I hope you guys aren’t sick of hearing about my many epiphanies from the Anytime Fitness conference last weekend. I have one more to share with you before we get back to regularly scheduled Wholefully-ness tomorrow (stay tuned for a post about menu planning). And this one is a doozy. Like a it-totally-hit-me-the-face-like-a-ton-of-emotionally-charged-bricks kind of epiphany.
I mentioned this earlier in the week, but one of the Member Success stories that was highlighted this weekend was the story of Allison Wetherbee. She’s a bubbly, energetic happy woman who just happened to be born without any arms or legs. And just happens to totally kick ass in the gym. Oh, and be one of the most positive and carefree people you’ll ever meet. That’s right, with no limbs. No hands. No feet. No elbows. No knees. No fingers. No pinkie toes. Let that sink in for a bit.
That in-and-of-itself is inspiring. The fact that she is independent, positive and healthy is just…amazing. But that’s not where my epiphany comes from. My epiphany came from her speech on stage after accepting her award during the final night of the conference.
She spoke about how she went to many other gyms before she found Anytime Fitness. And every time she asked if someone could help her get healthier (she wanted to lose a few pounds), they looked at her like she was a problem that needed fixing. And when they couldn’t figure out how to “fix her” they turned her away. When she met her trainer at Anytime Fitness, she felt like she was looked at as a person that needed help instead of a problem that needed fixing. And that difference was what made it a successful partnership and friendship.
Ton of bricks, meet my face.
It got me thinking about how many times I’ve used that exact kind of negative language to describe some of my less-than-admirable traits. I need to fix this weight problem. I have a problem with food. I’m the problem in this relationship/friendship. I’ve got to fix the issues I have with exercise. I have emotional problems. I need to fix this and just be happier.
It sounds productive—pinpointing and fixing problems—but when we start to identify ourselves as something so inherently negative, it can be so counterproductive. It may sound like it’s just a matter of semantics, but I’m a big believer that words mean something—especially those words we speak to ourselves—and by identifying ourselves as a “problem” we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Because, guess what? You’re never going to be able to fix who you are. If you’ve always loved chocolate chip cookies, you’re not going to be able to “fix” that “problem”. You might be able to adjust your approach or figure out a way to help yourself not eat an entire batch, but “fix” it? No. Because being a cookie monster is part of you. And there is nothing problematic about being who you really are.
And why would we want to fix it? Those quirks (I refuse to call them “problems” anymore) are what make us interesting and fun and different and intriguing and unique. And the sooner we accept our quirks as threads in the fabric that makes up our personality, the sooner we can adjust and tweaks those threads to be a better version. Does Allison wish she had limbs? I’m sure she does sometimes. But she definitely doesn’t see her lack of arms and legs as a problem that needs fixing. She sees it as a part of her story. And there is some serious power in owning those quirks that might be considered problems by some.
I’m constantly amazed by all the subconscious ways we can undermine ourselves. I know now that I’m going to be a lot more careful with the way I speak to myself. I’m not a problem that needs fixing. I’m a person that needs to grow and evolve. And I have Allison to thank for teaching me that.
You can read more about Allison and follow her story on her website, Living Limbless.