Welcome to the second post of my “Inspired By” series: stories from people that made the choice to change without hitting rock bottom first, and have maintained their success ever since. My book, Make This Your Moment: A Step-by-Step Guide to Changing Your Life… for Good, has been inspired by what motivates people to suddenly change, to make the choice once and for all to stop living a life of slightly miserable. These stories are of people that decided to stop settling, and to start making the life they knew they deserved.
I’m very excited to introduce you all to my dear friend, Kay Aston.
I met Kay just over 2 years ago, and I can’t tell you how far she’s come. I’ll let her do that for me. ;)
Her life changed profoundly after she gathered the strength to escape her comfortably unhappy relationship with a boyfriend of 3 years.
There was nothing blatantly wrong with this relationship; she just knew deep down that she wasn’t happy.
I asked her to participate in this series because she is one of the strongest, bravest and most beautiful (inside and out) people that I know.
Here, I interview her as to why she decided to change, how she did it, and why she’ll never go back to how she was.
What major changes have you made in your life?
•I broke up with my boyfriend of 3 years
•I moved out from my apartment of friends and roommates who weren’t supportive
•I quit a theatre company filled with old friends because it was making me too comfortable and kept me from furthering my career as an actress
•I started a new relationship with someone I am deeply in love with
•I have become more confident in myself and what I want
•I lost approximately 15 lbs.
Before you decided to change, how did you feel daily?
Over a year and a half ago, before I broke up with my boyfriend of three years (which I believe was the starting point of a lot of this change), I felt depressed. I was more unfit than I’d ever been, I couldn’t control my eating habits, and I was in a lot of denial about my relationship.
I looked in the mirror and generally didn’t like what I saw. I was frustrated all the time, and was beginning to see myself as a failure, in my career, in my relationship, in my life.
I felt like I was in a holding pattern, comfortable in some ways, but chafing in others. I felt like we were both supportive of each other in many ways, but that I couldn’t bring anything up to him about our relationship because he would take it as an insult. He was always immediately defensive, and I was constantly afraid of wounding his ego.
I felt like I was held ransom by his sensitivity.
We were both poor and couldn’t afford much, but I have very simple tastes, and it’s not hard to please me. I never needed him to take me out to lavish dinners or buy me expensive things, but it seemed like there was always a lack of thoughtfulness on his part, which I would try to address gently, with simple requests. Those were almost always met by anger, accusations that I didn’t appreciate him, and a fight I never wanted. I would buy him groceries, clean his bathroom, get him little helpful things, even helped pay his rent at one point… and eventually came to realize I was giving more than I was getting, and I began to resent it.
I didn’t want to have sex as often, I felt depressed, I gained weight because eating made me feel better. I stopped trusting him as one who had my best interests at heart. What kept me in it for so long was his charm (he always managed to make me laugh, and our chemistry never faltered til the end), and the comfort and stability of our lives together, especially when we were both in a highly unstable business.
He was never overly abusive to me, which would have made it easier to leave… in fact we still cared for each other deeply, which is why it was so hard to say “I don’t want you in my life anymore.”
Was there a moment in particular in which you decided to change your life?
Yes. I saw a photo of myself at my little sister’s wedding. My hair was bleach blonde at that point, and I was ten lbs heavier than I’d been in high school, college, grad school…. My face was smiling, but I looked like someone else.
I also started to make a new commitment to my acting career, and made a decision to get fit. I hired a personal trainer in August, for two half hour sessions a week, no small commitment for a financially struggling actor!
I was working a dead-end job, leading a chaotic and unfulfilling lifestyle. I was trying get my acting career started, but nothing seemed to be working. I felt like I was scarcely treading water, with out any guidance, or worse, guidance from people I saw doing the same or worse than me! Once I hired a trainer, I began to at least start to get physically clear, and my mental state began to get clearer too.
As I lost weight, built muscle, and saw a leaner, healthier body, I made a commitment to eating better. Before this, when I wanted to lose weight I’d get into an unhealthy place of starving myself, and counting every calorie, punishing myself when I indulged. I slowly but surely began to build a lifestyle of eating that wasn’t so destructive. I found healthy foods I loved to eat, that kept me fuller longer.
Eventually, I started to see a lot of ways in which I was punishing myself.
I was in a comfortable relationship with a man who was charming, and in many ways a really “good” man, kind, likeable, and we had always had good chemistry. My family liked him, and everyone said we were a great couple.
The only problem was, I was miserable.
Once I found out I WAS miserable (so many layers of denial began to surface), then I had to decide what to do about it. I started seeing a therapist, and shortly thereafter, broke up with my boyfriend.
What was the last straw that pushed you to your decision?
This is an awful story, but indicative of why I had to change, and leave my boyfriend of three years. We were both really poor, just making ends meet. A couple of times I had slept at his place there was no toilet paper in the bathroom.
I had been understanding at first (everyone runs out of toilet paper sometime), but after the second time in a couple weeks I said to him that I needed there to be toilet paper in the house if I was staying the night, bare minimum.
I said as kindly as I could that no matter what time of the night it was, if there was no toilet paper, I would leave. He said he understood. In fact, the next time there was no toilet paper, he ran out of the house immediately and bought some.
But the next time…. It was one in the morning, I’d just got off work waitressing, and I came to his house to sleep. No toilet paper. That was the tipping point. Mind you, it still took me two more months to break up with him, but that was the decisive moment.
What was the hardest part about making the decision to change?
Fear. What other people would say or think. It’s easy to lose weight because everyone congratulates you for the most part, but breaking up with [name withheld] was difficult because I knew I’d lose friends, and almost every relationship would change in some way. And it did.
