Mirror, mirror: discovering your true self
Week three. Time is flying! How are things on your end? Here’s my weekly update:
It was a SUPER stressful week, especially the weekend. To be completely honest with you, I’m in a terrible place right now, mentally and spiritually. Things have not gone as planned. Famous last words. So why does that still catch me by surprise and throw me off course? That’s the million-dollar question for me. And I’ll tell you right now, when things don’t go well and when things get stressful, I turn up the heat on myself. I pull out my worst “tape,” push my internal “play” button and let it rip. It’s not pretty or healthy, and it certainly doesn’t take me where I want or need to go, but it’s comfortable and familiar, the road most travelled, and so I take it. Even when I know I’ll regret it later, even when I know it’s likely to lead me to other unhealthy decisions — like eating the wrong food or staying up too late or skipping prayer time. This is why I’m head cheerleader for the tribe, because I have endless experience with this struggle. I’ll tell you this, however: Although I often feel history repeating itself in my life, the time I’ve spent working on my habits, journaling, and becoming more mindful have made me more aware. Even when I’m not following the Cravings “rules,” I’m well aware of where things have gone off track and how I might pull it back. The trick is getting from awareness to action.
This week, as we delve into chapter 3, we’re going to be focusing a lot on those tapes we tend to play, the words we say in our head, or maybe even out loud as we stand before the mirror. I always say that if I loved my neighbor as myself, it would be very bad news for my neighbor! I say things to myself, about myself that I would never say to or about anyone I cared about, or even about a total stranger. Why do we do that? Why is that comfortable? And how can we begin to backtrack to the place where those thoughts were created so we can dig them up, toss them out once and for all, and replace them with something that will lift us up rather than tear us down?
In chapter 3 I talk about the two sides of this, the fact that sometimes I am ever-so-grateful for my physical health, my material comfort, and the many blessings I have had over the course of a very privileged lifetime, one not without traumatic and devastating losses and crises, to be sure, but overwhelmingly blessed. And then there is the shadow side, the times when I look at myself, not just physically but on every level, and see nothing, absolute failure, zero, worthlessness. Unfortunately, I spend an inordinate amount of time on the shadow side, where my faults and flaws are magnified as in a fun house mirror and any potential reminders of anything good are drowned out by the drumbeat of self-loathing. It’s not pleasant, that’s for sure, but since I was a little girl, it’s been home for me, the place with which I am most familiar, the persona that feels most comfortable: failure, reject, misfit, lost soul. And that’s where I am today. It’s one reason this blog post is so late. How do I tell my tribe that I’m mentally and spiritually MIA? I guess I just did. Maybe some of you will identify with it; maybe some will think, What am I doing hanging out with this nutcase?!? 🙂 I say all of this in hopes that anyone else out there in this tribe (or lurking anonymously around the fringes) who has ever felt like this will feel less alone. We all have shadow sides; some of us just mask them better or are more adept at shifting the perspective from half-empty to half-full. What is your perspective today? Are you being unnecessarily hard on yourself for one reason or another? Are you working through the exercises and feeling positive progress? I hope it’s the latter, but don’t be dismayed if it’s not.
From chapter 3:
“It comes down to reprogramming ourselves, in a sense. We have to find a way to erase the negative tape that’s on continuous loop in our heads and replace it with something more positive, more realistic, more truthful. If we don’t change the mantra of self-loathing, our feelings of inadequacy will continue to lead us deeper into bad diet plans, dangerous eating disorders, and a warped perspective that colors not just our eating habits but every aspect of our lives.”
So how do we do that? If I wrote the book on it and still struggle with it, can we ever really change the tape? Yes. But it takes daily work. If you started jogging and worked up to a 5K run and then stopped your training, do you think you’d be able to do that same 5K three years later with no renewed training? Not likely, or, if you did, you’d probably be hobbling along by the end. This is about incremental but daily, constant awareness and transformation. I’ll give you a critical starting point: gratitude. Counting our blessings daily — even the little things that seem silly but make us happy — makes a difference in our perspective on life. When we don’t actively give thanks for the good in our lives, we tend to train our eyes on the bad.
More from chapter 3:
“Our focus on the seeming lack in our lives seeps into our relationships at home and at work, our commitment to our community and our larger world, and our devotion to our prayer lives and journeys toward God. It’s hard to move forward if we are glued to an image or a number. We imagine we’ll take the next step once we reach a certain weight or size, but we keep getting stuck, or at the other end, moving the goal posts. The result is a constant unhappiness and unrest that prevents us from becoming who we are called to be: disciples willing to trust, risk, grow, and love.”
So, gratitude…Have you ever used a gratitude journal? If not, give it a try. Each day write down three things you were grateful for that day. It can be something monumental, like getting a new job, but it can also be something simple and sweet, like having your cat sit on your lap as you relax before a roaring fire or the smell of coffee brewing on a quiet weekend morning. If you’d like to read more about gratitude, click HERE for a feature story I wrote on this topic for OSV Newsweekly a while back.
Also, if you’re not on social media, click HERE for a post I shared during the week about allowing yourself to thoroughly enjoy one of your “forbidden foods,” eating with attention and intention.
And HERE is one of my previous Life Lines columns on discovering our true self, in case that’s something you’d like to explore further.
Now for our musical inspiration for the week: Blessings by Laura story.