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Seeking Sacred While Scared

A lot of changing one's lifestyle boils down to self-control and learning to live differently. Give yourself the grace to make changes slow, and the grace to keep trying after messing up.

Tiffany Duncan
April 28, 2018

Getting into shape is hard, and sometimes it’s even harder to speak to ourselves with kindness when we think we aren’t progressing fast enough. I am right in the hot middle of this right now, and I’ll be honest — some days I just break down. Like, the tears and cussing and cruel inner monologue kind of breakdown.

At the time of writing this article, I am three months into my yearlong lifestyle-change journey, and I feel like I’ve hit my first major plateau. As mentioned in Preview 918’s April issue, I reported that my husband and I joined Climb Tulsa. I was riding the high of that new workout, but now I’m between a rock and a hard place (pun totally intended) because although I can do the beginner climbs, anything mildly advanced past that seems just beyond my ability right now — which is maddening. I leave the gym with muscles that feel ripped and torn, and my mental state honestly feels much the same way.

I get so angry with myself when I can’t do something perfectly right away, and I feel like a lot of people can probably relate to that. No one likes to feel like an outsider, to feel like the “newbie” in a roomful of people so much better than you at something. But it’s this precise reason that also keeps so many people stuck where they are, especially with fitness. Is it worth it to stay safe inside a bubble, but dissatisfied with your body? Is it worth it to shut out vulnerability, but still feel the anxiety of missed opportunity?

This year, I’m saying no, it’s not worth it anymore. To progress and grow as a person, I believe people should routinely place themselves in situations that stretch them beyond what is comfortable. Now I’m not talking about walking down a dark alleyway to tempt fate or something (please, don’t do that). But what I am talking about is signing up for that class you’ve always wanted to try, whether that’s self-defense, kickboxing, water aerobics, yoga, joining a running group, hiking a local trail, Zumba, or heck, even pole dancing fitness.

I was recently listening to a podcast that made me say “whoa” out loud. It’s called the Have More Fun podcast with Mandy Arioto, and it was the Feb. 19, 2018, episode featuring blogger/speaker/writer Leeana Tankersley (seriously, give it a listen). Tankersley was speaking on vulnerability, and she relays that one day she transposed the “c” and the “a” in “scared, so it came out as “sacred.” This led her to contemplating just how thin the space between those two words really is.

“That just became a little metaphor for me,” she says during the podcast. “Often when we are the most scared, especially to step into new territory, or to open our lives up, or to begin or be a beginner, it’s so scary. It’s a risk. But often, we are inching into sacred ground. Sometimes when I’m most afraid, I might be closest to something sacred in my life.”

Margaritas on date night. It’s all about moderation, not deprivation.
Margaritas on date night. It’s all about moderation, not deprivation.

This bit of wisdom stunned me. I realized I had been looking at it all wrong. Being scared of something or feeling out of my own depth is not the time to run and hide; it’s the time to turn and embrace. Pushing into discomfort means finally entering the ring to face down those incessant inner demons and beginning down the road to personal growth and chang

Slowly, mental resolve strengthens with every repeated workout. I know it doesn’t seem like it at the beginning, but the more you do something, the more you fight the negative voices, and the more you stay positive toward yourself, the easier it becomes to keep up a lifestyle change. Eventually you won’t even have to force yourself; it will transform into a real desire to stay active, and to blow off stress and steam.

Another bonus of sticking with a new routine in a new place is that you will meet new people, and I promise they will be nice to you — not a cruel, laughing peanut gallery like we are so apt to believe. At that glorious point, you will then see just how alike everyone’s fears and anxieties really are, which is so freeing that it makes the world seem bigger.

But it’s hard at the beginning, I know. I’m still there, too. But this time I’m pushing into scared and seeking sacred, and I know my life will change because I’ve chosen to embrace vulnerability. These are the four key things that help me stay positive when I’m feeling vulnerable during a new or difficult workout.


The only person expecting you to do something perfect the first time is you
No matter what kind of new workout you’re doing, remind yourself that in no way should you be an instant master at it. The pressure to perform and not make a mistake rather than celebrating personal victories — however small — can lead you to misjudge your progress because you’re comparing it to that so-called “perfect” person over there. This will sabotage mental resolve and make you dread coming back the next time. Remind yourself that no one expects a beginner to perform like an expert — and furthermore, no one is even watching you at all.


Stop thinking about your clothes
Sometimes we avoid beginning a new workout regimen because we think our workout clothes aren’t sleek or trendy enough. But the important thing is to just start showing up, even if it’s in a T-shirt that’s been hanging around since high school. It’s not about fashion —  it’s about sweat and change. You will feel just as good after a hard sweat-a-thon in some leggings from the bargain bin as you would in Lululemon, so stop letting your clothes be an excuse.


Your mind lies
Remember: your body can have a good workout, even if your mind tries to tell you differently. There’s a tendency to think a workout is a total loss unless some major personal milestone is achieved, like running a mile without walking or lifting as much as your friend. This is a lie. Sometimes I will try to discredit an entire workout if I think I should have achieved more, but then I step back and think about how much I sweated or how much I felt my muscles burn and remind myself that that’s all that matters. I’m showing up, I’m sweating, and based on that one fact alone, I walk away mentally and physically stronger, even if it doesn’t show on the outside yet.


No one is actually watching you
I know it can feel like it, but no one actually shows up at the yoga studio or the gym strictly to watch and scrutinize your every move. People tend to think that others are watching them all the time, but in reality, most of us are pretty self-absorbed. What a relief, right?


Changing your definition of a successful workout will make it so much easier to return the next time. And the next time. And the next…

Instagram handle: rightyes_rightno_918
Blog handle: rightyesrightno918.com

Utilizing as many free and cheap resources as she can find in the 918 area, routinely forsaking her fitness comfort zone to discover effective workouts, and cooking more intentionally from home, Duncan is publicly documenting her progress in each issue as she works to lose 30 pounds in 2018.