The Summer of Confidence: How to Find Yourself During a Pandemic

Years ago, I decided to leave what I felt at the time to be a dead-end office job and pursue my dreams as an entrepreneur: I entered into the field of fitness, starting at the very bottom rung of a ladder that—for the very first time in my life—I actually wanted to climb. I worked hard over the course of years to earn my personal training certifications, all while I was actively building a loyal client base. Today, the bulk of my potential clients approach me through a number of digital platforms for customized workout plans and nutrition plans, and it’s truly an honor whenever I get to help anyone. I know that they’re trusting me with helping to make a positive impact in their lives, and there’s nothing that I’d rather do than make that happen. Here’s the thing, though: I know that those clients are coming to me because it looks like I have my life put together—like I’ve got the fitness thing and the life thing down—and my carefully curated feed makes it look like that’s the case now. However, not more than six years ago, nothing could have been further from the truth. Heading into this summer of continued quarantine has had me thinking a whole lot about the summer of my emotional and physical transformation years ago: if there’s one thing I can offer to my readers, it’s that this summer—although difficult—can be the beginning of a new you. Don’t let the lockdown lock you into old habits: reach for your goals, even in the face of adversity.

(Emotionally) Wasting Away

It doesn’t look much like it now, but I suffer from issues with emotional eating. Since I was twelve, I’ve worked through some of my darkest, depressive moments by binge-eating “comfort” foods and treats. The issue kept me from meeting my athletic goals, kept me from connecting emotionally with my peers, and—and most honestly—practically destroyed my feelings of self-worth, to the point that I suffered from ideations of self-harm. I was stuck in what’s known as a “restrict-binge” cycle: that means that I’d keep myself from eating anything for as long as I could withstand that deprivation (even though we all need a balanced amount of calories just to function normally every day), and would finally over-indulge with a day-long binge of eating every processed and unhealthy food item that I could get my hands on. I was wreaking havoc on my body by depriving myself of nutrients, and then turning around and filling up my tank with useless calories. To counteract this vicious cycle, I started meeting with a counselor for professionally-directed help. The following are just a few of the strategies that we worked on together:

  1.  Getting rid of all foods that I consumed after a “restriction.” Basically, the kinds of “treats” that I’d fill up with.
  2. Filling my fridge with copious amounts of healthy foods.
  3. Making sure that I stuck as closely as possible to an eating plan—instead of restricting myself, I ate plenty throughout the day at appointed times. I stayed full and refreshed all day, and the desire to binge gradually dissipated.
  4. Therapy, every week. I knew I would never stop the cycle without addressing my underlying issues of self-worth.

I worked tirelessly to combine new, positive behaviors with a healthier mindset. Over the course of several years, I saw myself get into the best physical shape I’d ever been in, which vastly improved my confidence; with a few other changes to my routine, my mental health was catching up as well.

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

As my physical health improved, I realized it was time to develop a skill and hobby that I’d always dreamed of: becoming an accomplished camper. Having a hobby to master helped me to build my self-worth, because—every time I headed out into the mountains—I felt competent and skillful. I began investing in better and better equipment—including a customized camper trailer—that allowed me to maximize every minute I spent in my “happy place,” and I really threw my efforts headlong into my “alone time.” Now, I take up my partner and my friends as often as I can, too, which further improves my mental well-being; nothing makes me feel more confident than sharing hard-earned knowledge with someone less-experienced, nor happier than when I see someone else begin to blossom in the same activity that I’ve grown to love. I see myself as a quality person who knows how to handle whatever life throws at me. Maybe for you, it won’t be “camping,” but picking out a hobby and becoming skilled at an activity gives you tangible proof that you’re worthy and competent.

Outer and Inner Beauty

It sounds pretty obvious, but it’s something that came to me gradually over time as I was on my fitness journey; it’s important to wear clothes that fit. At first, I struggled with feeling attractive and owning my new “look,” so I kept wearing my old clothes—even though they were way too big for me. Also, as I kept losing weight (though that was never my sole focus), I also felt a little uncomfortable in my new skin, so I researched some cosmetic surgery options. It might be a while before I make any decisions on something like that, but with how accessible, safe, and affordable procedures are now, there’s no reason not to do whatever I need to to help me feel as confident as possible. It may seem less important now to take care of my outer appearance while we’re all stuck indoors more, but it’s way more important to dress up for yourself; remember, you’re the only one you ever need to impress—and even then, it’s okay to take it easy on yourself once in a while, too. Put yourself first, work on your mental, physical, and emotional health, and make this your best summer ever: I’m already rooting for your quaran-team.