finding-self-compassion-through-the-mirror-of-discontent

Finding self-compassion through the mirror of discontent

self-compassion through the mirror of discontent

As an American living abroad during last year’s presidential election, I couldn’t help but feel frustration with the state of things back home.

To say things appear to be toxic and divisive would be an understatement.

It seems like everywhere you turn, people are at odds with each other about everything.

“You lost, get over it.”

“Things are going to change, get over it.”

Before I became a coach, I used to be one of those folks who walked around thinking, “just get over it.”

However, these days it is my belief, and the belief of many great scholars, thinkers, and leaders before me that love and compassion are necessities for living an honest and substantial life.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the importance of seeing past the not-that-big-of-a-deal in everything and recognize that my privilege has a better use; for building up the people what have less privilege than myself, who need it most.

And the truth is; I couldn’t do this without being more loving and compassionate to myself.

Self-compassion is something with which the majority of us struggle.

It’s much easier to beat ourselves up about our perceived failures or prop ourselves up for our perceived strengths while comparing ourselves to the failures and strengths of the other people than it is, to be honest with ourselves.

When we evaluate ourselves so critically, it doesn’t just stay with us.

When we are critical of ourselves, we tend to be less kind to others in turn.  I’ve worked with clients who pick apart other people’s lifestyles, partners, and appearances simply because of how they feel about their own.

And we all have done this, and it is not helpful, because as the saying goes, “What Sally says about Jane says more about Sally than it does about Jane.”

In other words,  we only end up burning ourselves by thinking and saying cruel and overly critical things.

It is not entirely our fault.  Sometimes, our human default setting is not to reassure ourselves we’ve done the best we can.

Sometimes, our default setting is to scrutinize others as harshly as we would ourselves.

When I say the “mirror of discontent” I mean that everything we look to as a source of providing us with feedback about ourselves.

finding-self-compassion-through-the-mirror-of-discontent

I see this especially on social media over and over again.  And I’ve fallen victim to it myself.  Say you’re having a bad day and are frustrated with your life, all it takes is a scroll through Instagram or Facebook to watch the highlight reels of other people’s lives to set us off into critical mode.

But you know what?  Most of what you see on people’s social media accounts is (at least) slightly fictional.  I have worked with individuals who show how great their relationship or career is online and then tell me things are hanging by a thread in real life.

Our perception of other people’s lives doesn’t obligate us to beat ourselves up for not having the same story as they do any more than it does to judge them for living differently than us.

And truthfully, most people are not very transparent about their true selves, and it keeps them from being able to show their vulnerability.  If you’re as big of a fan of Brene Brown as I am, then you know what the cost of hiding shame and vulnerability is.

Success is not having an expensive car, high paying job, significant other, or  1% body fat.

Failure is not the absence of those things either.

Success and failure are just feedback, and they are what make us more resilient.

In fact, your resilience is far greater than you give yourself credit.  Just stop and think about all of the things you’ve been through in your life – hell, this month alone.  I assure you that you have picked yourself up and dusted off more times than you even realise.

But what if you could be more aware of your resilience?  What if you could comfort and console yourself along the way?

Being kind to yourself, when you need it most, is a necessity, in fact, it is part of what being human is.

As Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the world of self-compassion states: there are three main components to self-compassion — self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.  It is part of the human experience to feel vulnerable and to experience failure or disappointment, but what we don’t need when this happens is to be our worst enemy.  It is our moral imperative to build a healthy self-support system and realise that we all feel discontent and we all struggle.

Self-compassion will enable us to be less critical of ourselves and others and further develop our resilient spirit.

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why-a-revenge-body-is-bad-motivation

As a coach and personal trainer, I encounter various forms of personal motivation when it comes to fitness.

Some people want to be fit enough to run a half-marathon because it is something they have always wanted to do.

Some people have specific health concerns and are advised to start a fitness regimen.

And then some people come to me looking to “make their ex significant other regret the day they broke up with them” by getting a “revenge body.”

Any tabloid magazine, on any given week, will post a story about the “revenge body” of a celebrity who is going through relationship woes or bad times.

In fact, right now, Khloe Kardashian is getting paid a bunch of money on her new E! show aptly titled, Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian to assist people in obtaining an excellent form, and I’m not the only person who thinks this show is bad news.

I have a policy that I won’t work with individuals with body revenge goals.

Instead, I ask clients to focus on the power of a growth mindset; to have them take their desire for revenge and turn it into an exercise in self-compassion and forgiveness.

Why a revenge body is  bad motivation

Simply put, working towards a revenge body infringes upon your innate ability to embrace healing.

