As I feel myself rounding some important bases in defining who I am — especially as the calendar turns from 2012 into a bold, new year — I am thinking that maybe it’s a good time to share with you my personal story of my relationship with food and my body. This is especially the case because 2012 was the most pivotal year for the “healing” of my relationship with food, and it may have some decent insights in it.
I don’t know what purpose this endeavor might serve this community or any of you, but I hope very much that it delivers feelings of hope, reason to believe in yourself, and camaraderie as you move forward in your own journey, wherever you may be.
I do my best skim lightly through my earlier years, and then get more serious about key turning points in my recent life. I err on the side of detail rather than brevity, but I figure it better to be inclusive and truly “tell all” than skip a piece that might be helpful to someone. I break it apart roughly by year if you’d like to scroll to the more relevant bits.
My personal story with food starts before I can ever really remember. It is rooted in the core of my personality, as well as in my psychological needs. I have been an obsessive over-thinker and over-categorizer my entire life, largely because I perceived a need to control as much of existence as possible. This manifested in things such as hyper-ambition and an addiction to achievement as well as to more mundane minutiae such as counting ceiling tiles, knowing all of the facts about history and geography I could get my hands on, and most importantly with keeping religious track of time. The more I knew about the world, the better mastery I had over it. My last boyfriend’s living room had 167 ceiling tiles on it. Kathmandu is the capitol of Nepal. Macomb mall is 2.4 miles from my house by way of Masonic boulevard but 2.7 by way of 14 mile road. That would take me one hour and seven minutes by my leisurely pace in my regular boots with a backpack or fifty eight minutes if unburdened or walking with my friend Liz whose mile pace is approximately 4 minutes faster than mine.
This hyper-vigilance I believe is rooted in my earliest problems and some events that may be rightfully called early-childhood trauma. I was terrified of dying and a complete nihilist who had panic attacks about non-being by age five. (A Sartre-ian by first grade… thank you post-modernism.) I filled this gap with ambition and achievement, and also with that profound sense of knowledge about the world I just mentioned. This meant that I have always been a bit of a perfectionist. I have a feeling this is a story at least a bit familiar to many of you.
This isn’t to say that I’ve been necessarily compulsive or freakish, though I’d happily adopt and in fact often use such pejoratives. Instead, I think, however, we are all just human and we all cope with existential anxiety in one way or another. We are all normal-ish, and my methods of coping with existence have served me well for most of my life.
I also grew up a bit of a professional dancer, and later a participant in the competititve dance circuit. I was always just a bit bigger and a bit less pretty than the other dancers. This is just true, and it’s fine. At the time, however, it meant that I missed out on some of the good stuff like scholarships, pageants, and competition invites, and also that I wished very much that I could be as hot as the other dancers.
But whatever– all teenagers want to be more attractive. I was one of them.
It also doesn’t help growing up in a home of constant dieters. Atkins, Weight Watchers, Juicing. Many of us can relate to that. If you grow up in an environment in which food intake is regulated by something other than natural hunger drives– by anything other than natural hunger drives– I think we are predisposed to become out of tune with our bodies and their needs. Being very driven, at this age I started working out twice each day–biking a total of at least 20 miles and lifting weights– and eating a specific diet. And then I’d go horrifyingly off the rails, because who the hell wouldn’t on a diet based on Special K and lettuce?
Then came college, in which I continued to struggle. Many women do. The majority of emails I receive are from women who develop self-conscious behaviors while in college. It just so happened that I went to a school in a sea of sexy valedictorians. I was a perfectionist among perfectionists, and we lived as ambitiously as we did wildly.
Anyway. The efforts I had made throughout high school and college were unsuccessful, and I felt so alien in and hated my body. Within a few years I finally hacked calorie restriction, however. On about 1000 calories a day with significant cardio exercise I lost 30 pounds in 3 months. Talk about hunger. It was at this point in my life that I discovered food porn. I looked at pictures of food and read food blogs religiously, maybe for an hour or more a day. A few years after this period in my life I read studies about severely calorie restricted men who did the same thing. They also hoarded food (check) became defensive and possessive about food (check) and drew pictures of food, made souvenirs, collected nuts to look at, etc. People are who are starving obsess. And rightfully so.
This was also the time in which I stopped menstruating.
A little bit later I was introduced to the paleo diet. While I resisted heavily the idea of eating meat for environmental and animal rights-based reasons, I capitulated. I began listening to podcasts, reading all of the books and blogs… the same sort of radical conversion story a lot of you are familiar with. When you discover the paleo diet, it just sort of makes sense in that basic way, and you leap head first into an orgy of statistics and science and success stories. But for me–as probably for a fair portion of paleo dieters–my excitement was mostly at the promise of being effortlessly thin. With the paleo diet, I wouldn’t have to feel so restricted. The “satiation power” of fat and protein would make the burden of my weight maitenance efforts slide off of my shoulders. I’d eat sardines. I wouldn’t feel hungry. I’d be skinny. Life would be perfect. Hooray!
Needless to say that wasn’t quite how the story went down at all. As a matter of fact, it was at this point in my life, for the first time ever, that episodes of overeating became real food binges, in which I might eat half of a pumpkin cheesecake after a whole Thanksgiving dinner, a whole serving tray of gourmet desserts on my birthday, or a few loaves of dessert bread at Christmas parties. The fact that I had forbidden carbohydrates of nearly all forms from my diet meant that I needed them all the more strongly. This phenomenon is one of the great monsters I try to tackle with this blog: macronutrient restriction. If your diet is actively restricting you and making you feel deprived, chances are quite good that food intake, choices, and willpower will all domino behind that.
