I’m going to bend the rules here a bit. Usually on Thursdays, I use an article or a video or something along those lines to set up my post. This week, I’m using something going on in my world…
“It doesn’t make sense.”
“It’s not fair.”
These were my reactions last week when I heard that one of the gals who I’ve spent many a weekend riding bikes with found out that she has cancer.
How is it that someone who exercises regularly, who takes care of themselves, eats good food, and is a good person ends up with this kind of diagnosis?
It doesn’t make sense.
It’s not fair.
The most common question people ask, in hearing that there’s cancer in her lungs, is of course, “Did she smoke?” No.
Even my point about her exercising, eating good food, taking care of herself and being a good person suggests that somehow it would be easier to accept the diagnosis if there was some way that she was responsible for it. But just like she didn’t get cancer because she smoked, she didn’t get cancer because she failed to exercise, she didn’t get cancer because she ate junk food, she didn’t get cancer because she neglected her health, and she didn’t get cancer because of bad karma—it’s not her fault.
This all got me to thinking. What is it about finding fault in a person that makes it easier to accept cancer? Does it make us feel somehow safer ourselves if we can look at cancer as something that people somehow “do” to themselves? Is it too hard to accept that in many cases, it’s not the person’s fault?
I am entirely guilty of this kind of thinking. It’s not easy to admit, but I think I used the “but she was a smoker” justification when my own grandma died of lung cancer. But even though it’s tempting and self-preserving to explain people’s situations, in the long run, it’s not productive. We shouldn’t blame people for their health woes, whether we think they’ve brought them upon themselves or not. If you find yourself doing so, look at what it is in you that’s making you pass that judgment. Are you doing it to make yourself feel safer? This was the case for me. Does it help you feel righteous or better than? We don’t know people’s stories and it’s all too easy to come up with the ones that fit what we want to see and that make us feel better. But the people who are sick in our lives do not need our judgment–they need our compassion. Someone who’s overweight and has diabetes deserves the same compassion from us as someone who’s never smoked a day in their life and has lung cancer—health isn’t direct cause and effect and any judgment that needs to be passed needs to come from them, not from us.
My hope is that this post gets you thinking. Maybe it’s a reminder to be compassionate. Maybe it’s a reminder of our own vulnerability. Or a reminder, as cliché as it is, that life is short. Spend it well with the people you love doing the things you really want to do.
This post is going to be a bit word vomit-y, but I promise to summarize it all nicely
so feel free to scroll to the bottom as long as you enjoy the pictures along the way.
Things are changing–quickly–in my world. I’ve got myself a stress fracture (#ew), I finished up at my job last week and am starting school tomorrow. I feel like I haven’t been in one place in ages (love me some travel!). Along with all the excitement, I’ve noticed a few things coming up for me–worrying more about food, a little emotional eating at night, and a slip down the road pointing towards relapse.
Instead of freaking out and feeling like a failure (my old, go to response), I’m embracing that slip and using it as a red flag to indicate that I need to take extra care of myself right now. Rather than finding myself in a shit pile and staying in it (or, as Jenni Schaefer more eloquently puts it in this excerpt about relapse, patching the roof instead of sitting in the rain), I’m taking steps to get back to healthier ways of coping. In the past, I’d get stuck in the thought that I’d failed and that all hope was lost. Even as my episodes got further and further apart, I can remember thinking that I’d blown it and that all my hard work in recovery was wasted.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
A fellow coach and seriously adored friend of mine introduced something to me last summer that has really stuck with me: failing forward. Even though failing is often considered falling down or slipping backwards, that’s not very accurate. Once we’ve done something–in my case, all the recovery I’ve worked through–we can’t go back to where we were before. That’s not to say that you can’t end up with an eating disorder all over again, but it is to say that once we’ve made progress with something and done work on it, it can’t be undone. You can’t un-have insight. By failing forward, we’re actually using our slips to provide us with information that carries us onward to an even better place. In my situation, I’m learning about what makes me stressed enough to turn to my old habits–and about what I can do instead.
In specific, I’ve realized that in times of change and uncertainty, I feel out of control and turn to food. Even while I’m consciously telling myself that not being certain of things means that my world is filled with possibility (I’ll blog on this sooner or later!), I’m still just stepping into that perspective–and it’s not a dainty step.
I liked this post that came up on my news feed because it reminded me of that idea of embracing our slips…
All of this reminded me of some quotes I keep around to cheer me up when I’m not feeling particularly successful:
“An arrow can be shot only by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great.” -Unknown
“When we feel stuck, going nowhere– even starting to slip backward–we may actually be backing up to get a running start.” -Dan Millman
Falling still hurts, but with this perspective–a take on the classic, cliche about learning from your mistakes–it’s an opportunity.
What’s your take on relapse?
How do you learn from your slips?
