Have you ever heard that physical activity (in my case, weight training) is a great anger management tool?
I don’t know if you have, but let me tell you that this has been a very unexpected side benefit to strength training, and produced a total breakthrough for me in terms of my overall well-being and self-esteem.
So here’s the deal. I am afflicted by something called “nice girl syndrome.” Or, rather, at this point in my journey, I prefer to say that I am a recovering “nice girl.” Affliction has a negative connotation. But we’re all a work in progress, and the goal is to accept you for what you are, who you are, right this moment, not in some future parallel universe when you’ve finally become “perfect.” Not gonna happen!
You’re thinking that NGS isn’t real? Oh, silly you! Of course it is! They even wrote a book about it! “They” being the foremost expert in emotional abuse, Beverly Engel. You can also check out this article in the Huffington Post written by the authors of this book. I’ve read the former and found it extremely useful; I haven’t read the latter.
In any case, as it regards me specifically, in my past I’ve always tried to “play nice,” especially when it comes to intimate relationships and men in my life, because deep down I was truly terrified (without consciously admitting it) of being rejected, abandoned, and ultimately left alone. This isn’t psychobabble, people, I’m telling you the God’s honest truth. That fear made me act in ways that subjected me to mistreatment, being manipulated, taken advantage of, and the like.
Yep, not fun. However, the good news is that once you’re aware of the pattern/cycle, etc., you can unhook yourself and start getting the courage to speak up for yourself and not be afraid of being your own best advocate, even if that might mean pissing some people off, and taking the risk of not being liked. For me that is a true risk, because it pours salt on that fear wound of being left alone and rejected.
But let’s step back a second. What happens to “nice girls” –or guys–who don’t know how to express their needs in a healthy way, and are afraid to ask for what they really want, and are afraid to tell people how they honestly feel, for fear of being rejected, or left alone? What happens is a whole lot of pent-up aggression. Trust me. It’s internally mortifying to always shove your own needs and feelings down, and especially if you aren’t aware that you’re doing it, you’ll probably end up having a bunch of pent-up anger that has no where to go, and no where to blow. If you aren’t venting it in a healthy, conscious way, it’s going to come out somewhere else, in a less healthy way.
The awesome thing about weight training is that I’ve harnessed it as my most powerful tool for discharging my aggression and anger. Although I continually work to state honestly what I want and need from people, I still have a difficult time facing situations that might turn conflictual, and I still feel nervous about not being “liked.” That’s a continual process. But in the meantime, when I feel really angry, especially when it’s a situation I have no control over, I can turn to my strength training exercises to defuse.
Feeling in love with someone who doesn’t treat you right, who doesn’t care about you as a person, who doesn’t give you the consideration and respect you deserve, and yet you persist in trying to “win them over”? That can be a really mortifying feeling. Why not turn away from that person and instead fling some dumbbells over your head?
One day I got super mad about something in this arena, and instead of being dramatic, and indulging in non-productive emotional bullshit, I got really really pissed and took it out in push-ups. I did TWO push-up pyramid relays starting with 8 push ups, one at the beginning of my workout, and one at the end. That means I did 8 push ups, then sprinted back and forth, then did 7 push ups, then sprinted, on down until I got to one, and I did it three times with a short break in between. If you do six sets of this, that’s 218 push ups, people. It’s amazing the kind of super-human strength you come up with when you channel anger into your physical output.
Everyone says that physical activity is a great way to relieve stress, but that’s very generic. Specifically, here’s what I suggest:
First, find out what your particular stressors are. In my case, it has to do with not valuing myself as a person, feeling worthless and rejected when it comes to men, and not being compassionate with myself–yours might be related to your body image, your frustration in not being able to control your eating, or even just day-to-day frustrations like home and work life stressors.
Second, find a physical activity that you enjoy doing, and that allows you to use your body and mind to release the tension that you’ve built up. For me, weights are a very good counter-balance to the “weakness” I feel emotionally. The physical act of just simply lifting heavy shit is really awesome for that poor voice in my head and heart that tells me I don’t deserve to be treated with love and respect.
Third, make a conscious effort to turn to this activity when you feel the tension becoming overwhelming. This is an important step, because often this is the exact time when you’ll make excuses to turn away from physical activity. Instead, use it as a tool to combat the sense of helplessness that comes from frustrating situations and events where you are beating yourself up for something you can’t change.
These steps have helped me to feel healthier about myself both physically and mentally. I’ve realized that people who love me, love me specifically because I speak my thoughts, and because I feel brave and comfortable in my own skin–NOT because I am trying to be something that I think will please them 100% of the time.
So, no more Mrs. Nice Girl. But in her place: Mrs. Strong, Healthy Girl. It’s a great trade-off, and I wish you, both girls and guys, the same!
As inspiration, I am sharing with you my fitness idol. Granted, Body Rock TV is kind of like soft porn, so try not to focus too hard on her boob job. But seriously? You can’t argue with this chick. She kills it, every time. I love when she finishes and goes, “If you can beat this…. then… you’re gonna make me really angry.” Get it!
What are your particular stressors? How has exercise helped you to handle them? Do you have advice for people in your same situation? What’s worked for you?