From Chubby Kid to Fighting Adult: A Story of Beginning and Empowerment

(Note: The post below is not this post about beginning again…but if you read that too it will make me happy.)

To get where you want to go you have to begin. It’s that plain and it’s that simple. You don’t need some fancy formula or notable book to tell you that (although such things do serve as pretty little reminders).

You can begin anywhere at anytime and in anyplace but you just gotta do it. Start. Launch. Do. Initiate. Commence. Whatever synonym you want to pick from the bag, it’s there waiting for you to snatch it up and get going.

So what are you waiting for?

Oh yea, there’s that thing called fear…oh and there’s always “busyness” and some smattering of other options in-between. However, if we take the time to dig down into the trenches of our hearts we will find fear there, lying in wait like the fabled Boogie Man under the bed and covered up by all the other excuses we tell ourselves to make us feel just a tad better.

Just like so many folks around the globe, I too have struggled with beginning (and of course, fear as they often go hand-in-hand). My worst victim of not beginning is writing, which is why I finally said “f this shit, I’m starting this blog” so I did and here I am. But that’s not the story I want to tell today (since I kinda already did here).

I could tell many a story of all the things I began and kept on at, began and abandoned, and then those times in my life when I never began at all.

Today I want to share a story that encompasses all three of these, a story of my self-empowerment that has been propelled in large part by my physical training (and which still remains an anchor for me to this day).

Let’s dig in…

The Chubby Kid Who Doesn’t Run

I was the chubby kid. I was taller than most of my peers for the better part of my childhood (until everyone caught up and many surpassed me) and I weighed more than most. I wasn’t obese, not even fat, just a chubby little girl who didn’t like to run or do much physical activity aside from climbing on monkey bars (an area in which I somehow excelled on the playground).

My parents kindly enrolled me in various extracurricular physical activities (ballet, soccer, tennis, ice skating), many of which my older sister excelled in (since  I wanted to do what she was doing).

Yet to probably no surprise nothing seemed to fit me as well as it fit her. So I quit these activities, but at least I began them–I tried, that counts for something and at the very least I am now left with less regret.

The Chubby Kid 2.0 Who Runs

Fast forward to my later childhood years, the confusing times of middle school. I was still chubby, although I had grown more into my skin so perhaps “average” was a more accurate description? Who knows. Doesn’t really matter.

Anyways, I was still pretty eh about the whole running thing…about sports in general. My physical fitness tests were close to laughable. Most of the time I didn’t even try because I knew it was the same old story: I wasn’t meant to be good at these things so why make an attempt?

But the truth was that I just hadn’t found the right thing to begin. Hence the repeated tries and later, lack of tries. I had somehow decided to give up on myself. (As I write this my grownup self is thinking–WTF, KP?!).

I decided to resign myself to a life of carbs (mainly the all powerful glorious pasta god of mac and cheese) that helped mask a whole slew of unhappy thoughts about myself. I lacked self-confidence, self-compassion and the ability to self-empower.

(Disclaimer: While pursuing physical fitness does not necessarily mean you will be more confident, compassionate and empowered, it can be a factor in your personal growth–it certainly has been for me. I encourage you to begin things that will bring you the growth you seek.)

I was an emotional mess. But then something inspired me (I can’t remember what for the life of me…) to join the middle school track team. I made a decision to begin once more at something I was sure to fail at. And I did fail. Holy moly I failed and failed again.

I ran long distance and I was painfully slow. I was so far behind my teammates on our distance practice runs that they would lap me. And every time one particular eighth grade boy passed me, he threw out some rude remark about my slowness (or chubbiness…apparently both were synonymous). (Side note: please know that while I remember these comments, I don’t dwell on them as I once did. Today I remember him by the middle finger that is permanently glued on his head in my imagination…imagination is such a beautiful thing…)

Despite the rude comments and my slow times, I kept at this running thing that I was failing at because I saw that people could improve…and I saw that improvement in myself, however small. It was this realization–that you could begin something and actually get better (after much trial and error, of course)–that got me hooked on the power of physical fitness and it’s magical ways of breaking down my mental blocks.

(Another disclaimer: I’m no gym buff or expert. I’m just a person who found I liked fitness and kicking some butt.)

