Who You See in the Mirror

 

 

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This is the mirror in my fitness training studio. I use it to instruct and improve peoples’ form. Eighty percent of training clients are women so you can imagine how that usually goes. Rarely do they look in the mirror and willingly comply. Almost always they grumble, “I hate looking at myself in the mirror,” and “I hate this mirror.” Some even refuse to look. They would rather risk injury than face the truth, adjust, and perform the movement correctly.

It goes deeper than lunges. I get it. When I look in the mirror, I can criticize myself with the best of you. Recently, I assured two people, on separate occasions, that I look hideous in patterned leggings. “Oh, you could wear anything!” they said. Um no. If only they saw what I had in that dressing room mirror. Eek.

We are our own worst critics, and we all have our reasons. Often, those ideas stem from insecurity, comparison, or something someone said. Like when I posted a before-and-after photo that documented my body fat loss. A woman dissed me for not being secure enough to accept myself as I was in my before picture and for having man arms in my after picture. It ticked me off at the moment. Before and after, I felt secure enough to share my results in hopes of encouraging others, but she didn’t know that and presented no desire to understand. Now, when I look in the mirror, I occasionally have to swat down the thought of “man arms” and I remind myself that at 5’2″ 125 pounds, I’m a far cry from a man. I’m exactly who God made me.

Actually, I like to look at myself in the mirror most of the time. It has much less to do with appearance and more to do with allowing myself to see myself created in the image of God. Working out is spiritual. Often, I lift reps I didn’t think I was capable of lifting, I run extra laps when I’d rather stop, I feel lighter and stronger, and I know exactly why. My strength, power, energy and focus come from the Lord, not from my own effort. When I accomplish hard work, I look into the mirror, and I see His glory. I see His Spirit dwelling within me. It’s why I like my arms and I will shamelessly flex my biceps. Proverbs 31:17 says, “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” I like my sweaty glow, my makeup-less, sometimes pale, pimply face because “those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:5). I like who I see in the mirror because my reflection represents the Creator who molds me into my beautiful, confident, unique self.

We are all different, but we are all made in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). We should embrace that to the fullest. You can change who you see in the mirror when you start seeing God within you.

 

 

 

Stronger Than Bullying

I was born to move. The first time I stood, I danced. I grew up fully utilizing our country acreage to ride my bike, swing from grapevines, roll down hills, and swim. When I was nine years old, I began playing basketball. Throughout adolescence, it became my primary focus. I simply loved the game and never tired of it, that is, until the bitter ending of my high school career.

As a freshman in college, my perspective of team dynamics and my identity as a player had changed. It was then that I gave up ball to pursue a higher calling for my life, but I never threw in the towel on fitness. My drive for physical and mental achievement remained ignited. My discipline transferred from the basketball court to the weight room, where strength and performance training became my emotional outlet, my escape from unpleasant memories, and my confidence booster. I learned I could release negative feelings, the echo of someone’s harsh words, or my mistakes through a single rep, heavier weight, increased intensity, or a sprint. Afterward, my body always felt lighter, and my burdens lifted. I exercised this way for several years, but I started developing an unhealthy pattern of associating angry, negative thoughts with exercise. As long as I continued to workout driven by memories of bullying, I would only produce short-term, unfulfilling results. I preferred exercise represent happiness, strength, and triumph for the long-run. So I made some changes that still serve me well today. I share them with you in hopes they might benefit you too.

Consider the purpose of exercising, not only the fact that it helps relieve stress and lower your blood pressure but how fitness can serve as a tool for you to become stronger than bullying.

I discovered this for myself by dedicating my workouts to God, to my family, or to someone I know or imagine who isn’t able to do what the Lord has abled me to do. For me, exercise goes far beyond proving others wrong, the world’s standard of attractiveness, or even any physiological benefit. It represents the Spirit of the Lord within me and gaining a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Before I start each workout, I choose to make the most of the next hour. I take ownership of a positive attitude, turn on upbeat, lyrically inspiring music, and visualize how I will perform and finish.

