Exercising (Not Exorcising) The Inner Diva*

By , SparkPeople Blogger

It's all about ME! Me, me, me! There I said it. You can call me selfish, but I prefer self-centered. It sounds more grounded.

I would have been terrified to say those words a year ago for fear of what other people might think. But part of what I have learned over the past year on Spark is that not only does it not matter what other people think, but ultimately, no one else but me can be held responsible for looking out for number one. As much as we are all in this together for moral support, the personal growth that accompanies a weight loss journey is a pretty solitary endeavour. And so it should be. It's YOUR journey – not your mom's, or your boyfriend's, or your kid's, or your dog's, or even your SparkFriend's – yours.

In a recent episode of “Glee,” (*spoiler alert*) Lauren decides that Mercedes needs a manager and convinces her to be a demanding Diva at a benefit event for the Glee Club. She refuses to take the stage unless some pretty ridiculous demands are met, but ultimately, the trouble is not with the lack of “a fresh puppy” but rather with the second to last spot in the show beside the star, Rachel. Rachel finally convinces Mercedes that if she wants the closing slot, she needs to go out there and “take it!” I probably don't need to tell you what happens next – but just in case you can't guess, Mercedes finally takes the stage and knocks it out of the park with a show stopping number.

The character of Mercedes is certainly someone I can relate to. It's interesting to me that for all of her many talents, she is one of the now two overweight characters on the show. Her character track usually revolves around not getting the spotlight and losing out to the more “popular” and “prettier” girls in the group. Though she has big dreams and desires for herself, she constantly lets the other members of the club go before her, bottling up her feelings and no doubt drowning them in a plate of tater tots (as was referenced in an earlier episode). But if Mercedes were a real-life person, I guarantee you that after that stellar benefit performance, she probably didn't go home and binge eat. Why? Because her needs were finally met and she did it all for herself.

For me, learning to be a little selfish and putting myself first hasn't been an easy road. When people are used to behaving a certain way with you and getting certain things from you, asserting yourself can be a pretty big, game-changing move. Many people don't appreciate it when you all-of-a-sudden change the rules and decide that you're no longer a person that is going to be treated poorly. But it has to be done. For years I was the person seeing to other people's needs before my own, allowing people to hurt me, use me, and walk all over me and then feeding myself to mask the pain of it all. But the truth of the matter is that regardless of how giving or thoughtful or selfless I thought I was being to others over all those years, I actually wasn't doing anyone in my life any favors by being obese – least of all me. I know now that my personal binging was (and sometimes still is) directly related to negating myself as a person by giving in to something someone else wants over what I want, or ignoring my own voice when it has something to say. When I push myself aside for someone or something else, I will always seek recognition somewhere down the road, usually with a pint of ice cream or a box of cookies.

Now that's not to say that I always get what I want. A lot of the time, it's quite the opposite. But the difference is that now I can recognize my own voice. I listen to it, I validate it, I exercise the Inner Diva, and most of the time, that in and of itself makes me feel better. I don't ignore other people, I just listen more to me – and in some cases that HAS lead to getting exactly what I want. I have learned to trust myself and my instincts. It takes practice, and I'll be the first to say that being assertive doesn't always work out the way I think it will or the way I want it to. I'm sure there are times when I have come off sounding mean-spirited and abrasive, but in my defense, I'm still perfecting this new model! I'm being self-centered in a positive and healthy way which actually opens me up to being more available to others. When my needs are met first, I am free to pay more attention to other things in life that demand my time and energy.

I have it easy. I'm single and I live on my own, miles away from my closest family. I choose when I want to and don't want to interact with others and I take a lot of personal time for myself and my routines – eating, cooking and exercising. I can understand that for people with kids and spouses, the quest for self-centeredness is even more of an uphill battle - but no less important! Start slowly by committing to taking a few hours a week of personal time for yourself to do whatever it is that YOU want to do. When you feel stressed or angry about something, validate that feeling by asking yourself what exactly it is that is making you feel that way and instead of eating to mask the feelings, try talking through the situation, or to the person who is offending you directly. Let them know how you feel! Most people have no idea that they are being hurtful to you unless you stand up and say something.

