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Mirror, mirror: discovering your true self

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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 True selfthen 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.

If you missed my conversation with Allison Gingras of A Seeking Heart this week, click HERE to listen to the podcast on Breadbox Media. My interview is the listing for 1/12/17.

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.

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Karen #

    Mary,
    I had an extremely stressful week as well and didn’t take the time for quiet time and prayer and I ate poorly all week. I was able to begin to turn it around yesterday. I think we are so great at being hard on ourselves about our failures but the greatest gift that God gives us is a “do-over”. Yesterday I recommitted myself to this process. One thing that is now becoming a habit is eating without distractions – no tv or reading. So even with setbacks there is still some growth. Thank you for being so honest in your post. It definitely reminds me that I’m not alone. Karen
    P.S. How many people are officially part of the tribe?

    January 16, 2017
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree. It’s always about recommitting and beginning again. I’m doing the same.

      Our “official” tribe list is up to 131, with members from all over the United States and as far away as South Africa, Italy, and Holland. Pretty cool!

      Mary

      January 17, 2017
  2. Renee #

    Mary:
    It’s comforting to knowI’m not the only once that feels this way. Something remember a story from a weight watchers leader (years ago) was “Ok you tripped down one step. Forgive yourself. You don’t have to fail down the entire staircase.” Sometimes that helps me forgive myself. I eat breakfast and lunch during my workweek. The bit of advice to be mindful of my meals has been helpful. I can’t count how many times I’ve reached for my phone or a newspaper. I’m I bored while I eat. Hard to know. Interesting to pay attention to it. Thanks Mary!

    January 16, 2017
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      I am always so ready to fall down — or jump down! — the entire staircase when I trip on one step. I’m trying to figure why. Strange how we cling to things that don’t help us.

      Since returning to office life, I’ve found it SO much harder to be mindful during meals. Even when I move to the table in my office to sit quietly and focus on my meal, I fight the urge to go back to my desk and answer emails while I eat instead. Multitasking is a terrible thing, and I’m addicted to it!

      Mary

      January 17, 2017
  3. Renee #

    Sorry about the typos. Didn’t proof before I sent. Feel free to edit me! I was in a hurry. Imagine that!

    January 17, 2017
  4. Mary DeTurris Poust #

    This comment made me smile!

    January 17, 2017
  5. Mary Lou Kennedy #

    Hello Tribe, I just finished Chapter 3! Seems like we all have had busy, stressful weeks. I am meditating on “thank more, need less” and “self-love”. I know I thank God everyday for all the Blessings he has given me and truth be told, I love my neighbor (and family) more than myself. I have work to do and love the perspectives of the authors and others that are given in the book.

    Thank you Mary! I received my copy of “everyday Divine”. God’s Blessings to all.

    January 21, 2017
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Good for you, Mary Lou! Thanks for the sharing here.

      January 23, 2017

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