What came first, the challenge or the failure?
Sometimes I feel like I just want to fail at something, so I set up a challenge and then purposely break my own rules so that I can feel bad about myself. I recently set up one of these challenges and named it “The 23 Day Challenge”. The challenge is that I won’t eat carbs, I will eat more protein, and I will work out every day for the next 23 days. The reason being is that I am traveling to London in 23 days (now 16 days) and I want to be fit and have a lot of energy to walk around the city and see the sites. Plus the long plane flight always makes me bloated so I am cutting out carbs to reduce the bloat. I told my trainer that I want to work out 3 times a week, instead of 2, and focus on flattening my tummy. I went to Target and bought a hand blender, protein powder and a shaker travel mug so I can make healthy shakes for breakfast rather than having a coffee and a scone. I also went to an organic grocery store and bought fresh fruit, vegetables and non hormone beef and started cooking for the first time in a long time. It all started off pretty positive and I was enjoying the new variety of foods and I was feeling good working out more often. After a couple days though I started to feel my apathy kick in, and my inner ‘debbie downer’ reminding me that this probably doesn’t really matter, and it won’t work anyway. So I came up with a mantra to keep me focussed, and it was to say ‘I am on the The 23 Day Challenge’ to myself and anyone who would listen, and this seemed to energize me to continue. All was back on track and going well, until I started to succeed. Within the first week I lost 3 pounds, which you think I would be excited about, but as I stood looking at the number on the scale I felt a small twinge of panic. I immediately wanted to go eat a big piece of bread and butter and sabotage myself. Why? This feeling confused me. Did I set this challenge up for myself thinking that I would fail? Was I already planning my pity party complete with bread, cookies and a chocolate bar? Maybe I was preparing myself to feel bad when the scale shocked me out of it. I was confused, so I thought about how I got to this point. I set a goal that was positive and would make me feel good by shedding some extra pounds for an upcoming trip. I did the groundwork and purchased items that would help me to eat better and make it fun, and then I put the energy in daily to get there and it was working. So, why was I not happy? Is it because my strength is really harder for me to look at then my weaknesses? Is it because if I succeed now, that means that I could have succeeded 5 or 10 years ago, and that makes me stupid for not doing it sooner? Am I afraid to disappoint? The only person I would be disappointing is myself, and maybe that is the answer. In the disappointment with myself I can lick my wounds, take a bath, eat a bunch of bread and say “oh well, next time”. I can indulge myself with thoughts of how I never really get what I want, and I don’t really deserve it anyway. But because I gave up, the goal is still out there in the future. The goal still exists in my mind as this amazing world that I will live in when I have a flat tummy (or whatever challenge I have set for myself). But what if I still don’t like my body when I have a flat tummy? Then I can’t blame it on my love for bread and my weak will power. I will just have to accept that my body shape, to a certain extend, is beyond my control. And I have come to realize that I really do like to have control. By failing, I have control over the outcome of a challenge. Failure is an easy target, I can achieve it every time. It is comfortable. What I don’t want to experience is putting in all my effort, not self sabotaging, and still failing. Then I am out of control. Then I didn’t fail, I am a failure! That is a hard pill to swallow, and in that fear of becoming a failure, I self sabotage. But, I am not going to do that this time, I am going to keep on my self imposed “23 Day Challenge”, and I am going to see it until the end. I feel a sense of focus and clarity coming over me that feels different then it has in the past. It is not a harsh critic in my head pushing me forward, it is a softer voice that has unclear edges that is guiding me, and gently and pulling me forward. I am following it. I hope it leads me to success. I know what failure feels like, but if I knew what the outcome of this challenge was going to feel like, then I would already be there, and I am not. At this point, if I do end up with a flat tummy it will just be a bonus as the real challenge has become being open to whatever the outcome may be. I am not going to take the easy path to failure.