And so that takes us to…

The No-Longer-Chubby-Yet-Not-Super-Fit-Kid Who Runs, Lifts Weights and Throws

I continued with this running thing into high school where I really pushed myself to get better so that I could be good enough to run with the big kid distance team. I ran every day, lifted weights, did sit-ups and push-ups, and exercise cut-outs from Health magazine.

I never became super fit, but I was the most fit I had ever been in my life, and the hard work and perseverance paid off: I could run faster and do more sit-ups and push-ups than most of the freshmen boys on the team.

Beyond that, I felt empowered for the first time in a long time. I had shown myself that just by beginning and putting a little faith into myself that I could begin again the next day and push a little further until all the new-day-beginnings compounded and turned me into more of the person I needed to become (i.e. someone with increased self-confidence, compassion, etc.).

throwing
Me getting ready to throw at a high school track meet
And while I never did end up running distance for the high school track team, I did join the field portion of the sport as a discus thrower who made varsity the first year and remained on the varsity team all four years.

But remember: I didn’t get to this sweet spot in my journey magically. I got there because I began and failed so many times I could no longer count and at some point my beginnings floated me in the right direction.

As Cheryl Strayed once wrote in her Dear Sugar column, “Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far, guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits.”

Which takes us to more recent times…

The Adult Who Runs and Kicks Butt

I still run today. Long-distance. I like 5Ks. I’m not super fast, but I’m not slow either. Occasionally I’ll practice sprinting but mainly to develop speed and agility, not because it’s my favorite.

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All painted up after a 5K Color Run (which we actually ran–never walked!)
I no longer throw, but I would LOVE to again some day (I’m a crazy technical throwing fanatic).

Nowadays, I train on punching bags and people. With my recent transition, I am at a MMA gym, polishing up my punching and kicking skills, getting into better shape, and learning entirely new techniques (woohoo!).

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Me all excited after my first MMA workout
But I’ve just begun there and so my progress is TBD at the moment so let’s go back a couple years…

The Adult Who Came Before the Adult Who Runs and Kicks Butt

Two years ago, I changed jobs from a highly sedentary telecommute position (literally did not have to move to work aside from tapping my fingers on a keyboard) to one with an hour long commute to an office (still somewhat sedentary but at least I left the house).

During this particular transition period, I realized how badly out of shape I had gotten and how my mind kept telling me how I wasn’t good enough (among ten million other things).

So I picked up on my pattern of little activity = lower self-confidence and decided it was time to change it. Naturally, I went on the all-holy Groupon. There I found a deal at a local Krav Maga gym. I had always wanted to learn how to defend myself so I thought–why not? (Note: A perfect phrase to jump start your beginning–why not?)

For my first class I was the only participant. No one else had showed. I ran slowly, did push-ups from my knees, did painful sit-ups, and tried my hand at some basic techniques. I was decidedly horrible at everything at that point. Weak. Out of breath. Afraid. Highly self-conscious. Exhausted.

I left that first class not feeling so hot about myself (since I wanted immediate perfection not progress apparently), but I also left with an excited glow I hadn’t had in awhile.

I decided to try again.

I went to a second class, which was very similar to class #1 (i.e. weak, out of breath, afraid, etc. etc. you get the picture). And then I went to a third and fourth and eventually signed up for a year membership after seeing that this was something that was going to get me back in shape and also make me feel good about myself.

And wow–over the two years I trained, I grew into myself, becoming who I always knew I was deep inside but who was always hiding from the spotlight.

Krav Maga–and the people I shared classes with, instructors included–helped bring me into my own. My self-confidence, self-compassion and self-empowerment skyrocketed to levels they had never been at before. I finally felt really, really good being me.

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Me and my Krav buddy having a fun little photo op. #fightlikeagirl #fighton

Today

This brings us to today–today I am not without faults, failures, hesitations or fears. But I am also not without dreams, inspirations, passion, values and dedication. I have all of these things in me, as do you.

And do you know what that means? It means that you can begin today what you keep putting off to pursue. It means you have the capacity to grow and learn and get better. YOU. Yep, you right here reading this.

