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Sweating Out the Inner Mean Girl

Amber Adrian

I joined a gym last week. For the first time in nine years.

It’s one of those gyms where you go to a class and sweat in tandem with a whole bunch of other people while hooked up to a monitor so you can obsessively watch your heart rate ascend and descend.

Watching my heart rate move into the orange zone and then not give up when I normally would in order to keep it there is one of my better addictions.

One of the unintended consequences of draining myself dry was that I had no energy to do the things that would’ve given me more energy - namely, working out, eating well, and not being mean to myself.

I’m nailing the working out portion of the equation. Yes, that was a bit smug but I have enough gross gym clothes in my laundry basket to merit a wee bit of smug and I take my wins where I can get them.

I ate two whole vegetables yesterday so that nutrition thing is creeping into reality.

But the Not Being Mean To Myself plan remains elusive.

Being mean to myself is a fall-back reaction, a trigger tactic so ingrained that it takes me hours to realize I’m even doing it. It’s the bastard step-child of shame, anger turned inward, and is absolutely no bueno.

Weirdly, I feel like I HAVE to do it. Like, if I’m kind to myself I’ll get lazy. Or if I’m loving to myself, the entire world will implode. Wounding? Trauma? The human condition? Who knows. All I know is that I’d like my inner mean girl to chill the F out.

If I could solve one thing in the world it would be Humans Being Mean to Themselves.

(I’m pretty sure that if we solved Humans Being Mean to Themselves that would also solve Humans Being Mean to Others, and that seems an efficient use of time.)

My current solution is, when I notice that I’m being mean to myself, to stop whatever I’m doing and try to focus on my breath, focus on dropping all my thoughts into my heart. If I feel better and that catches the spin cycle of internal mean girl, I am free to continue on with my day.

If it doesn’t work, then I stop whatever I’m doing and do something soothing. Take a nap or a shower or go for a drive. I’ll tap into my wiser self - the quiet bit below my own private Regina George - and ask for help. Then I do whatever that voice says.

This actually works fairly well, but will kill an afternoon, after I’ve done all that resting and driving and meditating. Which is why I work for myself, so that I can halt the Being Mean To Myself Spin Cycle without getting fired.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is catch that mean voice in the act, because we’re so used to it being mean inside our heads that we just accept it as normal or as fact.

One of the best ways to catch that voice in the act is to simply pay attention to how you feel in those thoughts. Am I feeling better? That’s probably my wise self voice. Am I feeling worse? That’s Cady Haron after she learned to use lip gloss.

I’m old enough to have gone through a number of I Exercise and then I Don’t and then I Start Exercising Again cycles. So I know that when I start clearing my body out, whether it’s with kale or lots o’ sweating, old feelings and thoughts will rise to the surface. Saying hello before they melt into the atmosphere.

So I like to think that I’m sweating out my inner mean girl, that she’s rising to the top of my consciousness as I watch my heart rate climb to frankly dangerous levels while my feet frantically try to keep up with the moving belt below me. Like, if I give my inner mean girl a hockey stick she can leave her aggression on the field instead of dressing it in pink.