Positive change in life, body and soul is almost impossible unless we are willing to give up the idea that we need fixing.
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I’ll love myself when…
I lose weight. When I stop getting angry and being so judgmental. When my body is perfect. When I find the perfect job or the perfect partner or the perfect place to live. When I finally figure it all out.
And this, more recently: “I’m not getting anything done. I thought I would use this time to get caught up on stuff at home.” “My kids aren’t doing their schoolwork; they’re falling behind.” “I’m eating crap all day long!” “I haven’t exercised for weeks.” “I’m binge-watching tv all day! I should be reading!” I’m noticing how similar all of these comments’ sound. Self-loathing and disappointment, expectations we set up for ourselves, as if we are being graded for how we are doing our own lives, as if we have some unwritten rules we have to follow. No matter what, we can easily judge ourselves as failing on some days and struggling on others. (Oh, yes “we’re all in this together!” I wouldn’t want you to, but you should see my house, my lack of writing, my lack of reading.)
Can we just…NOT? Not keep doing this to ourselves, diminishing our very being with all the judgement of every part of ourselves?
It’s very important to me to make sure that anybody reading this knows that, education and training aside, I often think I’m a mess, unfocused, not using the skills I have learned to help other people. I will not ever offer x steps to the perfect life, the perfect workout, the perfect diet, the perfect anything. It doesn’t exist except as a concept in our own minds, and in some magazines. When I remember “there is no perfect”, I automatically take a deep breath.
I KNOW, from my own experience, that hating myself never led my body or thoughts anywhere I said I wanted to go. Hate begets hate: if I hate myself, the fat on my body, the dirt on my floor, that’s all I will see. The lens of hate makes everything bigger, uglier, darker. The energy of hate keeps life stuck in an ever-widening swirl of despair. When I continue to “grade” myself based on how I think the outside might judge me, the spiral gains speed. Because I have been taught, and I practice, take a breath and shift my thinking, I have a chance to stop this hate in its tracks. This sounds simple, and it can be easy if you are willing to consider that giving yourself some love doesn’t have to be hard. As I practice this, I can smile, even laugh, at how easily I fall into self-loathing. (I’ve practiced it diligently for most of my life!). As soon as I see it, I am out of it: I can’t be in love and in hate at the same time. When I invoke some compassion for mind, body or how I’m doing life, I cannot keep on with hate. Love will always drive out hate, light will always overcome the dark. A deep breath can change a lot.
What is your focus? What thoughts circle around in your mind frequently? What grabs your attention in the course of the day? If you were a transmitting station what’s your frequency? High or Low, Positive or Negative. Is ‘what’s wrong’ on your mind? Often? Do you think about how “hard” everything is? Are you criticizing yourself: how you look: too fat, too thin, too tall or too short? Are you not smart enough, not educated enough? Are you falling short in every area of your life? Maybe your thoughts are on someone else: your co-workers, your boss, your mother, that terrible boyfriend from college? Do they keep doing what they have always done, even if you have asked them to stop? In the midst of a global pandemic, we are worrying about our friends and family possibly getting sick, or worse. Jobs and the economy add to the swirl of fear and worry.
Do you realize you have a choice in what you are thinking about? At any time, you can choose your focus, change your thinking to something more interesting: what are some ideas you have that you take some very small steps toward. Is there something you could do to support or uplift someone else, like a phone call to check on a neighbor, a snail mail note or organizing a Zoom or Face-time call with your favorite people. Giving support and uplift to others is a great antidote for anxiety or fear. Maybe you just need to fold the laundry: what is the next, small, forward moving step?
This shift can be made at any time during any day. When you notice that you have drifted back into negative or fearful thinking, passing judgement on anyone or everyone, yourself included: Take a deep breath! And smile! Because you WILL return to old patterns of thinking. This old way of thinking is deeply ingrained in our brains. Even though I have been many years removed from an active eating and exercise disorder, I can fall back into worry about body and food. Getting curious about why these thoughts surface, I learned that it’s mostly a distraction. If I’m procrastinating doing something I don’t want to do or I’m writing and feel “stuck”, old thoughts about not being worthy, asking “who do you think you are?”, and “if you take care of this you won’t have time to work out!” raise their very familiar chorus. It’s been a learning curve, and one that I haven’t mastered…yet. It’s an ongoing process. I also wish I could say that I don’t get mad at myself for taking a step back into the fear, negativity and judgement. In life coach training I was taught that getting mad and/or giving up creates more of the same old pattern. Gently turn your focus to where you would like it to be in this moment.
Like learning anything new, it takes your attention and desire to do it. If you think this a positive change you would like to try, there is no time like the present! In this time of pandemic and uncertainty, it may be one of the best things you can do for yourself. It is a gift you give to everyone as you release others and yourself from criticism, judgement, fear, worry and doubt. When the old thoughts come up, you can ask yourself: what is more kind, more peaceful, more proactive for me to think about?
This tool is a practice, and you will very likely have to return to your commitment to up level your thought patterns many times. Instead of seeing this as a good reason not to try, could you be interested in trying it for a day? Can you see the possibility that negative thoughts are exhausting you, making you feel overwhelmed or angry or depressed? Holding this practice lightly, not taking your yourself so seriously, can offer some light for your spirit during challenging times.
As Courtney Carver*, writer extraordinaire says: “you don’t have to believe everything you think”. Noticing, getting curious about what you’re thinking, weeding out thoughts or beliefs that are not helpful or positive, or false, that don’t serve you well, is a process, one that I find myself turning to over and over, as I allow myself to journey forward. Allow yourself to change your focus. Give yourself credit when you do and when you don’t because it’s a practice, you’re learning something each time. This is a tool I have found to be helpful as I journey along with everyone else.
*Check out Courtney Carver's blog here; I also highly recommend her books, Soulful Simplicity and Project 333
This is My Coaching for Life!
I hope this blog and site will help others to tap into their best self. I'll be sharing some of my own experiences, as well as delving into topics and tools from my studies in Transpersonal Psychology, Psychology of Eating and general Psychology that I find especially helpful while navigating life.
If you need more one-on-one help, please contact me so we can start our journey together.
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".