This also meant that eating a “paleo diet” didn’t heal me at all. It made my struggle all the more difficult, and precisely because the diet was supposed to work but didn’t, I felt even more like I was doing something wrong. This was frustrating and discouraging on several levels. What was wrong with me that it wasn’t work? What did I need to do? Did I need to do the diet even more “perfectly”? I tried. I think a lot of us know what that’s like.
This was all also on the heels of several decades of struggle to be thin, topped off with the achievement of that weight. As Stacy of Paleo Parents talked about at length on our podcast, sometimes maitenance really is more difficult than active progress. This is probably rooted in the fact that human beings can often approach an upgrade such as an additional twenty bucks (or five pounds weight loss) with a fair bit of relative indifference, but become horribly neurotic and possessive of those benefits once they are already ours. We hate losing what we have far more than failing to obtain those things in the first place.
A bit later I started the Paleo Pepper blog, and at that site I had originally intended to just write about the paleo diet. That very quickly morphed into a disordered-eating centric blog, however. Turns out we all write about what we know and what we care about, and this happened to be something I knew quite intimately.
That blog ended up being… I think an exploration of how to cope with disordered eating, and how to keep ourselves from overeating. It was in no way a blog aimed at restriction or at negative behaviors, but I didn’t quite get it yet, either. I was trying to stop overeating without considering the radical psychological shifts that needed to happen. For this reason, I am ambivalent about the blog. It has helped and it continues to help a lot of women, but I don’t endorse approaching any of the content there without knowing that at that time I was an author who hadn’t quite “made it” to that point.
Wow, this has become quite the story.
Because we haven’t even gotten to some of the most important part yet.
Coupled with my history with disordered eating was a growing concern over my acne and my PCOS. Food had to be related, but I just couldn’t figure out how. The information on the internet is — holy hell – as confusing as Beijing public transit, and nothing I ever tried to hack my acne worked. For several years I fought that monster, with virtually no relief. What the hell was going on?
Coming into 2012, I decided to try drugs. It seemed like the last solution left, though in reality the true final solution was one that was too hard to accept, more on which in a minute.
I got on metformin first, which caused anxiety attacks and even worse acne than I had had before, and then I tried spironolactone and T3, for my acne and hypothyroid together. Spiro is well known to cause an initial outbreak, though a few cases never get past it. I didn’t. The Spiro gave me the worst cystic acne I had had in years, and on top of that it caused in me profound dehydration, insomnia, and anxiety. The thing about anxiety is that it begets anxiety. Pharmacological reasons for anxiety add to and sort of cause to fester already present anxieties– bringing to the surface anything that had ever worried me in the past two decades. I won’t tell you about that specifically, but I will tell you that this anxiety capitulated the most terrifying and difficult twelve months of my entire life.
I was also completely thrown by my inability to overcome acne and PCOS with the powers of my brain (remember the 5 year old categorizer). In January of 2012, right after I started taking the drugs, I realized that I was addicted to perfection, and that that was the root of most of my problems. I realized the depth to which I had been married to my problem solving abilities. I was dependent upon my apparent life-long ability to make everything as excellent as I wanted it to be. Perfectionism might not be the right word. But a constantly improving excellence in many aspects of life with ceaseless fervor and a refusal to give up… that is perhaps the best way to couch my own personal brand of perfectoinism.
So in one swift and terrifying week, I let go of it all.
I embraced weight gain, I told my life-long academic dreams to go fuck themselves (oops), and I endeavored to be nothing more than nothing, a lovely, floating being at peace with existence and seemlessly living in life and in love. It didn’t work, obviously– far too much of my personality was shaped by my earlier life to be completely overthrown. And while I loved my body radically, I still wanted it to be a certain way; I still desperately feared fat. I lived in a state of constant body awareness feeling totally trapped. I needed to gain weight possibly in order to be healthy and to save me from acne, but if I gained weight I’d be fat. In one direction I had acne and was ugly, in the other I had fat and was ugly. I couldn’t win– I just couldn’t win, and that fact tortured me. This meant that I continued to meticulously monitor what I was eating, and even while including carbohydrates in my diet, was fairly scared about what they might do to me.
I got off of the drugs and that helped a fair bit. But the anxiety returned. This was still in part a physiological issue, but much of the psychological pieces that had come to a head with these issues refused to be put away.
I moved forward with tackling anxiety first and foremost on my to-do list. Acne no longer seemed like the enormous monster it had been before. It was still a big issue, but what’s one zit compared to existential peace? And weight status… whatever! What’s my body weight compared to my will to live? Not a whole lot. So even while I was meticulous about eating cleanly to mitigate the remnants of my acne, and even while I still participated in “disordered” behaviors such as emotionally relying on food, fearing fat, and purging with exercise, over the summer, in my attempts to hack my anxiety, I ran up against the limits of my brain and my body. I needed to accept them, and to relinquish my hold on perfectionism. I discovered trust, and I discovered radical love.
What I realized is that my existence doesn’t have to be terrifying. For me, my journey with food sits inside of my journey with perfectionism, which sits inside my journey with anxiety, which in turn sits in my journey with metaphysics and with the Universe. My whole life, I needed to be the best because that was the only thing I could think of that would make my life meaningful, worth-living, and somehow, in the tiniest way, immortal.
Perfection–or excellence–would save me from existential despair. It used to, in any case. But in 2012, in the last twelve months, I realized how so, very empty that endeavor is. This is, perhaps, another familiar story to you.
I had thought that I needed to be so extraordinarily excellent because that would make me worthy of love, and love is the only thing other than my fervent pursuit of academic achievement that might fill that existential hole sitting deep in my soul. Improvement, optimality, perfection, achievement, validation… these were the things on which I predicated the iota of meaning I could salvage from my nihilism.
