What the Heart Feels

Hearts by Luc De LeeuwWhen we think about being heart healthy, many of us probably think about our physical heart. Exercising and eating well are simple concepts. It’s not always easy to do, mind you, but we all understand how it works.

I’ve been working on my physical heart health for a while now. Despite my four kids, a busy life, and years of procrastination, I was finally able to figure out a way to fit regular exercise into my schedule. I eat fairly well. I can always do a bit better in that regard, but I think I do okay. I feel physically strong and fit, more so than I have in years.

What I find harder, is my emotional heart health.

I joined a gym in September. I go. I put my music on. I know no one. I work out. I am in the zone, baby. That’s the way I like it. Nobody recognizes me and I don’t talk to anyone. I can wear what I want and it doesn’t matter what I look like because I am nothing to these people.

A funny thing has started happening recently. The gym has become a little more familiar. Some dude I see there all the time has started saying hi to me. Someone else wished me a happy valentine’s day the other day. What is going on?! I am not a nobody anymore and I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit.

I made a conscious decision a couple of weeks ago to not look at myself in the mirror at the gym anymore. I never work out in an area where I might catch a glimpse of myself in one of the many mirrors around the gym. When I go into the change room, I deliberately shift my eyes. I stare at the floor, my feet, my phone; anything not to look at myself in the mirror. When I think about it, this decision coincided with my realization that I was no longer a complete stranger at the gym.

I don’t look at myself in the mirror at the gym because doing so – wearing my fitted work out pants and a tank top – breaks my heart a little. I don’t like the way I look. So rather than deal with the stupid and irrational thoughts that go through my mind, my strategy is avoidance. Don’t look; don’t deal with the insecurity.

The logical part of me tells me that I am being silly. For goodness sakes, I don’t look that bad for a forty year old woman who’s had four kids. Go easier on yourself. I think. Give yourself a break. But my emotional heart won’t listen. It always wants me to be a little bit trimmer, just a little bit smaller. It doesn’t like the reflection in the mirror. It wonders if people are looking at me and thinking “she should not be wearing that.” It wants to tell people, “but, but … I have four kids, I swear!”

Ridiculous thoughts, every one of them. But how do you change what the heart feels? How do you make yourself let go? How do you learn to accept yourself? I don’t know. I don’t know if I ever will. But I’ve got to keep trying. Because my emotional heart needs to be healthy too.

 Photo by Luc De Leeuw via flickr.

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Originally posted at 4 Mothers 1 Blog.