifying what is my ideal body type, there must be an understanding of the reality of each individual’s body. Each body is beautiful in their own way, but genetics and physiology is something we’re born with, therefore the limitations of this reality are also inherent.

SOLUTIONS:

Solution #1 - Identify the desires and intentions.

Everyone has different desires as to what the ideal body is. Identifying what this means within the context of one’s own body and what this means for each person is key to the success of each individual’s health and fitness journey. This is Why Identifying What Drives You Is Important. There also first need to a be a clear understanding of the why. Why do I want to embark on this health and fitness journey? Understanding our desires and motivations is an important first step because Intention Matters. What I am driven by is different to the person next to me, so I should expect that how I motivate myself is different too. Identifying these critical components will help to identify the goal.

Solution #2 - Come up with specific goals.

Once I understand the why, I am then able to identify specific desires and motivations to help me identify specific goals. “I want to be able to do 10 push-ups because I want a stronger upper body,” “I want to be able to do a 20kg (approx. 44 lbs) deadlift because I want more shape to my butt,” “I want to be able to jog from my house to the gardens without stopping because I want to work on my endurance,” the possibilities are endless, but the main thing to remember here is to come up with one or a few specific goals to keep you motivated and start with the why! Of course, once you’ve achieved the goal, cross it out and set a new one!

Solution #3 - Accept that each body is different.

Accepting and working with what I have to achieve my healthiest and fittest self is the first step to a successful wellness journey, here’s A Beginner’s Guide To Working Out, which explains several criteria to get right in order to aid a successful fitness journey. These criteria listed are what I believe are key components to a successful health and fitness journey. The main point to draw on is on accepting and celebrating the body we have been blessed with and to work on optimizing its potential.

Everyone has the capacity to improve their health and fitness, but there are too many fad diets and fad workouts out there which mislead people’s expectation of themselves. Especially with the rampant existence of media nowadays, there’s a race towards perfection and unrealistic aesthetic reaches.

The shift that’s needed in the health and fitness world is an acceptance towards all different body types. Not everyone is tall and lanky, but that is the projected ideal for females in this world. Not everyone is big boned and chiseled, but that is the projected ideal for males in this world. What’s more important is to keep moving forward towards a healthier and fitter self, because what’s more liberating is the freedom to love one’s only body and to treat it like the holy temple it really is. Meaning to do whatever it takes to help this body I have to achieve its best potential.

Each body is unique, each body is different, each body has its own capacities and therefore its own potential so why not work towards its personal best, rather than drowning my mind and my body with unrealistic and unachievable expectations of what society and media have deemed as worthy?

 

The Mental Game

 
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More, more, more, and more. We live in a world of more! More is better, harder is better, longer is better, etc. What’s left in the back seat is what seems to be an old age mantra of finding balance, whether in life or in the pursuit towards health and wellness. In the realm of more, it is important to highlight that fitness is not just about packing on the weights and clocking in more hours. Fitness is as much a mental game as it is physical. I believe the way to optimize the value of the journey towards a healthier self is to first outline a mental framework in which to operate from.

# 1 - The Give & Take Mentality.

The combination of life, humans, the world, the universe, and all else in it equals to a concoction of imperfection, but that’s what’s beautiful about my day to day. What I am sure of is that in my pursuit towards health and wellness, I can’t and never will be 100% perfect; nor am I trying or saying I am close to perfect. The only thing I hold myself responsible to is in being honest in my approach. How much am I willing to give and how much can I take?

The give and take mentality is like a pros and cons list for my journey towards health and wellness. This is where I outline (in my head-- but if writing down a list helps you, then go for it) the wins and compromises in my journey. For example, I know alcohol (as much as I wish I can)  is something that’s unrealistic for me to give up forever, but in contrast, something like sugary drinks is more realistic for me to give up forever. I almost never drink sodas (unless it’s the only drink available), I never add sugar to tea or coffee,  I never add sweetener to my morning smoothies and whenever I have a choice, I’ll go for the non-sugary mixer (like a vodka soda instead of a cranberry vodka). But, there are those out there, who will find giving up alcohol comes much more naturally. The point I am making here is, there’s no one solution fits all. It’s about being realistic with my choices because after all I still need to enjoy my life. What I keep asking myself is, what am I willing to give and how much can I take? There’s no point in going through life with an endless list of restrictions because that will drive anyone crazy.

