Several years ago, I began working out again.
I created a regular routine. I read fitness books. I learned the in’s and out’s of strength training. I became a regular at the gym. It was a big deal. It was a profound act of Courage.
And it taught me that I’ll always be defining and redefining Courage throughout my life.
See, I had spent many years recovering from bulimia – an addiction to eating, to perfectionism, to self-flagellation, to compulsive exercise, to emotions and negative thoughts. In the process of that recovery, I defined Courage as letting go of these old patterns and habits, and re-learning how to live intuitively, imperfectly, and gently with my body and myself.
I recovered. And I am forever grateful to myself for the Courage to go through that.
However, years later, I realized that Courage is not a one-time definition. Courage, like everything else, is organic and fluid. If I stayed attached to my original definition of Courage, then I might forever define myself as “broken” or “addicted.”
We’ve all had friends who, upon going through a heart-breaking romance, use that experience to keep a wall around themselves. (“Men are jerks!”) We all know they’re kidding themselves. Their grief might be necessary for a time, but at some point, we can see that they’re using their wounds to keep expansion at bay.
Well, after healing from bulimia, I recognized that I had become that very person. I used bulimia as a way to never have to work out again. I used my old addiction as a way to keep expansion at bay. “Back off! I used to be a mess! I will forever have to protect that messy part of me!” (Or, “Workouts are jerks!”)
I started to question this old belief. I wondered if I needed a new definition of Courage. I asked myself whether or not I could be Courageous enough to:
• stop defining myself as “broken” or “addicted.”
• face those perfectionist parts of me that don’t like to work out unless I end up looking like Madonna.
• love myself AND have a fitness routine.
My decision to work out again was a giant act of Courage. And it has continued to teach me about living a deeply healthy lifestyle – one that has nothing to do with my ever having been bulimic.
I reflected upon this as I read Lianne’s guest post about choosing the word Courage for the year. She wrote that for her, Courage was partly about having the courage to NOT go on another diet and NOT beat herself up for her weight. Courage was about allowing and acceptance. As I read her post, I could feel myself shouting, “Yea! You go girl!”
So, which is it?
Is it Courage to have a fitness routine? Or is it Courage to let go of being on diets? Is it Courage to sky-dive? Or is it Courage to meditate? Is it courage to have a heart-to-heart with your partner? Or is it Courage to finally walk away? Is it Courage to turn off the television and eat in silence for once? Or is it Courage to go out on the town and have a fun night out?
The answer is YES.
The gift of Courage is that it expands you. It changes you. It teaches you about your mindsets and how to bust out of your self-imposed limits. If you look back at your life at the times that totally changed everything, there was most likely some act of Courage involved.
But what expands you at this moment might not be the thing that expands someone else. Courage goes WAY beyond any mental construct and asks you whether or not you truly know yourself.
So, I’m curious.
What is Courage for you right now?