It should be obvious that 'one size fits all' doesn’t work. Most clothing cannot shrink or stretch to accommodate all, or even most. But how often do we notice where we are asked to fit in, to try to pretzel ourselves into the way it’s always been done. In my demographic, education started with the idea that all students had to “sit down and be quiet”.
Consider the rigid, invisible structures we create for ourselves. For so many reasons, we start on “self-improvement’ for body, mind and life. Around 8th grade, Seventeen magazine entered my life, and it targeted all the insecurities that most 8th graders had and still have. For me, it started with my very curly hair that wasn’t featured in any pictures in any magazine and that tug of war reigned for decades, only to be surpassed by the war I engaged in with my body and food. So much “self-improvement” leads to so much self-destruction. Even though we know that one size doesn’t fit all, so many of us buy into the idea that some expert has a system or a diet or a workout plan designed to make us smarter, thinner or fitter. Self-improvement comes from a sense that we’re less than everyone else, there is something wrong with me; maybe THIS program, diet, book, will fix it, fix me.
We lose sight of our “expert” within. We aren’t always encouraged to trust our body, our feelings, or our own experiences. True growth, in mind, body and soul comes from acceptance and love. Acceptance of what is, in this moment. And love is the only thing that will allow change. Client’s say: “If I love myself now, nothing will ever change!” thinking that the self-loathing is the motivation. But self-hatred doesn’t create change, it just generates more of the same. Life Coach training taught me that I can choose to shift my attention to what I want, instead of focusing on what I don’t want, what is wrong. We can all choose to focus on something more interesting. This takes practice. It IS a practice, one you can choose over and over. And instead of beating yourself up when the old thoughts come calling, remind yourself, gently, that you are going to focus on the positive, on uplifting your thoughts (and thus, your health, your life, your entire expression and experience). It’s practice, not a perfect. Beating yourself up for drifting into the old habitual thoughts is more of the same old negativity. Hold yourself and this practice lightly, with compassion for the you that you are becoming.
As for the idea that you will do everything you really want to do once you have the body, the money, the job, the whatever; instead “start with the end in mind” (a saying of Marc David, my teacher at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating). Identify those things now. It could be taking a class, travel, going to a concert, participating in a community play. Start small, and pick one, and very importantly, put a 'by when' date on it. If it’s someday, it’s just a wish. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to prepare, but be specific. “I will go hiking at the county park with my friend Clare, by July 30, 2020.” Setting goals is also a practice: focusing on what moves you forward. Practices don’t make perfect, practices bring you closer to the expert on you: YOU.
A New Year brings articles and advertising about "a whole new you". Join this gym, start that new diet, declutter your house, find a new career, rearrange your whole life. In other words, don't be you. The "old you" makes mistakes: you eat too much "bad" food, you don't get enough sleep, you sleep too much, and your desk is a mess! You need to be different, new and improved, Where does this leave you emotionally, spiritually, physically? Feeling that you aren't good enough, that you haven't measured up, maybe you never will. This is definitely not a great way to start anything.
Discarding any part of the self is impossible: every thought, every experience is part of you, body, mind and soul.
Rather than trying to disown parts of your physical body or life experiences, try embracing it. ALL of it! By recognizing all parts of yourself, by welcoming all that you have been through, you give yourself room to breathe and space to acknowledge all you are, all that you have become and all you are willing to grow into. This is a practice--not a perfect. And like me, practice doing this, day by day... or minute by minute, if necessary. Through it all, allow You to be You: that's one way to start everything.
Mary is a certified Life Coach in Omaha where she enjoys reading and sharing books, taking in nature and exploring all life has to offer with her husband Kurt, and rescue dog "Scruffy".