Kevin Carlsmith, in a 2008 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, discussed that by seeking revenge we inflate the event or issue to a level of obsession, where it’s no longer something that can be “laughed about later.”

You’re willing to sacrifice your well-being to seek punishment towards somebody else.

When a client comes to me with a goal not based in self-care, my concern is that the individual runs the risk of possible long-term consequences.

I am not making this claim based on speculation. I once sought out to change my physical appearance after being called fat. Before it was a buzzword (I’m aging myself here), when I was fifteen years old, I started a revenge body diet and exercise regimen, and it turned into a fifteen year battle with bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder.

We see this scenario all of the time in the movies.  An individual gets rejected and, soon after, their mission is to rise from the ashes and make this person regret their decision to abandon or hurt them.  So, they falsely believe the best way to go about this is to become more physically desirable.

But what tends to happen in the end for our protagonists? They realize that they do not need nor desire to change for that person, and in sacrificing so much to ‘improve’ themselves, they understand that the individual wasn’t worthy of their affection and, ultimately, they are the better off without them.

Why do these characters finally realize, within a 90-minute time frame, that they need to accept who they are and be okay with it?

Because revenge inevitably brings us down to the level of the very thing we are fighting and compromises our integrity.

As humans, one of our most compelling traits is our ability to forgive ourselves and others.

So, when we apply our actions with the intentions of proving our worth or getting one over on others, we keep the pain associated with it alive and well.

why-a-revenge-body-is-bad-motivation

We cannot heal and grow to our full potential if we are doing things for the benefit of needing to prove our worth to others.

For this reason, when I meet a new client now, and it is clear that they are in a vulnerable and transitional point in their life, I ask them to reassess what is upsetting them and the areas of their life they should focus on strengthening.

There are not many things that we as humans have control over in our lives.

Revenge dieting and bodies, as well as the entire concept of improvement based on outside justification and approval, limits what control you do have over your present and future well-being.

 

It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.

-Tony Robbins

We cannot control how people treat us or the decisions they make about who we are.

That’s on them.

However, we can control how we respond to things and grow from the experience.

Breakups, for the most part, tend to be multi-dimensional events and, upon reflection, there is much more to their demise than how our partners feel about our bodies.

So my advice is this:   Focus on living the best life possible on your terms because you’ll be living well and if it still matters enough, living well truly is the best “revenge”.

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What Is Your Comfort Zone Costing You

Let’s talk a bit more in depth about the correlation between what you’re struggling with and how that struggle is SERVING your basic needs.

Yes, your STRUGGLE is meeting your needs and that’s why you can’t (or won’t) let go of it.

Let’s take a  look at my own struggles with anxiety and bulimia.

How my struggles (bulimia and anxiety) met my needs

  • My bulimia and anxiety were consistent and comfortable.  
  • My bulimia and anxiety provided me with numerous additional problems that left me distracted and kept me busy trying to fix everybody else around me, whilst totally ignoring my own issues.
  • My bulimia and anxiety made me feel significant! Hooray!  I had to contend with something emotionally, mentally and physically challenging, and believe me, everybody knew it.  All day.  
  • My bulimia and anxiety made me feel connected.  When you’re not well, people pay attention to you.  When you’re not well, people worry about you.  Attention and worry made me feel connected to myself as well. 
  • My bulimia and anxiety helped me to grow.  Or at least, I thought those problems helped me grow,  The truth is, I was pedalling like crazy, but not getting anywhere.  I was Sisyphus and these struggles were my rock.   

My struggles felt safe to me because my needs were being met and they gave me a sense of purpose and focus. I was in my comfort zone.

What Is Your Comfort Zone Costing You?

We’ve examined some ways in which my struggles with anxiety and bulimia were meeting my needs but let’s now take a look at the expense those needs being met had on my overall well being.

That quote, from the awe-inspiring Brene Brown, really sums up what I’m about to say.  As many of us know (perhaps just deep down rather than readily-available) is this:

  1. Comfort promotes stagnancy.
  2. Stagnancy prohibits change.
  3. Change is necessary to overcome adversity.

Consequently, our adversity cannot be overcome while we’re in a state of comfort.

Don’t believe the previous statement to be true?  Let’s say you’re someone like me, who has struggled with bulimia.

Bulimia is certainly an uncomfortable disease physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  However, even with all of the ways bulimia is uncomfortable, it can also provide a tremendous amount of comfort:

  • Certainty — it’s consistent and reliable — in other words, it’s a crutch.
  • Significance — it’s challenging — in other words, it keeps creating drama to deflect attention from bigger issues.
  • Connection — it provides attention and sympathy — in other words, it creates a “dysfunctional” identity.
  • “Growth” — I placed this word in quotations because it provides coping mechanisms — in other words, it provides ways to allow for adaption without any solution. 

