Spring is officially here! I always feel like the world expands during the first sunny days after winter, like I’m a little solar-operated human powering up, ready to take on the world.
But I also start thinking about what will happen when it gets warmer. About going outside without layers of clothes to hide under, or stepping out wearing short sleeves that reveal my flabby arms. I think about really hot weather, and I secretly hope it won’t get too hot this year – even though I love the heat – because I know I’ll get upset about how I look in summer clothes.
And just as soon as my horizons start to expand, they contract again.
I spent the summer in Playa del Carmen in Mexico a couple of years ago. It’s scorching hot there, of course, so there’s a lot of beach action and rooftop pool parties. Sounds amazing, right? And it is, as long as you’re not horribly self-conscious about your body.
I distinctly remember going to one pool party and sitting at the side with sweat beading my lip and prickling at my armpits, but refusing to let myself do the one thing I wanted to do – get in the water.
I felt sticky and hot and miserable, but I was too self-conscious to strip down to my swimsuit and get in. And far from saving myself shame and embarrassment, I inadvertently earned pity and bemusement over why someone would sit fully clothed by the side of a swimming pool in 30-degree heat.
But I told I myself, as I always do, that one day I’ll be thin and confident and THAT’S when I’ll do it. It’s not like I’ll never get in the pool, it’s just not today.
And that’s the Waiting Trap.
The Waiting Trap: The self-imposed limbo our monkey mind creates in order to keep us safe from fear and shame… but also from happiness and success. You know you’re in the Waiting Trap if you catch yourself saying something like: “I’ll do x when I’m x, or when x happens”.
That pool party was two years ago now and nothing has changed. Sure, I’m in slightly better shape, but not enough to feel comfortable wearing a swimsuit in front of anyone.
So what perfect scenario has to come about before I’m ready to actually enjoy these moments in life and stop worrying about what other people may or may not think?
A friend told me about an extremely effective talk she went to recently. The speaker handed out a ribbon and a pair of scissors to each member of the group and told them that the ribbon they were holding represented their life.
Taking into account the average lifespan, each person had to cut the ribbon according to how much life they’d already lived and hold on to what proportion was left.
Already, the ribbon was considerably shorter for most.
Then, the group was told to consider the amount of time they were likely to be asleep over the years.
Snip. You can see where this is going, right?
Once you take away the ribbon you’ve already used and the time you’re going to spend sleeping, you realize just how little ribbon you have left.
I wasn’t at that talk, but I can certainly picture myself holding a small scrap of material – the ribbon that represents the rest of my life – and suddenly understanding just how dangerous the Waiting Trap can be.
Five years down the line, I could look back to today and marvel at just how good I looked – and wonder why I didn’t love my body more.
I could wake up in 10 years and realize that had I taken the plunge and started writing that book/launching that business/taken that risk when I wanted to I’d be so much further forward now.
Or – worst of all – I could be breathing my last, and instead of reliving the best bits from my lifetime showreel, I’d be stewing over regrets. From that time I was too insecure to get into a pool on a hot day, to the bigger, more life-changing opportunities that passed me by when I was waiting for a day that never arrived.
So if you’ve been putting off enjoying life for whatever reason – fear, shame, weight, what-ifs – I want you to stop and remember that ribbon.
Enjoy the sunshine, be thankful for what your body can do, and know that everyone is far too wrapped up in their own insecurities to care what you look like.
Don’t wait. You’re ready now.
Jump in the damned pool.
What have YOU been putting off?
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