So I’ll ask it again: what are you waiting for?

The world is waiting for you to begin so that you can guide yourself into becoming who you need yourself to be.

So begin, and begin again, and begin until it feels exhausting because at some point you’ll find a new beginning that will revitalize you in such a way that all your past failed beginnings won’t matter one bit.

I am raising my metaphoric glass to you and toasting to all your future beginnings. May they be glorious and meaningful, even if it will take you awhile to see them as the gifts they truly are. (And remember: you have to begin somewhere, somehow to gain access to these beautiful gifts.)

With love,

KP

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P.P.S. If you got through this entire long-form post, I send you a very big virtual hug. ❤

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Confessions from a Recovering Perfectionist

“[You] don’t have to change your goal. Change your path, be willing to, and don’t see that as a failure. That’s just life.” -Diane Hendricks

“Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali

It was not long ago that I was and very much considered myself a perfectionist. I wore this label proudly though my younger years and into adulthood as a badge of honor. Who wouldn’t want to be a perfectionist? I thought, without ever realizing what endless heartbreak it can bring into your life.

Childhood: A Budding Perfectionist

I grew up, like many of us, with the world around me continually telling me that if I wasn’t 100% all the time — 100% perfect in every way from head to heart to body — that I was simply not good enough, that I always needed to be something more than I already was.

For so long I believed this lie. I lived my life seeking perfection and pretending that I could really and truly be perfect.

I remember growing up thinking that even little things had to be perfect around me.

If a folder wasn’t quite positioned right among a stack of other folders, I felt compelled to immediately rectify this wrong and make it structurally perfect.

If I was painting and I didn’t recreate the colors just right from the photo I was going off of I would take many, many hours (often into the night) to painstakingly mix the right color combos.

The worst offender to my perfectionist self was always writing — it never wanted to behave but I always tried to bend it to my perfectionist will, nitpicking every word, sentence, paragraph, and grammatical error.

I became hampered by my quest for perfection — I slowed myself down and often stunted my own progress and growth. I would start something and then never pick it up again because I had already decided that it wasn’t good enough even before I really began.

If I continued on with a hobby or task, however, I would practice ad nauseum to try to push myself to the next level. But in reality, since I was always spinning in my own self-created perfectionist cycle, I never got much of anywhere — I was doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results.

Adulthood: The Perfectionist Saga Continues

As I entered my working life with my perfectionist ways still intact, I would sometimes struggle along quietly with projects and assignments — not letting go of an article, report, proposal, etc. until it was in tip-top shape. I didn’t understand what good meant and so good to me always felt wrong. It couldn’t just be good, it had to be perfect.

I was sensitive to criticism, much as I had been in my younger years. I took every comment personally, fretting over every little word I was told. I then took these words and weaved them into a thorny little negative self-talk quilt that I would revisit throughout the day and into the night, wrapping myself in self-hate until I finally fell asleep with a heavy, hurting heart.

I would wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, unhappy with what I saw.

  • This little part needed to be exercised away.
  • This little spot needed to be covered in creams until it disappeared.
  • This strand of hair was ugly.
  • My nose was ugly.
  • My arms were ugly.
  • My legs were ugly.

Everything was ugly and all sorts of bad and I didn’t know what to do with it all. I felt overwhelmed. And overwhelmed with a deep sadness that no matter how hard I tried, I would still look this way and be the way I was — imperfect.

What’s more, I thought others around me had to be perfect, too. I got agitated when someone didn’t write in the same style that I did or follow the same grammatical rules. I got a twitch when I watched someone clean the bathroom in a way that I wouldn’t.

I wanted to make everything around me perfect — or at least bring everyone into my little perfectionist bubble so that they too could see the light.

I continued on in this self-destructive manner until I decided: f this shit. Enough was enough.

Adulthood Part 2: Recovering from the Perfectionist Disease

Nowadays, I don’t consider myself a perfectionist. If anything, I am trying to distance myself as much as possible from this label because I found this state of being so extremely unhealthy. 

I was blindly barreling down a path that was actually significantly hindering my own self-growth and making me lose out on opportunities to live a fuller and more meaningful life.

Quite simply, I was driving myself (and others) crazy.