In 2012, I finally made peace with my existence. Even while I’ve typed far more than I intended here, I’m still leaving out whole pieces of my career, my studies in metaphysics and theology, and dissertations worth (literally– I’m working on them) on atheism and theism and what it means to be a human being in the cosmos as we understand them today. All of which is to say that I found my way to be at peace with the Big Questions, and that has been a big, big piece of this all.
This piece enabled me to unearth a serenity in myself I had never known, and to scratch an itch that so desperately needed to be scratched since that poor, afraid, and isolated five year old girl first got scared of dying. I still want to be attractive. I still want to achieve things. Big time. I remain eternally devoted to improving my life and my works and the lives of others as I move forward. But I am no longer being chased by a rabid pack of dogs. I refuse to be.
I float in serenity; I float in lightness and freedom; I stand firm (for now) on a foundation of assurance: everything is okay. Everything has always been okay. Everything will be okay.
Things perturb my serenity all the time still. I am human. This happens. And I am healing from a fair bit of trauma. We all are– we are all always being hurt, and we are all always healing. The world doesn’t stop and wait for us to catch up– it spins and spins and spins. We have the option of trying to master that spin, and to stay a precisely balanced top throughout our lives, but we also have the option of letting go of our grip. What if we let go, and let the winds carry us, and live our lives suspended in the atmosphere, in a spirited dance with kites and clouds?
It’s a lovely idea, in any case.
And, moreover, it’s entirely tied to my relationship with food.
This is about body acceptance, yes. That part is self-explanatory. But it is also about mystery, and it is about trust. I have, over the last few months, come to terms with the mystery of the universe.
All of the answers to the Big Questions are ultimately unknownable to us. The trick is to understand that the answers to small questions are always mysteries, too. We have science, and it’s a decent description of what’s going on in reality, but we are rather kidding ourselves if we think that we ever really know anything for certain. Scientific theories evolve, point blank. And so much data out there is unknown, the very fabric of our beings being completely mysterious to us. Who am I to say whether or not our actual thoughts live in our cells and affect our physiological health? They very well might, and a fair bit of evidence seems to point towards the fact that they do. But we cannot know. And much as I know that soy and dairy cause my acne, I’m not 100 percent sure why. Maybe 98 percent, but not 100. And other hormone flucutations occur all the time that I just cannot ever know the truth of.
Things happen, and it’s important to think about and to troubleshoot why. But perhaps the most important skill in life that I have unearthed so far is learning to discern the line between what we can know and control and what we cannot.
Let go of what you cannot, and be free.
“It’s all the marvelous play of God,” says Lao-Tzu. ”Wake up, you are already free!”
I like that very much.
It also has to do with trust. Much as we have to acknowledge our inability to control everything, we also have to trust things outside of our mental selves. This has been the most recent portion of my journey with food. As I have begun to comes to terms with the ultimate mystery of the universe and of my body, so have I come to trust my natural hunger drives.
I ignore a lot of what I can find and read on the internet. I don’t want to hear about what macronutrient ratios are best for mental health or weight loss or anything like that. I eat when my body says eat, and if I do not restrict myself or worry about what I am eating, then I am completely and easily capable of stopping when my body starts to be sated. Then I eat again, and guitlessly, when it wants to eat again. Without restriction, without perfection, without fear, and with love, and acceptance, and trust, I eat well. Sure, I still keep distant track. Sure, I still am thin. Hell yes I get tripped up from time to time. But decreasingly so as I move forward, and as always, I bear in mind my years-long saying to my audience and clients: “Progress is made in baby steps, not in leaps. We can never ask for a cure, but for love, and for progress, even if we step back from time to time.”
When I turned toward trust and away from fear, I was able to let go of my heavy reliance on vegetables as a source of grazing, overeating, and calories. This heavily reduced my fiber intake, as well as my intake of goitrogens. I began eating truly as much and of whatever I needed at the time. I did not write off any paleo foods, I did not restrict, I did not confine myself arbitarily based on perfection. This lead to a somewhat natural falling out to three to four meals per day of equal macronutrient intake, but that came after a long road of peacefully accepting and eating high fat, high carbohydrate, almost exclusively fruit, and some totally oddball diets–whichever ones my body and soul were needing–for quite some time.
The coupled effects of these physical changes as well as my mental changes led to natural ovulation for the first time in three years.
And thus I sit today.
Which brings to me a final point, and one that was raised in the comments. Patti commented on self-esteem, and how important certain works have been for her in coming to realize her own worth. This is, gratefully, a piece of the typical disordered eating puzzle with which I have not had to wrestle too desperately. This was enabled by the fact that I had predicated my worth on my holistic person and pursuit of excellence. I had never actually sold my soul into my battles with acne or with my body, so I remained firm in my love of myself and my lack of apology for who and what I am. I believe that we are beautiful for so, so very many reasons. And I do believe that we are always worthy. I struggle with food as I have restricted and medicated in the past, but that relationship is just one aspect of who I am. It’s something that I’ve worked on, and, hell. I have always been as proud of that as I am of everything else that sits in my soul. I do not see any reason not to be. I am a woman, doing what I can, and I’ll be damned if I am ever going to relinquish my worth or my sex appeal or my ability to be loved based on a particular struggle of mine. They do influence it, but that is an important distinction. For this reason, I believe very strongly that we need to contextualize our relationships with food, and even while we are honoring them, as I am here, to constantly be aware of how little they define who we actually are.
