Shame is the ugliest emotion.
It makes us feel unwanted and unworthy. In one foul swoop it can invalidate weeks of previous feelgoodness.
I don’t want to say all of us suffer from it, as it is in some ways, getting better for us, but a large swathe of LGBTQ+ people internalise a lot of shame about who they are – learnt (and taught) often from the youngest of ages.
Representation is important, but from my experience, growing up in the 1980s, gay men were hardly ever represented in the media, apart from to be vilified or used as a punchline. Add into that the AIDS crisis and the unsympathetic way it was communicated around the world and for young Matt, who had an inkling he might be different to the other boys at school, there were already many markers that he wasn’t good enough.
Even with the best family and friends’ love and support in the world… some of that external negativity was still bound to creep in, undermining my self-belief, making me question my worth, my role – everything about who I was.
And with the government of the time outlawing in schools any discussion of * ANYTHING * gay, LGBTQ+, queer or not-straight there was no education, no other voices to say: You’re ok.
[It’s with a heavy heart that I see this exact same playbook being used in Florida with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill and associated rulings designed to crush any discussion or support for those outside the heteronormative.]
So it’s no wonder we question if we are worthy. If we do deserve to be happy, healthy, strong, fit and confident, and this question lingers for so many of us. So please allow me to write this for you in bold black text:
YOU DESERVE EVERYTHING HAPPINESS AND EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO FEEL AMAZING.
Finding a fitness and wellbeing routine that suits you is one of the best things we can do to remind ourselves of this – I speak from firsthand experience as finding fitness meant I found myself, and it’s no hyperbole to say I wouldn’t have started Fitter Confident You had I not found fitness.
Here was an inspiring activity that was purely for me. Discovering that yes, it changed my body but more than that, it changed – deeply – how I felt was truly mind-blowing… And then enjoying the impact on EVERY part of my life, spreading outwards with a positive ripple effect, boosting my self-esteem and confidence too – what a gift!
I’m grateful that I feel I’ve thrown off that shame of not being good enough and grown to understand my own power, own mind and body and the voice and confidence that came with it.
However, I speak with new clients every week who feel ashamed of themselves – usually about their body in some way, and that’s their starting point for wanting to do some fitness. That also used to be my motivation – I thought I needed to change for some mythical form of acceptance.
I’ll say this now, and I know you may not believe it at first, but the more you hear it, the more it can seep in and undo the years of shame: getting into fitness and doing regular workouts isn’t about changing to be accepted by society. It’s about allowing you to grow into the you-est you that ever you’ed! With each step, you’ll accept yourself that bit more – and worry less about who you thought you had to be.
Here are other ways to deal with shame, if it’s holding you back from making progress with your fitness and wellbeing:
- Bring it out into the light, Shame withers under scrutiny, because we realise we’ve all suffered from it at some point. Talking about it, even just quietly with one close friend, can help it to dissolve
- The flip-side of that: find your tribe and drown it out with the best cheerleaders going! Whether its an online group, colleagues, family or a real life workout class, use that volume to silence feelings of shame
- Keep track of what you’re doing – it’s usually more than you will be giving yourself credit for. This helps you to see you have made progress and give you that little dopamine hit of motivation to keep going
- Do it on your terms. If you’re working out because you think you need to look a certain way or to fit in, you’ll never be satisfied, as the rules will always be changing and there will always be someone ahead of you and you’ll constantly be on the backfoot, so find your groove with fitness for you.
- Focus on all the amazing things you have to GAIN as opposed to lose makes it a more joyful pursuit – getting stronger, fitter, having ‘you’ time at the gym, sleeping better, a higher sex drive more energy in the more, more mental focus, more PBs, better posture, higher self-esteen! I could go on, but already, look at that list!
Working out isn’t about changing your body to fit in, or to look a certain way – I promise, that route isn’t a kind, sustainable path to body happiness – it’s about building you from the inside out and just letting you do more of what makes you, You.
And you can get there too – it’s closer than you think.
Have a Fitter Confident Day,