For years, I’ve been committed to working out, and I’ve done so three to four times a week for as long as I can remember. I worked out consistently through pregnancy, started again gently around nine weeks postpartum, and even kept up with it for the first few months of being back at work.
Then for a few weeks, I had legitimate reasons why I couldn’t work out, and I gave myself grace — a decision I don’t feel bad about. But then I got so used to giving myself grace that weeks went by without getting in a real workout, and somewhere along the line, my grace-giving became excuse-making instead. I’m too busy. I have other priorities. I need the sleep. It’s too hard to work out while Selah’s awake, and I need her nap times for other things.
And then one day I climbed two flights of stairs at work while carrying a heavy bag, and I realized that my body felt weak. I’d lost not just my muscle tone but my functional strength. A few days later, my physical therapist asked me what my current exercise routine looks like, and I laughed.
She urged me that if I want to be functionally strong and healthy enough for a second pregnancy and delivery and the raising of a another child, I need to get back to moving consistently. I do want all that, and I want to set a healthy example for my children, and this starts with them seeing Mommy taking care of herself. But, as I mentioned on Instagram several weeks ago, I don’t want to swing too hard the other way by guilting myself into being a perfect example for Selah.
I have an all-or-nothing personality, and I don’t like to do things halfway. I want to work out four times a week or not at all. I want to publish the best essay I’ve ever written or not blog at all. I want to eat healthily, but if I indulge once, I binge for the rest of the day. I strive for perfection until I burn out, and then I just stop trying.
I don’t like this about myself. This tendency gives me an ego boost when I’m doing well, and it makes me feel like a failure when I’m not.
But in this season of life, halfway is sometimes the best I can do. I need to find a way to be okay with taking baby steps and doing things halfway, for my sanity and for Selah’s perceptions. So I’m going to try taking this healthy-habits thing one day at a time, knowing that her little eyes watch me and that she learns just as much from the small steps as the big ones.
I’m doing a lot of self-talk these days, reminding myself of what I’ve preordained as acceptable and good in this season. I’m finding that if I set reasonable, moderate expectations that I know I can reach, I feel a lot better than when I set high expectations and then fall short — even if I get further or get more done by reaching higher.
These are a few of the reasonable expectations I’m setting for myself:
- Do a “real” workout twice a week, but get some movement in most days. I define real as 1) involves weights, 2) gets my heart rate up, and 3) involves some sweating. I’m not setting time expectations for it, because 10 minutes of sweating is better than 0 minutes. I define moving as going for a walk with the family, stretching before bed, etc.
- Read a bold-to-bold portion of Scripture each morning. I heard this idea on the Mom Struggling Well podcast, and a lightbulb went off. I don’t have to read a whole Bible chapter and then journal about it for 20 minutes to connect with God. I can read from one bold heading to the next and be just as intentional about reflecting on and applying it.
- Continue to blog one-ish time per week, but let go of my expectation that it has to be deep and meaningful and perfect every single time I post. (Just to be clear, I don’t actually think my writing is ever perfect or wonderful . . . but sometimes the desire to make it so keeps me from posting anything at all). I have only enough time to post once a week right now, so of course, I don’t want to “waste” any posts, but much like working out, writing something is better than writing nothing.
- Edit pictures whenever I feel like it, without pressuring myself to back-edit old photos unless I want to print a specific one. I’m learning to shoot in RAW and edit my photos in Lightroom and loving it, but I know the moment I start putting pressure on myself to edit every single photo I take will be the moment I stop enjoying it.
- Allow myself to be in a playful moment with Selah without wishing I could be doing something more productive. There’s no good way to quantify this one, but I’m going to try to remind myself of this as often as I can.
Even with these newly reasonable expectations, I know I will fall short. It’s especially painful to fall short of a bar that already feels like it’s been set low. But in those moments I’ll try to show myself grace without spiraling into excuses, and I’ll mitigate my guilt by reminding myself that doing something halfway is better than not doing it at all.
Maybe you’re holding your own bar too high. (We all hold our own bars, don’t we? I’ll bet there are very few kids or husbands or friends who would hold our bars higher for us than we do for ourselves.) Maybe you can’t find that middle ground between giving grace and making excuses. Maybe you don’t know how to do something halfway. Maybe it’s time to learn.
What would it look like for you to lower the bar and learn how to be okay with it?