Delivering on last Food &Love Hack Friday’s promise, this week I direct our discussion of fear into a discussion of one specific and powerful manifestation: self-sabotage.
Recognize the powerful psychological influences keeping you where you are, and walk beyond them.
A lot of women in the Paleo for Women community are trying to lose weight. But they’re not the only women I am speaking to with this post. Some of us want to become better athletes. Some want to ask for a promotion, or to change our fashion sense. Others want to quit smoking or drinking, to start a new daily practice, to meditate, or to wake up earlier in the morning. To be more kind, to be more loving, or to be more bold. Anything. Any kind of identity or happiness related desire. All of these things are ways in which are trying to improve or to grow ourselves one way or another. More often than not, we find that the simple difficulty of the task itself is not the only thing keeping us back.
There are three main things preventing us moving forward: our environments, personal inertia, and fear.
The places, but more importantly the people, with whom we surround ourselves often concretely prevent us from moving forward. Our physical environments keep us back because we are creatures of habit, and in those environments we have certain habits, so we feel strong instincts to act in harmony with our habitual patterns when in those places. A concrete example might be when I lived in Italy. My nonna had a big garden. I developed the habit of sneaking out there and eating tomatoes off of the vine when I visited. That meant that every time I went to her house, I felt a strong need to continue that behavior. If I stopped going to nonna’s house, those tomatoes would have dropped off of my menu entirely. The same might go for a workplace, which is filled with doughnuts and bagels and coffee, and in which you have a habit of overeating. When you arrive in that space, your mind goes to that place, and if you’re not consciously aware of and resisting that impulse, then your environment is going to continue to have a leg up on you.
Our social environments are, unfortunately, even more powerful agents of resistance to change. There are a lot of disillusioning and depressing topics covered in this post, but in my opinion this is the saddest of all.
As human beings, we have friends, and they have certain images, definitions, and roles in our minds.
We like them that way, so we do our best to keep them that way. We also don’t like when they show us up in good behavior, so we often discourage it. Can you believe we do this to the people we love? If unaware of it, we might actively be practicing it every day.
For example: you go out to eat with friends. One of them notices that you ordered a salad. You used to be the girl who ordered onion rings. She also knows that you are trying to lose weight. However, she wants you to continue to be the “carefree,” overweight woman who always orders onion rings. That keeps you in the same role for her as you have always been. It keeps you “who you are” to her. She’ll encourage you to order the onion rings. “It won’t make a difference!” she’ll say. “Be free, don’t let the man get you down, diets are for sissies.” She wants you to stay the same, but she also doesn’t want you to make her feel bad. As the onion ring woman, you were on level with her poor food choices. Now you’re trying to best her. You’re moving up. You’re getting healthy, and she feels–even if she doesn’t know it–guilty as all hell.
The thing is, this kind of reinforcing behavior in this woman’s mind comes from a place of love, care, and concern. By encouraging you to “indulge,” she believes that she is helping you. She is freeing you. She is encouraging you to love yourself for who you are, as you are, and to feel sexy and unburdened by the weight of life changes and discipline. But that’s not the whole story, and it’s important for all of us to recognize it. Recognizing this fact helps us perceive the intentions of our friends and loved ones, and it also helps us prevent ourselves from doing it to them in turn. No matter how good of people we are– and goodness, do I ever try– we all have the same tendencies, the same instinct to keep our friends in given roles. Don’t let it happen. We’re better than that.
The second way in which we are held back is bypersonal inertia, where inertia is a force that keeps us moving in the same direction. There is a simple fact: change is hard. But I believe that we overestimate often how hard the changes might be. For that reason, we put off making them happen.
We dwell on difficulties we perceive in change, we see how much they demand of us, and even if we end up managing to get started on the change, we derail ourselves by perceiving great effort down the road.
