Living life in accord with your fears is something that has been much on my mind lately. One of the reasons for this is that I'm living in the house of a woman who did that so much that her world grew tinier and tinier. Another is that my father-in-law, who isn't really fearful, but operates almost completely within his comfort zone and won't try much of anything new, has been showing me a level of rigidity that I would like not to demonstrate in my life.
When I was still in Asia and in the process of losing weight, I had to push myself everyday to go beyond my comfort zone. Actually, at that time, it was much more about spending more time deeply in my "discomfort zone". I walked when it hurt. I didn't eat when I was hungry. I went out in public when it brought on mockery and made me embarrassed.
It's important to emphasize that I did these things at a slow pace. I wasn't one of these "give until it hurts", "no pain, no gain", or "no excuses" sorts of people. I walked until it hurt and stopped for awhile. I didn't eat when I was hungry, but not for hours. I put off eating for 5 minutes or 15. I endured discomfort, but it was a slow, relatively gentle stretching of my boundaries. I see no virtue in excessive suffering and have nothing to prove to anyone in regards to my character strength. The sole purpose of living in my discomfort zone was growth in a particular direction, not to prove how tough and committed I was.
Since my weight seems to be in an extended plateau (around 185), and I'm okay with that, I've been focusing on finding other ways to grow that do not relate to food or weight. I was doing this before by doing normal things that average weight people did without thinking. After I could go to restaurants, take a walk, go to a movie, etc., I decided that when I returned to America, I was going to keep pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone by doing things that even average weight people of my age may not be comfortable doing. Since I'm still fat, some of these things are more intimidating, but I'm doing them anyway because I want to build a level of comfort with my body as well as enjoy things.
Last weekend, I took part in a market test for a console game. In and of itself, this probably doesn't sound too adventurous, but this was a fitness game. Taking part in the test required me to go into a big room with strangers, watch an instructor on the screen and see a silhouette of my own chunky body next to him doing exercises.
I'm in very good health, and I can walk for hours, but I don't have the greatest overall capacity to do exercises well. I do table push ups, but I can't do a real push-up. I can run in place, but not with my knees high. I can jump, but not very high. I did all of the things I was asked, and I did them poorly in front of a stranger. And, in the end, I didn't care. Sure, I was self-conscious at first, but I got over it and in the end I was glad to have put myself to the test. Even if the woman who watched me though I was a huge lumpen failure (which she probably didn't care at all), what of it? I was still walking away with my loving husband to live our new life. What was more, I had grown from the experience. It may have been a small thing for other people, but I'm pretty sure that even people who do not have weight problems would have been reluctant to do that sort of thing.
One thing I realized is that an after effect of the pattern through which I lost weight has followed me beyond the process. That is, I've learned the benefits of slowly stretching your boundaries on a regular basis. I don't want to end up with a shrinking life as I get older because I live in accord with my fears. I want to end up with a bigger life because I conquer them one piece at a time.