Gym routines become an entirely different exercise when anger is being channeled. Starting the morning off with a misunderstanding in a personal relationship, I walked to the gym with a spring in my step, desperate to release my frustrated energy somewhere. I ran 3 miles without considering a water break. I worked my strength training routine. Time flew by, but not because of a love for working out. During most work out sessions like this, my mind is brought to a daydream – one that works better than any pre-workout powder could.
Keep going. Don’t stop. You need to be better. You need to prove people wrong.
With an embarrassing aesthetic mix between the middle school t-shirt that reads, “haters are my motivators”, and a revenge fantasy, my mind is transported to a familiar place. In this alternate universe, – or what is hoping to be a glimpse into the future – people who have doubted or underestimated me are regretful. As I’m living as the best version of myself, they aren’t suffering or hurt – but are forever stuck as the negative versions of themselves I remember, never being able to progress themselves.
When the initial anger from my miscommunication with a partner wore off, I dug deep into the typical daydream to keep my workout sustained to the end. But, in mid-squat while holding weights, staring into the gym mirror, I was confronted with a thought that stopped me in my tracks.
When you use “proving people wrong” (revenge) as fuel for reinvention, who are you when the anger and hurt wears off?
My revenge fantasy wasn’t working anymore, because the anger has become artificial and “romanticized” in a way. Between receiving heartfelt apologies from friends, learning from therapy to release a lot of hurt, and not being interested in channeling that type of energy anymore, I almost felt an identity crisis confronting me. I stood in the gym, holding weighs in both hands, wondering what kind of paths I’ve followed in life simply to “prove people wrong”. What have I changed about myself in order to hide behind a defensive wall made of illusion? In hindsight, I understand by blocking out pain, I started blocking out love and opportunity along with it.
There’s nothing wrong with using hurt as motivation for self improvement, like a gym routine. But, when that mentality is used as a coping mechanism, for years, I believe it can start to skew people’s direction for motivation. By reorienting my own dreams in the name of spite, I’ve unintentionally reinvented myself into an alternate version, one that is much different than the intended outcome of that daydream mentioned above.
The truthful version of myself moved to Colorado with a sense of “running away” in 2017. She gave up pursuing artistic outlets. She switched careers entirely. She applied and was accepted into grad school for a career she was surprised to start pursuing. She went “off the radar” with a lot of close friends in her life. She isn’t the picture perfect triumphant version of herself that appears in the daydreams. This girl has struggles, makes progress, and tries her best, but – it makes me wonder: what opportunities has she missed by not believing in herself in the first place? Has attempting to change courses in the name of reinvention helped?
During this revelation, I’ve remained self-forgiving and understanding that “things happen for a reason”. With no intention of trying to answer rhetorical questions starting with “woulda, coulda, shoulda”, I don’t want to reinvent myself again- but rather redirect where motivation is coming from. Unknowingly to me, the well filled with resentment and distress I had been pulling from for inspiration had been running dry for a long time; and that day, I was met with an empty bucket.
In terms of describing this sensation, I think of Taylor Swift’s song, The Archer. This song was quickly added to my “crying in the car playlist”, and was once played on repeat during the entire span of a 40 minute morning commute. One lyric in particular drew me in, and at the time of it’s release, I wasn’t sure why. Now, I understand the line, “I cut off my nose just to spite my face, and I hate my reflection – for years and years“, was foreshadowing my own realization almost 2 years before it happened. In my story, I don’t “hate my reflection”, but more so, I almost metaphorically see what’s missing in it.
The “glass half full” perspective may be a question of: Is the daydream end goal version of myself one that I actually would like? Frankly, I’m grateful to have grown into someone as self-aware and introspective as I’ve become – something that wouldn’t have happened without character building moments. I’m proud of my accomplishments but curious to see what my “reflection” could look like when it’s influenced by a different source of motivation – one that is based more in confidence and higher self-worth.
I love seething to myself, huffing and puffing, while working a cardio routine that flies by, but I plan on retiring the “revenge fantasy” daydream- in hopes of replacing it with visions that live closer to my authentic self’s goals and desires.