I share this abridged but enormous story with you without any trepidation. I remain, as always, shameless. Yet more importantly, vulnerability and openness I believe are some of the most important virtues around, and I want us to be united in our journeys rather than divided. I am hoping that what I have shared, as with what all of my podcast guests and brave community members have shared, resonates with you in a way that is helpful. That is all.
I believe in life, and I believe in love, and I believe in myself, and I believe in you. The world is a terrifying place, but capable of holding us if we let it.
Spin blissfully on in the laughter of the winds, and leap, and laugh. Dance on the edge of life. It’s a journey, my friends, and we are doing it.
Today’s Food &Love Hack is all about listening to yourself. It may seem obvious, but isn’t really, and might need a bit of clarifying and rallying. It has the added business of being incredibly important.
The Hack: Staying within a relatively natural-foods paradigm, eat the foods and at the times that make you happy, no matter how unconventional.
One of our community members sent me over to a brilliant and daringly controversial piece on the acceptability of different eating styles by Charlotte Shane called “Wrong Ways to Eat.” In it, she discusses the ways in which medical and social food norms influence not just what we eat, but also what we think are healthy ways to eat.
She’s totally right, in my opinion. Who says 3 squares meal each day is optimally healthy, either in the physical or mental spheres? There’s a bit of data out there of course on meal timing, but that never takes into account the rhythm of someone’s life and happiness. Or who says you need to eat a certain amount of carbs or fat? Lots of people have opinions, but no one knows for sure. And who says you should be eating a certain amount of calories? Or that you shouldn’t eat a whole plate of nachos from time to time?
Shane’s argument is that the classification of “healthy” versus “disordered” eating causes problems in and of itself. She closes with this paragraph:
The point is not that eating disorders aren’t real. Many people suffer from a seriously damaged relationship to food, and it threatens their happiness, their long-term health, and sometimes their lives. And many of these people are men, whose trouble often goes unnoticed because we are so much more fixated on policing female food intake. It is only right that people in need receive recognition and help. But minutely plotting and achieving a perfect caloric balance every day reminds me more of the darkest period of my anorexia than it does a calm and sustainable lifelong approach to food. To have moderation in all things except immoderation echoes the close-fistedness of my most manic restrictions. I don’t see the health in it. Healthy eating will never be usefully defined as the inverse of disordered eating. It has a life—it is a life—of its own.
In the article, Shane also discusses food habits such as ritual feasts and purging enacted by traditional cultures that today we would call “disordered.” Yet they fit just fine into these societies, and the people who live within this world are probably not psychologically damaged by it. In fact, they’re probably pretty happy. Pretty honored. Consider themselves even more healthy for having participated. Partaking in that ritual in that society is one of those things that probably makes them healthy by their standards, no matter how they define it.
Shane also “confesses” to purging herself from time to time and being completely unashamed of it. While that’s not a practice I advocate, and while it’s probable that Shane’s relationship with food will continue to shift over her lifetime (as all of ours do), she’s pretty happy. Who am I to judge? People in her life presume that since she’s been a serious disordered eater in the past, she cannot possibly be happy when she says she is now. And she cannot possibly be healthy if she purges now. I had the same reaction: can she be healthy? Physically? Mentally? Who knows? Definitely not me. But if she says she’s happy and it seems authentic, I’m damn well going to believe her.
All of us have complex histories. We each live in unique situations. For all of us, a “healthy” relationship with food looks different. It is probably one in which we eat intuitively, and do not obsess over what we are eating, and feel at peace with food, yes. But what does that mean? Does that mean eating in an unconventional way? Eating in a way that our friends or our paleo colleagues might frown at? Sure, but who cares?
I am a firm proponent of the idea that psychological and physiological health are linked. I think physiological wellness and psychological wellness are absolutely necessary for each other. But what does that look like, and do either of those elements ever take precedent over the other?
Well, you tell me. Given that you know what the healthy class of foods are (those that don’t come in a bag or box), do you eat in a way that feels satisfying? Do you eat those foods most of the time? I think those are the only questions that matter. (…so long as you are not dealing with a specific condition)
While I self-identify as having recovered from long-term disordered eating, this is because I unhealthfully obsessed over food, not because I fit into a certain medical or social classification. I consider myself “recovered” because even while I still eat with a bit of a magnifying glass on myself, it isn’t in an unhealthy way. It’s only in a “I notice changes in my body (such as acne or weight status) and like to optimize them” sort of way. It’s not an obsession– it just floats in my life, easily. I know what I need to do to stay a healthy size and have clear skin, so I do it. That is partly the key to my happiness. I let myself eat in ways that may be unconventional, but love them and feel comfortable in them nonetheless.
Within that framework, I have eating a wide variety of diets with interesting “crutches” or “things to work on” throughout the past couple of years. You might view them as things that need to be overcome, but I don’t. And even if they do, it can happen slowly, within my own schedule.
Some of my friends have been aghast at my habits. When I told my best friend that I enjoyed eating still frozen vegetables with balsamic vinegar (try it!) because it makes you “slow down,” she was horrified. But I was totally at peace with that. It is just a fact– I like slow eating. I enjoy grazing in compressed time windows. Another example: for one period last year, I ate 4 avocadoes each day. I was troubleshooting my acne and wanted to be “clean.” I was okay with it– it worked. For a while in 2012, I ate a diet composed of probably 70 percent carbohydrate, much of that fruit. I felt great bolt physically and mentally.
Today, I’m eating in a roughly “Whole 30″ style of equally proportioned fat and carbohydrate throughout the day. I am also far less of an “extremist” than I have ever been, and eat all kinds of carbs, coconut milk ice cream for breakfast sometimes, and Starbursts when I’m feeling sleepy at work. I like it a lot. I am happy. I enjoy it more now. But I won’t impose it on anybody else, and I was perfectly happy in my old habits. They were a part of my personal revolution, and they felt good at the time, just as today’s do today.
