Expectations and Illusions About The Self: Why Sometimes It Pays To Eat Dirt

Hola, amigos!

I’m back after a long hiatus from blogging to pontificate on pride and its follies. I’m not sure if I’ll keep coming back to blogging or this is just a one-off thing because I needed to vent. Either way, I’m writing tonight and I wondered if some of you felt the same way as I do.

Today’s blog post is going to be about expectations and illusions about ourselves and how we often inflate them to soothe ourselves into a false sense of achievement. And there’s none better than my own self to take for an example.

So, I joined my neighbourhood gym recently because I wanted to lose the elephant rolls of fat I had gained from sitting at home and running my household. Guess the only thing running was my mouth…and of course my brain, with the result that while I was mentally exhausted, my body had compensated for the exhaustion by resorting to a sloth-like lifestyle.

So when, after much mental prepping (don’t you want to fit into skinny jeans again?) and hearing deprecatory remarks from certain generally deprecating but well-meaning people in my life, I decided I needed to lose weight, and since nothing else was fitting into my schedule (we do things in my household as per the daughter’s schedule), I decided gyming would be best because:

  1. I would get to get out of the house (which in my current situation is pretty much limited to grocery shopping and play dates).
  2. I would have a trainer aiming abuse at me to push myself (which I wouldn’t do to myself – neither the abusing nor the pushing).
  3. It would be an excuse to dress up well as opposed to the baggy-saggy shorts and one-liner teeshirts that have become a second skin for me.
  4. Maybe I’d lose weight. Big maybe but maybe.

So the first day at the gym was nothing but gut-busting cardio which I managed for *drumroll* fifteen minutes on the cross trainer followed by another fifteen minutes on a recumbent bike. Haw f*****g haw!

The trainer wanted to see just how far up I could take my heart rate without passing out (which I was very close to within the first two minutes of the workout). He didn’t say anything to me after that; told me to go home and meet him for the next session, which was scheduled for two days later. Today that is.

And today he made me go through several kinds of exercises – push-ups, squats, planks, sit-ups, you get the picture, followed by running up and down a staircase, ending in stretches. All through those forty-five minutes, his eyebrows kept mounting up and up and up over his forehead till I think they were glued to his hairline. He was being polite by not emoting much but I think I tested his limits.

When he finally called it a day (thank god, because my legs felt like jelly), he told me just how unfit I was, comparing my flexibility to someone who has a frozen shoulder. Yikes!

The bottom line is, he quashed my expectations and illusions about myself with one giant stomp of his size ten foot.

Oh and BTW, these are the illusions and expectations I had before I stepped into the gym today:

Illusions –

  1. I’m small but I have as much strength as a dwarf-sized-Wonder Woman.
  2. I have the stamina of a cheetah.
  3. I may be slightly overweight but I’m definitely not in bad form.
  4. I have tonnes of willpower and can push myself.

Expectations –

  1. I would sail through cardio because I have been biking (so what if it’s a flat road) and walking (so what if my only competition has been a bunch of arthritic ladies walky-talkying on their phones along with their pet dogs).
  2. I would be told that my form is good and I know how to workout.
  3. I would be congratulated on how strong I appear both physically and mentally.

And this is how I was feeling when I came home:

Reality –

  1. I have as much strength as my five-year-old (I’m exaggerating here but for good reason. She is adequate for her age; I’m not) and can’t lift my own body weight into a full push-up unless I use a wall or my knees.
  2. I have the stamina of a steam engine running without coal.
  3. I’m not just a little overweight; I’m just twenty pounds away from being officially obese.
  4. My form sucks; I’ve been planking, squatting the wrong way my whole damned life.
  5. My willpower is as weak as Peppa’s brother George when he loses his toy dinosaur.
  6. I may know names of all the equipment in the gym (this is because the writer/researcher and OCD-prone INFJ in me has read up on all kinds of exercises), I know technically which exercises target which areas of the body but I know jackshit about working out my own body.
  7. I am a phisaddi (translated to a wimp).

Not only did I entirely and abominably humiliated myself before my trainer (also before some exceptionally brawny guys and *gasp* girls), but I also managed to get the nastiest heartburn post the workout that burnt like a Holika fire in my chest and made me breathless. Brownie points for how I didn’t let my trainer know that I was that unfit that even my lower oesophagal sphincter muscle works like a sloth. I’m sure a sloth’s lower oesophagal sphincter muscle works better than mine. Haw f*****g haw.

My body just doesn’t want to cooperate with me. Sometimes it’s a busted knee, sometimes my period, sometimes this, sometimes that. But today made me realize that maybe the problem is me and not my body. Okay, maybe not just my body. Maybe I’ve had too high an opinion of myself or protected myself too much using some excuse or the other to ever push my limits to see just how friggin high a horse I was riding. I needed this face down fall down the path of shame. If there’s one thing I’m glad about its how it’s shown me just what I have in me. Or don’t have.

This humbling experience made me flash back to another humbling experience a month ago when I had submitted one of my stories to a critiquing session. This was my first such submission and I had somewhat-realistic-but-mostly-cocky expectations from the said event. I was hoping that at least they would tell me that my story, while admittedly being deficient in technique, was rich in heart.

As it turns out, my first sentence itself got me into trouble. And it all went downhill from there. By the end of the session, I was feeling emasculated, butchered and homesick (because I needed to hide my shame somewhere) and I had been told in overly simplified and benign language that I was still an amateur. Who did I think I was?! Oh god, it took me a while to get over that trauma. Credit goes to the people who critiqued for that event, their criticism was entirely constructive without belittling the budding writers (there was another one who was critiqued but he fared better than me).

