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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Buyer

#34: Bugs Crawling on my Skin

Updated: Dec 27, 2021

When I first started working out, “earning my shower” was a great way to reward myself for making it through a workout and feel accomplished. I still love the feeling of showering and putting on clean clothes (even if it’s just clean gym clothes) after a workout, but it’s more of an expectation than an accomplishment now. I can’t live with myself if I can’t workout. If I don’t work out for any reason, I feel like there are bugs on my skin, I’m twice my size, and I’m a total failure. That’s not healthy. Physical activity is great for health and longevity, but some of my habits seem crazy if I take a step back. I get a similar “bugs crawling on my skin” sensation if I’m unproductive at work or if I decline plans with friends for no reason. What’s wrong with me that I have to keep up with these things every day as the bare minimum to feel okay?

I started to look for a deeper reason than desire to succeed this week when my family and I were hiking. We went on several trails that were each more difficult than a walk, but easy enough for my mom to complete. When a friend asked what we had done that day, it made me uncomfortable to say that we hiked because the trails felt too easy to count as a hike, even if nobody would know or care. At one point, my dad and I went tried a more difficult hike, but he quickly determined that it was too muddy to continue. I immediately felt bugs crawling on my skin and wanted to cry for being a failure, even though I didn’t actually fail.

If nobody cares (and I’m not lying), why do I feel this way? What am I trying to prove to myself? I’m constantly looking for ways to challenge myself physically. If it’s not difficult, I’m uncomfortable. I should be able to do what I want, have fun, and be satisfied as long as I’m making good choices and growing. Obviously, this isn’t the case, so it leads me to believe that I’m insecure and am constantly running away from myself, or I need to push myself harder physically to stop being restless.

There’s probably some element of all three. I know that I’m capable of more in the gym. I’m not lazy, but I also know I’m afraid of what happens if I truly push myself to the max. So afraid in fact, that I shut down before getting to that point. I’m afraid I’ll run out of energy to continue and hate the feeling so much that I’ll quit, so instead I push myself for time and volume, even though I know it’s less efficient. I don’t know how to push myself to RPE (rate of perceived exertion) 10 because I never learned. It’s too easy for me to make excuses that I haven’t eaten well or I’m not feeling strong that day. Even as I write this, I have racing fears of (or I’m threatening myself) that I’ll run out of energy and quit if I get to RPE to. I have an easier-said-than-done solution to this: Push myself on 1-2 lifts each week to truly hit RPE 10, even if my entire workout is just one exercise. Once I think I hit max effort, I need to add more weight. I have to be uncomfortable and fail for this to work. I shouldn’t push for this every day, because then I WILL collapse and give up on the gym completely. I need to balance it. But based on my trap bar deadlift PRs in a gross, crowded hotel gym after eating like crap all week, I have so much more in me. Even under those conditions, I was probably only at RPE 8. Squats seem like the most natural lift to start learning to be uncomfortable with.

I almost never feel textbook insecurity, but it maybe it exists if I’m running away from something within myself. Not insecurity… Dislike? Worse? I don’t feel that way about myself on the surface, so I don’t want someone to think I believe that, but I can’t ignore the possibility. Is there a specific event or attribute of myself that I’m desperately avoiding? Could this also be an explanation for why I want people to like me or am so extroverted? I spend plenty of time alone, but when I’m alone I’m nonstop—eating, walking, working, working out… I’m not truly alone with my thoughts. I feel like there’s something here, but I can’t put my finger on it and I need to think.

In fairness, the last time I thought I found a bad pattern in myself my mom said that it’s part of a life stage. Maybe there isn’t a deeper issue. Maybe I need to just calm down and decide to be proud of who I am. (Isn’t that the solution no matter what?) I’m confident that I’ll work hard no matter what I do, inside or outside the gym, so maybe I should drop it. Then again… Writing this makes me literally crave running (aka the feeling of burning hatred because running is boring and I’m terrible at it). If I’d rather subject myself to those feelings than sort this out, there must be an issue. Actually, I REALLY want to run now. I must be onto something. The good news is that now I can choose between getting myself to go for a run or figuring out a serious issue so it’s a win-win.

Regardless of the true problem, the creepy crawly feeling needs to go. I don’t want to have a meltdown each time I’m not doing the maximum. As I say that, I that I feel like I need force myself into a meltdown if I don’t do the “maximum” so that I don’t get used to slacking off. It seems like a lack of ability to regulate and find proper balance.

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