From Associate Director to Entrepreneur: Rebuilding Identity

 

Because I get asked daily from my friends and family, “How are you doing?  How is your business?”  I will share where this roller coaster of change has me at currently mindset wise. And it may not be pretty.

I am sure I have said this before about switching careers. I knew it would be hard. I knew getting a business off the ground and finding prospects and clients would not be easy. As the saying goes through, you don’t know what you don’t know. And there was a lot, mentally, that I could never have anticipated.

I have had a hard time articulating this so let’s see how it goes putting it in writing.

At my last job, my title was Associate Director. I managed a team of Business Analysts within IT. Sounds fancy right?

I never “felt” like an Associate Director. I never really put that much thought to the clout it may carry to others. If there is ever such a thing as “looking” like an Associate Director, I am fairly sure I did not even have that aspect of it. I never really thought of it as my identity. At all. It was just the title I happen to have that awarded me different opportunities and visibility. I never felt attached to the title.

Yet, leaving that title, that Associate Director thing, I realize now I did have some attachment to it. Which kind of blows my mind.

The attachment is not in the sense that it defined me. (My friends and family had no real understanding of what my job was. I was basically Chandler from Friends). Which is fine. It was a job for me, not a passion.

The attachment I am discovering I have is knowing “what” I was, I guess you can say. Again, anyone can define what an Associate Director is and it would mean something different to each of them.  Yet, it was like this tangible thing that despite not being passionate about it and despite how others may perceive it, it somehow helped me understand my place in the hierarchy and the ecosystem.

(Sanity check! Am I making sense?)

So to go from that understanding to essentially redefining myself has been challenging. As a Personal Trainer and a Lifestyle and Fitness Coach, I am not taking on something that has never been done before; if anything I am entering into a highly saturated industry.  I have to figure out what my place is in this ecosystem I have become part of that sets me apart from the rest.

And that is what has been surprising to me, how much it has shaken my confidence.  I am still figuring out how I fit into this world.  Yes, I know I am meant to be in it, and I know there is a place in it specifically for me; until I have that well established, it is going to continue to be quite humbling in this vulnerable, ambiguous transition.

So when people ask me how I am, it gets harder and harder to answer, which is the polar opposite of what I expected six months out from my corporate life. That also turns into this cycle of feeling like I should have more figured out than I do and then it brings on more insecurity. So you see, it is a total mind fuck. Excuse my French.

The other question I often get is, “How do you spend your time now?” And I become anxious whenever it is asked. Because the truth is, I do not have tangible responses to answer with. I no longer can measure productivity by the projects my team has in flight or the percentage complete of initiatives I am working on. I no longer have time sheets that I can bucket my hours into.

My “tangibles” are things like spending time researching events I could participate in or following up with prospects or maybe even the hours I do spend training and coaching. But I do not have metrics or anything to show if I am trending up or down. I have no idea if I am doing well or sucking at this new career I am in. There is no benchmark. And there is no one I report to who can tell me how I am doing.

I could compare myself to others I suppose if I did want to benchmark, but that leads to all sorts of issues. Never ever compare yourself to someone else. Never. You are not them. They are not you.

So it brings me back to this reality. All that I do, or do not do, is on me. And while that is invigorating at times, it is also downright scary as shit. It is a challenge I struggle with every day to build my confidence when there is so much unknown.

I KNOW in my heart of hearts that everything WILL fall into place. And I know the struggles are what bring success.

I realize that if I live in the negative and the fear for too long, they will become reality. I struggle with all that I have written (and more) every single day.  No matter how much I understand on an intellectual level in terms of how I need to feel or how I should act (fake it till you make it right?), It does not just magically happen, not even on my “good” days.

It comes down to this. The things that often are our biggest nemesis are issues and struggles that have been with us for years, decades even and quite possibly our entire lives. Mine as I mentioned is confidence.

Our nemesis though can also be the key to our success. I know my business is going to rely on me finding my new identity and my new place in the ecosystem, but most importantly it hinges on finding my confidence.

 

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Tainted Workout Experiences Diminish What Could Be Life Changing

For many people, it takes every bit of courage they have to show up to a gym or a yoga studio or a CrossFit class or whatever workout they have finally decided to try. For many, it is a triumph to get through the door. And for some, their first impression has them running like a bat out of hell right back out.

Customer service is a skill, a skill that not everyone has. To me, it is common sense. When it comes to fitness, it is all the more important to have that skill, ESPECIALLY for those people who it did take every bit of nerve they had to walk through that door. So. You show respect, you listen to what the other person says and you encourage. You do not belittle. You do not body shame. And you do not judge. At all. When it comes to health and fitness, someone’s first interaction is what can inspire them to want to take more steps when they have a positive experience versus what can traumatize them when it goes terribly wrong.

Let me tell you about my first CrossFit experience 6 years ago. Spoiler alert. It was awful, demoralizing and infuriating.

