Jennifer Kramer has always been a hard worker. She worked hard when she started running marathons at the age of 25. She worked hard to build her own skincare business from the ground up. And she worked really hard to overcome her fear of learning how to ride a bike and swim at the age of 32.
Hard work has also manifested itself in how her body looked and how she felt about it. Now 42, she has completed 13 marathons, two Ironmans and close to 100 smaller races -- if you count half-marathons, 10Ks and triathlons as small.
But some of those accomplishments have come at a price. Kramer's high standards and perfectionism left little room for relaxing or finding a sense of inner peace.
"I was unhappy. I had very little patience, was bitter, and found that I was being incredibly hard on myself and I couldn't turn it off," she told HuffPost, describing that time. "Something wasn't right -- I just didn't know what it was."
At the end of 2015, she found herself taking stock of the past decade. She looked for photos of her body from during different phases of her adult life and tried to remember how she felt during each one.
During her more extreme period, she notices that her mind and her body were not always in synch. At the age of 37, she may have had more muscle, but she didn’t feel as happy.
With the image taken during that time (far left), Kramer writes that she was "trying to be perfect. My body was fit, strong and healthy and I was in the best shape of my life, but my head was a complete mess." The middle image was taken when she was "working really hard to undo my way of being" at age 41.
Learning how to let go of high standards for herself could improve her emotional wellbeing -- so Kramer set a new goal for herself. She wanted a healthy mind and a healthy body. She wanted more balance.
"Loosening my grip and letting things unfold organically has changed everything for me," Kramer said. "Letting go of the control I thought I had makes life a hell of a lot more fun."
A month later, she started learning the practice of meditation. "I get an incredible amount of joy from trying new things. I’m always working on becoming a better version of myself,” she told HuffPost.
"I chose to care about myself more. Time slowed down. I became 'lighter' and noticed I laughed more -- mainly at myself for being so silly and setting such crazy high standards in the first place," she said.
Commenting on the third image, Kramer writes: "being able to sync the healthy version of my body and mind will probably be the best thing [I've] ever done for myself and for those around me."
To read the full captions, click here or see below.
Left: 2011. Age 37.
This was taken years ago while I was training for my 2nd Ironman and prepping for a fitness commercial. I was trying for perfect, as if there were such thing. In doing so, I set the highest of standards for myself which now I see was very cruel. I had very little patience, was aggravated easily and was extremely rigid, especially to those around me. My body was fit, strong and healthy and I was in the best shape of my life, but my head was a complete mess.
Middle: 2014. Age 41.
This was taken earlier this year while working really hard to undo my way of being. I made a conscious choice to be happy and to let go of this silly martyr thing. Instead, I chose to be patient, kind, softer and more feminine. In the first 8 months of 2015, I've moved back into my condo, repainted and redecorated, grew my business further, learned to surf, traveled to 3 different countries, and chillaxed while enjoying (lots of) chips and tequila. Even with the 15 extra pounds (daaaang), my mind has never been more clear and I've never felt happier and more grounded. A perfect lesson for me (similar to what I experienced with acne as a teenager): how you feel on the inside is so much more important than the outside...but I missed fitting into my clothes. With that, I made the choice to have BOTH a healthy mind AND healthy body.
Right: 2015. Age 42.
Taken of me [two months ago]. I love that I am now able to observe my actions, learn from them, and move forward without clinging to what my ego has decided is "good" or "bad". Ironic, perhaps, for me to state that physical appearance and self worth don't come from a product in a shiny bottle (considering I own a skincare business) but the truth is that one's beauty comes from deep within...where it's pure and authentic and REAL. I don't have to wait until Monday, the 1st of the month, or New Years to shift back to center. I get to be whatever I choose to be in This. Moment. Now. It's taken a while for me to grasp this and I'm fairly certain this concept will likely be tested often, but being able to sync the healthy version of my body and mind will probably be the best thing [I’ve] ever done for myself and for those around me.
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