# 2 -  Restrictions aren’t a way to live.

When we think of losing weight or getting fit a lot of people (I admit I was one of these people), gravitate towards rules and restrictions: “I have to cut sugar out completely,” “I have to work out at high intensities at least 5 days a week,” “I can only eat low sodium foods,” and let’s be honest the list goes on and on. If there are so many new rules to follow, then do I need to add, “remember to enjoy life,” as part of the guide to a better me? But, I hope to never get to a point where I need to be reminded to appreciate my life.

The bombardment of misleading messaging of more equals to better which is so prevalent in the diet and the fitness industries does leave a lot of confusion! The truth of the matter is, health and wellness is not about temporary unrealistic rules (that will only be kept for a couple months at best), rather health and wellness is about creating long-term parameters that will help steer life in a different direction forever. There’s a huge difference between saying, “I have to cut sugar out completely,” to “I will have less sugar by avoiding sugary drinks and sugary treats.” The difference is in the words and the specificity on how to frame the behavior.

Let’s dive into this a little more. “Cut out” versus “less” and “avoid” are similar, but very different words. The former is a strict command that leaves no room for error, while the latter two words allow for imperfection (i.e. allows us to be more human in our approach). It might seem like a small difference, but it completely changed how I responded to slip ups. Rather than feeling guilt and blaming myself for not sticking to my rule, I respond with a lot more understanding and an attitude that’s more forgiving like, “do better next time.” The unexpected reality was how once I alleviated the restrictive mentality, it was much easier to make better choices for myself.

What’s ironic about how my mind operated was that the more I had a hard no and restricted myself, the more I thought about it and the more chances I relapsed. But, when I shifted my thinking to a more forgiving space, it was much easier for me to follow the ‘rule’.

# 3 - Listen to your body

This might seem obvious, but working at a gym and also going through overtraining syndrome myself woke me up to how difficult it actually is to listen to my body. The prevalent culture in today’s fitness world encourages us to work harder than ever before, this is why the phrase “no days off” has become so popular; with over 4.5 million hashtags on Instagram. The truth of the matter is, rest days are so important to our fitness journey because at rest are when muscles grow and regenerate. Without rest, muscles will be fatigued and development will either be slowed or halted.

What I need to remember to do is to ask myself: how am I doing? If the answer is, I am tired because I didn’t get enough sleep or I am a lot sorer today than I usually am. That’s a good indication that it’s time to listen and take a step back. The integrity of this decision really lies in me and is there a point to cheating myself? What’s important is to be reflective and honest about how I feel and decide what is the appropriate level of activity for that day. Whether it’s to reduce the intensity of the workout, opt for a more low-impact exercise like yoga or pilates, or to actually take a day off and maybe even get a massage. There are plenty of appropriate ways to take it easy. Again, it’s about an individual choice, you’ll know what’s right!

# 4 - Health & wellness is a lifestyle choice.

The theme of all the above is health and wellness is in my hands. There’s no one that’s going to make the hard decisions for me. It’s about looking at my life and deciding what are the realistic changes to make. It’s about understanding that this is a long-term commitment versus a couple months before my beach getaway. There’s no one that’s really going to monitor how I choose to live. It’s about taking charge of my own health, wellness and destiny!

 

The Transformational Power of The Mind

 
Malibu & Agoura Hills, California

Malibu & Agoura Hills, California

There’s something about committing myself to making an effort on bettering myself that’s remarkably transformational.

I first encountered this phenomenon in a pretty dark period in my youth. Like a lot of teenagers, I went through a rather turbulent self-discovery period (turbulent also for my inner circle). It was a time of great self-discovery, of intense desires to retaliate, and an undying mandate to carve out who I am as an individual in the world. Yes, those days of turbulence and satisfyingly rebellious achievements back in my teenage years (probably a common experience for most) was when I learnt something very important.

Transforming my life starts with the attitude and mindset I manifest within which will then shape who I am and how I am in the world. I can’t recall what elated me to this epiphany, but from that day forward this truth has never left me as I continue to navigate this unpredictable life I live. What’s transformational was the idea that the quality of my thoughts will impact how I behave, how I speak, how I react, and how I am in the world. If I think positively, positivity is what I am returned with. If I think negatively, negativity is what I am returned with.

