Using injuries to unlock unconscious motivations
by Lyssa Myska Allen, founder of DailyHap.com. For details on how she injured her hamstring and her initial reactions after one week of injury, you can click here. The article below is written two weeks out from the injury.
Part 1: I am not my body.
I am not my hamstring.
Or my body.
I am a person, of many other talents, of friendships unrelated to athletic pursuits.
At the same time, I am a healthy person.
I am a person who loves athletics.
This is about my body.
This hamstring is about my body, about a toxic focus too easy to fall into, in California particularly. CrossFit bodies and model bodies and fitness model bodies and fat bodies and skinny bodies and bodies bodies bodies everywhere.
I feel confident in my body, proud of my body, that it is long, and lean (mostly…see that caveat?), and can propel me down the boardwalk on a bicycle and leap for footballs and deadlift 325 pounds YEAH YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY and do strict pullups. I feel confident enough to play beach volleyball in nothing but a bikini, because even if my body isn’t perfect it is strong and athletic and LETS ME PLAY VOLLEYBALL.
So what if I remove volleyball from the equation?
And I remove deadlifting and biking and leaping and sprinting and anything my body DOES. Then how do I feel about the damn thing?
Walking past the mirror, I lift up my shirt every time to check my belly.
It looks fatter every time.
Like every minute I can’t work out, my belly grows.
Like my love handles increase at the same rate as my activity decreases.
So then where’s my bikini confidence?
I wore a Brazilian bikini to the beach today, one of those that’s almost a thong but not quite, where you can’t tell the difference between the front and the back by the width of the fabric, only by the length. I did it because I wasn’t feeling the best about my body and I NEEDED to do it anyway. To prove that it isn’t about what my body can DO. That being comfortable in your own skin is about confidence without caveats. That you can want to look better or different but you can still look great on the way too.
I, or anyone else, might get ATTENTION for a body.
But affection, friendship, love, and respect are unrelated to my body. I might MEET people through sports. But they don’t love me because I can catch a football. They love me because I laugh while doing it, celebrate their and our team’s successes, and we just have fun together, not taking sports too seriously.
IF my body = athleticism which leads to –> friends –> who love me because I don’t take it too seriously –> then how can I take my body so seriously?
A body is a body, a sacred temple that looks different from one day to the next, that serves any number of functions.
So I hurt my hamstring because I was getting too obsessed with my body. In a subtle, insidious way.
Part 2: I can’t do it all.
This obsession came from an innocent love of doing it all: gym workouts, outdoor workouts, all sorts of sports on teams and pickup, and yoga—hot, yin, vinyasa, I like ‘em all. When I first moved to California, I didn’t know anyone said I had plenty of time to experiment with all these things (I even re-tried spinning—yuck!).
But as I made friends THROUGH THESE ACTIVITIES, I had less time to do the other ones. On football days, I didn’t have time to also work out at the gym and also do yoga. But I still tried to.
In my work, one of my mantras is “I can’t do it all.” Contrary to what it sounds like, it makes me a better, more effective worker—because it allows me to prioritize and focus on what’s most important, without the stress of other things nagging at me.
But with my body, it seems I’ve taken a different tack, like DO IT ALL AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ALL THE TIME. And that’s not healthy.
I also enjoy working out or playing sports far more than I enjoy cooking, or preparing my food, or controlling my portion size, or skipping a glass of wine. I fall prey to the “well I worked out hard, I can eat what I want within reason” fallacy often.
I do eat well. I could eat better. I can’t do it all, but one thing that might take less time but be much more effective would be cleaning up my eating habits. Prepping food for the week. Thinking through snacks. Drinking less.
I can’t do it all.
Part 3: But I can have it all.
I can have brains and beauty and a body too. My hamstring injury allows me to hide from my fear—a fear I’ve battled all my life—that having it all is somehow too much, somehow hurts others around me. The hamstring injury removes me from the quest to be perfect—I physically cannot be good at sports and have a great body and also a great job and house and dog and hair and fake eyelashes that make me look pretty because I can’t DO things, and I can blame it on an injury.
But you can’t hide. You can temporarily hide until you have to write articles like this one and heal. Here’s the truth, I want to accept it: People are awesome. I am allowed to be one of those people.
So now it will heal. Will it heal fast or slow? I will continue to rest, relax, recover. Work on things that I can, and take a break as I must. I will heal and become HAMSTRONG.
The lessons I learn now, the lessons in confidence, acceptance, eating, and being, are part of the new HAMSTRONG. Not just the body, the hamstring, recovering strong, but my mind, recovering from its obsessions, its self-doubt, its fear, strong.