What was the easiest?
The freedom! I started to feel like I could do whatever I wanted, and what pleased me was good. I started to feel like maybe I wasn’t a bad person!
What did you struggle with most along the way?
Doubt that I could achieve what I set out to do.
Friends falling by the wayside, not calling me anymore.
Also, I felt alienated from my family, not because they made me feel that way, but because I realized I was choosing a path that was so different from theirs when I fell in love with my current boyfriend (who is a substantial bit older than me). I wasn’t going to get married, settle down and teach schoolkids how to be actors.
I was creating my own path according to what seemed best to me, not what my parents expected of me, and not what my friends expected of me.
What did you think would be hard, but actually wasn’t?
Losing the weight was easy. I’ve always been athletic, and I enjoy a lot of different activities. Keeping it off, not feeling guilty or bad about the choices was the hard part. It’s so easy to get caught up in old habits, eating a pint of ice cream when you know you only want a quarter…
I thought it would be harder to not have the physical comfort of my boyfriend and lover for the past three years. The truth is, that was hard, but I found ways to fulfill it. I went to yoga class a lot more, I was more active with my friends, I worked out a lot.
I also thought it would be hard to move past the guilt of breaking his heart, but that actually passed pretty quickly too. Having a therapist REALLY helped in this capacity, otherwise I might have gone back to him!
Did you fail along the way?
OF COURSE! I definitely failed along the way, I still “fail” on a regular basis, but I find that as long as I just label them momentary lapses and not massive, goal-ending failures, they don’t derail me.
The kinds of big changes I’ve achieved don’t happen overnight, they just don’t! It becomes a lifestyle. Habits have to be broken, and I still have lots of habits I’d like to break!
For example, I still have a tendency to eat too much if I’m nervous. I’m trying to break the habit by just stopping, putting down whatever food I’m eating, and focus on what’s really happening, why I’m nervous, and if I can change that to make myself more comfortable.
Also, I still tend to procrastinate… that one is harder to break.
What did it take to get back up again every time you did?
It took me renewing my commitment. Starting again… but not punishing myself for the failure.
Well… maybe just a little punishment, but not so much that I lost hope. I’m not gonna lie, it takes discipline to change!
But if you see the beauty of the change, the vision of how you’re shaping your life long term, not just in the stupidity of day-to-day hustle, it becomes worth it.
Do you ever regret changing? Are there things you miss about your old life?
I don’t regret changing. Not at all. If I did, I’d change back.
I miss the ease and the comfort of my old community. That’s it. But I’ll make a new village, peopled by those who love the new me.
Do you find that people judge you for the changes you’ve made?
Maybe, but I try not to even make myself vulnerable in that way. Truthfully, a lot of people might not even know how I’ve changed. That’s for them to discern, and if they do have a problem with it, it stays that way: their problem.
Did you have supporters throughout your journey? Are they still supporting you now?
YES! I had a man that became my boyfriend, a trainer that became my friend, an old friend who saw me through all of the changes….
I had friends that started me on my journey but didn’t make it to now, and I have friends that have become closer as the journey continued.
People come in and out of my life. I give things to them, and they to me. I try not to be concerned with when they come or leave my life.
Did you find that you don’t relate well to those that you used to be friends with, or that you don’t spend time with the same people anymore?
Yes. See above. I used to feel some anger about my friends not supporting me, but now I really feel like it’s ok. They loved me for who I was, and I changed! So why should they automatically want to be friends with someone they don’t know anymore? They don’t relate so well to me, and now I don’t relate so well to them. There are billions of people in the world, millions in Los Angeles… I have friends, and I’ll find more.
What are you aiming to change in your life now?
I’m aiming to change my view of myself. I never used to believe I was pretty enough or thin enough to model. Now I’m doing photo shoots, and looking for modeling representation. I’m looking to build my business as an actor, to break through the wall of “just starting out” and start making a PROFIT! I’m aiming to change my old view of myself as “not really that special,” into a new view of myself. I’m pretty damn special! There is no one like me in the whole world. I’m worth it.
As far as my new relationship, one of the biggest difficulties I’ve had to confront is actually the opposite of my problem before.
One thing that helps is the concept that each party gives to the other what they are capable of giving in that time. It doesn’t have to be equal, it just has to be comfortable for both parties. I am so used to being independent and not allowing anyone to take care of me, that when he does so, I’m shocked! And sometimes I try to reject it, because I fear I will become a burden on him.
I think that is one of my greatest fears: being a burden on anyone. I don’t want him to resent me in any way, and I don’t want to be in his debt. It would make me feel less free.
But being in a good relationship means depending on each other, so I really have to work through my fears and old habits of avoiding needing anyone. We talk about our issues as honestly as we can, and he doesn’t get upset if I feel something is wrong. We work together, and I care for him in the ways I can, and he cares for me in the ways he can. That is the biggest change. It’s radically different, and so, so, so lovely.
Do you think you’ll ever want to stop changing?
Never. I don’t think I could. It’s in me to keep changing, to seek, to explore the world. Maybe it could be turned off by an outside event, but I’ll never want to stop changing, until I die. Even then, I think death will be… change! Who knows!
Change is life. Anyone who doesn’t think so isn’t living.
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Don’t miss the final installment of the “Inspired By” series coming up next time on Strong Inside Out:
Andrea lost 55 pounds, rediscovered her love for fitness and health, and has walked in two 5k’s and a 10k… in a year and a half. Andrea is proof that when there’s a will, there’s a way.