So today’s task is:
Do what works for you! Figure out what all the pieces are begging to be fed in your soul. Does your inner child want waffles from time to time? Can you integrate that into your life in a non-obsessive way?
Do you eat when you are lonely? Sure, what you really want to fix is whatever it is in your life begetting loneliness, but if you graze through that time period or even binge– and are mentally at peace with what you are doing and know that it won’t throw you into an obsessive spiral– do it. You will figure out how to hack both of those things with time. Prioritize your mental health in a self-aware and responsible way, and I promise that you will not physiologically go off the rails.
I firmly believe that a part of the reason we become disordered eaters is because we adopt the guilt we have been told to have time and time again about our eatings habits, whatever they may be. If we ate a high fat diet and heard we needed to eat low fat, we might think ourselves disordered eaters and then radically mess up our intuitive eating. If we tend to fluctuate in caloric intake from each day to the next, and then hear we need three square meals, we may upset our psychological and physiologically wellness by trying to squeeze ourselves into what we “need” to be.
People like me write often about disordered eating. I like to talk about how to overcome it, and certain aspects of it that require work and such. But what I am attacking is any kind of mental baggage that may be attached to your habits. Even if you over- and under- eat from time to time, but are happy and healthy, both in body and in mind, do what works.
You may be asking the obvious question: but isn’t eating Starbursts not ideally healthy? Isn’t overeating not ideally healthy? No, not in the purely physical sense. I don’t think they’re all that bad– our bodies are built to handle a lot, and I firmly believe that the poison lies in the dosage–but no, I guess they’re not perfect. But what about the holistic sense? Our bodies are affected just as much by our happiness as by the specific foods we are putting into ourselves. Being perfect does not make us optimally healthy. Only working towards simultaneous psychological and physiological peace does.
Relax into both realms, and feed your soul in as many ways as possible.Read More
Wow! What an enormously long break we’ve been on from Food &Love Hack Fridays. And what an enormous gift it is to be back at it. Hi, I’m Stefani. It’s delightful to be back.
As I sit here and contemplate the sticky, smeared path of some neglected spill streak through my computer screen, it seems obvious to me what I have to write about today. I don’t know how long it’s been there. Months. Balsamic vinegar, I think. Why haven’t I cleaned it up? Have I grown fond of this spill? A tiny way to say “fuck you” to cleanliness norms? And what’s wrong with cleanliness norms anyway?
Do we subconsciously surround ourselves in disorganization or filth? Why? How might cleaning this all up help us hack our relationships with food?
Today’s hack: Clean your space.
The idea behind today’s hack is simple. The more areas in which we take care of ourselves, the easier it becomes to do so in others. If we sleep or rest more, we feel more energized and can exercise or do chores. If we take great care of our skin, that might translate to great care of our hair, or our teeth. If we exercise or do yoga, we might feel good enough in our bodies to forego sugary snacks. It goes just as quickly in the other direction. The more and more we slip in good health, in self-love, or in taking care of ourselves in one realm– for example, in sleep quality or in exercise– the less and less willing we feel to go the extra mile for the rest.
One of the most powerful of self-care projects I have personally experienced is keeping a clean, organized space.
Treating ourselves to a clean space, even though it takes a bit of work, is a way to tell ourselves that we are worthy. Clean spaces are welcoming, warm, and enable us to really relax into them like a true home. You deserve a welcoming space. Your deserve cleanliness. You deserve a home in which your soul feels as peace.
Studies in evolutionary psychology have demonstrated time and time again that the human disgust reaction runs deep in our bones. Thinkers who take that disgust reaction even further and use it to talk about religion and values (related to my own work in philosophy) find that the body’s physiological reaction to disgust sits at the bottom of our value, purity, and worth-based decisions. What kind of psychological message do we send to ourselves when we can feel crumbs crunch under our feet, see newspapers pile up in stacks next to the sofa, or cringe just a little bit when we step into the shower? Think of how much worse it is considering the fact that this mess is not just a fact of the universe, but is instead a result of our own regard for ourselves.
Did you ever have a roommate who didn’t clean up after herself or wash her dishes, and feel as though she was disrespecting your space and your worth?
Why not do the same thing for yourself?
When I’ve let my room move into warning mode–like when all of my pants are living in a pile on my floor–I have noticed that I naturally want to eat more. This probably has many contributing elements, though I think one of the biggest parts of this is the fact that I escape into food as a distraction. There are two big factors I want to be distracted from here: a) I don’t want to clean, so I am going to ignore that duty by eating, and b) I don’t want to think about the nasty thing it is that is occupying my space. I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to experience it. I’m having a disgust reaction to it. It might be minor, but it’s there. So I eat. Eating helps me forget things, at least for the moment.
Maybe you know what that feels like.
But I think the most important factor is that with a mess, I don’t benefit from the buoying feelings of self-love I get from cleaning. Instead, I just feel blah. Disorganized. Lazy. Average. Unmotivated. Less spiritual, less whole. I want to watch TV more than I want to be productive. Messes tend to facilitate poor self-care and poor self-love, and that’s never good for any of us.
The flip side gives us a pretty nice boost. When we clean our spaces, we clear up our minds. This is what things like feng shui, interior design, and architecture are all about. The environments in which we spend time naturally permeate our brainspace. If pristine, healthy, or organized, then the space facilitates a more peaceful existence.
This peaceful existence creates a space into which greater self-care can step. We can breathe more deeply, feel more comfortable, and relax into the world. We can absorb the serenity around us, and in doing so think of ourselves as increasingly integrated with that serenity. We become one with the peace our environment is trying to give us, and we become worthy of it.
