Flip through the pages of any fitness magazine and you’ll find articles touting the praises of strengthening our core through exercise. Keeping our core muscles (pelvis, back, and abdomen) strong means we’ll have an easier time performing physical activities. I know for me, whenever I focus on these core muscles, my balance is better, my back doesn’t hurt, and I’m more limber.
But what about my mental core? How can I apply the same physical strengthening exercises to my emotional core? What are some methods to keeping me mentally balanced, limber, and pain free?
One mental exercise I utilize is C.O.R.E., an acronym for Confidence, Ownership, Responsibility, and Exuberance. What do I mean? Well first of all let’s look at the meaning of each word.
According to Merriam Webster, Confidence looks something like this:
*A feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.
*The feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something: firm trust.
*The state of feeling certain about the truth of something.
Confidence at times can be tricky for me. I can exude a lot of confidence in some settings, yet feel uncertain in others. Case in point, I can say with utmost confidence that if someone asked me to ascend a sheer cliff wall without the use of a safety rope, my answer would be a resounding NO. I wouldn’t second guess myself, I wouldn’t be worried about how my decline would make anyone else feel, nor would it change my view of self. However, if I find myself in a situation in which I perceive my decision may or will affect someone close to me, those feelings of self-assurance I described above suddenly disappear. Now I begin to second guess my choice, I worry about how MY decision is going to affect THEM, and I regress from a confidence filled Jackie to a Debbie Doubter.
This is where the swinging lifestyle has had an incredible impact on my emotional core. After spending a lifetime under the tutelage of accommodation, I’m learning through my open lifestyle how to speak up for myself, to say with self-assurance in my own abilities (confidence) what it is I want, especially in the company of those most important to me., i.e. John. How am I doing this? Practice. Each time John asks me what I think or what I want to do, the opportunity arises for me to exercise my confidence. It’s another chance to trade a fear for empowerment. The more I speak up, the more I form the habit, and the more it becomes a habit, the easier it becomes to respond without question and doubt.
Ownership is defined as, The act, state, or right of possessing something.
Before you panic, when I talk about ownership, I’m talking ownership of self and ownership of my choices. If I thought confidence was a struggle, taking ownership of my decisions ranks right up there in difficulty for me because I must take 100% responsibility of whatever decision I make. Gawd, how I hate that sentence sometimes. I can count on all my fingers and toes the times I wanted so much for the choice I made to be John’s fault. I can come up with a host of justifications for why I should not be held responsible for what went down. But all those times I’m busy running away from the spotlight of responsibility, I miss an opportunity for growth. I’m denying myself the lesson in self-assurance… in knowing I can depend on myself, even when I make a choice I later decide maybe wasn’t all that great. Knowing I have the power to change my mind the next time is what keeps me striving to embrace this most positives of ownership.
Webster says Responsibility is summed up as:
*The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or having control over someone.
*The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.
*The opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization.
Hhhmmm… how often in life have I only viewed responsibility as blame?! “Who did this? Who broke that? You hurt my feelings?” Responsibility equaled trouble to me for years (still does to a degree… yes I’m a work in progress). Accountability means fessing up to something you did wrong. Guilty!! It wasn’t until I’d taken a life coaching course that I began to view responsibility as a positive. I learned that being responsible for my behavior was an asset. Sure, I knew all about the benefits of responsibility from the standpoint of mortgages, bills, work, and family, but these were all exterior acts of responsibility. What about being responsible for my behavior and my choices? Was I only focusing on accountability and blame while missing “the opportunity or ability to act?” How do I practice being responsible now without the baggage of blame? I remind myself that only through embracing the responsibility of my choices will allow me to change my mind later. Every time I shy away from responsibility I rob myself of my power.
Last, but not least, Exuberance:
*The quality of being full of energy, excitement, and cheerfulness; ebullience.
*The quality of growing profusely; luxuriance.
Okay, so I had to look up ebullience (thank goodness I was already knee deep in a dictionary) only to find out it’s just another word for exuberance…lol! This word was the only one that made me feel like laying down on the floor and having the definition poured all over me. I mean, who doesn’t want to be full of energy, excitement, and grow profusely?! Reality check Jackie… sometimes the person who doesn’t want those things is you!!! How often do I take my exuberance and temper it?
The crux of my C.O.R.E. acronym was birthed out of a diary entry I made. As much as I don’t want to admit certain traits of myself, my thoughts will help you understand the “E” in core:
“…our trip to Pompeii for me is a perfect example. I was so overcome by what I was experiencing my joy bubbled over. I could barely contain myself. Why do I think I have to contain myself? What’s wrong with exuberance? Especially if the bounty is joy or gratitude or love?! At what point in my life did I start thinking I needed to temper my joy or gratitude or love? It’s okay to be excited about my life.”
It’s easy for me to get caught up in all the areas of life that need my attention and all the behaviors that need tweaking and adjusting. If I’m not careful, I can focus too heavily on what work needs to be done on self without enjoying my everyday life. Yes, I’m a fan of self examination, and I consistently work on the C, O, and R in order to strengthen my mental core; however, just like strengthening your physical core, overdoing it can be damaging. That day I was reading through my journal, the word exuberance caught my attention, and it struck me: The whole reason for strengthening our mental core is self love, and I’m a fan of self love. While we continue to work on our Confidence, Ownership, and Responsibility, we need to remind ourselves to be excited about who we are no matter where we are in our journey.