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Be Selfish : Give Yourself Permission

fitness and mental health


I've objectively been in the best physical shape of my life for the last several years. However, I didn't truly begin to feel healthy until I improved my mental health as well. Improving it wasn't easy, and the hard work didn't begin until I gave myself the permission to be selfish and put myself first. By that, I meant I thought more about my own needs and I sought to fulfill them. I became my own cheerleader. I took more time for myself. I engaged in hobbies I enjoyed. I worked with a therapist and talked about my issues. I removed myself from people and situations that didn't contribute to my newly peaceful life, and I did so diligently. I got out of my own way. I bought myself roses, and I was lazy when I wanted to be.

Being selfish has always had this negative stigma. There's always this mental imagery of someone taking from the less fortunate or denying others basic needs in lieu of one's self. In reality, selfishness exists on a spectrum. If you're too far to the left you may be selfless to the point of self-harm. You may find yourself giving to others while denying your basic needs. On the other hand, if you're too far to the right on the spectrum, you may actually be harming others. Naturally, the sweet spot you should strive for is somewhere in the middle. Finding that balance is the goal. However, if you have never given yourself permission to put yourself first, I'm here to tell you there aren't enough lunges in the world that will help you. Not only is being selfish not automatically a negative trait, but it's necessary for your overall health. The interesting thing is, once I became selfish my personal and work relationships actually improved. I became a better friend and I became more empathetic.

So what drove all this interpersonal growth? Perhaps it was because training myself to be more selfish forced me to be introspective. It's that introspection that helped me gain an understanding of my areas of improvement or where I excelled as a person. Yes, my fit lifestyle truly changed my life. However, what I really needed to feel holistically healthy was a good handle on my emotions as well, and I was never going to accomplish it without centering myself.

I'm more mentally healthy than ever before, yet I'm not quite there. There's so much more room for improvement. People are complex, and so is their baggage, so I don't believe there will ever be a time when I can confidently check mental health off of my to-do list because progress is situational and will ebb and flow. It's hard to remember sometimes, yet it's part of the challenge. Gain an appreciation for the process, even when you stumble. Acknowledge that improving your mental state is hard. It's harder than a deadlift or a squat. You cannot leave it at the gym. You don't recover from emotional pain after only a few days, and you can't see your gains by simply looking in the mirror. Yes, try to remind yourself that progression isn't linear.

Let's set plank and squat challenges aside for a moment. Instead, I challenge you to give yourself the green light to put yourself first for a change. Here is a list of some great action items to get you started. I encourage you to add your own.

1. Cut ties with toxic situations and relationships

2. Tell yourself you're pretty and mean it

3. Do nothing for a day

4. Say "no" for a change

5. Take yourself on a date

6. Immerse yourself in a hobby

7. Talk to a mental health professional

8. Give yourself something you've always wanted

9. Give yourself a block of time to shut out all of the "noise"