With things like comfort, peace, and beauty surrounding us, we feel more spiritually whole.
We feel less like we need to be distracted.
And we feel less like we need to be fed physically, because we have not been fed spiritually.
Today’s task: Clean up!
We all live in different states of cleanliness. Some of us feel at ease with a bit of disarray around us, whereas others require pristine environments. Test your boundaries, and see if pushing beyond your norm into cleaner spaces makes your feelings of comfort and/or self-worth rise.
Clean your bedroom and your kitchen, or the places in which you spend the most time, first. Maintain it for as long as possible, and see if integrating consistent cleanliness into your life works for you. Maybe the time you used to spend munching on snacks can now be healthfully and happily diverted into cleaning-based self-care. Cleaning really is an act of self-love, so over time, if you think about it this way, it can become a truly meaningful and happy activity.
Once you have a clean space, think of what you might do with or in it. Yoga? Stretching? Lying on the floor and listening to music? Cooking for yourself, rather than ordering out?
Or shall you just go about your day, and just see how tidying up affects your soul?
You deserve a peaceful place, and both your body and your happiness may thank you.
Anger is destructive. It’s hurtful, and it’s isolating, and it’s nasty feeling. It breaks up relationships, poisons politics and salts the Earth. But it also happens to be one of our most powerful motivators. Think of all the people tying themselves to trees in the rainforest or risking their lives flying bags of rice to sub-Saharan Africa. Absolutely they are motivated out of love. But they often also feel passionately that an injustice deserves righting, and they are going to fight tooth and nail in order to make that happen.
So today’s hack is not about simmering in rage, and allowing it to consume you. Please know that. I love love and peace and forgiveness above all other things. This hack is, in fact, hardly about anger at all, but instead only about indignance when it is elected, rather than out-of-control, and easily let go of, and nothing that boils over. This post is about being indignant, about standing up for ourselves, about acknowledging the terrible injustices raging in our world. It’s about the power of seeing a right and seeing a wrong, and refusing to enable the wrong anymore. It’s about passion, about righteousness, and about taking a glorious, unapologetic stand.
The Hack: Get indignant.
One of our biggest problems with disordered eating is that we blame ourselves. How come I wasn’t strong enough? Why can’t I think I’m beautiful? Why can’t I lose this weight? 85 percent of moving beyond that is forgiving ourselves, and being radically compassionate with ourselves. We need to be as loving and humane with ourselves as we are with others. This is easier said than done, but something that we have been working on in this community and with Food & Love Fridays for quite some time.
But the final 15 percent lies, I believe, in acknowledging that it’s not our fault. Our negativity? Not our fault. Our cravings? Not our fault. Our behaviors? Not our fault. No, we don’t want to give up our responsibility. That would be wrong. It is today within our power to change our lives, and no one else’s, period. But all of these things came from somewhere else. None of us were born disordered eaters. None of us were born hating ourselves. None of us were born sugar addicts, craving cakes and pies and what-not at every turn. None of us chose to be obese, or weak, or sick.
Powerful forces at work in the world were what molded those parts of ourselves.
So it is up to us to move beyond them. They are never going to stop. Magazine ads with 6 foot lithe models, TV commercials with 100 calorie chocolate indulgences… they turned us into deprived, self-loathing machines. (well, you know, at least a little bit.) And they will be around for ages.
In order to heal, we need to acknowledge the powerful role these forces have played in building negative behaviors and thoughts into us, and then we need to change our current response to them.
The reason I suggest indignancy is because I think it is powerful. I am a big time believer in love, and positivity, and just letting all the negativity in the world role off of our shoulders. But an indignancy kept at a low flame that empowers us to spot an injustice and to identify it right away, and to see it always as an external phenomenon that is doing it’s best to keep us down — well, indignancy can help us lift ourselves up.
We were raised in a vicioius cultural machine: companies make money by selling things. Food is one of them. Beauty products are another. And everything else, besides. Advertisers know that when people feel bad about themselves they buy things. So we are made in sometimes enormously subtle ways to think less of ourselves– to worry about our status and our appearance– or to labor endlessly to be as pretty or successful as what is promised us in the ads– in order to buy whatever it is that is being sold to us.
Moreover, we live in a culture in which we are constantly bombarded with foods that are explicitly designed to make us addicted to them. And which we are told time and time again are “healthy.” Then we are shown clips of lithe, clear-skinned women “indulging” in big Macs all the while remaining “perfect.” Can’t I have that, too? Can’t I “indulge” in this thing that you have gotten me hooked on and that will make me feel better, and still end up prettier in the long run? Why can’t I have that, too? Why can’t I? Why can’t I? Why can’t I?
We are made to feel deprived. We are made to feel less. And it’s not our fault. These are wickedly powerful machines, and damage has been spread far and wide.
So for this reason I advocate indignance. No, I don’t believe simmering in a rage and blaming others is going to get us anywhere. But when we have a negative thought about ourselves, indignancy arms us with pride and righteousness. ”No! I’m tired of letting you into my brain! You’re not a part of me, advertising agency, and I won’t let you control me. You’ve done enough! Now get outta my way!” Being indignant gives us fire, and power, and sometimes we need that moving forward. Sometimes we need to not just be wholly self-loving but also fierce beings standing up for ourselves in the face of monstrosities.
Sometimes we need fire. We need conviction. We need raw power to throw off the heavy mantle of negativity. We need will, and strength, and deeply rooted beliefs that what we are doing is right, and what has been done to us was wrong.
