Sylvia Nasser : “Find activities and hobbies that I find fun”

The more self-love you have, the happier you are. This happiness is both magnetic and contagious. A self-fulfilling prophecy, you will adjust your behaviors and see the behaviors of others around you shift. You will notice that opportunities will start to open up for you. You will feel empowered to do things you’ve always wanted […]

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The more self-love you have, the happier you are. This happiness is both magnetic and contagious. A self-fulfilling prophecy, you will adjust your behaviors and see the behaviors of others around you shift. You will notice that opportunities will start to open up for you. You will feel empowered to do things you’ve always wanted to do and you will even realize your dreams and your wishes beginning to feel fulfilled. It works like magic. It may sound lofty, but it works! But by loving yourself you’re literally helping human kind!

As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Sylvia Nasser.

Sylvia is a 13-year fitness professional, certified personal trainer, and creator of the national #irockthesportsbra body positive campaign. A full-time Equinox Group Fitness Instructor, Sylvia currently teaches boxing, cycling, strength and conditioning, and is certified in Pilates and Yoga. From an extreme dieter and over-exerciser to a powerhouse of positivity, Sylvia’s past relationship with fitness serves as a cautionary tale to women everywhere in their own journey to self-love. A boxing enthusiast, influencer, mother and self-proclaimed badass, Sylvia strives to empower women to face their fears, let go of judgements, and celebrate every step of their personal fitness journey.

Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.

Yes! The start of my fitness career was a bit … haphazard. I actually have a Master’s Degree in Technological Systems Management — Global Industrial Management from Stony Brook University. I had been working as a Quality Control Manager full time for a few years before I decided that the office lifestyle just wasn’t for me. I had been working part time in addition to a full-time job as a “Sales Girl” selling gym memberships at Lucille Roberts (to get a free gym membership). Well one day, one of the group fitness instructors quit on the manager. While I was working desk, she asked me (more like told me) …” I need you to teach a fitness class to the next woman who walks in” and I did! In fact, when the class was finished, I was hired immediately on the spot to fill that slot. No background, no certifications (I had to hurry and get that done). I was on schedule only a few days later. I taught part-time for several years until I mustered up the courage to quit my full time and do what I loved. There’s more to the story… but I’ll just leave it at that!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?

I’ve been working on #irockthesportsbra social campaign — a body positive movement, about releasing fear around what the body looks like in a sports bra, letting go of judgements around others who are body confident, and focusing on performance & feeling good no matter where they are in their journey.

I hope to inspire others to be the athletes they are, to feel the strength & power of the body without shame or guilt. To celebrate themselves and celebrate others!

I’m also working on spreading #irocktheselfie. Selfies have become about vanity and has gotten such a negative stigma. What if we can turn that around as use the selfie to celebrate self & body love instead? No edits, no filters, just us in real time sharing our true selves to show others they aren’t alone.

Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self-acceptance?

Yes! — when I first started in the fitness industry, I felt a tremendous self-inflicted pressure to be “skinny.” I never felt I looked the part and did what I could to try and live up to my unrealistic expectations. I developed body image dysmorphia, an addiction to diet pills, cleanses and laxatives, and an addiction to exercise. It stemmed from being a chubby child. I had always felt insecure about inabilities to play like the other kids did — I wasn’t fast or coordinated. I was slow and lazy. These feelings of being inadequate stayed with me into my adulthood.

Nothing specific triggered that insecurity as it was very self-imposed by my own negative thoughts. After months of abusing my body, I started developing weird symptoms. I began to see rashes on my skin and experience mouth ulcers, joint stiffness, pain, and hair loss. I hopped from doctor to doctor to try and understand what was going on. I had just quit my corporate job, was working on building my business, experienced a close death in the family, and planning my wedding. I was so stressed. I had been preaching health when I was living a lie. My symptoms got worse and worse until my white blood cell count was so low that I had to get a bone marrow test done to eliminate Leukemia. About 5 months later I got diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. I realized in that moment that I was responsible for my own pain and I had to muster up the courage to change my life. I vowed never to hate my body again and I found meaning in teaching fitness. It was no longer about being skinny or sexy, it was about stepping into your power and taking control of your health and strength. Today I live medication free, and it’s taught me how to be a stronger, more empowered woman. Now a mom with new lessons to teach, my daughter was born with Cystic Fibrosis. I am here to teach her that her diagnosis and disease do not define who she is. She can be mentally strong and love herself no matter what. Fitness is the key to having that kind of strength. The stronger I am, the more empowered I am, the more choices I can make to be and live happy… on my terms.

According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?

It’s societal conditioning — it really doesn’t matter what part of the world you are from. Each culture has their “standard of beauty” and their own ways of showcasing that across the dimensions of their society. The solution to having that “beauty” is big business and the sales pitches are plenty. They live in advertisements, marketing campaigns, film, music, television and in the offices of cosmetic surgeons and spas. These standards are literally entrenched in every part of our lives. We are made to feel inadequate so that we purchase the right makeup, outfits, services or experiences. Even the fitness industry sells weight loss as beauty and not for what it really is- health, wellness and an essential life balance.

