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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Your blog touched me. You described me to a tee. I used to always let my best friend walk all over me to the extent that I was completely out of control of my own life and my own children. I was relieved when my high school sweetheart and I got back together and I decided to move 1700 miles away from the whole situation because that was the only way I saw to get out of it, not to mention, I have been waiting 16 years to have my high school sweetheart back in my life. Now I am slowly learning to take control of my life. And my man stands behind me all the way. (He hates that I cannot make a decision, but for years I have not allowed myself a say in decisions.) thank you Jenn you truely are an inspiration! And comgrats on your weight loss. Report
This article speaks volumes to me, as I have been a person who is always concerned more about how others feel than myself. In the past I have not spoken up, pushed my opinions to the side in order to people please and make others happy. I am learning slowly to put myself first, to know I have a right to say how I feel, think, and that I am important. I think being self-centered is sometimes a very healthy thing!

Congrats on your weight loss too! Report
I too could totally relate to this blog. It's been an interesting journey. I've been surprised to find that my former selflessness was a way of handing over control AND responsibility for my actions. As I've grown more self centered I've also had to take responsibility for my decisions, good and bad. A little scarey at times, but oh so worth it. Report
I loved this post. It mirrors me on so many levels. I too let other people's needs go before mine and it has hurt me sometimes in the past. I'm learning to be selfish but it's not easy. Sometimes I get it just right, other times I come off looking like a b*tch (sorry for those offended).
I'm proud of you for being able to stand out and be yourself. Keep going! Report
I liked this blog. It was so open and honest and out there!! I was taught never to be self centered. But this self centered that Jenn wrote about was "Health-Centered".
Well done lady (your weight loss) and well written (inspirations) I know you will continue on to your goal. You are already successful. Report
Thanks so much for sharing this blog. I have just come to the realization that it is okay to take care of yourself first before trying to take care of others. In taking care of myself I have been able to manage and balance my day better and with a smile. Congrats, also on your weight loss -- you are obviously doing something right. Report
Great Job!!! I love your blog and is so true and inspiring. Report
So, so true! It's so easy to put other people ahead of yourself and deny yourself things you deserve, like good health, and personal time. It's almost as if there's a safety in diminishing yourself and refusing to step out on your own to make your own choices and do your own thing. In the end, it's better for everyone if you do put yourself first in some ways. Report
I adore this blog! Firstly, because I love Glee and Secondly because this is something I struggle with on a daily basis. I didn't get the nickname "Momma Sam" by ever putting myself first.
12 days ago I caught a terrible stomach virus and have been sidelined since then. I have struggled with everyone wanting to hang out, visit, have meals with me. I had to really put myself first and tell them no. I needed someone to actually take care of me for once and I finally spoke up and told them so.
I'm still on the mend but I'm glad that I put my foot down and put myself first. Report
Very inspiring, thank you. Report
Good for you, Jenn! My story is much the same. I was always there for everyone except me. I reached a point where everything in my life was so stressful and I felt there was no way out of it. My job, my homelife, my family was just a mess. I decided I may no longer have control of any of those situations but the one thing I could do was to eat healthy and take better care of myself. Nobody can take that away from me. By hook or by crook, I was not going to let anyone interfere in my care of myself, least of all me. No excuses. That was about 70 weeks ago and today, I am much healthier and no longer overweight. I reached my top weight goal, a couple of weeks ago. I'm now down 88 pounds, exercise daily (who me???), I eat right and though there isn't much that has changed in the other areas of my life, I'm happier and able to handle everything else so much better. Report
There is so much about this blog that I love. It is difficult to put ourselves first sometimes, I know that for me, especially as a mom, I put others first - all the time - which isn't healthy for me or anyone else. How can I give my all to my family if I'm constantly giving my all to everyone around me? How can I take care of me if I'm taking too much care of others. It's such a balance and I really appreciate reading how you manage this in your life, Jenn. And I am SO proud of you!!!! I'm honored to call you a friend. Report
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