So this hack is a dicey one. You’ve no doubt noticed that I danced around in previous paragraphs with a lot of warnings about anger. And I’m still not sure, honestly, how I feel about this hack. Am I actually encouraging people to have an emotion that can so easily be something unhealthy, and destructive? Really, am I?
Hm. Yes, I am.
Don’t use it if you think it would be harmful for you. Be thoughtful about moving forward with a tool like this.
But then do it.
Tell American culture to go bury it’s head in quicksand. When painful thoughts and advertisements start inching into your head, recognize them as external right away, and throw them off without giving them a second thought. Insist on your independence. Insist on your inherent worth. Insist on your radiant beauty, and do not give any other voices the time of day.
Negativity has no place in your soul. Refuse to let it. Recognize that these external forces have created something hurtful inside of you, and stand up for yourself. It’s not your fault that you have this in you. It’s that external thing’s fault. And it will not, it cannot, have power over you any more.
You have an inherent light that is powerful and luminous, so bright it is blinding and searing to the touch. This is a pure thing, a radiant thing, a sexy thing. Guard that thing, and do so with pride. Nothing has any right– no right whatsoever– to dim your light. You are a woman, and I will be damned if i stand by while negativity tries to tame you. I invite you to do the same. Refuse to be tamed. You deserve far, far more than that.
External forces have played a big role in making you who you are. Some of that has been powerfully positive, but other parts of that have been powerfully negative. Recognize those forces, and kiss them goodbye. Observe where they have latched onto your soul, and resolve to handle them one by one. You will overcome them in time. It may not be right away, but that’s what the indignancy’s for. Allow the power of your conviction to propel you forward, and to remain firm in your progress and pride.
Marshalling indignancy is not always the appropriate way forward. Definitely not. But that is why I pose it as a tool. Use it when it feels right. Allow it to inform you, and to fuel your conviction when you are feeling weaker or in need of support. Sometimes we need more power in order to move forward. Sometimes we need fire. Sometimes we need ferocity, and community, and justice, and indignance, and pride.
External forces are powerful.
But you are moreso.
Ferdinand Foch says: “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”
Today’s Food &Love Hack centers around the notion that much of our problem in loving ourselves lies in apologizing for who we are.
Apologize when you should, but never when you shouldn’t.
This is a phrase that I’ve been pinning up on my wall for almost a decade now. I don’t know when I picked it up, but it’s crucial to the way that I live my life. When I err, I own it. I’m a human, and I suck at being good just as much as — if not far more so — than the next guy.
But otherwise, no, I do not say I am sorry. I am not sorry for how I feel, I am not sorry for how I look, I am not sorry for my existence, for my clothes, for my ideas, for my history, for my self, for my presence, for my will, for my dreams, for my life. I have nothing to apologize for, and you will never see me do so.
Or at least I hope not. I try.
And it’s funny but– that above paragraph, does it feel abrasive to you? In-your-face? Presumptuous? Pushy? Sassy? Assertive?
Well, it is, but it isn’t. Either way, it’s a shame that we so often cast unapologetic living in a negative light. Why do we do that? Really, why? Is there actually a necessary tie between un-apology and aggression?
No, I don’t think there is.
I have a feeling that we associate unapologetic living with unconsiderate living, but that could not be further from the truth. And we consider unapologetic living as synonymous with imposition, but that is not the truth either. Being unapologetic for who you are and what you look like is in no way an imposition on the people around you. It isn’t, it isn’t, holy crap it isn’t.
What is an imposition on people around you is ignoring their desires, pushing your desires on them, or actively imposing or impinging on their lives. But you can have your own desires, and be contained within your own self, without ever pushing that on others. They are contained in their selves, and you in yours. Be gentle, be open, be in conversation. Share with people your feelings, and respect theirs. Dress and act and treat yourself as though you are beautiful, all the while doing the same for others. There is no limit on respect and love in the universe. You have infinite amounts of it for yourself, as much as you do for others.
Give others the gift of beauty and love, and give them to yourself, too.
You are contained within yourself, and you have nothing to apologize for.
You are beautiful, and you being beautiful does not make me less so. Beauty is not a limited pool. Everyone is beautiful.
There are no flaws, only differences.
So do not apologize for the way you look. You have a history, you have a context, you have a whole life and a whole heart and a whole person thrumming within your being. Nobody knows all of it. Nobody does. Only you. So only you have the power to embrace and to hold and to stand up for that being. Do not apologize for that story. You have evolved over a complex set of decades through big events that happened to and through you, and all of that lovely complexity has made you uniquely you.
You have a soul, a life, preferences, physical and spiritual and cognitive and wacky and otherwise.
Own them, and walk gently in the world, and be unapologetic in your skin.
It is, after all, the only skin you’ve got.
And that ownership, that confidence, that brilliance, that comfort… it enables us to love ourselves powerfully.
And to share that love in return. To affirm others.
When we stop apologizing for who we are, we become beacons. A la the Marianne Williamson quote I shared last week:
“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.”
One more, this time from Margaret Cho, is particularly relevant this week, and on PfW’s homepage:
“I am so beautiful, sometimes people weep when they see me. And ithsa nothing to do with what I look like really, it is just that I gave myself the power to say that I am beautiful, and if I coulddo that, mabye there is hope for them too. And the great divide between the beautiful and the ugly will cease to be. Because we are all what we choose.”
Practice the art of non-apology. Start catching yourself when you do it. When the word “sorry” comes out of my mouth, am I apologizing for a feeling, a desire, an idea, a choice? Something I said but is not offensive? This is a very practical way to quantify how much we apologize for who we are.
