It’s all progress

It’s all progress. And progress is messy.

We live in a very fast-paced world and if you’re even remotely of the overachiever variety, you probably have any number of things you’re trying to accomplish at a given time:

– Work hard to produce meaningful success at a job you enjoy
– Stay in touch with friends, near and far
– Read the stack of books on your nightstand
– Be a good employee, friend, significant other
– Eat something green once in awhile
– Try not to drink all the beer
– Use the gas stove for its intended purpose (making a home-cooked meal)
– Make paying for that gym membership worth it
– Catch up on the 8 shows you’ve added to your list on Netflix
– Call your mom
– Get rid of those old shoes you never wear anymore
– Make a scrapbook someday
– Finally hang curtains in the bathroom

And that doesn’t even scratch the surface. It’s oh so easy to feel like we’re falling behind in the world. When I stay late at work, I’m immediately behind on making it to the gym, grocery shopping, finally doing laundry. When I leave work on time, I feel anxious I won’t meet that project deadline in time even if I did make it to the gym to swim laps.

I constantly feel behind in some way. Recently though, I stumbled upon a little thought nugget of gold.

It’s all progress. No matter what.

Our list, that ultimate list of everything we want to do in life is ongoing forever and always. And each day, we are making a little bit of progress in one area or another. We feel behind because we didn’t make progress in the fun areas, or the areas we’ve been neglecting or in ALL the areas. But it’s still progress, people. We’re still moving forward inch by inch.

We never give ourselves credit for the progress, how beautiful and messy and wonderful and so damn stressful it is. That’s why we never find balance.

The key to balance then (I’m guessing here because I still haven’t actually found it) is in taking that little bit of daily progress and putting it where we need it. Where we need it to feel whole, to feel content, to feel happy, to feel in control. Maybe today I need that little bit of progress at work so I can walk out of the office feeling empowered. Tomorrow maybe my progress will focus on finally making it to my morning work-out. Some days our progress will be divided up all over every little thing in life. At other times, it may ebb and flow like the tides of the deep, blue sea.

I’m actually not at all sure if this is the key to balance. But I’ve been thinking… if step A is recognizing that we’re making progress and not focusing on falling behind and step B is deciding to make progress in the areas that will make us happy on any given day, then step A plus step B probably equals one giant step closer to finding balance. Am I right?

“I wish I was as skinny as Emily.”

PSA: We are perpetuating our own worst enemy.

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I recently got to spend one-on-one time with my favorite seven-year-old. After an invigorating conversation about her expertise on the monkey bars, she said something that shocked me.

“I wish I was as skinny as Emily.”

Taken aback and tempted to plead with her to never say such a thing again, my only response was “Don’t be silly. You’re skinny and beautiful as you are.”

Later that night, I pondered her statement again. As a fit seven-year-old, free from the harm of sitting at a desk all day and still energized with a fast metabolism, what on earth could have caused her to say such a thing? How does she even know the concept of being “skinnier”? How could she have already adopted the miserable habit of comparing herself to others?

Then it hit me. It’s our fault. All of ours.

By negatively talking about wanting to be skinnier, healthier, prettier, more “put together”, we, as a society, have unconsciously created mini versions of ourselves that will only perpetuate this negative self-talk, critical body image and pressure to compare ourselves to others.

Though I tend to be less concerned with body image than many people, I do catch myself saying things like “I really need to get my act together and eat better this week” or “Wow, my arms look huge in that picture” or “No, I’ll buy new jeans once I lose a few more pounds”.

As adults, we should be concerned about our health and there’s nothing wrong with keeping track of what we eat or setting goals to be more active. But when saying these things in a negative light, we forget who is listening – younger people who learn from our self-talk and the connotations we express.

The answer? We need to change the way we talk about our health, our fitness, our bodies. We need to say things like “I’ll have one cookie, but not until I eat some veggies.” or “Let’s go outside and ride bikes.” instead of things like “I haven’t gone to the gym yet today, but I’m being a ‘fattie’ so I’ll have a cookie” or “Gosh, I wish I had skinny arms like so-and-so.”

I don’t know about you, but I think seven-year-olds should be more concerned with jumping on trampolines and eating ice cream with rainbow sprinkles instead of worrying about how “skinny” they are.

The only way to affect the future is to change the now. May we be stronger, more positive and less critical both for ourselves and all those who look up to us. Our family, friends and loved ones learn from what we say and do. Let’s teach them something positive.