As a society, we are over-trained, over-dieted, over-worked, over-committed...over-done.
I admit to living quite a long period of over-doneness in my mid 20's to early 30's. Chasing advancement at work, obsessing over starting a family, training for race after race after race, traveling too much (though it WAS fun!) and dieting too restrictively. I believed that being excessively hard on myself was the only way to move ahead and self-compassion? Well, that was giving up, being too soft.
While I do believe that hustling for our worthiness (i.e. spending hours in the gym to work off last weekend's sins or starving ourselves for a week before a social event to look our best for others) can be a harmful path, I also believe that owning a voice of personal tough love IS necessary to staying in the game towards our goals when inevitably, motivation wanes.
We are bound to meet a day where we just don't want to workout or an evening where a glass of wine and a bath or the couch and some oreos, sounds far more intriguing than the sweat session we've planned. But, deep down, we know that we'll be better for it, emotionally and physically, if we dig in and do the workout anyway.
That's grit, my friend. Taking action.
The biggest struggle I hear from women I coach in my business, Be PowerFULL, is how hard it is to stay motivated to workout. They'll get on a great track, consistent for weeks on end, and then they'll miss one workout, and then another...and then they fall in the inevitable rut.
Ugh, why is it so g-damn hard to get out of a rut?
Sometimes, a little healthy tough love is exactly what we need to pick ourselves up and get over that awkward hump of inaction.
So, what's the difference between healthy tough love and hustling for our worthiness?
The hustle for worthiness feels like need to perfect, to perform or to prove to someone (mainly ourselves) that we need to do this thing over here, exactly this way, in order to be accepted and enough. Eat perfectly clean, look a certain way, be completely in control of our children, our weight, our partner, our career. The hustle tends to be wrought with perfectionism and fueled by shame.
Healthy tough love, though, is our smart, intuitive voice (our gut) that forces ourselves to take responsibility for our actions and outcomes. The voice that pops up and says "yes" even when the easier thing to do is to say "no" and sit on the sidelines. The voice that says "I can't NOT do this, anymore".
It's the voice that knows that we can handle short term pain, and that the short term pain will save us from longterm heartache.
It's the voice that gets us out of bed after pressing the snooze button twice because we know the workout will do us good.
It's the voice that says "Nah, the brownie isn't necessary tonight because we've got this goal over here we're working towards".
A common way tough loves shows up for me is when I'm mid-workout, feeling a bit off and frankly, wanting to put the weights down and walk away. Sometimes, I should walk away. But, many times, I know I'm safe, I have the energy and it's ok to push hard, it's just my mind is getting in the way.
I think of something that's happening later that day, a big meeting, a program launch, a new client appointment and I say to myself, "If you can't do this right now, Jess, that's not going to go the way you want it to".
I think of how badly I want that thing to go successfully, whatever it is, and I dig into my reservoir of strength and let my workout represent the attitude I'll want and need for later.
Failing is not an option now if I want to succeed later.
This has proven to work every single time I've used it. And no, using this tough love tool doesn't mean the workout has to end perfectly, or even that the thing later goes perfectly, but only that I took myself in that moment, from my "no" to a "yes" with the way I framed the temporary discomfort. I did a couple more reps than I thought I could, I pushed through the discomfort and held on a moment longer.
I put the challenge in front of me in the context of how I want to show up for something that matters to me later. So then, it's not as easy as walking away from the workout, it's about setting myself up to win later. I have outcomes attached to whether I decide to take action or shy away and give up.
Tough love doesn't need to be harmful and self-deprecating in order to be useful.