I now know there were never any benefits to perfectionism. And if anyone claims that there are, they are likely trapped in the same self-delusional perfectionist cycle that I was.

At a certain point in my life, as I’ve gone through various stages of growth and change, I dedicated myself to making a very concentrated effort to rid myself of my perfectionist ways.

Today, I am a recovering perfectionist. I try my best to let go and just be my imperfect (and perfectly fun) self. 

I may not be able to totally rid myself of all perfectionist tendencies, but so what? What matters is that I’m trying. I am trying to live my life just like you — I am trying to be free to be myself. This new focus in my life has brought great joy to my healing heart.

Now when I approach my tasks, hobbies, or work, I am open to failure, criticism and ultimately, growth. I have largely cleared the perfectionist disease from my system and can now have a more open heart and a clearer mind (and my body looks damn good too, if I do say so myself).

With writing especially I’ve seen much improvement. I just go and do it, even if I have nothing good or eloquent to say yet — I know that I will and that I just need to keep going. When I see a typo or some other kind of stylistic pothole now I think, “Great! I have a typo. I can fix it!”

There are some things in life we cannot fix and other things we shouldn’t try to fix. Yet we do have the power to revisit and revise parts of ourselves that are weighing us down and making us miss out on all the great, wonderful things life has to offer.

As they say, perfection is the enemy of the good — so why can’t we settle for good enough? Why must we keep striving for something more? Is that more really better and greater in the end? Or is it just driving us a little more insane and taking us away from something else that’s important?

Today, I am also more of an advocate against perfectionism. I’m not saying that you should let go of your search to be an expert or be very good at your field of work or hobby. All I’m saying to you is to let yourself off the f’ing hook. Because you’re not perfect.

You’re not going to be perfect. I’m not going to be perfect. We’re not f’ing perfect. And it’s okay.

We need to let other people off the hook too in addition to ourselves. We need to stop expecting utmost perfection from others because it’s just not going to happen. You’re just setting yourself and the other person up to fail. It is not constructive. It is destructive and demoralizing.

Growth is a positive thing. Change can also be a positive whether it’s for the better or the worst (since it is during the bad times that we build our character most). But we cannot grow and change in the ways we really want to until we let go of perfectionism.

There’s more to life than being perfect, and it is when we learn to live with our imperfections that we can start to become who we really are.

So let’s do that and be free to be our imperfect, wonderful selves.

Cheers,

KP

P.S. I’d love to hear your own personal story of overcoming perfectionism — email me anytime or comment below!

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Feature photo credit: Bathroom graffiti / KP Original

How I Found Compassion for Myself

Compassion. Merriam-Webster defines compassion as the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”

I want to talk about compassion today and compassion toward ourselves.

I can (and likely will) talk at some other point about compassion toward other animals too. This is another facet of compassion I enjoy discussing at length and hope to do so with you, dear reader, in another post.

But for today, I am inspired to talk about compassion toward ourselves. And I want to talk about it from a painful place, a vulnerable place.

I’ll tell you a story…

A Story for You

Once upon a time ago (have you noticed that this is a favorite phrase of mine?), I had very little compassion for myself, and did not receive much from anyone else (likely because I am a private person who chooses not to reveal too much to most people — not my style; don’t take it personally).

I call this “once upon a time ago” my “dark ages” because it was a long stretch of my younger life that I struggled through, never really knowing how to navigate, always stumbling along, failing frequently.

I was sad and unable to cope. Lonely. Exhausted. Anxious. Stressed. Depressed.

That’s a whole lotta bad vibes for a young person (and really, any person) to feel.

As you can see….I’m still not telling you the whole story. I don’t plan on divulging the intimate details of my life…as I’ve said: that’s not my style (and please know that I did not go through some highly traumatic event but I did, like so many of us, go through some damn shit).

Maybe I will express the parts I am leaving out here some other day, some other place, but not now.

And so, please bear with me.

Even just writing about these “dark ages” in this generic, overview fashion is difficult for me — because I know exactly what remembering them brings up emotionally, even if I am not taking you through my life story as the files pop out and into my mind’s projector, the slides replaying over and over again.

