Can you remember a time when you were really little? Maybe you were 3 or 4 years old. You had simple needs. You just wanted to play and have others play with you. You wanted some comfort and to feel loved and cared for. I liked climbing trees and playing dress ups. I also liked eating strawberry ice-cream and I really didn’t like being tickled. I didn’t really notice if I was naked or had clothes on, and I would dance and sing around the house and garden. I’m sure that’s just like you. I smiled a lot and cried a lot too. Especially if things didn’t go my way. After all, just like you, I was only 3 or 4. A whole complete, complex being, made up of energy and emotion and movement. I was a whole little being, just like you.
But as I grew older and ventured out into the world I forgot that I was complete. I began to focus on all the things that I felt were “wrong with me”. I would compare myself to others and how they looked, how smart I believed they were, or even how much more successful I thought they were compared to me. I started to strive more and more for perfection and realised that I could avoid a lot of uncomfortable feelings and beliefs that I had about myself, by drinking or eating or distracting myself in other ways. Some people do this by watching TV or playing electronic games too much, others might do this by continuously finding something to busy themselves with so they don’t have to stop and feel the weight of their emotions.
Do you judge yourself?
For me it was food. I began to use food as a way to escape from my own feelings about myself, and in the moment, it felt good. But after about 30 minutes, the distraction was gone and I was faced yet again with the same negative feelings. I didn’t really know what to do about it back then, but I knew that when I ate food I felt a bit better for long enough to focus on something else that was important to me. I had a nice family that really cared about me, but when they would tell me things like “you should really look after yourself better” or “my friend tried this diet and she lost sooo much weight and now she’s really happy”, I just felt worse. I was already judging myself.
I felt as though once, a long long time ago, I had been whole, but that something was broken in me and I had this huge hole to fill. I tried to fill it with many different things. I even became very successful in my career and a person that others looked up to. I could take a holiday whenever I wanted. I was engaged to a nice person and I even lost a little bit of weight and got my eating under control. I had all the things that looked like success, but I still felt like something was missing. I was lonely and I felt as if nobody knew the real me, but I also knew that it was because I was scared of rejection and scared to let them in. Until I met someone who was able to help me see what I had been doing to myself.
So, what should you do about it?
Have you ever felt like you just needed to get away? Get away from your life, your family, your work, your situation, yourself? But then you realise that you can’t outrun yourself. You cannot run from you. You have to learn how to live with yourself in harmony, as a whole person. Just like you could when you were little and you sang and danced and cried and laughed. The thing is, most of us don’t know how to live harmoniously with the negative emotions that happen in life, and instead we learn to push them away, or avoid them, or pretend that they don’t exist by ignoring them and simply not dealing with them. The problem with doing that, is that they do exist, and eventually if we don’t learn to exist with them, they can start to manifest themselves in our lives in ways that we don’t want. A better option, could be to learn how to face these emotions and help them to be expressed in ways that promote a more healthy version of yourself. But where to start?
Do you want help with Sadness, Procrastination, Self-Sabotage, Confidence or Motivation?
It seems like a really complex problem that could involve things like habits, psychology, your past learnings and present experiences, even your DNA amongst other things. But it can be simple. In fact, for me it was as simple as these three steps:
Learning to sit with your emotions instead of running from them, might not be something that you can just suddenly do or not do. It’s a process of continuously noticing. And then choosing to act differently, and then repeating this over and over again. Because avoiding uncomfortable emotions is not something that people just suddenly start doing one day either. It’s something some people learned how to do, as a way to “get through”, or “cope” with their emotions because they hadn’t yet learned a better way (until now).
So the first step is to notice that you’re avoiding uncomfortable emotions around something. This could look and feel different for different people. For example, the old me might know that I was choosing to eat cake to change my emotions because it seemed easier in the moment, rather than learning how to change my emotions myself, or maybe it was easier than feeling the loneliness I felt. Whereas some people might know that they are avoiding feeling rejected or embarrassed and for others it might be that they notice that they are choosing the easy option of avoiding conflict. Once you can notice yourself in those moments, that gives you the space to make a different choice. But first it’s about being aware and observing yourself as if you were someone else, watching yourself on a TV screen. This takes practice, but the more you focus on just this one step, the easier it becomes, and the stronger your foundation will be for the steps to come.
Learning Self Care and Self-Forgiveness
Self Care is really about taking actions that show you how much you care about you, and about doing things that really fulfil your energy cup, so that you don’t reach rock bottom, or feel burnt out. This is important for many reasons, but one of them is simply that it can help you to build more confidence in yourself, and give you the energy you might need in order to face certain uncomfortable moments. It’s about creating your own personal emotional safety net that supports you and helps you to keep swimming even when the water feels rough.
Self-forgiveness is really about being kind to yourself and recognising that you’re human and that it’s OK to make mistakes and not to be perfect. It’s about being able to pat yourself on the back and know that even if nothing has gone to plan, that you’ve learned something and you can move forward. Forgiveness is what helps us face forward instead of being stuck in the past. The more you can practice forgiving yourself instead of judging yourself (and forgiving yourself for judging yourself), the more gratitude and positive mental attitude will follow.
The way that I do these in my life is that I actively aim to treat myself with love and care, in the way that I would like to treat a child, partner or loved one. I like to connect with myself through dancing or taking myself out on a date. Sometimes I like to show myself love and care by preparing a nourishing meal, a bubble bath or spending some time in nature. Some people might do this in different ways, like listening to music or singing, being with friends or being alone, reading,or expressing yourself through whatever your personal art is.
Either way, by making time for yourself, you are giving yourself a special gift of a bonding moment where you might get to know yourself a little more, understand yourself more or simply give yourself a much needed break. For me, these moments always feel like a great big hug just when I need it the most.
Focus On Progress, Not Perfection
Remember that this is a process. If humans had avoided uncomfortable feelings 100% of the time, we wouldn’t have evolved or survived or even be walking! Think about it. When you first learned how to walk or talk, it was a huge learning curve and very uncomfortable. But you kept on going until you figured out how to walk and talk consistently, and now it’s to the point that you probably don’t even think about it at all. Imagine how great it will feel when you suddenly realise that you’re facing uncomfortable emotions without even thinking about it anymore. You’re a natural and the way that you get there is by taking one little step at a time. None of those steps were 100% perfect, but they’ve added up over time haven’t they? Just remind yourself, it’s only a little step, the very next step in front of you. It’s not about doing one massive step and then never taking another step again.
For example, If you are putting off your tax, face a little bit of uncomfortability and just do a tiny bit of it. You don’t have to do the whole thing all at once, or even a chunk of it. Just one tiny step of it. Then another step the next day and the next, until it’s done. You can do this for any obstacle or any feeling that you might be putting off. Ask yourself what emotions are present and what you’re avoiding? What are you scared of? And then do one little thing that is small enough to not feel overwhelming, but big enough to know that you took action forward.
That is how I managed to lose weight and keep it off, find happiness without food, and continue to progress my career and success in a direction I could never have imagined before. It’s really that simple. All you have to do is take action. A baby step. And then another and another and another.