How do we measure success?
I have always struggled with my weight. I’ve always been on the ‘chubby’ side or ‘well put together’ as our ones at home call it! Or ‘built like a house’ as my elderly neighbour once said to my sister and I…at a very impressionable and fragile age of 13!! My daddy lovingly nicknamed me Toby after the Michelin tyre man…as I had so many rolls on my thighs when I was a baby – and it kind of stuck!
I’m not saying I’m massively over weight – I’m not. But I do carry extra pounds pretty easy, and I’ve always been the type to be a bit ‘soft round the edges’ despite following a fairly healthy diet and doing quality, high intensity exercise coupled with weights at least 5, if not 6 times a week.
A few years ago I had really piled on the weight and I wasn’t happy with where I was at in life. I had just turned 30 and I thought if I don’t start doing something about this now, I am going to go past my ‘peak’ years and I’ll look back at photos and regret it.
So I got a personal trainer, I cleaned up my diet and I took responsibility. I lost two dress sizes and had got to a place where I was relatively happy with my body and found myself able to wear clothes I never imagined would look good on me. Success.
Then bake off happened. Massive success. But not great for the figure!! And then life got in the way. Practice recipes turned into Christmas and Christmas rolled into birthdays and nights out and weekends away. A year later, not quite back up to my original size but I find myself creeping back into that self-loathing place where I can’t look at myself in the mirror without getting that sick, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I tried to kid myself that it was ‘bake off weight’ but in reality, it’s a year later. This is not bake off weight. It’s just weight. It’s like the mother who says ‘oh this baby weight, I just can’t shift it’ and when you ask what age the baby is, he’s actually 5….
So I’m back trying to grasp a hold of where I’m at. I know I’m not obese. I know some of you reading this will think I’m obsessing over nothing, that I’m too easily influenced by the media constantly feeding us streams of perfectly slim and toned bodies. But the cold, harsh truth is I am only 5’5”. I know I am carrying a little excess weight, I have a healthy goal in my mind and that is what I want to achieve. So, how do I measure my success?
It’s a funny word isn’t it? I mean, look up definitions on the internet and you will find any amount of them.
I remember years ago when I graduated from university, one of my close friends (who also became a mum at a young age but she decided not to continue her education) said to me “oh my god, you’re so lucky”.
Bearing in mind I took Piaras off to university with me when he was only 18 months. We lived away from home during the week and came home at the weekends. I left him in nursery during the day and I didn’t go out at night like a ‘normal’ student. Granted, I am lucky that my family were so supportive and helped out when they could but my degree wasn’t ‘luck’. It was sheer hard work and pure determination to show my kid what hard work and what, my definition of success, looked like.
"I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have."
-- Thomas Jefferson
But, success is a movable beast isn’t it? I’d got the degree. Success, yes. But what now? That can’t just define me as a person. And so you continue to work to a new goal.
For me, I moved to teacher training. And in the education sector, there is a lot of emphasis put on success. But success in education is all too often projected to be the typical straight A’s with a progress file filled with academic and extra-curricular achievements.
There isn’t so much emphasis put on successes like balancing a personal and academic life, succeeding at practical skills like wiring a plug, or being able to cook, iron your clothes or managing to hold down a part time job gaining invaluable life experience. Again – how is success defined?
Piaras is currently sitting his GCSEs and he would be the first to say he’s not particularly academically gifted, but has huge strengths outside of the classroom. However, surely a child coming through GCSEs with a balance between school and life skills, a sound mental health and happy memories with a group of good mates is more ‘successful’ than a list of straight A’s attained at the detriment of any of the aforementioned? Again, I guess it’s how you personally measure success.
I digress. Turns out I’ve a lot to say about success! Back to the ‘battle of the wobble’….this week has been a shit week for trying to find successes. I feel like I’ve put on weight despite dragging my ass out of bed at 5.20am most mornings for the gym and not giving into the sugar cravings. When I don’t see ‘gains’ it can be so disheartening. It’s downright heart-breaking and frustrating, and I want to throw the towel in and give it all up. But where would that get me?!
This morning, feeling uber grumpy and tired I dragged my sorry ass to CrossFit…and achieved a new PB for my deadlift. This evening I came home from work and went for a 5k run…and achieved the best time I’ve had in over 12 months. That, my friends, to me is success! So although I’m feeling like a beached whale and the scales aren’t moving, my body is clearly getting fitter and stronger.
My time in the 5k was 27.38. And my new PB in the deadlift was 50kg. I know those two stats are absolutely rubbish to some of you! There are people at my CrossFit gym lifting twice their body weight so my measly 50kg is nothing to them. But it’s big to me. When I started CrossFit a mere 6 months ago, I was only deadlifting 30kg. And my running buddy Chris can blast out a 5k in under 17 minutes. But that 5k under 28 minute is a big success to me. Especially dragging this extra weight around!!
So I guess what I’m trying to tell myself, and you, is that we can find success where we look for it! The simplest of things like getting all of the ironing done on a Sunday night while normally it sits there to a Thursday, is a success. Not giving into the sugar cravings, is a success. Not flipping your shit at the incompetent buffoon of a colleague, is a success. Not drunk texting the guy who does not deserve your tears, is a success. Find them where you can and damn well celebrate them!
And more importantly, we simply cannot compare our successes to others. What an achievement looks like to me, might not be an achievement to you – but does that make any less of an achievement?
Annnnddd talking of achievements….Thetaste.ie featured my very own recipe for apple and cinnamon donuts. This to me, having left the Bake Off in week 1, is a huge success. A recipe of mine, featured alongside some of Ireland’s top foodies?! #winning!
If you haven’t made donuts before…give them a go! You’d never know, it could be one of your new successes! ;-)
“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” ― Anne Sweeney