It's all about carving out a place for you, and recognizing that you have as much right to that place as anyone else does. Being attentive and interested and completely in love with yourself and all the amazing things that you do and are is not selfish, it's satiating.

Jenn has lost 100 pounds with SparkPeople and is halfway to her goal!

*Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

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BECCABOO127 10/24/2017
Major kudos to you! Report
Congratulations, Jenn. Thanks for sharing. You are right. we need to put ourselves first. i am learning this, slowly. Report
Way to go ! I love that SPARK in your eyes. You do look so confident. Congratulations on changing your way of thinking. Boy, can I relate.I'm 40 & just learning these lessons. I like the advice you gave. Thanks for sharing w/ all of us. Report
Thank you for this! You've validated many of things I've been thinking and trying to sort out in my head. I enjoyed reading every word! Report
Why is it that we think it is just fine to pamper or spoil someone else?
But when it comes to simply taking care of our own self
(not even close to pampering or spoiling),
it's frowned up? or doesn't seem right?
Well, I'm with ya girl!
This IS ALL about ME !

Keep an eye on US cos w'ere not just talking about it
we're doing it!


Congrads and keep on Sparkin'! Report
Very motivating!! :) Report
WooHoo WayToGo Awesome Congrats Great

You are proof that change (and health and happiness) starts WITHIN

THANKS for the inspiration


You look beautiful so this sure is working for you! As I read your blog the old judgments came flooding in. Like many women I was raised to put everyone else first. My first year of college I was assigned to read The Virtue of Selfishness. The book changed my life. Keep it up and enjoy! Thank you for sharing. Report
Wow-you are so right. You look fabulous. Congrats for putting yourself first. It's so true, you have to put yourself first, otherwise, you can't take care of others. Thanks for your post, sometimes it's hard to justify all the time/energy it takes to live a healthy lifestyle when friends/family/peers at work aren't on the same path. Sometimes I feel like a loner. Thanks Report
Well said! There are too many of us women who always put ourselves last and our families and friends follow our lead and put us last also.

Sometimes we aren't able to help ourselves out of this situation. About 30 years ago, I was in a spiral of demands from husband, children, parents, and friends. I wasn't strong enough to take a stand, and I was at the end of my rope. I called the suicide hotline!!

There I found help at the County Mental Health Clinic in the small town where I lived. I first had private meetings with a counselor. Later I went to an assertiveness class. This gave me the tools I needed to stand up for myself, when I couldn't before. There were some struggles still, but I had learned that I had a Perfect Right to stand up and be counted. It was more healthy for the whole family when the "balance of power" was restored. By the way, the fees were very cheap because they were based on income.

Not everyone can do it alone, so get help if you must, but find a way to serve your own needs before the stress kills you. Report
I'm really glad I chose to read this blog. I've always put others first and I have the pounds to prove it. But I can also tell you that by doing so we are setting an example for our children and those who might be looking up to us. My kids are now 23 and 21. I'm starting to see some of this trait in each of them and have had to start asking them to put themselves first sometimes. I've actually told my daughter that while a college student it is okay to be a little selfish. It's not too late to break out of this cycle and I hope I've given others another reason to put themselves first! Report
Jenn Has summed it so well. I have recently recognized and have been struggling with these issues. Personally, I am struggling along.
I appreciate her sharing. A big congratulations on the weight loss, and best wishes for continued success. Report
I've been married for 13 years and through those years, I devoted whole my life and myself trying to give the best to my hubby and kids without noticing that I was actually losing myself. When my hubby betrayed me, I started to realize that all those years of being married I never really looked at myself, never appreciate how special I am and how I often tried to put other people's need first. When I read about Jen's blog..it somehow awoke my inner voice to choose life that make me happy and most importantly to be myself..love myself. You are right Jen, no matter what others thought of us or all the advices, the choice it's still to an individual..we are responsible for what we are, what we are going to be... Report
Great article. I find it terribly difficult to put myself before others. I don't know if that's part of the reason why I don't commit to exercise class or going to the gym. I find it so difficult to take time for myself. I'm having some success at taking the dog for a walk because I know if I don't do it nobody will, but even that is hit and miss. Report
OMG I left a relationship because of this! The fitter and more confident I became, the more he attempted to dim my spotlight. No one can love me better than I can love myself! "Spark" your sparkle and shine bright Jenn! Report
Great blog, love it! Report
Women are natural people pleasers. I get a little crazy when I don't have any "me" time but never thought about that as a trigger for over-eating. Little by little I am carving out time for myself each day to do the things that feed my soul! Report
Thank you! I am struggling with why I let my weight get out of hand - again - even though I know just some small changes will lead to better habits and, eventually, big results. I have complete and sole control over what, when, how much, and how often I eat and move, so there's something else going on. Your post helped me to see that I'm not putting myself first, and now I can start to take my power back. It's inspirational to know you've lost 100 pounds, and you keep working on prioritizing yourself. That's a fantastic accomplishment, and with your insight and attitude, you can achieve all of your goals. You Go Girl! Report
I am actually in the very process of trying to concentrate more on me and my needs. I have let my family and friends run over me and use me for their benefit to the point where my health became a horrible issue, as well as getting me into academic trouble at the college. I am currently home for the summer, which is probably the worse time for me to finally get some guts.