This is the same across many, many struggles.  If what you’re struggling with is a crutch, deflects attention from bigger issues, creates a dysfunctional identity, or enables you to adapt your struggle to your day-to-day life without any solution in sight, it’s costing you.  

No matter how big or small your struggle is, you can be sure of one thing:   It is keeping you from living the life you deserve.

I believe when Brene Brown says, “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot have both,”  she is talking about stepping away from how our struggles are meeting our needs and costing us our dreams, relationships and so much more.  She is talking about embracing our struggles in a way which challenges our comfort zones so that we can find the courage to live a life where our needs are met in productive and progressive ways.

Questions that evoke lasting change

I wish I could say that beyond identifying your struggle and coming to terms with how it’s meeting your needs, it would be easy to make the changes you need to.

Nothing worthwhile comes easily, does it?

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t helpful ways to move forward, however.  There are four important questions you can ask yourself and when you answer them with total honesty, I believe, you can get yourself through whatever it is that has been challenging you.

  1. If your struggle disappeared, what would you want next for yourself?  Dig deep.
  2. If this problem belonged to someone you care about, what would you be willing and determined to do to solve it? We often sacrifice our own happiness for others, but if we’ve been sacrificing it for ourselves all along, it’s harder to know how far we will push ourselves.  Give yourself that same effort!
  3. If this problem is impeding your courage, how uncomfortable are you willing to become in order to make your next move?  Make a list of all of the things you have wanted to do that your struggle has kept you from doing and give yourself 30 days to take on one of those things.  Document your discomfort or talk about it with someone you trust, but whatever you do, work through it and get it done!
  4. Who else’s life could be improved by seeing you happy, healthy, and making progress?  Those who love us cannot live without suffering while we suffer.  Think of how you can improve your relationships whilst you improve yourself.  Remember, we are all connected in this universe and our actions affect everything (and everyone) we touch.

I’m not suggesting that there may have never been anything positive to come out of the challenges you have faced. Just think about something you have come out to the other side from in your life already.  We all have the power to cultivate a life with meaning and purpose, and in order to do that, we have to be equipped with the right amount of insight and compassion.

Do you know how you’re going to approach your struggles?  Do you believe we cannot have both courage and comfort?  Has this helped you identify an area (or areas) in your life that you want to improve upon?

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Do you give yourself ultimatums

By nature, people do not like ultimatums. They are threatening, limiting, and just plain nasty.

So, imagine how terrible it is when you give yourself one, or worse, many.

For some people — especially perfectionists black and white thinkers — giving ultimatums is a way of life. Even though it may seem like ultimatums are a motivational tool they are very self-destructive.

I know because I used to give myself ultimatums continually. It was part of my “all or nothing” thinking. Either I was going to get “x,” or I’d never get .”

In fact, here are some examples of ultimatums I used to give myself on a regular basis.

“Either this guy is “the one,” or I’m through with dating.”
“Either I get this promotion, or I’m quitting.”
“Either I stick to this diet, or I’ll be fat forever.”

Those are all pretty threatening, limiting, and nasty — right?

So, why would I do this to myself?

When I would propose these scenarios to myself, I was primarily retaliating against myself. By only ever give myself two choices — complete success or total failure — I would attack myself. I wouldn’t just limit the action itself as a success or failure; I would confine myself as a success or failure if I didn’t receive the desired outcome.

The problem with this way of thinking was that when I was only giving myself one of two possible outcomes, I was always placed 50% against myself.

 

 

With those odds, I wound up always struggling between the demands I had put on myself and the result of those requirements. That is where my inner conflicts began, and one of the ways to fight internal conflicts is to start allowing yourself to have more than two options when you desire something from yourself (or others).

Instead of declaring “Either this guy is “the one,” or I’m through with dating,” I began saying things like, “Perhaps, I’m not what he is looking for, but that’s okay.  I’m now one step closer to finding someone who thinks I’m amazing.”

Positioning the relationship prospect as being only a success or a complete failure,  provided me with only negative outcomes.

Changing the way I placed things, created greater odds for positive results.

Also, I’m now happily married, so I’m quite happy I gave myself more options!

I know it can be tough to stop giving yourself ultimatums and creating unnecessary conflicts within yourself.

Remember, there is no reason to be more demanding of yourself than anyone would be of you. And there is no need for anybody to be that demanding of you in the first place!

Be kind to yourself.  Always.

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what I learned when I finally quit dieting

Dieting used to feel like my full-time job.

