What does it mean to be a healthy, strong, confident, and courageous woman? How do we cultivate the habits and behaviors of lifelong health and strength? We want to be healthy, to be fit, to feel strong, to avoid preventable diseases, and to enjoy each day. Having confidence in our ability to set and reach attainable goals is a crucial marker of success.
Self-efficacy is the confidence that we have in our ability to reach the outcomes we desire. Self-efficacy directly impacts our health through decision making, determination, and ability to face challenges. Many women have experienced the benefits of increasing body strength and found an unexpected result of increased mental fortitude, confidence, and self-efficacy along the way.
Sometimes we need to develop new habits, and other times we need the motivation to sustain the new habits that we’ve been working on. Habitual behaviors keep us doing the right thing even when our motivation is gone. I asked experts in their field (these women are incredible) to discuss what habits they have developed to be strong, brave, courageous, and confident.
First, we must believe that we are capable of succeeding. Alena Luciani, strength and conditioning coach and creator of Training2xl attributes “sweating and self-talk” as the two most important habits that she has developed. “Keeping my thoughts positive, encouraging, and optimistic and pushing my body to its limits makes me physically and mentally stronger” says Luciani.
An educated women is a confident woman. One of my biggest predictors of my confidence is my preparation. When I feel prepared, I feel confident. When I feel rushed and frazzled, feelings of insecurity and doubt creep in. Working on competence increases my personal confidence, and subsequently helps me to take care of my health. Those who know better, do better. Often the women who are doing the best job question themselves the most. Gaining knowledge and broadening my understanding helps connect me to the reason behind the behavior and habits that I need to be successful.
Physical strength often translates into personal confidence. Setting and meeting smaller goals can help to build internal strength that translates into confidence that we can tackle larger challenges as well. Sticking to a health regimen takes guts. It is easy to bail on our plans when we are tired, overwhelmed, grumpy, or just being lazy. Being armed with preparation (knowledge and understanding) and practical steps (like packing healthy snacks and a bag of exercise gear) improves the likelihood that we will stay on track.
Strength takes many forms and cannot be solely described as the structure or function of our muscular system. Building physical strength by performing weight training at least two times a week helps us to prevent disease and to improves the way our body functions. Feeling physically stronger makes activities easier and reduces our reliance on others to help us. Rachelle Ballard, owner of the Into The Woods Wellness shares her view of strength “weight training, especially in women is empowering and physiologically essential. However, I have learned how to gently and openly engage with insecurities, and how to be vulnerable enough to sit with those demons that tell us the false stories about ourselves.”
Our health can be a source of insecurity and a reminder of another area where we are missing the mark. Focusing on the function rather than the appearance of our bodies can help to forge a deep and positive connection. The struggle we feel is a part of the strength we gain. Sometimes being strong just means the willingness to show up and try again. Overcoming big and small obstacles helps to build strength.
Rachelle Ballard shares, “the strongest people I know are those are brave enough to sit purposely right next to the internal negative thoughts and bullies. We have a lot of tools of how to numb ourselves, whether it’s exercise, or a movie, but very rarely are we given permission and a safe enough place to go right to the source where our barriers are. Now I sit in stillness on-purpose to be strong.”
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not the absence of fear”- Mark Twain. Lynn Manning, certified women’s health specialist, discusses feeling the fear and stepping into it anyway. Fear used to be a paralyzing feeling for Lynn, and she made the pivotal decision to approach her goals and dreams with intention. When her goals or dreams would create a moment of hesitation or fear, she would deliberately pause, count to three and step into it. Throughout this process she began to feel stronger, powerful, capable, courageous, and confident.
Fear- less. Rachel Flint, entrepreneur and owner of FitLikeFlint.com attributes her strength to routinely trying things that feel scary, “every time I tackle a new challenge and successfully complete it, I develop the confidence to try something even bigger next time” says Flint. Tackling a new health goal may mean facing a scary obstacle. Hope is stronger than fear.
Avoiding the scale or measuring tape doesn’t change the measurement. Skipping the lab-draw doesn’t change the blood work, it just changes our awareness of it. When we understand the magnitude of the problem, we can create realistic and meaningful solutions. Knowledge is powerful.
BE BRAVE! This isn't your practice life, this is the ONLY one you have!
Three key reminders:
Make health a priority. Where you invest your time, you invest your life. There are always going to be competing interests pulling at our time, and drawing our attention away from our health.
Rachelle Ballard states that “we will spend our time where we feel the most worth”, and ‘being honest about where I put my worth allows that awareness to guide my wellness habits. I put a lot of value into my relationships and people, thus I combine movement with what I value. I go hiking with a friend, invite a loved one to yoga, even a walk with someone I care about.”
Don’t try to undo previous mistakes, just focus on making the next right decision. Let go of the previous failures. Guilt and shame try to keep us where we are and remind of us of our weak points. Hope, expectancy, and love drive us forward.
Exercise because you love your body, not because you want to punish it. Look forward to the positive changes that you can expect with a lifelong pursuit of wellness. Leave regret in the dust and try something new.
Bravery: Take a deep breath and forge your own path. It's perfectly okay if your path looks entirely different than the people around you.
A cookie-cutter approach to health doesn’t work for everyone. Finding the habits that work for your goals and lifestyle are vital to long term success. Sometimes we choose to focus on the areas that we know we can excel in. It's easy to feel like we totally nail one area and allow ourselves or ignore (or face-plant) in another.
Feelings like "I’m great at exercising and getting quality rest, but I’m not as good at nutrition so I’ll eat whatever I want and hope for the best." isn't a great long term strategy. Be brave to try things that you might not expect that you’ll be good at. You don't have to nail it right away, and give yourself grace in the meantime.
When we seek out activities and behaviors of things that we are “good at” we can easily stick to our very small scope. As children, we often stopped trying the things we weren’t praised for. “Performance and validation become a huge reason we do anything, thus taking out the ability to be freely curious and playful with anything we try. So, for the last few years I have been trying, on purpose, to do things with no agenda whatsoever and with full permission to fail.” says Ballard.
How can I be brave too? As Lynn Manning stated:
“You already are. You just have to recognize you’re capable and step into the fear. You are stronger than you can imagine.”
I hope you learned something with me today. The more we learn together and increase our competence and confidence, the easier it will be to live healthy and train effectively!
You can do difficult things!
With my love,
Find my amazing contributors:
Lynn Manning: 2 Fit At Home
Rachelle Ballard: Into the Woods Wellness
Rachel Flint: Fit Like Flint
Alena Luciani: Training 2 XL
About the Author:
Dr. Monique Middlekauff is a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
Monique is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). She has been a certified personal trainer with the NSCA, ACSM, and National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) for over 10 years.
She is a certified Higher Education Teaching Specialist (HETs) and has instructed courses ranging from introductory to graduate level.
She is a former NCAA DI volleyball athlete. Monique is certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), and works as a clinical exercise physiologist for a major health system in Idaho.