Writing even so vaguely about it all brings up times of sadness, and I am getting teary-eyed. I am not afraid to say that — that I may cry, that I am starting to cry. I am not embarrassed to be emotional, nor am I some sappy heart (although sometimes I am — aren’t we all?).

And so I had these “dark ages” in my life — times when I had such great difficulty giving myself the benefit of the doubt, giving myself love and compassion.

I did not love myself. I disliked myself, sometimes hated myself.

This is a horrible place to be — and I do not wish this type of struggle on anyone.

I know many reading this have been in such a place at some point in their lives. It is a very unhappy, difficult place, and I am sorry if you have had to go through it, and if you had to go through it alone. I would hug you now if I could.

Changing Tides

What I now realize is that during these times, since I couldn’t give myself the love I needed, that no one else could give it to me either. Sure, those around me could have helped me (some tried, some stuck around, others looked on, not wanting to dirty their hands — I get it).

I wanted compassion from others, naturally, but I know now that I couldn’t really expect this from people if (1) I didn’t tell them what was going on and (2) I couldn’t find a way to show even an ounce of compassion to my own self.

But I persevered (I am a killer whale, after all) because I knew — I knew, I knew, I knew — that these “dark ages” were not me — they would not define me forever, and they really weren’t the representation of who I truly, deeply was.

Even through these darkest of times, I felt the constant pull of my real self. I always knew who I was in many ways (and less so in other ways), and I always knew who I wanted to be — not some role model or idol — but my real, true self — because that’s the best it’s gonna get.

Eat, Pray, Love Moment

Reading Eat, Pray, Love finally (I’m a little slow getting to the game sometimes…), Elizabeth Gilbert expresses this pull of self in a way that made me say out loud in my head and heart, “Girl, you get me! THIS is it right here! THANK YOUUUUU.”

And so, please welcome Ms. Elizabeth Gilbert once again (and not the last time, folks):

“I was not rescued by a prince; I was the administrator of my own rescue . . . I read once, something the Zen Buddhists believe. They say that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree. Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well–the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens, it is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born.

I think about the woman I have become lately, about the life I am now living, and about how much I always wanted to be this person and live this life, liberated from the farce of pretending to be anyone other than myself. I think of everything I endured before getting here and wonder if it was me–I mean, this happy and balanced me . . . who pulled the other, younger, more confused and more struggling me forward during all those hard years.”

This is so beautiful to me — this pull of self. I like to think about it also as compassion toward oneself. Without having the ability to show yourself compassion, you cannot answer this call, this pull to be who you have been all along, or who you will become.

Becoming Whole Again

It took me seemingly endless trial and error (and I’m still learning, never stop!) until I was finally able to show myself the compassion I deserved all along.

I have worked tirelessly (read: worked — this is an effort one must exert over and over again until the pieces of the puzzle start snapping together — and it ain’t f’ing easy, no cutting corners) in my mind and in my heart to say f off to the negative self-talk, to the damaging societal influences that ceaselessly linger in this day and age, to the constant comparisons to others, and to the general lack of respect and admiration I refused (for whatever reasons, for all the reasons…) to give myself.

I have battled and I have won (and you can, too!).

I am now at a point in my life where my good days far outnumber my bad days.

Although of course, since I am only human, I still have days or weeks where things just feel like shit and I need to take a little break (and that’s fine — it’s okay to break, America — calm the f up and sit the f down, RELAXXXXX).

I am at a point in my life where I feel my most alive and most like myself than I have ever felt before. And this to me is beautiful. It is beauty manifesting itself in my being.

(Thanks, universe! And thanks me! And special thanks to those around me who have helped me along the way! Big hug and kiss!)

This brings to mind the famous, cryptic lines from “Ode to a Grecian Urn” by John Keats: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

These lines resonate with me differently now, and perhaps incorrectly by a literary standpoint (but I don’t really care — literary argument be damned).

What these stunning lines of Keats’ reveal to me is this: that what I have found is both truth and beauty and that they are indeed one of the same because I have found my own truth and my own beauty — I have found myself fully.

And this, to me, is the ultimate compassion.

XO,

KP

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Feature photo credit: KP and Fuzz / KP Original