Tag Archives: integrity

The Importance of Being Earnest

If you haven’t seen the iconic “Importance of Being Earnest” movie, it’s a fluffy, cute romantic comedy starring some fan favorites. You can check it out here. The movie is based on a book by Oscar Wilde, and stars two men pretending to be something they are not… and remembering this film sparked some thoughts for me today.

Our culture is increasingly driven by two powerful “I” words: Ignorance and Image. It feeds off of those who can pretend to be what they are not, and those who believe them. Problem? I think so.

This generation is more belabored by bull shit than any previous generation. We’re surrounded by photoshopping, inflation, exaggeration, comparison, greed, and lies. We’re inundated with it. We live and breathe it.. and most likely as a result, we think it.

When you’re constantly exposed to small amounts of toxic chemicals, they can kill you. In the same way, the constant barrage from a culture based on things that are FAKE (Image) can promote similar tendencies in our own behavior if we are not keen to ascertain them (Ignorance).

Some people are clearly and maliciously fake. They pretend (and pretend very well) to be something or someone they are not. To want things they don’t want, to be what they think you want them to be for whatever end they are serving. Others of us, like myself, may slip into these habits from ignorance – from a lack of alertness to this common cultural bias toward being fake.

I see this in how I present myself to people. I may cater my words, retract a perspective, suggest something that is slightly untrue but not entirely false in order to gain approval or commendation. I may not do this maliciously, or often, but I may still do it. When I do it – or when I catch myself doing it – I hate it. I hate everything about it.

I’m from the old-school society that things that your value depends heavily on how much Integrity you have – another “I” word that is a million times more powerful than Ignorance and Image. When you have integrity to what you believe, who you are, what you stand for – and additionally, to the good and respect of others… you can do amazing things, and you can live with yourself.

It’s so easy to cave to this culture, to forget that we so quickly cater to the people around us in small ways. It’s so easy to let your guard down and be what someone wants you to be because you love them or because you simply want them to like you. But it is so, so detrimental to your character, and your relationships.

This can play out in some odd ways you might not expect. Someone asked me once if I regretted anything from my relationship with my ex-husband. I had to think about it pretty heavily. I finally realized I did have one regret – I regretted lying to him for years. Sound appalling? It is, but it was more subtle than you think.

These were lies of omission – of omitting how I really felt and thought about things. How I felt about him yelling at me, about porn affecting our relationship. How I felt about never seeing him, never getting time together. About his hours and hours on the computer and me crawling into bed alone every night. About sexuality when he wanted it, but only when he did… and always when he did, and how he wanted it. I lied about who I was by not saying how I felt. By not standing up for myself. By not being honest when things hurt me. By the time I did, he was genuinely shocked that I remembered every single hurt, abuse, and neglect. Every single malicious word. Every put-down. Every time I paid for his bad days. I remembered Every. Single. One.

My dear friend Josh was the unfortunate beast of burden right after I left my ex and drove in the middle of the night many hours away. He had to listen as I poured my heart out, brokenly, about finally leaving. About fear and pain and loss and hurt. We talked about a lot of things and he called me out when I said that my ex forgetting every little thing about me every day – likes and dislikes and holidays and birthdays and anniversaries – never hurt me. He said “when did the romantic Jen die? You know, it is okay to be a woman.” I burst into tears.

Have you ever heard the phrase “We accept the love we believe we deserve?” Neither had I until this year. But that is so damn true.

The more you lie to yourself, the more you omit things in your relationships, the less you say when things hurt, when they break you down – the less you listen to your gut instincts, the less you are honest with others about who you are, what you want, and where you’re headed – the more you cater and cave and conform… the more you will find yourself playing right into a culture of Ignorance and Image.

You’re losing your Integrity.

The little things that bother you. The repeated hurtful words. The distance or the disregard. Those things will destroy you – they will destroy your relationships if you do not speak up.

Have the integrity to operate outside of a culture of lies. Be earnestly, completely, fully yourself. Fully honest with yourself, and with others. If you do love someone and you do care about them, be honest now. Speak up now. Be real – NOW. Before it is too late and one day you break, and you’re real and raw with them and everything falls apart because it was based on lies.

