See, I'm a comfort zone kind of gal. Which is to say, I really prefer to stay in it. I like things familiar, comfortable, routine. But during the course of my...hmm. What word describes the changes I've experienced both body and soul over the last couple of years? Awakening? Rebirth? Transformation? Evolution??? Hell, I don't know. But I do know I'm not the same person who walked into that first Weight Watchers meeting on September 1, 2009.
Because the person I am today takes risks. She puts herself out there. She's willing to make mistakes.
I know it sounds like I'm saying that because I'm now thin, I'm happier and more confident. Which is true. But not because of the weight alone. It's is nice to be thin. I can't lie about that. But what's nicer and infinitely more powerful, is knowing that I can change if I want to. I've said it before, but I don't think people can really understand until they experience it; losing weight changed more than my body. It changed my entire perspective. Because I realized if I could lose weight, I could do anything.
I could become a Zumba Instructor. I could become a Weight Watchers Leader.
So that's what I did.
And it wasn't that I wasn't afraid. I was...I am...terrified. But fear, I've realized, is a tool. I like being able to say to myself, "You can get through this." and I like really believing it. And I like knowing that when I do get through it, my life will be different and better. Fear presents me with the opportunity to say...I can DO this. And then DO it. It sounds kind of simplistic, but for someone who has let fear - of mistakes, of mediocrity, of failure, of ridicule - rule her for years, it's a very, very powerful realization.
I keep using that word; powerful. But discovering my power has been a long time coming. And it's a feeling that I like. It's a little addictive, truth be told. I understand how people become mad with power. I don't think I'll ever become a despot or a dictator. But overachiever has disinct possibilities. Unless you've known me my whole life, you have no idea how delicious that irony is.
So I arrived at the hotel scared but excited. I had no idea what to expect. I knew it would change me in ways I could not anticipate. But I could never have predicted what an amazing, empowering, enlightening and awe inspiring experience it was going to be. I gained an incredible amount of knowledge, insight and information. I met people who had journeyed much farther than I had; geographically, physically and emotionally. Absolutely amazing people who understood how wonderful and surreal it was to discover a leader in themselves.
You know how it is, when a group of people who might never have met otherwise, gather for a shared experience? Cliques and alliances form. People are drawn to each other, repelled by others. Like tends to gravitate to like. And there's always that one person who is so abrasive and obnoxious that the other members of the group avoid them and whisper about them behind their back. There's often a self-appointed leader and his or her inevitable acolytes, and there's often an outcast by choice or chance.
The large group becomes nothing more than the sum of smaller groups that have formed. There are those who cling to their group with desperate ferocity and those who only tolerate their group when they have to. And almost always there is an uncercurrent of rivalry and competition.
There was none of that with this group.
Sure there were people with whom I had more in common than others and so, tended to spend more time with. There were people I liked more than others. Not because the others were not likable, but as with any group, there were people in ours that just shone with wit, charm and intelligence...you find these magnetic people everywhere and our little group was no exception. But really and truly, everyone was so kind, friendly and supportive that I was truly bowled over by the spirit of kinship and solidarity.
There was one gal from New Jersey that was very young, and very, very nervous. She shook with anxiety and flushed an alarming shade of scarlet every time she had to face an audience. She knew her nerves were doing her in which made her all the more distressed. She cried more than once, and it pained everyone to see her so overwrought. She was so very sweet and earnest and she wanted so much to help people. The group rallied around her and when she nailed her final presentation it was as if one of our own children had done something remarkable. Those not in her breakout group for final presentation couldn't wait to hear how she had done: "How did Jenna do?" was the question on everyone's lips. We cheered when she re-entered the group holding room, flushed once again, but beaming from ear to ear.
Here's that word again....it was powerful.
And the things I learned....people...I couldn't possibly describe the wealth of knowledge that I have gained from this experience; knowledge about weight loss science, knowledge about group dynamics and facilitation, knowledge about how to motivate, inspire and support.
People have said to me more than once, "I had no idea so much training went into being a leader."
Believe me when I tell you that there is no other weight loss company out there that puts more effort and thought into turning out competent, caring, knowledgeable leaders to help you on your journey. From my receptionist mentor to my leader mentor to the leader trainers at the conference...everyone has been wholly committed to my success and absolutely amazing in their depth of caring and commitment to us; not just as leaders, but as people.
It's an overused characterization. Every thing these days is powerful and everyone is empowering themselves to be empowered.
But it's appropriateness right here, right now, in my life cannot be overstated.
It was an incredibly powerful experience that changed my life forever. I will never be the same for it.
How awesome is that?