I reached out to my Mom recently seeking some advice and wisdom regarding a burden I’ve been carrying around for some time. As always, she reminded me of the benefits of gratitude, the power of prayer, and the importance of expressing my true nature.
It’s wisdom I’m fortunate enough to have heard throughout my life and applicable regardless of life’s circumstances. Hearing it again was enough to snap me out of my funk and lift my spirits a bit. But Mom also said something to me in our conversation that I hadn’t heard that stopped me cold in my tracks. “Eric, you need to drop those earth weights.”
I had to laugh, as I have been an avid weightlifter for nearly 30 years. I started lifting weights in college. Not being a super athletic kid, I had never actually even been in a weight room during my formative high school years. But once I was introduced to pumping iron, I was hooked. From that fateful day my college roommate Chris took me to my campus weight room, I’ve been a gym rat ever since.
There was a feeling of control that I loved in fitness and the simplicity of the notion that effort + intensity = results. While I couldn’t control my God given attributes like being smart, handsome, or athletic, I could control the sets and reps in the gym. It’s a lifelong habit that I have always been proud of. While the virtues of a consistent fitness regimen are widely touted and too many to list, a passionate dedication to exercise has also led me to my professional vocation in fitness.
Indeed, weightlifting has been a big part of my life, but recently I have come to realize that my exercise wasn’t the only ‘weightlifting’ habit I picked up in college. Metaphorically speaking, the hindrance of carrying around emotionally heavy weights was also an obsession I picked up as a young man. My personal and professional aspirations also came with underlying currents of seeking validation and approval from others.
One of life’s heaviest burdens is the desire for popularity, whether it’s the approval of Mom and Dad, fitting in with peers, or climbing the corporate ladder. For me, I was the perfect storm for an approval-seeking fixation - an actor striving for applause, a writer hoping for ‘likes,’ and the common individual seeking acceptance from his friends and family. Add in the fact that I am a known pack rat (I sill have baseball cards from my childhood, countless collectibles, and even hundreds of CD’s I’ve acquired over the years) and I’ve always been a prime candidate for lugging heavy loads around. It’s no wonder I took to weightlifting with such vigor and enthusiasm!
Too much ‘weight training’ over the years has taken a toll on me both physically and emotionally. My back hurts chronically from too many squats and deadlifts and my stomach hurts frequently from too much anxiety. In confronting the false notion of physical control, I’ve also noticed the ball and chain of the emotional weight that I’ve been schlepping around from place to place. This awareness has allowed me to practice releasing the burden of resistance and instead develop flexibility, adaptability, and acceptance.
The strain of lugging around the heavy load of earth weights is something all of us deal with and with the constant bombardment of technology and social media; the desire for validation seems particularly acute these days. The constant striving for approval must be confronted or the inevitable hardships disappointments and traumas get heavier and harder to move around. If not dealt with and tossed aside along the way, at some our earth weights point become simply unbearable.
In the Bible we are instructed to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” While many follow the command to rightfully treat others with empathy, dignity and respect, sometimes lost in the shuffle is how we treat ourselves. As our society falls deeper into the abyss of narcissism, addiction, and distraction, one common theme emerges – a lack of self-love.
Peeling back the layers of the primal urge to feel necessary and loved brings one full-circle to the true foundation of self-love. Loving your neighbor, establishing purpose, and finding happiness doesn’t start with establishing what we like or who we love; it starts with loving ourselves. To truly love with authenticity, we need to free ourselves of excess baggage and heal our open wounds. To do so can only be achieved when we finally drop those earth weights and step into selfless love.