Awakening to this understanding and knowledge allowed me to empower myself to dig deep and force myself to think positively. In darker times, I forced myself to look optimistically at my future even if it felt hopeless at the time. In darker times, I forced fed all the positivity I can muster and handle. I told myself how wonderful life is (even if I didn't believe it quite yet). The life changing learning was realizing I was in control.

I realized that no matter how I was or how my mind reacted, life will keep moving forward. The world is not going to check in on how I am doing, the world isn’t going to tell me what I allow into my mind. The world will keep going and time will not stop.

The moment I committed my mind to a positive and optimistic attitude was life changing. A lesson which has stayed with me all these years and one that has taught me never to let my life slump so low. I am the owner of my mind. No matter how I react or what I think about life will keep moving forward, the world keeps going, and time will never stop. The world will never pause to console me. It’s about the choices I make about how I react to the world and how I think about it, which will manifest into the life I live (even if it means force feeding positivity from time to time).

 

Life Is Full of Imperfections

 
Tegalalang Rice Terrace, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Tegalalang Rice Terrace, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Living in a world where we are bombarded with messages, visuals, and the demands for perfection, it is easy to forget that nothing in this world is actually perfect and that all things are imperfect in one way or another. If we observe the world truthfully, we will see that reality is far from perfection and that the world is inhabited by imperfection.

If life was perfect, change becomes unnecessary. If life was perfect, there will be no reason to grow, learn, or improve. What is even perfection if in absence of that which is imperfect?

Life is imperfect for a reason. Imperfection rewards me with the space to continue to strive for better. Imperfection leaves me room for change, to better myself and my situation. Life is not static.  

In the acknowledgement and acceptance of imperfection, what I am left with is a decision about how to interact with the imperfection. If my imperfections take form in a mistake, then what are the steps I take now in realizing my imperfections.

What's important in life; which I seem to lose sight of, especially in troubling times, in the face of challenges, or when encountering pain, is accepting the reality of the imperfect world we live in. Imperfection is what makes me human and it is what makes the world unique. Mistakes are part of the standards of imperfection. Mistakes is what can catalyze positive change. Mistakes is what can help me accomplish my mission towards the best version of myself. 

Whether mistakes were made, whether wrongs happened, whatever my past holds, there’s no way to change what has happened. Imperfection is a reality to embrace, as perfection in this world is impossible. Even with the conflicting messaging culture and society glorifies, being a perfect human all the time in all situations is an impossible task. The good news is there’s a lifetime of opportunities to improve from the wrongs of the past.

 

Remembering The Authentic Self

 
East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

An important realization came about when I was reading a chapter from the The Artisanal Soul by Erwin Mcmanus. The message I took away from the book is tremendously logical, completely obvious (if paid attention to), but mysteriously out of mind. The book goes in depth about why finding your authentic self before being able to explore the creative genius waiting to be unleashed inside of you is crucial to our purpose as humans in this world. The key assumptions delivered in the book (and which I want to focus on) is to never doubt that there is creativity in all of us; a creative expression waiting to be materialized into existence.

It is not just about finding inspiration from the world, rather it is about finding yourself in the world and drawing from who you are and your unique intuition to create for the world. This is a simple, but significant shift in the habits my mind defaults to.

With the access and abundance to information I have access to now, the ways of the world tends to overcrowd my own voice. The reality of being swayed by everyone else and how society moves is much more apparent in today’s world than in previous generations. If I live in the modern world, it is hard to silence the over-stimulation and escape the bombardment of information on how to just be - what’s cool, what’s in, what’s not, and the list continues to what seems like infinity. Where it’s easy to fault is to think I am already living a life of my authentic self.

What I need to remind myself is not to fall into the trap of thinking I am already and always living as my authentic self. Rather it is more important to be realistic about the weight of influence society, culture, circumstances and others have and to remind myself to take time to take a step back to reflect who I really am. What are my qualities and characteristics which are truest to who I actually am versus those which are only a reaction or a reflection to the world around me.

To lose myself amongst the rambles of this world is easy. To maintain my most authentic self is the challenge at hand. What is important is to know who I am if everything else around me doesn't matter or does not exist. It is important to consider how I will be if I am free from society's verdicts, free from the demands of others, free from conformity, and to ask myself who is my authentic self?