Spiritual Wellness: motivations based on the expectations of Others

By Jubi Williams

Jenna came to me as an overweight timid person disgusted with her food choices and unhappy with her energy level, not to mention her image in the mirror. She tried to lose weight on her own but like many of us, needed accountability. She hired me as her trainer and we put together a practical plan designed to meet her fitness goals and to lose the weight she carried for far too long. I developed a plan that I thought would meet her needs, helped her reduce her caloric intake and assuage the guilt she felt around eating.

Each week I would ask her if she was sticking to her diet and each week she made an excuse about why she had not. Some weeks I would ask her whether she came to the gym outside of our sessions and she was inconsistent at best. She had successes, like a immediate 5 pound weight loss in the first two weeks, but also had some failures. In her mind her failures and frustrations stemmed from the inability to maintain the rapid weight loss she experienced at the beginning of her training. In the subsequent weeks, even maintaining that weight loss proved to be a challenge.

Jenna and I talked about why she wanted a rapid weight loss.  She was going to visit her hometown in Malaysia after being away for 10 years.  Over the 10 years, she had gained 40 pounds. What would her family think? After 6 weeks of working together, and with little result, she decided to stop her exercise plan and let me know that she would have more time in the summer to dedicate to her weight loss.  Jenna pushed her struggles down the road; unable to meet her goal.

Jenna’s struggles around exercise and weight loss centered around a singular issue. Her motivation to lose weight was purely based on the expectations of her family. Jenna lacked intrinsic motivation. She wasn’t interested in her own health and well being. She was only interested in what others thought.

Jenna’s story sounds familiar and I bet resonates with a lot of people. We all get into this cycle of being dissatisfied with something in our lives, wanting to change, putting in effort, getting little or no result in the expected time frame, and then giving up. Another cycle is when we do get motivated for change, see results but get derailed by external circumstances that leave us back at square one. What’s behind these all too common struggles?

When studying for my certification, an aspect of wellness that deeply resonated was “acceptance of oneself”.  This stood out in such a way that I’ve made it the primary reason that I dedicate myself to helping my clients. How do we cultivate an acceptance of oneself?  This is especially difficult in a society where we are bombarded with images that say we are not beautiful, skinny, talented, or intelligent enough. Americans spend roughly 17 billion dollars a year trying to better ourselves and very rarely do we believe that it’s money well spent.

I think that the loving and acceptance of oneself first comes from valuing our worth, understanding our purpose, and connecting to others.  This is where spiritual wellness come into play.  Spiritual wellness is the pursuit of hope, value, purpose, and connection in and with the inhabitants of this world.  More often than not we decide to practice spiritual wellness when a loved one is sick or our backs are against the proverbial wall.  But practicing and carving out time for spiritual wellness is as crucial and important as that pilates class you can’t miss or that therapy session you need.

The key to spiritual wellness comes in a simple question, “What feeds our soul?”

Many people turn to meditation and silence; while others bond with nature. Giving one’s self space and time to practice meditation, yoga, and gratitude are wonderful first steps in growing and feeding our spiritual wellness. If we want to incorporate spirituality in our daily lives, then we must answer that question daily. “What is it that feeds my soul? How can I put that into practice?”.  I often connect through believing that I’m loved by a higher power and serving my community and those in need.

Just like we carve out time to manage our finances, exercise, and socialize, we also need to take time to sit and reflect on who we are, why we are here, and what we can contribute to this world.  It’s in that reflection and action where we find that our value isn’t based on what others think of us, it’s based on what we think of ourselves. 

Today, before you spend money to try and impress someone else, before you start the diet plan, and before you go to the gym or spin class, ask yourself what it is that feeds your soul. Take time to put that into practice first. I promise that your self motivation won’t be far behind.

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