As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?

Can you imagine truly loving yourself? Do you realize the language you’d adopt, the positive mindset you’d adopt, the work that you’d do? Everything changes.

The more self-love you have, the happier you are. This happiness is both magnetic and contagious. A self-fulfilling prophecy, you will adjust your behaviors and see the behaviors of others around you shift. You will notice that opportunities will start to open up for you. You will feel empowered to do things you’ve always wanted to do and you will even realize your dreams and your wishes beginning to feel fulfilled. It works like magic. It may sound lofty, but it works! But by loving yourself you’re literally helping human kind!

Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?

People stay in mediocre relationships because they don’t feel worthy of a better kind of love. They latch onto the superficial feeling that a mediocre relationship offers, and it becomes a cycle of safe, familiar and towing the line of “good enough.” The kind of love they attract is indicative of how they feel about themselves. If they had more self-love, they would have a better and stronger connection with their partner and not settle for anything less than what they know they deserve.

When we talk about self-love and understanding we don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?

The first toughest question is “do I truly love my myself and my body as is?” There is nothing wrong with wanting to change something about your look but this is not the end all be all. There’s a fine line of wanting to improve something and being self-loathing. We need to be honest and say, “how can I just be and do better?” As a fitness instructor it is my job to push my students to their limits but I will never say that they need to work a certain muscle group to lose weight. The narrative has to shift from appearance to strength. What action will you take to become a stronger version of yourself? This is not just about being physical, but this questions the character as well.

As for myself, I knew I needed to change my thinking when I noticed how jealous of my peers I was feeling. Not only was I judging myself, but I was judging others — and that just felt so ugly to me. I was becoming the person that I never wanted to be and I knew I had to start focusing on myself. I had to put blinders on and stop comparing myself to others. It was a hard pill to swallow. No one wants to admit their character flaws, but I had to. I had to own up to my insecurities.

So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?

Alone time can feel scary for some people, but if you don’t like your own company, why would anyone else want to be with you? Being alone forces you to face all of your negative thoughts and give you the opportunity to shift things around and to work on yourself. I love having alone time. I love reflecting on things and coming up with my own solutions.

The practice of being alone is also a practice in the act of discernment. Take the time to consider the kinds of people you want to share your experiences with and take inventory of what really makes you feel fulfilled. Alone time is the first step in helping to create the life you want when the world around you feels too loud and too fast paced to think straight.

How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?

Understanding yourself well allows you to be empathetic to others. Not only will you listen better to others, but you will be able to contribute to others in a way that is valuable and constructive.

In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?

The art of self-understanding and the subject of self-love aren’t something taught in schools or talked about in most cultures while growing up. I urge every person to take the time to identify the things that really drive them. This introspective self-study is the key to personal development.

What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Journaling. Writing has always helped me tell my truth. I feel freedom in expression without worrying about being judged or criticized. Whenever I feel down or helpless, journaling as helped me to relieve unwanted emotions, connect with myself, and come up with solutions on my own.
  2. Exercise. Moving my body is proof of what my body is capable of. I feel pride. I also feel happy! It has been scientifically proven that exercise releases endorphins — they reduce your perception of pain and elevate your mood. What is not to love about that?!
  3. Surrounding myself with likeminded individuals. I find people who have it “figured out”, or who I feel are extensions of myself . You are the company you keep. If you want more self-love, then hang out with those who are self-loving!.
  4. Study. I am constantly learning through books, podcasts, conferences, articles and any other sources that arm me with new information to help empower others. I engage with and identify mentors and coaches. These resources are all worth the funding.
  5. Find activities and hobbies that I find fun. Who doesn’t like to have fun? You learn a lot about yourself while finding what you love to do.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?

Oprah and Super Soul Sunday, anything Abraham Hicks, Les Brown, Joel Osteen or The Mind Valley Podcast with Vishen Lakhiani. Anything that inspires, empowers or lifts me up to be a better person is what resonates most with me. If I can feel empowered, I can help build those around me up to new heights too.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…

I have been working to gain traction with my #irockthesportsbra social campaign. It is a body positive movement that teaches women how to face fear, let go of judgements (of themselves and others who are body confident), love themselves no matter what, and rock the sports bra! It’s a body confidence building movement that is working to empower women to strip down to a sports bra as a method to focus on and celebrate their athletic ability no matter where they are in their fitness journey. By sharing their images across their social platforms, together we are building a global tribe of strong, confident and beautiful women who are unstoppable!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate․

― Oprah Winfrey

And …

Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.

-Jim Rohn

May we celebrate our lives everyday by loving ourselves so that we can better love others, and may we strive to find happiness in all we do!

Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!

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