Pushing Yourself Without Guilt

How do you get through a really hard workout? You know, the kind where you want to die and everything is shaking and you feel like your legs weigh 1 million pounds. As a Pure Barre teacher, when I see clients fighting for every last second, my automatic response is to encourage them and feed them the positive language I know they need in that moment. But in my own head, my strategy has always been guilt, with a touch of self-loathing thrown in.

Because of my history with body image issues, it’s probably not surprising that one of the tactics I would use to push myself to workout harder, eat cleaner, or restrain from a lot of indulgent experiences was to hate on myself. Phrases like, “You can do better,” and “You don’t need that,” were on loop in my brain every time I was faced with the decision to control myself or give in to what I defined as failure. And while I firmly recognize that all of these habits were unhealthy, I can’t deny a few simple truths -

I was really strong in my workouts, my eating habits were as close to perfect as they will ever be, and sometimes, part of me misses that level of self-control.

Don’t read that and think that I’m condoning that of mindset or that I actually want to go back to that way of living because that couldn’t be further from the truth. However, when those thoughts have arisen in recent years, I can’t help but ask myself, “How do you push yourself that hard without any guilt?” How do you get to the level where you don’t take no for an answer, don’t allow yourself breaks, and laugh in the face of quitting without beating yourself up a little bit? The perfectionists out there who relate to this mindset might not like my answer, but I don’t think it’s possible.

I don’t think we can give ourselves grace and restrict ourselves to merciless standards at the same time.

I came to this conclusion after trying to mesh the two worlds together. In 2016, I had the opportunity to film 2 Pure Barre DVDs, and I loved every second of the practices and filming. But, I also felt the intense, self-inflicted pressure to be in my best shape for those videos. And before you say, “Oh Griffin, you’re in great shape, you’re fine!!” please imagine what it would be like to be in an abs DVD with other beautiful women with perfect bodies and not want your body to look awesome, too. You’re literally the example for anyone watching the video - that’s just reality.

So, at first, I tried not to let my old habits and mindset creep in, but I also committed to doing multiple Whole30s (I think I did 4 that year), daily cardio and Pure Barre, and measuring my “progress” at every corner. I weighed myself daily, analyzed my body constantly, and as much as I tried to talk myself out of obsessing over it, I couldn’t. It felt toxic, and by the end of the year, I knew I couldn’t fool myself. I couldn’t pick up the old relentless habits that I had clung to for so long and pretend that they were any good for me. My body was physically and nutritionally very sharp, but my mind was a death trap.

Not everyone is going to agree with this post or even relate to it because we are all wired so differently, but I hope that for the ones who struggle to give themselves grace, they use this as a reminder that we’re not designed to be relentless. If you wouldn’t encourage your best friend that way, why would you use the same poor strategies to “motivate” yourself? Pushing yourself to your edge only feels good for about 2% of the process, and the rest can be clouded with a lot of negative self-talk. It’s important to me to show up and be honest in this space because it’s taken me a long time to heal from those habits, and if you’re in the thick of self-loathing, I hope you remember that breaking that mindset is possible for you, too.