BUT: When we are doing this, we are doing it entirely in our brains. We are worrying about the future. The thing is, when the moment comes for change to happen, such as choosing a different meal at a restaurant, waking up early, or dropping a habit (though smoking may be a bit of a different case), in that precise moment, the change can in fact be so easy. We get so caught up in what everything means and the fears we have of what kind of efforts and changes it might take from us in the future, but there’s a significant problem in that reasoning. Which is that: the problem is overestimated. We aren’t in the future yet. We don’t know what the difficulty is. And all of it–all of the difficulty–it’s all sitting somewhere in our brains. We just have to become familiar with it, and learn the space of what is truly difficult rather than blown up or made up right out of our brains, and practice daily learning to dismiss it. Not easy. But not so difficult in the end, no.
The final way in which we are held back isfear of success.
Just like our friends are used to us looking, being and acting a certain way, so are we.
We are used to being overweight, used to being pessimistic, used to being unhappy. This is who we are, and deep in our brains we are tied to these parts of our identities just as strongly as we are tied to the more positive ones. So we try to keep ourselves that way.
When we look in the mirror, and we notice that we have lost weight, we, so often, holy crap, so. often., immediately run to the fridge. It’s not that we aren’t happy that we’ve made progress. It’s that we look different, and that’s not who we are. Stefani is a size nine. She has always been that way. She’s inching down in waist size, and that’s just weird! Hurry up, eat some hot dogs, woman.
That’s not what we think is going on in our brains, but so, very unfortunately, it very often is.
Worse, however, is that sometimes when we see that positive change, or even think about it, we do not just back pedal because of the rigid way in which we define ourselves in our heads, but also because we don’t think we deserve it.
For whatever reason, we’ve got something in our brain telling us we can’t do it. We aren’t good enough. We aren’t worthy. ‘I am not lovable, and I will never be lovable. People don’t love me, and that’s that.’ ‘I binged last week. I don’t deserve to be thin.” “I can’t get my shit together. Maybe that means I’m not supposed to. I never can. I never will. I am going to be this way forever.”
Not okay!! You do deserve it. Everyone deserves it. Self-love is basic and human and maybe the most important thing of all. It doesn’t come on an earn-it basis. It comes on a basic-human-right and requirement-for-being-a-loving-presence-in-the-world basis. But these are hard psychological blocks to move beyond. The best way to do it is to find out if and how they are present, and to make friends with them. To talk to them. To talk about them. To accept what role they have played in your life. And then to dare to let them slide off of you.
Because the last thing left obscuring us from realizing our true potential is our fear of it.
We are afraid of being excellent, because in our heads, it’s difficult. It’s scary. It requires confidence. It makes us bright. It makes s noticeable. Happiness and achievement of any sort in our minds puts us publicly out there. People will see us. And that’s frightening on millions of levels.
Take it from a woman who acquired two shrinks when her readership passed 50,000.
But any change towards positivity changes us, and elevates us in some regard or another, and for that reason, we get terrified.
The higher we are, the farther we have to fall.
And the more public we might perceive it to be, because we are projecting a new air of living positively, of living unapologetically, of living happily and healthfully. We are making changes and the people in our lives will see it, and all of us are going to have to deal with it.
Instead of being afraid–instead of of letting our fear of being a role model or a happiness or a new being stop us from living–let us dare to deal with it.
Life at its best is lived radiantly. Life is best lived with light and with grace and with positivity and love. Do it. Dare to do it. Do it in baby steps if you have to. But do it. Put on the hat of unapologetic wellness from time to time. Put on the hat of excellence. Take it off gently if it’s getting to be too heavy. Then put it on again.
Be you, but be you excellently.
Do not be afraid to do it. You are beautiful, you are yourself, you have nothing to fear in yourself and others. No one is going to laugh at you if you fall. And if they do– fuck ‘em! It’s not worth your attention. Your attention is better left for positivity in your life and in others. Your growth is powerful for your soul. It’s powerful for your friends. It’s powerful for the universe.
Making positive changes empowers us to be more loving and to be more free. It does the same for others. It really does.
Dare to make it happen, for everyone’s sake.
There’s nothing to fear. Only our old hurts and new worries are holding you back.