That, however, didn’t mean that I felt any less like an imbecile for having sent an ill-written, adjective heavy, first draft for a critiquing session conducted by professional and respected authors. As far as they’re concerned, I have ruined my chances of ever being perceived as anything better than a wannabe writer. Haw f*****g haw.

So where’s my self-deprecating talk going? To this point –

Let yourself experience shame, even when you know it will deflate and maim and maul and belittle you to a particle the size of an atom. Why? Because every now and then your ego needs a kick in its inflated butt. You need to see just who you are and how much you need to imrpove.

I’m not being nihilistic or sadistic. I will laugh at your foibles but I’ll also lend you a hand to get off the dirt. I’m saying this because, if you have better sense than me, after they’re done throwing eggs at you, you’ll see light even in the criticism and smarten up to improve yourself. 

That’s the gist of this whole blog. If your eyes ran down to the quoted part in red, ignoring all the gibberish I’ve spewed above, I congratulate you on your smarts and thank you for not reading about my ignominy. (No don’t go back up there to read about it now. Not when I just paid you a compliment!)

And that’s it. I think I’ve cussed, shamed and exposed myself enough for the day, so if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to wallow in my self-pity with a tub of ice cream and Netflix playing my favourite show. I see the light, like how I preached in the preceding paragraph. Just not tonight.

But I very much would like to hear about your humbling moments and how you coped with it. I won’t go back on my claim of either laughing at you or helping you out. Haha! But if you share, we could both end up feeling a little less stupid.

Goodnight folks and thank you for reading 🙂

Copyright © Pradita Kapahi, 2019.

21 thoughts on “Expectations and Illusions About The Self: Why Sometimes It Pays To Eat Dirt

  1. From my experience, keep going girl. The battle for fitness begins and ends in your mind. Even if you have twenty minutes, go to gym everyday… However unfit you may be, you are not far from your target. Keep going.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well, now I have read the post, and I laughed at it, identified a lot of my own self with you, and am proud to see that you drew the right inferences from your so-called humiliation sessions.

    As far as fitness is concerned, try going to the gym regularly for 20 days and then return back to what you’ve written there.
    For writing, I guess we discussed this experience earlier, and you will rise and shine with more writing, I’m pretty sure.

    The illusions and expectations section, I guess except for the height, I probably feel the same about myself on all other points. 😁😁😁

    Nice to have you blogging again. Once a month of this reminiscing won’t hurt either you or us. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. You still did better than me. I joined yoga class last month for pretty much the same reasons and fainted during the first session. I can’t tell how embarrassed I was! Somehow I kept going to class and now I am somewhat getting used to the strenuous exercises. So my advice is: Don’t quit. Be regular at the gym. Gradually you will see improvement in your fitness levels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whoa! I hope nothing happened to you. That sounds scary. Thank you for the advice, Maam. So far i have continued with it. Lets hope i do so in the future near and far as well 😊 😊


  4. Heyo! Good to hear from you! I’ve been mostly AWOL myself. Trying to take up blogging again…

    I read the title of this post, and I agree with the premise. Sometimes ‘eating dirt’ reminds us of the importance of humility and compassion: our mistakes make us more human, and ( mostly) makes it harder for us to judge other people for making their own mistakes.

    I do have an alternate proposal though. It’s normal to have expectations that don’t pan out. Reality reminds us of where we actually are (as opposed to where we thought we were), and reminds what we need to do to ‘get there’. Maybe humility comes in when you accept the difference between your expectations and reality, without beating yourself up for it. You are human after all, right? You’re not perfect – none of us are, or ever will be.

    I’m not saying don’t push yourself to do better, I’m just saying kindness (and humility) go a long way. One lesson I’ve learnt ( and am still learning, emphasis on still) is that shame is actually highly counterproductive. Makes us ( or at least me) super defensive and in the long run much more reluctant to accepting feedback. I guess it starts to feel more personal or something.

    It feels a little hypocritical of me to write this here ( my writing is very often self-deprecating), but I read this and instantly wanted to give you a hug. Not in a pitying way – in a ” Hey, don’t be mean to my friend.” kind of way.

    So yeah. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hi. Thank you so much for your kindness and sorry for the late reply.

        You’re right that shame is counterproductive. But I’ve felt sometimes shame has propelled me to push myself harder, like in this case too, I’m trying to test my own limits each time I hit the gym now. Shaming someone else for petty or no reasons is very wrong though.

        Also being humble comes with practice, oftentimes coming from an incident when we slammed back on Earth after our soaring flight to the clouds. I’m practising humility and kindness. I do tell myself that all good things take time and that I’m also human. But words like yours encourage me to not be too bleak.

        So thank you for taking the time for being supportive here. And no, it wasn’t condescending at all. I love it when readers give me their time through their comments. It tells me that I must have done something right to engage them in a conversation. So, yay!

        And hugs to you too 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Glad to hear it wasn’t condescending. I sometimes slip into that without realising! Ironic, considering we’re talking about humility! 😀
    I know what you mean about using shame to push yourself. I’ve done that too. I guess it’s also important to remind yourself to be kind sometimes. ( Speaking from experience, I need to remind myself to be kind to myself, from time to time). You’re right – both kindness and humility are things to practice. They don’t always come automatically – especially when it’s towards yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: My Monsoon Diaries, 2019: Karla Caves and Other Trips. | The Pradita Chronicles

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