On Pushing My Limits

It feels like every day I try to be more open-minded than the previous, I’m hit with 800 (apparently this is my favorite number, I say it for…everything that involves exaggerated numbers) things to process, some new, some old. I really have to push myself to avoid judging firsthand, and put myself in their shoes before I say or do anything. For me specifically, I have to watch my facial reactions/body language — I’m a chronic eye-roller and side-eye giver, along with the occasional surprise face. That gives away a lot about how I’m feeling, and it probably makes other people uncomfortable and/or annoyed — I know that when I’m around someone in a bad mood, it tends to rub off quite easily. I have to push myself to be better than I’ve been lately.

I have to remind myself not to be a jerk at the gym and assume someone’s doing something wrong. There are a lot of ways to do one exercise, and like we always say, it’s about the intent. So what if you use momentum to do an exercise? So what if you hit your knees a little on the way down from a deadlift (personally it just looks dreadfully painful so I cringe)? I have to remind myself that even if I put my stuff down on a mat and walk away, someone might take that spot, and that’s okay. It’s an assumption that’s pretty safe to make, I’ve probably done it a few times myself. The cool thing is that there’s always a solution. I can find another mat, or just stretch on the ground because I’m going to shower anyway. Easy as pie.

I’ve found that when I’m at the gym or driving, I tend to be a jerk. For example, sometimes I get annoyed when people go exactly the speed limit…and then I’ll do the same thing later that day on an unfamiliar road. I get annoyed when people have bad park jobs…and I had one myself today (is it ok to blame the guy parked next to me?). I get annoyed when people take the bar from the squat rack and deadlift in front of it — because couldn’t you just take a bar from the bench presses and find open space? But I’m sure I have weird gym habits cultivated from my days in a very packed college gym. And then someone’s down a bar for benching. But there’s only 3 squat racks and 8 for benching. So I feel like I’m kind of justified…

But in the end, what does it matter if I’m being a not-nice person? Who cares if I’m right, if I make no friends at the gym because of my resting angry face? Because that sucks. I would like to be perceived as a grown adult (apart from my baby face), and I’d like to be friendlier. I’d like to make friends with other lifters and be able to have conversations about what we’re eating and lifting and doing in life.

I react very quickly to everything in life. Good things, bad things, weird things — I instantly have a reaction. I get easily excited about stuff, that’s never a bad thing. But whenever something bad happens my first thought is to freak out and assume that it’s going to be way worse than it is. Most of the time, I overreact. Whenever I meet someone new, I tend to instantly assume things about them. I used to say, “oh, I don’t like Southerners”, when really, I’ve met a goo amount of them (15–20?) and I liked them all. I’m not sure where that sentiment came from either (I’m a Northeastern girl at heart and all the news articles coming out of the South probably terrified me when I was younger) so today is the day I get rid of it!

I see now that I’ve stereotyped people before…but why? I know how infuriating it is when it happens to me. I’ve been on the other side. I should know better. I should know that people will assume things, in the same way that I assume things (I don’t just mean about race or appearance). I mean, people don’t know what they don’t know. I assume my mom should know exactly what I’m talking about when I tell her a story about work — but she’s 30 years older, grew up in China, and doesn’t really know specific things I do at work. My mom even explained that she thinks in Chinese! Which completely blew my mind when I was younger…maybe I’ll try that. I should be a little more patient. I should give people more grace, I should put myself in their shoes.

Here’s the thing. I’m quite open-minded about some specific things…but what good does that do when the world has billions of very specific things to make decisions on? So when I say pushing my limits… I’m not talking about my behavior at the gym, but my approach to everything in life. I don’t want new experiences, thoughts, feelings and behaviors to just bounce off of me. I don’t want to reject them. I’m not going to believe every thing that comes at me, I just mean that I want to let myself experience things before I push them away or judge them.

And of course, I want to slow down my reactions. The bad kind. The kind where I get angry, frustrated, annoyed, or make faces. It’s something I can really commit to when I’m at work or an internship where I have to impress people, but it’s a bit harder when you’re with family and friends because they love you no matter what. You don’t “technically” have to impress them, but you should probably try. Oh and, I want to stop talking to myself so much at work. It probably looks so weird — I’m around a lot of people all day for both jobs, and it’s not that I need them to like me, but I do want to be respected and appear self-controlled. Being an adult is weird. But I can put that off for awhile because I’m going to grad school, right??

I feel like this got a bit off topic, but I haven’t written in awhile. I’ve spent many days watching TV and not doing much else (after work, I mean). Today I finally acknowledged I do that when I’m feeling particularly anxious. It’s an easy, mindless task to watch TV. I just have to react to the situations, and I do a horrible multi-tasking thing where I play games or even crossword puzzles on my phone. So they are basically just distractions, which is normally fine, but… at some point it stops helping and just hurts me. Mentally and physically. I haven’t really pushed myself lately to read any science articles, or books. I haven’t sat and just read a book for hours in awhile, I miss that.

I don’t need a drastic lifestyle change in April, because I don’t think I can sustain those. If I just start by changing little things like getting more sleep, drinking more water, not eating foods that irritate me, and spending less time on my computer/phone, it’ll show me that healthy habits are good. Maybe I’d spend an hour reading a fiction book, and then make myself read about gut health or anxiety, or something like that. Granted, going cold turkey on things has worked for me before…we’ll see. I’m exploring this weird, new half-adulthood.

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Jen Xu

Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, coffee lover, looking for a hobby I don’t have time for. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.