Take note, and then talk to yourself about it. Ask: why did I say that? And respond: No, there’s nothing wrong with my desire, it’s just a part of me. I have a will and a heart, and I am worthy of respect. I am worthy of my love. I am sorry if my action hurt people, but I am not sorry if I am acting morally and thoughtfully and gently all the while being unapologetic.
There are more subtle ways in which we apologize, however. Do we want to wear a certain piece of clothing but feel bashful? Avert your eyes on the subway? Keep your mouth shut when people are talking about their ideas, or about preferences on what to do? Do you let others make choices for you because you’re afraid of asserting your will? Do you best to note these occasions as well.
State your preferences sometimes. Dare to act sexy and confident sometimes. See how it feels. Try it on. Take it off if it feels comfortable, then try again. Keep doing it. It’s an act of practice, and learning that the unapologetic space is actually not so scary after all over time. Nor offensive. It just is, and beautifully.
Tape reminders up on your wall.
There are no flaws, only differences.
Everyone is beautiful, and everyone is worthy.
You are a self and a human and a life and a love, and there is nothing aggressive about owning and cherishing and caring for that being. This endeavor is only good, empowering and an act of the most supreme liberation.
Be exaltant, be free, be you.Read More
Today’s food &love! hack is one task that gives us two great benefits: it’s about becoming our own best friends. Doing this enables us not just to get to know, and therefore more deeply love, ourselves, but also to be comfortable spending time alone.
Be your own buddy.
We all have spaces in our minds that are unpleasant. Our negativity sits in those spaces, and our fears, and our regrets. Sometimes we like to throw ourselves into those spaces, and to mire ourselves in aches and woes. We might sit on a park bench and let tears drip drip drip wearily onto our laps, or to curl up with Love Actually on the couch, and let it all go that way. That stuffs good, and I’m not denying it. It helps us be human, and to feel, and to live.
What can be actively harmful, however, is avoidance of those spaces. Today’s world is full of easy distractions. The internet probably the most mammoth of them all. These days, it’s so. damn. easy, if not downright impossible-not-to, keep our sincere feelings and needs tucked away beneath a layer of frenetic-world-based distraction. Feeling uneasy? No need to fret! Cat Attacks Baby on YouTube will always be there to take your mind off of it. Feeling lonely? Hulu’s got your back! Always, always.
Of course there are other means by which we can distract ourselves from the nasty things that sit within us. We can do this with social activities, parties, exercise, substance abuse– even that as innocence as caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco. One of them is of course perhaps one of the greatest common denominators among women:
One thing I hear from community members time and time again is that lonesomeness drives them to eat. There’s something existentially itchy about being alone– something that digs under our skin and sets our bones on fire. Igetit. I totally get it. It’s one of my own demons. Being alone means sitting in whatever worries or negativities we might have without help of escaping– it means not being able to drown ourselves in distractions or other people– it means looking our existential isolation square in the face, and it means sitting silently with the bare fact–awful as it may be–that we really are islands, John Donne be damned. That we really will die alone.
So we do things deliberately to distract ourselves. One is to eat. Others abound.
The way through this is to practice doing this, and to be our own friends.
We need to learn how to sit with ourselves, and how to keep ourselves company without going mad. We need to become comfortable not just with the parts of us that are charming and kick ass, but the parts of us that hurt, that are negative, that are afraid, that are human. We need to be alone and in spaces in which we are actually alone with ourselves, but not beating ourselves up or drowning in despair. It needs to be, or at least to become, companionable acceptance. And then some day joy. We need to feel out the space of the places we are avoiding in our minds. Doing this, and only doing this, can teach us the shape of that space, and help us become comfortable with it, and realize that it is not, in the end, all that scary after all.
Whatever it is that sits in us and itches, we have to become comfortable with it. This is done by becoming our own friends. By greeting that space, by sitting with it, by being in conversation with it, by not pushing it away in fear. Ways to do this might be journaling, meditating, going for long, slow walks, spending time in nature alone, joking with or singing to ourselves, or– perhaps to start, especially if we struggle with food– sitting on the couch on our hands for five minutes when lonesomeness is begging us to eat, and sitting within that space until the set time is up, or until we have learned a little bit about that space. Then we can move on and do something distracting.
So the whole point is to befriend ourselves.
It helps us be alone. It helps us be unafraid. It helps us be comfortable in our own skins, no matter what sort of unpleasantness might crawl around beneath them from time to time.
It helps us love ourselves. Everyone we befriend has positive attributes. Everyone we befriend we like just a little bit. Everyone we befriend we treat with dignity and consideration and love. Being our own friend in turn makes us treat ourselves like a friend, and to love ourselves like a friend.
It helps us have fun, and to enjoy our own company. It gives us another fighting companion in our corner; it gives us another buddy to hang out with. To delight in. To laugh at, and to dance with.
It helps up stick up for ourselves. And to hold our own hands. And to console ourselves, and to take faith and confidence and love and joy in the fact that everything is going to be okay.
And, in fact, already is okay.
Schedule some alone time! Make sure you’re doing a somewhat quiet activity that enables you to embrace and engage yourself in some way. Set time parameters if it is difficult for you, and gradually increase the length of that time throughout the course of your practice. Be quiet, and recognize the shape of your unpleasant places along with the pleasant ones. Sit with those unpleasant spaces. Resolve things if you want to. But you don’t have to. Nothing has to be resolved. You don’t expect your friends to fix all of your problems, do you? Don’t put pressure on yourself in these spaces, either.
Just sit with yourself, and learn the shapes of your brain and your heart. They are not scary. You can be in those places, and you can spend time alone, and it can be lovely, even if it takes some time.
”Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”
Clarence, It’s a Wonderful Life
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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.”