Finding my path: thinking outside the box

July 19, 2023

Collage designed by Ben with photographs by M Venter and Ryanniel Masucol both from Pexels

Ben Teeny explores how introspection and exercise helped him to a better space, mentally and physically

Trigger Warning: If you’re sensitive about body issues or anything similar, I’d recommend either reading this article with caution or not at all.

Everybody’s journey towards personal growth and self-acceptance is full to the brim with challenges. We all struggle with something, and for me it’s my body image and self-worth. However, through introspection, determination, and embracing solitude, I’ve begun a positive journey leading to self-acceptance and gratitude.

Still to this day, I struggle with body and eating issues. I don’t have any eating disorders or body dysmorphia; I’ve had friends in the past with those conditions who suffered immensely.

But, for me it’s been years of feeling dissatisfied with my body. I’ve found it so unappealing at times I couldn’t even take my shirt off to have a shower. My eating habits have been incredibly disorganised, swinging from eating extreme amounts of food to not eating anything at all.

This has taken a huge toll on my wellbeing and left me physically unhealthy. In the span of a year, I went from incredibly skinny, to much larger and heavier and then somewhere in-between.

My first year of university was spent during the Covid-19 pandemic. I felt very isolated and this led to my erratic eating patterns getting worse. I had feelings of worthlessness which hampered my motivation. My mental health was declining.

Taking steps to appreciate what is around you is different for everyone; for me it was focusing on my family

I did myself no favours by seeking external validation from friends and online sources rather than addressing the actual underlying issues within myself. This only amplified the cycle of unhappiness and frustration.

When lockdown was easing up and I could return home from university, my mum could see straight away that I was struggling. She suggested I stop worrying about what others think and simply focus on myself. This short simple sentence doesn’t seem like much, but for me it was everything.

How do people do that – stop worrying about what others think? How could I do that? I wasn’t sure but I knew it was time to start thinking outside the box to confront my internal battles.

Taking steps to appreciate what is around you is different for everyone; for me it was focusing on my family, helping a lot around the house and listening to their advice, for once. They gave me the courage to simply be myself, work towards what I actually wanted and to focus on what would bring me solace.

My family helped me realise that the opinions of others are inconsequential compared to one’s own personal growth and well-being. This gave me the courage to even start going to the gym; a place that encourages healthy eating and activities. I thought that people at the gym would mock me for being too skinny or laugh while I messed up the exercises.

Instead, I found a wholesome community who were ready to show newcomers how to learn the ropes. I’ve learnt so much about exercise from random people at the gym willing to share their expertise more than anywhere else! It’s encouraged me to embrace my internal journey.

By motivating myself to exercise, something I used to hate doing, I can see positive results in other aspects of my life too

I’m so grateful for my family’s support and the more recent help I’ve had at the gym. All this has made it possible to understand my own mind better. It has become apparent to me that self-improvement is a very individualised process. This manifested in me engaging in lots of hobbies; from painting to song writing, and apparently weightlifting now.

I’m slowly discovering that self-expression and self-care are truly essential for my personal growth and happiness. In more recent times, the gym has had a positive impact on my body strength and eating habits as well as on various other aspects of my life.

It’s helped to balance my energy levels and with this I’ve found I’m more motivated to continue my writing projects as well as maintaining meaningful connections with friends.

By motivating myself to exercise, something I used to hate doing, I can see positive results in other aspects of my life too. The relentless stream of unhelpful thoughts that plagued my mind are more controlled nowadays, especially when exercising or writing.

Although I feel, this inner work is often feared, I believe it’s a gift that everyone possesses and could benefit from. During times of isolation and loneliness, it is essential to reframe our perspective and recognise the opportunities it presents for self-reflection and personal growth.

May I take a moment to encourage everyone reading this to think about discovering what helps their own health and well-being.

Ben has recently graduated with a first from his Film and Television Production degree at University of Hertfordshire. He has enjoyed writing songs and making films since he was 14 years old.

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