To rob my self-esteem
I was huffing and puffing up the side of a southern Utah butte yesterday, my heart pounding in my ears. I stopped to catch my breath when the thought occurred to me to stop and turn back down right there. But I continued. The view from the top would be beautiful and I did not want to be a quitter before I reached my goal. No one but my husband, who hiked along beside me, would ever know that I had given up but I would have to live with knowing that I cratered to my base instinct to go easy on myself.
This morning I was glad that I had pushed myself, climbing over boulders and slipping in the soft red sand, when I read Julia E Hubbel’s latest article on the benefits of staying active as we age. Julia is a role model for fitness, working out at a level that I will never know. But she kicks readers in the butt with her encouragement to at least get out and walk.
“We are crippling ourselves as a nation with convenience, and we further cripple ourselves with pure laziness,” she wrote.
Laziness? The word had a familiar ring. All my life I have been dogged by the fear of appearing lazy, and that fear has led me to keep going, keep trying, like I did yesterday going up the butte.
At my core, I fear that I am lazy, content to sit all day reading, drinking tea and munching on a sweet. In truth, I rarely allow myself such behavior, usually on a rainy day.
But laziness, it turns out, is more than a dislike of activity when you have the physical ability to exert yourself. There are also some psychological factors that drive us to be inactive. Leon F. Seltzer, PhD. explored why we are lazy in a Psychology Today article and concluded that lack of self-confidence and self-esteem can contribute to laziness.
For me, I know this is true. Since I was a child tripping over the hurdles at track-and-field day or freezing in fear on the balance beam, I’ve had no confidence in my physical abilities, which resulted in a lack of self-esteem. My peers didn’t care if I was a straight-A student in grammar school if I couldn’t run and jump with them. I was miserable and rather than running circles on the track to build my stamina I retreated to the library and a pile of books.
Now here I am 60 years later, still battling the same demons I faced in my youth. But I have convinced myself that I can make it up the mountain, not caring if I am huffing and puffing, taking it one step at a time.
And, excuse me if I sound like I am bragging, but I have taken on more physical challenges in my 60s and conquered them, than ever before. Facing these challenges has given me as a by-product that long elusive sense of self-esteem.
It’s taken me a long time but if all the studies of healthy aging that show how exercise leads to better brain functioning and to the ability to ward off disease are true, then I’m glad I finally figured out how to overcome my lack of self-confidence in my physical powers and push myself up the hill. The view from the top is vast, indeed.