I love this blog. You let people know that being assertive doesnt always work in your favor, but it's still something have to do. I congratulate you on your journey, hopefully my own journey will have similar results :D Report
You are so right on about the importance of being "self-centered." And it shows! You are looking great and more important, feeling great as well. I was losing momentum, and you have re-inspired me! Thanks so much, just for being you. Report
My DH can be a little needy and clingy, and sometimes he tries to guilt-trip me about taking time for or care of myself. As if taking care of myself = neglecting him. Not so. Lately I just walk out the door and announce that I'm walking for around 40 minutes, I'll be back...he will get used to it. If not, that is HIS problem. Sort of the like the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes". Divas, unite!!! Report
I LOVE THIS! There are a lot of similarities between our lives. I am single, I live alone and most of my friends are not encouraging me on my weight loss journey and for what I realize are their own selfish reasons. By being at the gym, I'm not there for them. By talking about fitness, I am not complaining about my life like I used to. After a rejuvenating mini-vacation, I'm ready to go full blast and some people are going to suffer from me looking out for "me" I've always made time for other people, at my own detriment. I'm going to be looking out for me! Selfish yes but I'm worth it.
Thank you for sharing this. Report
You rock girl !!! I love every word of this blog. Thank you for inspiring me. Report
It can be hard to remember that in order to take care of others, we HAVE to take care of us first. That is why they tell you in an airplane that in case of emergency put on Your OWN oxygen mask before you do Children or elderly friends who are traveling with you. Report
Fabulous blog. I agree that there is a certain need for "self-centeredness" in finding a healthy life. But I think a lot of people understand it the wrong way. It's not anything about caring LESS for those around you; it's just about caring MORE for yourself than you used to! You cannot truly love others and be your best person all around w/o loving yourself first. Awesome points, Jenn. Thanks for sharing your insights. I loved your comparisons with the Inner Diva. :) Report
I need to work on this skill. I liked what you said about being separate from family & carving out time for yourself. Since I lost my job April 1st (ha ha; but no joke)...I am learning to take care of Stormy (the diva inside of me) and Gail (who I am).
Thanks for your suggestions. I love Sparkpeople....so why do I run away? HMMMM? Report
I will definitely try to be more self-centered. I think I'm on the good path. Congrats on your journey - you're such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing that with us. Report
Being a Libra, I have other put other people first, which is what a Libra does. We are the sign who needs a partner and that partner might be someone to walk with, or work with for a hour and then they go on their way and we look for another partner. I went grocery shopping today with my son and I had to do about a dozen things that he wanted, like go to the gas station first, etc. So, I've always been about doing for others, but I know I should do for me once in awhile. Report
yup, just for you. you are the only one who knows what's best! Report
So important that we do this, yet as you said, hard to master! Every soundbite helps though so thank you and KEEP GOING! You are doing great! Report
You are so fabulous!! Report
Way to go! I'm starting to be more assertive too, and I love it. People aren't going to walk all over me anymore. I'm going to do what I want and if people can't accept that, it's not MY problem.

