Thursday, January 31, 2013

How do you motivate?

When I first got pregnant, I made a promise to myself. If my body would cooperate and carry this baby to term, I would be forever grateful. And by grateful I meant that I would no longer talk down to myself about my body. Whatever condition it was in, for however long, I would accept it and thank it for doing the amazing work of producing a human. I meant that sincerely, and I’ve stuck to that promise – wrinkled stretch marks and all.

I came upon an obstacle recently, though, when I started trying to lose the last five pounds. I discovered that my go-to method of motivating was self-deprecation. I caught myself starting to feel shame and frustration with the state of my body and my willpower, or lack thereof, for working out regularly. The negative self talk started to creep in.

What startled me was that this was the way I knew how to motivate myself to do the work. I focused on my flaws that needed fixing. It’s what I’ve always done. Then I looked more closely and realized that this method extended beyond just weight loss and body image. I’m embarrassed to admit that this is how I typically motivated myself to make any kind of difficult change. I shamed myself into it.

Of all the ways that motherhood has changed me, this may be one of the most important. I refuse to do that anymore. I won’t denigrate the body that brought my son into the world. I won’t disparage his mother – her intelligence or strength or worth. In a way that nothing else has, becoming a mom has proven to me once and for all that I am okay the way I am. Precious even. 

So now that I’ve given up that practice, what do I do? How do I motivate myself to make changes? Set goals that scare me? Sometimes succeed but sometimes fall short? How do I challenge myself without bullying myself? It’s a new skill, and I’m learning slowly. The best thing I’ve discovered so far is to see myself as my son sees me, and as I imagine my mother saw me as well. More than a body or a skill set or an imperfect personality. More than the sum of my parts. A unique being full of love to give and receive. There is comfort in knowing that even though I’m not perfect, I’m just right in somebody’s eyes.

I encourage you to do the same, and to remind me if I forget. I also challenge you – gently – to examine how you get motivated to improve. How can we help each other? Positive ideas are always welcome.

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