Every time I tried to give notice, the insecurity over not trusting myself enough around food stopped me.

It felt familiar.  Dieting was second nature.

And so was my self-doubt and dissatisfaction with my body.

I tried every diet, pill, potion, cleanse whathaveyou over the nearly two decades of my toxic relationship with food and my body.

So, I tried something radical (for me):  I stopped trying.

And this is what happened in the aftermath of my decision.

What I learned when I finally quit dieting

I got to eat what I wanted without feeling any guilt.

When you don’t have restrictions placed on your diet left, right and center it gets a lot less stressful when you decide to let yourself just eat!

I spent so many years worrying about whether the food had the right amount of carbs, sugar, fats, macros that it took all of the joy out of eating.

Seriously, just making a decision to eat was like solving a puzzle when half the pieces were missing.

Frustrating AND boring.

When I stopped restricting myself, I also stopped shaming and depriving myself.  Deprivation is fuel to the diet and food obsessed person’s inner motivation fire.

Without all the ‘self-policing,’ I was able to focus on listening to my body and becoming more in touch with what I wanted to eat rather than what I ‘shouldn’t.’

When you take restriction out of the equation, you no longer punish yourself for food choices.

I saved money even though I was eating more.  

I was a total sucker for energy drinks, diet snacks, and protein bars; not to mention diet pills, caffeine, and fitness enhancing supplements.

All of these “health” products were slimming down my bank account and doing nothing for my well-being.

I soon discovered that eating whole foods was not only more satisfying but much more beneficial to my overall fitness level.  And because I was eating healthy, flavourful foods like healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and real protein sources, I found that when I did try to eat an odd “energy” bar, I was paying £2 to eat something that tasted like plastic and probably contained it too!

In the same respect, a piece of pie or cake for dessert tasted so much better.  Without eating processed foods, I appreciated the richness and flavor of the items I was eating.

Delicious food without a giant helping of guilt afterward hit the spot as well!

I realized that I was never “addicted” to anything I ate.  

One of the most rewarding things about breaking up with food restriction is that you understand that the propaganda about being addicted to sugar and salt is not real.

When I began eating like a normal person, I started to crave whole foods consistently.  Being able to eat all vegetables, fruits, and nuts alleviated the need for diet or sugar-free substitutes.

Products containing syrups, chemicals, additives, and preservatives are the culprits behind why you believe you’re “addicted” to them.

I also started to recognize my true hunger cues when I stopped restricting my diet.  Without constant insulin spikes, my body was able to lead me to a better understanding of my appetite and how to feed it.

I stopped being at war with my body

Restrictive eating and body judgment are anchors for shaming ourselves.  When I ceased to shame myself for the foods I was eating, I also stopped the cycle of body negativity.

A new cycle of rational and healthy give and take begins when you quit dieting.

Eating what my body needs when it needs it, stopped the mental battle I was living through while I was engaging in restrictive eating.

I stopped constantly being in a bad mood which I attributed to two things 1) processed foods were no longer screwing with my digestion and bodily functions and 2) I stopped shaming the hell out of myself for not being compliant with a diet plan.

It is amazing how much better you will see your body when you stop punishing yourself for not having “more control” over it.

The truth is, we have little control over our bodies and our health.  While eating well and being physically active are part of the formula for good health, they don’t guarantee it.

Self-compassion is something with which most of us struggle.  However, it is an even bigger battle when you spend your days and nights beating yourself up over eating a peanut butter cup.  You’re only human, and there are enough causes in life to get passionate and fight against, your body doesn’t need to be one of them!

I lost some weight (and it stayed off)

Emotional and physical weight can be present in our lives in equal measure.  When I quit my diet and began embracing self-compassion, it enabled me to shift weight without conscious effort.

As a coach who utilizes NLP, I can tell you that when you spend life thinking negative statements, you will also spend your life fighting against those thoughts, and 9 out of 10 times get the very thing you don’t want.

Your mind cannot process negative statements.  When you say to yourself “I can’t  eat sugar,” your mind will only hear, “eat sugar.”  While you think you are commanding yourself into not to doing something, you are essentially talking yourself into the very action.

Now, it may take some time for your weight to regulate within its set point range.  If your goal has always been to lose weight, then it may take longer to lose it this way than by, say,  carb cycling.

Enjoy and appreciate your body every single day that you have it.  Feed it with love and compassion and skip the side order of hate!

 

If you would like to break up with diet culture and embrace a life of nourishment, abundance, and peace of mind – why not book a FREE  30-minute consultation to help make your relationship with food and yourself a healthy one?

For more information, fill out the form below OR shoot me and e-mail!  I look forward to hearing from you!

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