Chip away at them, and step into the light. Keep stepping further throughout your life. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do so– don’t make this a game of self-love and self-deprication. Only grow in love, and do it continuously.
Think about your fears and those of the people around you, and how they might be holding you back.
Think about about what it means to climb mountains, and get to the top, and look around. It might seem like you have a long way to fall, and everyone for miles and miles will be able to see it, but there’s plenty around you holding you up, including yourself, and there’s nothing but applause all the way around for your love and positivity and efforts.
And read this Marianne Williamson quote– daily:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world….And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
The implant, the patch, and the NuvaRing are all hormonal birth control methods. One is a thin rod implanted into the arm by a medical professional, another is a patch attached to the skin, and the final is a flexible plastic ring inserted into the vagina. Each of them gets hormones into bloodstream. The only real difference between these methods and birth control pills is the method of ingestion. They are marketed as hassle-free birth control methods, and that’s true, more or less. They require less mindfulness than birth control pills do. Whether or not that’s something you desire is completely up to you.
Each of the methods varies slightly by use by and by hormonal content. There are also some specific health concerns related to each method, so they are worth noting.
The implant, under the two brand names Implanon and Nexplanon, is a small rod inserted under a woman’s arm.
The implant is made of medical plastic that is sterile and soft. This contraceptive rod is 40mm (1.5 inches) long and 2mm (0.08 inches) in diameter. The implant, once inserted, is effective for a maximum of three years. The implant is the only of these three methods to be a progesterone-only method.
Once the birth control implant is inserted, it begins releasing small doses of the synthetic progesterone etonogestrel. Implanon contains 68 milligrams of etonogestrel, and it is released slowly and steadily over the course of the three year period.
Since the implant is a continual dosage of a progestin, the implant does not include a regular cycle the way most other birth control methods do. For the majority of women on the implant, their periods become light but unpredictable. For 30 percent of women, menstruation stops completely within one year of use. For this reason, the implant might be a convenient and relatively risk free option. I call it “relatively” risk free because it is estrogen-free. It is usually estrogen-based pills–such as the methods below–that have the potential for scary side effects such as thrombosis and heart attacks.
The patch in the form of Ortho Evra was first released in 2002. Because of it’s supreme convenience and relatively low cost, it became a best-seller in two short years, selling nearly 400 million dollars worth.
However, Ortho Evra is a progesterone-estrogen combination pill, and it turns out that the patch generated much higher levels of estrogen in the blood of users than pharmaceutical companies had anticipated. This results in a greater risk of blood clots– and shortly thereafter lawsuits began piling up. In 2005, Ortho Evra, under an agreement with the FDA, added a black-box warning to its packages stating that patch users are exposed to roughly 60 percent more estrogen than the typical pill user, resulting in a potential “approximate doubling of risk of serious blood clots.”
That risk remains fairly low, and there are warning signs that can be heeded in order to save women at risk:
- a new lump in the breast
- a sudden very bad headache
- achy soreness in the leg
- aura — seeing bright, flashing zigzag lines, usually before a very bad headache
- bad pain in the abdomen or chest
- headaches that are different, worse, or happen more often than usual
- no period after having a period every month
- trouble breathing
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
The patch is another birth control method that works in cycles. The pattern is three weeks on, with one patch applied each week, and then one week off. The “off” week is when menstruation occurs.
The patch is applied to a woman’s upper outer arm, buttocks, abdomen or thigh on either the first day of her menstrual cycle or on the first Sunday following that day, or for an amenorrheic woman on any random day, whichever is most appropriate for this woman. The day of application is known by the companies from that point on as patch change day. Seven days later, when patch change day comes again, the woman removes the patch and applies another to one of the approved locations on the body. This process is repeated again two more times. And then one whole 7 day period is taken off for menstruation, starting the whole cycle again on the following patch change day.
Continual use of the patch has been studied, but is not recommended considering the relatively higher estrogen dose of the patch.
All that being said– while higher estrogen levels are associated with risk of cardiovascular problems, women who suffer from low estrogen levels may benefit greatly from estrogen input. The appropriate amount of estrogen varies by the individual, so it is worth discussing these issues with your doctor if you are interested in how much estrogen you should be (daring to) take.