I was about 5 months out from a broken foot, prior to which I was doing high impact workouts like running and kickboxing. I tried to find a workout I could do while I was in a cast, but the thing about a cast is that you cannot get it wet. Working out results in sweating which can result in mold. Gross. So it was not an option. I was at one of my lowest points with a hella lot of life’s stresses yet I was not able to use my go-to therapy, fitness, to deal with it.

Needless to say when the cast came off 6 weeks later, I was ecstatic. I thought I could get back to my workouts, but go figure, that did not happen. I wanted to kickbox and run again like I did before I broke my foot, but I could not. I had so much muscle atrophy (my leg was half the size of the other) that anything involving my feet (i.e. everything) caused soreness, swelling and pain and just overall muscle fatigue. I was really frustrated because I probably gained 10 pounds (I lost almost all my muscle tone. Everywhere. Muscle tone that I worked my ass off to gain. So to say frustrated is an understatement).

I was at a loss as to how to get back into shape. A friend of mine, Nikki, who had been doing CrossFit a few years and had just started coaching, suggested CrossFit as it is totally scalable. She was really enthusiastic about it which got me excited about it too.

I found a CrossFit box to try out (a friend of a friend coached there), and so I set up a 1:1 consultation with the owner /coach. I was eager to go but also intimidated. CrossFit just sounded scary and I did not know what to expect. Well, what I did get was definitely not what I expected. Upon meeting him, I immediately got bad vibes from him.  It was very clear to me that he was one of the most arrogant, condescending, unqualified people the universe ever could have brought to me as an introduction to CrossFit.

He had me do a baseline workout that had rowing, air squats and push-ups. He was telling me repeatedly to go faster which I was not comfortable with as hello, I was recovering from an injury. My foot was sore. My knees were not properly aligned.  My stance was wide. I felt ridiculous. When I got done with the workout, he had the AUDACITY to tell me that my form was shit. Which mind you, not once did he give me any cues or guidance as to “how” I should be performing the movements. It was all “Move faster!” Super helpful, Guy.

And it got worse after that. He made repeated insulting comments about my height. For example, he asked if I wore heels all day to work and quickly said “well yeah of course you do. You are short.”

He asked me how I broke my foot, and as I was responding, I only got this far, “I was running—“

“Oh yeah no wonder you broke your foot running. 70% of runners have bad technique.”

“No, d-bag, I was not running recreationally. I was running in chunky flip flops through an airport to c catch a flight and rolled my foot.”

He made an assumption that I was a totally incompetent athlete and naturally my injury was due to my lack of skill. Prick.

At any rate, I could not get out of there fast enough. I walked out of there seething with anger and contempt. I was ready to write off CrossFit completely because this guy did a shit poor job of representing. And without any other benchmark, I was just done.

I talked to Nikki, and she was as appalled as I was. She reassured me that he was not representative of CrossFit and to not give up on it because of him.

Obviously, we all know my CrossFit journey did not end there. I am grateful I had the guidance from Nikki as I did indeed find another box with a polar opposite experience. The coaches understood my injury and my limitations. They were encouraging and positive. They were the true spirit in which CrossFit is intended to be. Coach D-Bag obviously should not be coaching or owning a box, and I was relieved to know everyone is NOT like him.

I feel fortunate though that I did not give up. I had enough confidence (and quite frankly, fury) to not allow one jack ass to make me think less of myself or my abilities. But the thing is, not everyone who has had a similar experience bounces back. For many, it truly is so traumatic, they give up completely. When you have an emotional and demoralizing experience, logic can shut down. While there are a million yoga studios and Pilate’s studios and CrossFit boxes, for someone who had trepidation to even show up, he/she is not likely to want to go to another. Our brains start to associate everything similar with one horrible experience, and the rest become guilty by association.

And so I share this story not for sympathy for me (as despite my bitter undertones, this was just a blip in my journey) but to bring awareness that this type of experience is NOT acceptable. And should you or someone you know find yourself in that situation, know that it is NOT necessarily a reflection on the sport/exercise as a whole. One person should not carry so much power to taint what could be a really important, life- changing step.

 

CrossFit: In the Name of Pride

Everyone who has done CrossFit has heard this joke probably a dozen times:

 

“How can you tell if someone does CrossFit?”

“Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.”

 

Damn straight we will. If you back squatted twice your body weight or did 10 strict pull ups WITHOUT ASSISTANCE, wouldn’t you talk about it? #respect

 

Yogis talk about yoga. Cyclists talk about their killer rides. Runners talk about the half marathons they just crushed. And CrossFitters talk about CrossFit. When it comes to us CrossFitters though, there is a perception that we talk about it so much because we like to brag. Which truth be told, I cannot deny there is some validity to that. Really though, no matter what our sport is, we all talk about it so much because we have immense pride for our accomplishments.

