One of the DBT skills is "Participate" and it means just that - To participate! Letting go of self-judgement and jumping into action. Overthinking will stop you from doing things that may initially seem scary. If you avoid trying, you'll never know what you could be capable of. I encourage you to practice going for it.
I walked into the gym last week and proceeded to do a few bicep curls like usual. I started light to warm up and got a few push-ups in to hasten the pace of the warm up. I looked over and eyed the 30lb weights for a few seconds. My mind has been wanting to bicep curl that baby for weeks but I was too afraid to do it. As much as I wanted it, there was this voice inside me telling me how weak I was. On average, I usually stand there with the 22.5lb weights to keep form as I curl. I’ve practiced with the 25s and 27.5s but there was something about the 30s that just screamed NO!
Rewind to a few months ago when I can remember telling myself that I would never be able to do a pull up, but something inside of me wanted it. I strongly believe there is something within each one of us that wants more! Some way or another in life, that voice gets squandered and we learn that settling is safe and it hurts less. Let me tell you that the exercises I had to practice before completing my first pull up were difficult, but at times also seemed tedious. So tedious, in fact, that I had to keep reminding myself that these were my Mr. Miyagi “wax on and wax off” moments. I spent minutes and reps at a time being instructed by my trainer to hang from the bar. Yes, I would just hang there. Or I would hang and shrug my shoulders. At times I wouldn’t even break a sweat. We worked on shoulder movements, grip strength, and the small muscles of the forearm. All of these things over time caused me to pull my chin up over the bar.
I finally did it and I amazed myself. There was something about completing that first pull up that translated into every other area of my life. It was something I wanted but thought I couldn’t have. Completing that pull up not only strengthened the muscles of my body, but also the muscles of my mind. The wheels began turning. I reflected back to past experiences and was reminded that time after time and year after year, I had encountered and overcome one difficult obstacle after another. Those experiences have left me humbled. I have learned that there is joy and gain in pain. I now set my mind up to learn the lesson in what appeared to be uncomfortable.
I relate this to the story above because my heart was leaping for the 30lb weight before my body was physically. The thoughts in my head ruminated with reinforcements of fear but my heart leaped with expectancy. I’m sure we’ve all encountered those moments where we’ve questioned ourselves with “what if I can’t do it?” But then “what if you can?” So I went for it and I did it. I curled that 30lb weight and my arm trembled slightly as I tried to keep form.
Stepping out and grabbing hold of something that I knew would be challenging did not make it less challenging. Realistically, it was as challenging as I imagined it to be. What it was not, was impossible. I had to psych myself up. I had to talk myself into it. I told myself I would never know until I tried – so I tried. In that effort, I learned that I need more practice and overtime just like that first pull up, I’ll get the hang of it.
It would be awesome if we were capable of everything without practice. However, strength only grows under the weight of something. If there is no tension, it won’t grow. It’s funny how the body does that – that to build muscle your body has to tare through muscle fibers first. Then your body tells your brain “hey guy, we need to regenerate and grow bigger to bare this weight.” Our ability to endure something heavy, hard, tiring (whatever other synonym you could think of) comes from having had that experience before. Our strength comes from repetition, practice and consistency. So be encouraged to go for it and to keep at it! You will rarely be good at anything without having had the experience first.