The truth will either make your relationship stronger, or it will break you apart – and if the truth breaks you apart, you never would have made it. Wouldn’t you rather know now?

Be honest with yourself. Be honest with others.

Be real, and true, and raw with the world.

Be you.

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When to Move On… When it’s Not Giving Up.

I was in an odd frame of mind writing yesterday’s post, fighting with myself to remind myself why I compete, why I’ve been pushing into a new federation with WBFF, why I love it all enough to stick with it.

After a good night’s sleep and a few emails, I’ve come to the wearied conclusion that I’m simply done with it all.

As melodramatic and pained as that sounds, it’s really a relief.

This last 2.5 years of competing has taught me a ton about health, nutrition, exercise science… much, much more than I learned through my certifications with NASM and NCCPT. It’s taught me discipline, drive, and it’s taught me to care about what I put into my body.

Competing in bodybuilding has pushed my limits, and it’s taught me that I can surpass them. It’s taught me that my body is really capable of anything if I work hard enough, long enough, consistently enough.

Competing in bodybuilding has led me to some amazing friendships, relationships, opportunities as an athlete – widened horizons, new goals, new ways of moving and learning and growing. Competing has enlarged the world of fitness for me in some really, really cool ways.

At the same time, competing has taught me that people will do almost anything for fame, recognition, a leg up, perks, an incentive or an edge on someone else. It’s taught me that the bigger an industry gets, the more it grows in popularity, the more political it becomes. The more it’s about who you know, who they know, what you can pay, what shortcuts you’ll take.

Competing has bitterly introduced me to a darker side of humanity I didn’t run into as your average trainer in a gym. A world where people will backstab, gossip, and hurt. Where they will outright lie to preserve face. A world where jealousy, pettiness, anger, and selfish disdain for the feelings of others run rampant like weeds.

There are good things about this industry, and there are bad. Few people who stay in it long-term seem to keep their integrity, and the few who have are running against the odds, and I commend them.

In the past two years I’ve had several instances where I had to challenge what was “politically smart” on my part with my own sense of integrity, empathy, justice, and a strong desire to always stand up for those who won’t stand up for themselves. Every time, it’s gotten me “in trouble”, but every time, in a painful sense, it was worth it. Because I could never live with myself knowing I hadn’t spoken up.

“All that is necessary for evil men to triumph in this world… is for enough good men (and women) to do nothing.”

I refuse to do nothing, I will always do something. No matter the cost, I will always stand up for people  who are being mistreated, misused, hurt, abandoned, or put down. And that’s something about myself that may have slowly edged me out of this industry.

I’ve accomplished a lot, in a short time, for a young mom. I placed 3rd and 2nd in my first two shows, qualifying for nationals, and I worked really hard for and with each coach I’ve had the privilege of learning from. I’ve learned something from each of them, both positive and negative. I’ve come a long way from a skinny-obsessed distance runner counting every calorie with no knowledge of balance or muscle development, and I’m proud to be a constantly developing trainer today. I’m grateful for all the industry has taught me, both hard lessons and happy triumphs.

At this time, I feel I’ve learned what I can without buying into politics and increasing hurt at the hands of people who will sacrifice their integrity for recognition or ego. It’s time to move on, and I’m learning to be okay with that.

I’ve been a distance runner, triathlete, yogi, trainer, bodybuilder, group ex instructor, spin-ner and more. I’m ready to move on. Making the next 11 weeks my carved-out time for cutting bodyfat and then working on maintaining, with balance, and building muscle, slowly and in a healthy way. At the same time, purposing to try new things, like more boxing classes and (GASP!) Crossfit, to stay rounded and challenge myself.

There are no dead-ends in life unless you make them dead-ends. There are only stepping stones into your future.

I am not giving up, I am moving on.

And I’m okay with that.

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Calling the Fitness Industry Out: It’s Time for Some Integrity.

After careful consideration and an anticipation of backlash, unfollows, and unpopularity, I’ve decided to publish a letter I wrote to my old bodybuilding team when I made the decision to leave them a few months ago.

