I know what it feels like to be powerless.
It’s a terrible feeling to live under someone’s thumb. Or be physically or emotionally abused. It’s worse when it continues and there’s nothing you can do about it. Every year the injustice continued, I burned hotter with rage.
I vowed that when I grew up, I would never be a victim. More than that, I would not let others be victims either. I would fight for others, even rescuing them if I could – just the way I wished someone had rescued me. It wasn’t easy. The temptation to feel sorry for myself was definitely there. But the rage was bigger than my sadness, and drove me to action.
Thus a lifelong advocate was born. I lived to help others – in the school yard, among my friends, and even down to choosing my profession as a nurse.
I’ve also known a different kind of powerlessness – the feeling of having no control over my body. Despite having loved fitness and physical activity since childhood – and even despite my training as a fitness leader! – my body began to change. My knees hurt. Chronic pain plagued my lower back. Weight added itself to my face and waistline every year without my permission. I was so exhausted sometimes I could barely get through the day.
I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “Is this what being forty is about? Is this just how it is?” What was happening to me?
I thought I had no choice but to submit to whatever was happening in my body. After all, I was getting older, so I may as well get used to it, or so I was told.
After a while though, I realized what I was really doing. I was simply going along with what was happening, just as my female role model had submitted to all those years ago. I was talking and living like a victim.
That’s the day I renewed my vow to take my power back. I would not be a victim anymore, even of myself, even of my own body.
I remembered something important that day: we need to be advocates for ourselves. It’s an empowering thought, especially for someone who has been victimized and suffered abuse.
It’s strange how abuse tends to repeat and filter down– the abused often become abusers. But we don’t have to. We can thrive. For me, thriving starts with advocating – both for others and for myself.
I took charge of my fitness that year. After signing up for the P90X Beachbody program, it promptly kicked my ass. I couldn’t do more than a few jumping jacks or two knee push-ups before falling apart. My knees and back couldn’t take it.
But I would not be a victim, even of that.
In my determination, I recruited physiotherapy help to get me through the program. I modified, I pushed, and damn-well made it through to the other side. The result?
I got my power back, baby.
I got fitter and leaner and now have some awesome before-and-after photos for starters. The whole experienced Changed. My. Life. I dove in headlong and became a coach as another way to advocate for people.
But there was so much more to it than even that.
It wasn’t just my physical strength and mobility that improved. Not only did weight come off and energy increase. I found a new strength – the power of advocating for myself – the power of refusing to be a victim, even of myself. And that’s the key to thriving, no matter where we come from.