Throughout, I incorporate meditation and prayer. When my muscles are burning, and I start to feel weak, I close my eyes and breathe in the power of the Holy Spirit. I envision Jesus on the Cross and repeatedly tell myself things like, “He died for me. Surely, I can hold this wall-sit for another 20 seconds.” He helps me complete each rep, set, step, and stride—proof that I can break through my self-imposed limitations. I can better control my body by allowing God to control my heart and mind, especially when I face challenges.

Wall Sit

When I consider all of the moments I could quit or fail, I realize the only reason I keep going is that his strength is within me. Because of this, I carry my energy and victories throughout the rest of my day and utilize them as a source of encouragement for others. Through exercise, God has shown me not only am I stronger than the experiences that try to knock me down but also that I am more than capable of lifting life’s weights and clearing life’s hurdles. Movement was a gift he gave me from the very beginning, and, in developing that gift through the years, it has become one of the areas I feel most connected to him and most capable of helping others.

Regardless of your fitness or athletic background, you too can use exercise to build resiliency and gain peace, self-confidence, and strength. In what ways can exercise serve purpose for you, support your wellbeing, and enhance your faith?

Know Your Strengths

Bullying, by nature, is a negative subject. While the bad outcomes play a significant role in the overall discussion, we must give adequate attention to the fact that bullying can have positive effects too. Yes, it can break us, but it can also build us. Bullying made me stronger, and I am thankful I can share my strengths with you through my blog and book. I hope my blessings serve as a platform for you to discover and grow your God-given talents. Your strengths matter! Focusing on them provides you with purpose. When you understand your strengths, bullying and meanness simply don’t affect you the same way. Maybe you don’t yet believe you possess unique qualities. Maybe you aren’t quite sure what your strengths are. Or, perhaps you have an idea but could benefit from taking inventory and digging deeper. Let’s get crystal-clear on just how strong you are.

To help you do so, I recommend a few tools. Start with the Bible. It’s our number-one reminder of strength. Find reassurance by turning to “strength” in its index, and look up the verses. Another tool is Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0. You will need to obtain a new copy, as it contains an individualized test code. This book brought me clarity and helped me focus on developing my strengths rather than my weaknesses.

My top five strengths according to StrengthsFinder 2.0 are spot-on. No one can take them away from me except me. Here they are:

1. Achiever

I have a fire burning inside of me and a constant need for achievement. Every single day, I must achieve something tangible whether it’s checking off items from my chore lists or making time to exercise.

2. Belief

This theme supports my core values and gives my life meaning. It provides me direction and allows me to set priorities. It’s what leads me to be consistent and dependable.

3. Adaptability 

While I do not like sudden requests or unforeseen detours, I expect them. I tend to live in the moment. I do not see the future as a fixed destination, but I understand how the choices I make right now effect the future. Therefore, I’m flexible.

4. Responsibility 

I take psychological ownership for my commitments and feel emotionally bound to follow through to completion.

5. Relator 

Relationships are my most frustrating challenge yet one of my greatest desires. Despite the times I’ve found difficulty in relating to others, turns out, I’m good at it. It’s important that I invest time and energy into developing my relationships. I’m comfortable with intimacy and understand that kind of closeness implies risk—the risk that my relationships will fail like the friendships of my adolescence. However, I am willing to accept the risk to gain genuine relationships. I am usually pulled toward people I already know, although I do not shy away from meeting new people.

Altogether, these five strengths describe me fittingly. Of course, there is much more to me, but these themes help provide insight into what makes me tick. When I understand myself better, I can serve others better, and so can you.

Now that you know more about me, what are your strengths? If you aren’t sure, spend time considering what you like about yourself, what you’re good at, and what activities you enjoy. After you’ve discovered your strengths, or if you know your StrengthsFinders top five, share them here. Let’s get to know each other and use our blessings as unified power.