The reason is trifold:

1. This letter was never acknowledged.

2. This prep with a different coach has taught me a lot about wrong and right.

3. I’ve now had MANY people come to me with similar concerns, female athletes triad, eating disorders, depression, and depletion and adrenal issues from poor coaching or a lack of attention – from several teams.

I would have appreciated the response I felt this required, or to have seen changes in the last few months as I and others have expressed these concerns.

The bodybuilding industry is losing its integrity and its focus on the long-term benefit to their clients. The responsibility to the individuals. Multiple coaches are guilty of this… The integrity is leaving us…Let’s bring it back.

To be clear, I do support a lot of these girls on my old team and consider them brilliant industry competitors. But the personal care is going downhill, and the more experience I gain and the more pain I see, the more I feel people need to be made aware of these concerns, which apply to many coaching styles.

Please feel free to contact me at sportyspicefit@gmail.com with any questions. 

I have also included the response of a friend who is hugely active in the fitness industry, and someone I respect a lot, because it was invaluable. You’ll find both below.

My intent in sharing these is to push the people who participate in the industry to recognize how far we have come in the wrong direction, and to help competitors and athletes and people seeking weightloss alike to make informed decisions.

Here is the letter I wrote the team, months ago. It’s reflective of the experience of many, on multiple big-name teams.

Hey guys!

I wanted to take the time to send you a thorough email and express my gratitude and also a few thoughts.

First, thank you, thank you, thank you for believing in me and bringing me on board during an incredibly difficult time in my life. The added kindness of the sponsorship enabled me to really find my feet and establish myself after an awful abuse situation. It pushed me back into a career and community that I love dearly, and opened my eyes to a whole other side of fitness.

Working with you has been a wonderful education and an incredible honor.

This year was super challenging as I pushed through starting life as a single mom and returning to school, as well as battling the confusion of post-show metabolic compensation and feeling really lost when my body rebounded last winter. I knew so little, despite years as a trainer, about the effects of competition on your metabolism and reverse dieting, it was a shock for my system and something I learned from this time around.

I wish I had been ready for and physically able to do North Americans, and to see everyone again.

Despite the fact that my training has been gratis, I will be leaving the team at this time. I wanted to write an email because I didn’t want in any way for you to feel I was angry, bitter, or prepared to trash talk the team as some others have done. I’ve had girls come to me upset or confused about things and every single time explained how hard you both work and how I respect and love you both.

That being said, just a few thoughts.

First, for many girls as the team has become so big, they are panicking and stressed by the lack of personal attention. While it is understandable with the empire you’re building that you don’t have the time to respond quickly to emails, in my opinion it would’ve been ideal quite some time ago to start hiring assistant coaches in order to keep from the growing number of posts I see in our private group from girls weeks or less from competing who haven’t had plan updates or responses to emails.

Another girl in particular came to me stunned that it had been three weeks with no reply regarding her prep. I don’t get involved in those discussions, but it’s fast becoming the norm. That doesn’t speak well of the team, or of the heart I know you have for everyone. There has to be some way to delegate so that people are taken care of on a personal level.

Second, favoritism. While I know this is likely NOT the case, people are observing that a few girls in particular seem to have more time and attention. I can’t speak to the truth of that and don’t know if that’s true, knowing you both, but it probably comes from the first thing I mentioned above.

Third, personal care. While people are more and more needy and emotional and stressed, and I deal with that myself with the few bikini clients I have, they also do occasionally have valid need for more personal input which ties back to the first thought. They ESPECIALLY need more preparation for what happens post-show, and some basic direction for reverse dieting and off season. This to me says there is a full extension of care for each person so that they don’t go through what I went through (and many others have) after my last show.

All of that being said, I do know who you are and I do love you both and admire and respect you. I just think as the team has gotten so big, there is a much greater need for assistants and delegation because things are slipping through the cracks. It reminds me of the difference I’ve noticed between working for a mom and pop gym vs a franchise. Your girls NEED the one-on-one and the prompt responses and the TIME investment that says we are here for you.

