Relaxing My Expectations for My Body

my expectations - Michaelmantz ataxia blogs5

We pressure ourselves to fit into a particular ideal and be able to do certain things. For each of us, the standards vary.

For the highly athletic person, perhaps it’s running X miles a day. For the average person who exercises, it may be the ability to lift X pounds on certain machines. For a NON-gym rat, it could be taking X number of steps each day.

These “self-standards” can be positive and negative.

We should challenge ourselves to stay active and healthy. If my trainer hadn’t been testing my limits and pushing me to them for the last 10 years, I would be further along in my Friedreich’s Ataxia disease progression.

But the expectations we have are subjective – so why do we beat ourselves up if they must change due to illness, injury, age, or other circumstances? Why do we wallow in self-loathing once we no longer measure up to our arbitrary standards?

If only I had a nickel for every time I heard someone complain that their legs, back, etc. “aren’t what they used to be” so they have to be careful moving heavy objects, can’t walk as far without taking a break, etc.

I get that feeling, though I’m only age 30. I’m not old (unless you ask a teenager); I just have a progressive disability. The difference in what I could do just five years ago vs. now is significant

I’m learning to let go of harsh self-expectations.

I need to have general standards like I’m going to work out a few times a week. But more specific ones are ultimately destructive; once I’m physically unable to meet them, I will end up feeling insecure. I don’t deserve that when I’m doing my best. Neither do you!

Due to my ankle injury, I can’t walk on the treadmill anymore. For the last couple of years, I clung to that as almost a self-defining quality: I’m one of the few wheelchair-bound people who can do this! (on the slowest speed, for less than 5 minutes, with my trainer’s help…but still!)

The loss of that ability has been a hard pill to swallow.

For the last several months, I fought with my ankle whenever I walked; it tried so hard to turn, that I resisted and kept it straight. In hindsight, I wonder if things would’ve played out differently if I hadn’t heralded that one exercise so highly –

What if I had been realistic and prioritized my safety? What if I had decided a while back that using the treadmill wasn’t worth the strain on my ankle? Maybe it wouldn’t be in a cast right now.

From now on, I am aiming for a healthy balance between pushing myself and caring for my body – challenging myself and being cautious, too – having standards but being flexible and gracious with myself.

We would like to thank Lily for sharing this inspirational story with us.  Please share your thoughts and/or comments on this or any other article.  And if you would like to get involved and share your experience with Ataxia, please get in contact with us and join our community today.  A place where we empower you to build a healthy lifestyle and raise overdue Ataxia Awareness.  Experience transformative storytelling and share your story to inspire positive change.


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3 Responses
  1. Rynn

    Lily, You continue to inspire me! When I don’t feel like going to my Silver Sneakers class at the YMCA, I think about you. There are so many legit excuses you could use to avoid the gym, BUT YOU DO NOT! You go on no matter what! And not only do you show up, you go in with a big smile on your face and a great attitude! Keep doing “you” and inspiring the rest of us to ‘keep on keeping on’. <3

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