The NuvaRing is a flexible, plastic ring inserted into the vagina one each month. It is inserted by the individual at the start of the menstrual cycle and left for three weeks, and then removed for one week while a withdrawal bleed occurs. A new ring is then inserted for the following month.
Back-to-back use of the NuvaRing–that is, without a withdrawal bleed–have been studied. They do not seem to be alarming, though have not been officially approved by any government agencies. This is presumably because the estrogen levels from the NuvaRing are low enough to tolerate consistent dosages.
The NuvaRing emerged on the market after the birth control patch, and was instantly popular because it offered an easy contraception method without as much risk of blood clots as the patch. People still leapt up in arms over the NuvaRing, claiming that it had increased side effects, but several statistical analyses have shown that it carries the same risk as other birth control options.
The NuvaRing is also a combination pill, and delivers 120 µg of etonogestrel, a synthetic progesterone, and 15 µg of ethinyl estradiol, a synthetic estrogen, each day of use.
This is less estrogen than both the patch and other combination pills, which makes the NuvaRing desirable with women who have predispositions to estrogen dominance or who have a history of problems with breast tenderness, PMS, nausea, or cramping. The NuvaRing also has a lower incidence of breakthrough bleeding, despite how low it’s estrogen dosage is.
Many women believe that the NuvaRing is a more gentle form of birth control than others–that it won’t cause hormonal disturbances–because it sits in the vagina, and therefore acts locally, rather than universally in the body. This supposedly mitigates the side effects. But I have yet to be able to find any evidence that this is the case. So far as I can tell, the reason the NuvaRing may have fewer side effects than other methods is simply because it releases a lower dosage of hormones.
All that being said, some researchers argue that third- and fourth-generation contraceptives — including those that contain desogestrel like the NuvaRing — raise the risk of blood clots without adding any benefit. Third and fourth generation contraceptives contain synthetic estrogens, which may or may not be more problematic than original formulations and bio-identical forms. No significant statistical evidence, so far as I can tell, exists to support these claims.
So those are alternative methods of taking hormonal birth control! The implant contains progesterone only, and reduces menstruation, the patch contains higher levels of estrogen, and the NuvaRing is a late-generation combination pill with as low a dose of hormones in it as possible. The side effects and risks of each of these methods is approximately the same as oral birth control pills — except perhaps in the case of the patch, and also in the case of late-generation estrogen consumption.
Coming up are IUDs, sponges and condoms, and fertility awareness! And menopause!
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Last week I joined Stacy and Sarah in a discussion on weight loss on episode six of their lovely podcast, The Paleo View.
In it, we discuss how to maintain momentum in weight loss, whether or not we think exercise is important for weight loss, the trouble with using restrictive language, whether or not we each eat paleo “treats,” foods to be wary of during weight loss, and — get this! – what I am currently eating, and how and why, on a daily basis.
You’ve been asking me for years, and now it was ambushed out of me.
Download from iTunes here: The Paleo View.
Also: my friend George at Civilized Caveman Cooking recently hosted a guest post on a woman’s experience with IF — how it gave her acne, insomnia, obsessive thoughts — and about how she recovered. A woman who’s journey at many points has been very similar to mine, and similar also to many of yours. She can be found at The Paleo Angel.Read More
The Paleo Living giveaway winners have now been randomly chosen! My friend Jonathan, who picked the winning numbers out of thin air, would like for you to know you are indebted to him.
First prize — a full year’s subscription to Paleo Living — goes to submitter Coconut D.
The two second prize winners — winners of 3 month subscriptions — are Jess and Maria.
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to give me your email addresses, and I’ll send you the giveaway how-tos.
“Fear is the mind killer” is a famous quote from the novel Dune. It goes on to say:
“Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Under this viewpoint, fear comes from emotion, and overtakes the brain. In some ways, this is true.
But otherwise, I disagree.