I’m transitioning to another team because they’ve offered an opportunity to be a part of something smaller and more personal, but also because I have a chance to assistant coach there which is a HUGE dream of mine. I’m excited that they’re already working on off-season plans for me and I’ll be competing with them in the spring in Arizona. I look forward to seeing the girls out there and have nothing but love and support for everyone competing, no matter the team. You know that my integrity is everything to me, and I think this is a good transition to support that. It’s also the reason I took the time to write this email.

Thank you again for the time and love and care. Best wishes in all of the amazing opportunities you’re pursuing!

Love and respect,
-Jen

————-

Here is the post back to me on FB from my friend (his reply – Team Edge never responded to the email):

From MD:

Standing up and sharing truth! Never, NEVER anything wrong about that. Any business should adapt to the growth swing, yet this is more common. Unfortunately the side effect teams loose sight of is that they are coaching people to a physical extreme that leaves these competitors in a very delicate state physically … with their physical health swinging in the balance. I wish more “coaches” would look at the magnitude of what they are doing to their client’s body as more important than how much money they can make. 

At some point, a client of a team / coach is going to wise up after suffering serious health issues due to their practices and hold them accountable and sue them … AND WIN! Until then, these teams / coaches are playing a very dangerous game of Russian Roulette sending people into adrenal fatigue and failure leaving so many with serious, if not permanent, endocrine problems due to their cookie-cutter approach, lack of communication and no concern for the health of their clients. What these teams/coaches fail to understand is that just because a client signs a liability release, if gross negligence has occurred … the release can’t protect the team/coach from knowingly or unknowingly harming their clients resulting from poor communication & misguided coaching that causes physical damage. The lawsuit could in fact show criminal negligence and some could end up in jail, but God forbid a client actually dies as a result to these issues you’ve stated. 

What if their client was suffering serious physical/mental issues and needed guidance from their coach, and as you pointed out, no response? The results could be tragic for all parties involved. But as you have said, this isn’t good. 

**HIGH 5** Jenny for no longer biting your tongue. Until people like yourself voice the problems and exposing these poor business practices that clearly the bottom line is more important than their client’s health … it will continue to occur.

Bravo my friend. BRAVO!

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Life’s Purpose

People want purpose.

They want something to live for, rules to live by, rewards and struggles and triumphs.

People want to define value by what they achieve.

What they have.

Who they marry.

What group they identify with: gay, straight, religious, atheist, athlete, musician, hipster, corporate, blue collar, white collar, married, single, middle class, poor…

I grew up thinking my value was defined by how many people I “converted”. How “close I could get to God”. How much better I could get at being “perfect”.

What if, instead, our value is defined by our self awareness?

What if, instead of fighting to identify, to redefine, to blend, you fight to find yourself?

What if you use your challenges to ferret out your strengths? Your triumphs to encourage you to sharpen your gifts?

What if you spend life surrounding yourself with people who push you to be the truest and best version of yourself?

What if your income, your possessions, your relationships, your studies, your job, your future are simple tools to discover the deepest parts of you?

I would submit that the end-goal of life is never a line in the sand, a box of things, a relationship and its tenure…

The end-goal of life, of my life, is knowing myself better.

You discover, with time, as you let yourself into YOU, what you are capable of, what you can achieve.

You discover your self-discipline, the lengths of your patience, the better parts of your character, and the struggle to preserve them.

And from there, you give back.

Until you really know what you are capable of, until you know yourself, you cannot truly capitalize on your abilities.

When you pause to study yourself, you begin to be awed by your own potential.

Learn your potential. Fight for your individuality.

Don’t blend, cave, surrender. Be you, find you, develop you.

Learn the value of “I can”, and learn to DO, by learning the essence of the person behind that knowledge and its implementation.

Stop focusing on what the world thinks of you, what your friends think of you, who you want to look like and become, and start delving inward.

Turn your focus to being the best and truest version of your very own individual self.

I promise you, that’s the best place to find happiness, and to develop purpose.

Your integrity to yourself is the greatest and most beautiful thing you can achieve in this lifetime.

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