“We’re going to lose our jobs, don’t freak out,” my coworker said, “You’re not going to die.” I was going to die. I was pretty damn sure of it. My heart was pounding and I could feel a heart attack coming on slowly. When my name was called, I headed down to the HR office where I sat with my then boss, who explained myself and two others were being laid off. I don’t remember the rest, except today, would be my last day. My boss then asked, “Would you like to get your things now or later?” I told her I would go up, but she informed me she would have to escort me. You know, like a criminal. She escorted me to the door, and then it was done. The first job I EVER HAD. I cried hysterically to my Dad, who told me. “This sucks, but you’re not going to die.” CLEARLY, I am, and also why do people keep saying that?
When I returned home, I removed my work clothes to get into mandatory depression sweatpants. As I looked in the mirror, I I was unrecognizable. I had gained nearly 40 pounds from working long hours and attending school at night. For what? No matter what anyone could have said, all I could hear was
“You are so not valuable to anyone. You can’t even keep a job, and good luck getting one looking like that. You have let everyone down, including yourself.”
As much as I preach positivity, in my darkest hours, I couldn’t find the strength to be kind to myself. I was angry.
During the first week of fun-employment, my friend approached me about a bootcamp challenge. “I cannot do that. It will be stupid!” I proclaimed. I acted angry, but really I was scared. Everyone would be better than me and I couldn’t face another failure. I called the trainer, who told me everything would be fine, but still…ugh. I almost threw up, and I had to modify like EVERYTHING. But at the end, my big ass kind of felt like a bad ass. In a time when everything was going wrong, to actually complete something made me feel: accomplished. I followed my trainers program to the letter of the law, and within 21 days, had lost ten lbs. I had lined up a few interviews and I was feeling myself. I decided I would control my destiny. I turned down multiple jobs, and I finally found a place I liked. I talked about myself like someone I loved, proved my value, and left the same day with a job and a 20k raise. I also negotiated an earlier start time to ensure I would be able to leave work on time to make bootcamp (#worklifebalance).
As time went on, I became more accomplished. I was putting myself out there, speaking at events and slowly dropping the pounds. The more weight I lost, the more confidence I gained. I was always trying new workouts that challenged me and it brought me to a revelation. I realized my confidence made me a great fit for sales. I checked out a local recruiter, and sent him my oddly scattered resume. “Well, which company do you want to work for?” he asked kindly. “The biggest and best job posting you have.” I replied. His voice had the tone of someone telling a child that Santa Claus isn’t real. “This is a major fortune 500 organization, and your experience is a bit..well…all over the place.” I tried to not be discouraged, but I boldly told him that if he got me the interview, I would take the job. I was a salesperson, I had decided it.
The interview process at the company was one of the hardest I’d ever been through. At points, I panicked. During a multi question test, I kept remember hearing my dad saying. “But you won’t die.” I’m pretty sure I blacked out for part of it, because to this day I don’t remember what that lady asked me. Oddly enough, I had the job. It was my first time in a big company, but I finally felt like people were listening to my ideas and thoughts. My accomplishments in fitness began to seep into my subconscious, and I started showing my confidence. I talked to anyone that would listen. Before I knew it I was a manager.
Around that time, that my little negative gremlin thoughts started creeping in. My fitness started slipping with the new stress and constant travel; I went into panic mode. My weight had crept up 20 lbs. I called my trainer and said, “I think I need to enter a bodybuilding competition. And we need to make it work for while I’m traveling, because I have to do my job too.” I’d already lost weight, so why not try the real IMPOSSIBLE? I made a plan, measured my food, worked out on the road, and controlled myself at happy hours. About four weeks (and 12 business trips, into my diet) I had my first presentation as a boss. It was also at the pinnacle of my near 100 lb weight loss. There everyone was looking at me because suddenly I was the expert. “Ugh, I cannot do this!,” I thought. But really, again, I did it, it went awesome. Nobody died.
My bikini competition came in October. It wasn’t big, but the months of dieting were starting to get to me…and my anxiety. I looked at some of the girls and I was like “Holy shit, I’ve made a giant mistake.” I was the fat girl, and I called my mom to explain I could NOT do it. My mom replied, “No! You’re Beyonce! Just like…pretend you’re Beyonce!” Um ok. I slipped on my gold bikini, and remembered that I had every right to be there as the next girl. I had done the work, and a plastic trophy wouldn’t change that. Plus, I was Beyonce. I took 4th, but after a giant brunch, I returned to work, continued to kill it and checked off another scary bucket list item where I didn’t croak.
Many people ask why I even compete. Losing weight was the hardest thing I’ve done, and many times I failed. I’ve failed in my career and often in fitness, but I’ve learned to exist comfortably with failure. As I proved in the above, life will always throw discomfort your way, but the more you embrace it, the easier it is to survive. I know when crap hits the fan, I won’t be worried about how to get it together. Everyone from my family to my employees will count on me. I will continue to compete because it is so scary, but every time I push myself harder, I keep getting better.
I write this because many of you are struggling with failure. Whether it is weight gain, a job loss, or even a failed marriage; take this time to get comfortable with the pain, and know that YOU have the power to change it. If you feel like you can’t do it, remember that a former fat girl pretending to be Beyonce placed in a bikini competition. Do the bootcamp TODAY, lift the weights TODAY, apply for the job TODAY, because at the end of the day, did you die?