The Essence of Change

I’m going to take a break from general exercise and nutrition tips to talk about what I feel is fundamental to making any kind of lasting change. It’s something that I have begun to realize about myself through my own transformation over time, and it’s my hope that you too can get some insight from it.

I firmly believe that all of us desire to be better versions of ourselves; to be better than we were yesterday. This requires change and changerequires time, effort and consistency.  Time, effort and consistency are things we are in short supply of in this day and age where we barely have time to breathe. Here’s the thing, though: the previous statement is merely an excuse. One of the many excuses that we force ourselves to believe each day. “I don’t have the time,” “I don’t have the energy.” Sound familiar?

The real issue: change is scary. Downright terrifying. Why? Because we must challenge and confront the one thing that we really fear – our true selves. To the outside world, we usually wear a mask that shows us in the best light possible: strong, confident, caring, generous, loving, hard working.  Often what’s hidden behind that mask is doubt, fear, anxiety, depression, and perhaps even a feeling of stagnancy in your life.

Wearing the mask for too long can lead to many different crises in our lives, self-doubt, anger, and pain. It can cause hardship and turmoil. This poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar sums it up nicely:

We Wear the Mask

WE wear the mask that grins and lies,   

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,    

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise, In counting all our tears and sighs?    

Nay, let them only see us, while  

We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries    

To thee from tortured souls arise.    

We sing, but oh the clay is vile    

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;   

But let the world dream otherwise,            

We wear the mask!

I know if you’re reading up to this point, you’re probably saying to yourself “Wow, this is kind of depressing.” I don’t blame you. But this is necessary. Introspection is required to begin making changes. It’s scary, and totally worth it.

Why is it worth it? Because it can bring us to the realization that the mask we are wearing is not necessarily a façade, but a part of what we truly are. Weuse it to hold back and suppress the darker side. The side we don’t want to show others. We can’t show thembecause that side is bad, it’s wrong…right?

As humans, we need to be able to fit into society, so we have to cultivate habits that allow us all to get along with one another. It’s an intrinsic survival mechanism, hence the mask – the mask that only shows our best qualities. If you can begin to look past this façade, and face the scary part of you – the part that isn’t what the mask makes you out to be – the one that isn’t perfect – you will find something great. You will find your true self.

The virtues that the mask extolled were not false, though most likely inflated. When confronted and ultimately forgiven by you, the imperfections and flaws which your inflated sense of self (ego) hid will lead to self-acceptance. It’s easy to accept the good, but in order to love yourself completely you have learn to accept the not-so-good. Once you do that, you may find that not much change needed, just self-acceptance leading to self-actualization.

Following this line of thought to its bottom-line, leads to truth – your own personal truth. Have you ever thought about what your passion is? What is your purpose in this life is? What mark you want to leave? Those answers are found when you face yourself- good and bad- and begin to embrace the real you. The truth comes forth and you can then really see what you want, and what you must do to obtain it. I know it sounds corny and cliché, but it’s the truth.

Now, exactly how does this relate to health, wellness, and exercise? Well,why do most people say they are going to go to the gym to get fit and healthy,wind up quitting before they reach their goal or do not even go? Why do so few people become fit? Why do even fewer maintain fitness? Because, typically, those who don’t succeed in the long run arefocused on making their mask look better rather than making themselves better as a whole. The emphasis is often placed on extrinsic qualities and rewards rather than intrinsic ones.

When we base this desire to improve on our mask only and we fall short, we quit for sake of preserving the mask. Essentially, that desire to improve yourself was no longer congruent with your mask because you were not able to keep up the best practices long enough. When we base the desire to improve ourselves intrinsically, learning to accept that we have flaws and that we won’t be perfect all the time, it will not become easier, but will be more congruent toour true self – imperfect.

So while you can still make temporary changes to your body, and perhaps look good for a little bit, you won’t feel whole until you’ve looked inside and confronted your true self, learned to accept it, love it, and ultimately act from that place in everything that you do. It’s not always about trimming the fat from your waistline so much as about trimming the fat from your life.

To your health and wellness,

Martin Arroyo, CPT