Congrats on your weight loss! Keep up the good work! Report
"But if Mercedes were a real-life person, I guarantee you that after that stellar benefit performance, she probably didn't go home and binge eat. Why? Because her needs were finally met and she did it all for herself."

I don't know why this is such a lightbulb moment for me, but I never thought about binging as a response to not having my needs met. Thanks for the insight!

Great blog, thank you. One thing I didn't see mentioned is that some of us may need help learning to be assertive and practicing those skills until we are comfortable with them. I am seeing a therapist for help with a number of issues, and learning to set limits/boundaries in my relationships with others is a HUGE issue for me. So if you need help, I hope you seek it out. Sometimes it simply isn't as easy as simply deciding to stand up for ourselves.

Thanks for the inspiration. Report
Loving this blog!! Report
In our culture women who take time for "self-care" are too often mistaken for being "self-ish" Isn't it about time we turned that around? If we don't, our children will continue to learn these self distructive ideals. Thanks so speaking so beautifully! Report
I think your blog gets right to the heart of things. I think most of us are struggling to lose weight and get healthy because we have opted to do for everyone else neglected to take care of ourselves. Insightful commentary as usual. Well done. Report
Great blog. Report
Loved this blog. So many times I didn't put myself first but always put others ahead of me. After reading this I know it is time for me to take some of my time back for myself! Report
This is such a wonderful blog! It definitely feels like I am at the spot in my life where I am shifting some of that attention on to myself. It is high time that I started taking care of myself! Thank you for sharing this with everyone! Report
Great post! Congrats on your success so far! Report
Wow. You really hit me with this one. You described me very well - haha! Thank you so much for your insight! Have a beautiful day. Report
Great blog ! I do think that if a person wants to take care of themselves, at some point, they do have to make themselves their first priority. I know that's difficult when you may be caring for a family, elderly parent or someone with an illness.

When you're caring for someone else, all of your needs go to the wayside. And that can be problematic if you become ill. How are you going to take of others if you're not healthy ? Which is why it's important that more people pitch in so that you aren't the only person everyone is dependent on for help. A person must take time for themselves if they want to stay healthy.

So, yeah... it is important to be a little self centered when it comes to our health. Report
It is great to see people who are still trying and needing to lose weight, who haven't reached their goal quite yet but who have confidence none the less! My mom has lost a lot of weight, and is looking great, but still not confident. I am borderline obese but have plenty of self confidence even though I know I have weight still to lose. I used to wonder if I was being prideful or arrogant, cocky, or vain because of how I grew up with my mom and her poor self image. I'm so glad other people who still need to lose weight have self confidence, too! Thanks for the article! Report
Great Blog! I have started being a bit selfish by dedicating a minimum of 1 hour to exercising, come what may! Work, responsibilities and social activities but I need this hour to myself. It sounds silly but before work was such a central part of my life, and i am not saying it is not is just that exercising for myself is also important! Report
Well done. This truly resonated with me, too. Thanks. Report
Thank you for validation my feelings with this blog! It is very difficult to be feeling so awesome and getting self confidence and have a spouse who doesn't like it. My husband and I have had the most difficult time in our marriage since I've been on this journey. When we got together I was pretty confident and he said he thought I was "cocky" (well you still chose me anyway!). Now I am not putting up with being treated badly and am feeling more comfortable expressing my feelings. I do deserve.better and am asking for that (slowly but surely). Anyways I appreciate the clarification that this is not "selfish" behavior, but self preservation , self care and confidence. I'm hoping my husband will understand that one day (or not)....either way, at least I'm taking care of myself! Report
So well written and your message was so clear. I have been one to always worry about what others think, but I am the only that takes care of me. It is my journey and all my hard work. I have to remember to be happy with myself and not worry about what other people think. We can't please everyone. Thank you for writing this blog Jenn! You are an inspiration! Report
Very well said! I think there are a lot of us that need to take control of our lives and stop letting others live our lives. Thanks for sharing and bravo on your weight loss and determination. Report
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