I disagree because fear does not come only from primal instincts, but also directly from the mind. Fear comes very much from over-thinking, and can be battled back with thinking in turn. And with other things.
The worst part, however, is that it does not just hurt our ability to think, but also our ability to love.
Fear is the heart-killer.
Understand that fear prevents you from positive emotions– from loving others, from loving yourself, and from growing through yourself into becoming a more empowered, strong, and positive person.
The type of fear that I am talking about now comprises all fears, but it specifically relates to fears that we have built up in our heads about who we are and how people will receive us. Some of the fears we have are obvious and surficial; others run much deeper.
For example, we might think: “I fear what they will think of me,” “I fear I will be judged for ordering a salad,” “I fear what my abdominal fat makes me look like in the eyes of my friends.” In all of these instances, we are swimming in fears that prevent us from loving not just our abdomens or our salads, but also other parts of us, our whole selves, and and others.
There are even deeper fears that might sit inside us. ”I fear no one will love me.” “I fear being left.” “I fear dying alone.” ”I fear change.” ”I fear transforming myself.” ”I fear being overweight, because I am afraid what that means.” ”I fear being thin, because I am afraid what that means.” ”I fear self-confidence, because it is new.” ”I fear having cancer.” ”I fear my PCOS.” ”I fear being unhealthy.” ”I fear progress.” ”I fear freedom.”
Just like I have advocated in the past that we need to be the first people to step up and create a loving space in our lives and in the world, I also believe that we need to be the first people to step up and dare to be new, dare to be excellent, dare to be loving and to be loved and to be fearless.
The things we fear may be negative — ie, “I fear being alone,” — but they may also be positive — ie, “I fear being someone others admire.”
In both cases, we are preventing ourselves from growth and from happiness.*
Overcoming such large, deep-seated fears is not easy. But nothing– virtually nothing– is more transformative for our souls. Nothing can transform us more, can make us better at loving, or can make us more positive presences in the world better than chipping away at all of the fears that darken our hearts.
Today’s task is broken up into two parts:
Task 1) Confront your fears.
Sit down on a park bench one day, and dig deep inside yourself. Are you afraid of being alone? Are you afraid you will never be loved? Are you afraid to fall in love? Are you afraid of being trapped? Of dying? Any kind of fear – any kind — will prevent your ability to feel loving. Fear can come from any source, but once it gets it’s claws in your heart, it can infect the whole thing.
Figure out the fears that sit deep within your soul, and do your best to make friends with them. Acknowledge their presence, and ask kindly that they chill from time to time. Accepting fears and their origins in your life are the first steps towards overcoming them. The next might be gradually training yourself to trust and to believe otherwise. But how do you do that? One somewhat simple and definitely effective way is to develop a mantra.
Task 2) Develop a mantra.
One way to chip away at fear is to convince yourself of it’s opposite. Figure out what frightens you the most, and what hinders your life the most, and gently refuse to believe that anymore. That may sound impossible and silly at first– “If I say something over and over again, is that actually going to make me believe it?” Yes, it will. But you have to give it a chance, and you have to do it. Some good mantras include:
“I am in perfect health; I am fearless.”
“I am safe in myself; whatever happens to me, I have the power to react with wisdom.”
“I am more than my worry; I am more than my fear; I am myself.”
“I am strong; I have faith.”
“I trust the universe; I trust myself.”
Say these mantras with inhalations and exhalations. Breathe in: “I am in perfect health.” Breathe out: “I am fearless.”
Have a scheduled time in which you meditate on these ideas. Just five minutes a day– at this regular time can do you wonders. And squeeze in other pieces of time wherever you can. Standing in line at the grocery store, waiting at a red light. ”I am fearless; I am fearless; I am fearless.”
Yes, you are.
No one has the power to transform you like yourself. All you’ve gotta do is relax, and trust that you can do it,and do.
And then relax into the glory of a peaceful existence. A peaceful existence off of which fountains of self-love and out-pouring love can spring.
*More on self-sabotage in next week’s hack.
Thanks to my role model Dorothy Ruper as the inspiration for this post.Read More