 

I would say most people who join CrossFit are average people, meaning we aren’t former elite athletes and we may have not even been in the best shape of our lives the first time we walked into a box. In fact, a lot of us who start CrossFitting are there because we have big goals and dreams. And often we also come from a place of insecurity.

 

As I have been networking a lot with CrossFitters around the country, I am hearing more and more of the most inspiring stories. Women and men are starting their CrossFit journey knowing they have 50, 60, 100 pounds even that they need to lose to be healthy. Many are coming off tragedy like losing a loved one or even a divorce. Many are starting after recovering from devastating injuries and years of rehab. My point is that people are coming in when they are not their best (and that is putting it mildly), yet they dig deep to find the courage and motivation to go. They not only show up, they work their asses off. They do things they did not dream they would ever do. They start doing push-ups. They start being able to run. They start squatting to full depth. They start losing weight. They start seeing muscle. They start feeling good about themselves. They find happiness.

 

So yes, CrossFitters are going to talk a lot about CrossFit because they are turning their insecurities and their challenges into their redemption. CrossFitters are finding inspiration again. They get so much respect from others and are setting great examples. I posted a few videos on Facebook of myself doing some different lifts, and I had a woman reach out to tell me that I inspired her to go back to CrossFit. I know I got far more gratitude knowing I influenced someone to make a big change more than the 100 likes I got. CrossFitters help each other. It’s just in our nature.

 

I truly believe that CrossFit athletes are contributing to changing outdated ideals. We are showing and telling the world it is ok to admire and respect different body types. It is ok treat our bodies like the temples that they are. It is ok to sacrifice and compromise to make fitness and health a priority. It is ok to be part of a “cult” when said cult is providing a community like no other.

 

Personally, I absolutely 100% love talking about CrossFit so much because it connects me to other people. It supports the idea of women boosting women (instead of women tearing women down). It shows strong is sexy. And, as someone who is obviously short, and who easily feels intimidated in most situations by other people’s heights and proportions, it helps me build my self-esteem. I find great power in pushing my body to lift things that are beyond expectations for someone of my own size. And so yes, I want to talk about this. A lot. Because other people need to hear it.

 

Maybe it’s not tragedy or severe weight loss that is drawing people into CrossFit. No matter how they came to be there, they likely are defying what they believed their own bodies can do. I love hearing about people’s triumphs no matter if they are 20 or 40 or 60. No matter if they are trying to lose some extra baby weight or train for a tough mudder. I love hearing about it, and I do not want CrossFitters to ever stop talking about it. Our accomplishments are all relative and every one of them is deserving to be screamed from the rooftops.

 

So please understand that not every CrossFitter who is posting on Facebook about their workouts or talking about it at the water cooler are just meatheads. Many of us, like myself, are just damn proud. It is that simple.

 

Appreciate Your Current Version

 

We are our own worst critics. I know that is 100% true for me. (I even took an assessment at work for a Leadership program that validates this). I focus on what I want to fix and make better more than I do on what is working for me and the positives in myself. This applies to my emotional, mental, intellectual and physical beings For this post, I would like to focus on the physical because well as a female, I am sure I am not alone in what I would like to share.

I cannot remember a time that I was ever feeling truly confident in my own skin. Maybe when I was about 30 or 31 and had lost about 12 lbs and had a solid tan going. (you can take a girl out of Jersey…) Other than that, any confidence is typically short lived. I have a trained eye that hones in on my imperfections and hardly ever notices the good qualities. Even recently, when I lost almost 3% body fat I still wasn’t satisfied. In a recent quest to get my photos organized, I have been stumbling across pics of me throughout the last few years and can find something I don’t like in any one of them. Or if I do like the way I look in the pic, I assume it’s a fluke or just a really good camera angle.

Here is the perfect example. Recently, a friend of mine took a picture post WOD. I was sporting shorts (which for those who know me appreciate that this is a big deal. I had never been a fan of them as they aren’t typically the most flattering thing to wear). Anyways, I was looking at the pic later (ok maybe not so much looking and more like meticulously inspecting). I was wondering if my legs really looked as lean and toned in “real life” as they do in the picture. Being the total freak that I am, I texted my friend to ask her. She quickly responded and basically told me I am nuts and yes they always look like that. (a good friend gives tough love).

There will always be parts of my body that I want to somehow alter, whether it is to get leaner, get more toned or whatever else I can possibly do to change it. I don’t think I will ever be satisfied with my physical appearance. It’s not from being a perfectionist, it’s from being female. Female in a world where we put so much emphasis on the physical. I know rationally that I should be happy in my own skin. I have two legs, two arms, and I can move about unrestricted. I know that while I may see what is imperfect, others see the positives. While I may see someone else who I wish I could somehow magically transform into, chances are there may be a person from time to time that crosses paths with me that says the same thing.

My point is… I.. WE need to learn to accept ourselves the way we are. Yes we can still strive to improve but we shouldn’t devote all our energy and time to the point that we are beyond obsessed and miss life around us.