Where do you find yourself getting stuck when you fall?
a life lesson, a coaching gem, some insight from my own experiences, a question to get you thinking–what better day than monday for a positive post?
So, I have myself a stress fracture.
The doctor’s orders are as follows: Take 4 to 6 weeks off of anything weight bearing. If it hurts to walk, I’m supposed to use crutches. I might be in denial, but I think it’s starting to get better. When I don’t have pain, ease back into activity (starting with 30 seconds of running alternating with 4.5 minutes of walking for 30 minutes total). Eat a healthy diet to promote healing. Don’t throw a shit fit.
I added that last part, but it’s mostly a joke. I threw myself a one evening pity party (in the form of crying for a bit, blogging, reading magazines, and ignoring my cell phone) and then decided that it was time to call in my appreciator, which I introduced in a post last month.
Coaching yourself can sometimes be a lost cause, but I did come up with some questions to help me move from the “my life is over” perspective into a more empowering place. Naturally, I included my word vomit insight.
What’s the gift in this situation? or What’s possible as a result of this situation?
I’m going back to school in approximately a week, which means that the more time I have to get my shit together organized, the better. On that note, not being able to work out as much as I’d like to (I can’t fathom swimming as often as I’ve been going to CrossFit, doing yoga, running, and biking, etc.) means I’ll need to find other ways to use my energy and other ways to fill myself up (exercise is my happy time). On my list of options? Journaling, reading, baking, cooking, writing letters and cards to friends, making a vision board, learning to knit (attempt #4) and playing my violin.
Another gift is a break from training that will give me the time to reassess where I’m at. This summer was a whirlwind in terms of what I was training for and how I was exercising—from CrossFit to soccer to yoga to running to kind of training for triathlon to going on my Outward Bound trip—and to be honest I’m a bit overwhelmed with what I should be doing and more importantly, what I want to do. This is sort of like a chance to start over. I very well might come back and instead of trying to maintain 20 different activities just be able to add in the ones that I really want to.
Getting hurt and being out of the gym also provided me with the insight that I wrote about last week in terms of looking at my self esteem in a different way–and that’s a pretty big deal!
The timing’s also something I’m grateful for—thank goodness this didn’t happen before my trip to North Carolina, which would probably have meant I couldn’t go.
What’s the lesson in this situation?
I’m learning that my body can only take so much and that overdoing it will eventually wear me down. I have managed to stay pretty lucky in regards to injuries even when I was exercising compulsively, but this is a big reminder to take care of myself. Along with making sure that I’m training in a healthy and sustainable way, this is a really good time to make sure I’m giving my body the nutrition it needs.
Who can I become as a result of this situation?
I’m becoming a cranky bitch for the next 6 weeks smarter athlete. I’m becoming more patient. I’m developing an appreciation for the ability of my body to heal. I’m becoming a stronger person mentally and emotionally. I’m becoming more dedicated to taking care of myself.
This is the kind of work that helps me get through things that bum me out and is the fastest way for me to start to get over it and see the bigger picture. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, 4 to 6 weeks is not a big deal, even if I am bummed that I can’t do Tough Mudder. In reality, this is a little thing–stress fractures suck but they heal on their own.
I saw a woman in a wheelchair not too long after I left the doctor–instant perspective. I spent the weekend with friends who I haven’t seen as much of as I’d like to this summer because a friend of mine received health news last week that reminded me that we can’t take our health for granted and that life isn’t always fair and health doesn’t always make sense.
And if self coaching myself with some powerful questions doesn’t work, I’ve always got music that kind of goes with the theme.
Have you ever had a stress fracture?
How do you deal with things that bum you out?
On my plane ride home last week, I picked up the latest issue of Scientific American Mind (yes, I am this nerdy). In it was one article (you can read part of it online) entitled “Self Esteem Can Be an Ego Trap,” which got me thinking. The gist of the article is, as the summary says:
- “Having high self-esteem has a few modest benefits, but it can produce problems and is mostly irrelevant for success.
- The pursuit of self-esteem through a focus on greatness makes us emotionally vulnerable to life’s disappointments—and can even lower our chances of success.”
Fair enough. Something that I’ve done a lot of thinking, reading, and writing about is self esteem and how to improve it. The first limiting the belief where I had a “holy shit, no wonder things are like this” moment was one around not being good enough–a red flag that my self esteem needed some work. For the last while, I’ve told myself that self esteem comes from being successful at things that challenge us. I can remember deciding that I needed to start proving to myself that I can achieve things in order to build up my self esteem.
I’m starting to reconsider that perspective.
Red flag: proving.
Truth: Self worth is inherent. You deserve to feel good about yourself whether you get out of bed and put pants on in the morning or not. This is an idea I keep coming back to and one that I remind myself and others of regularly.
If you read my post on Monday, you might remember that I’ve been trying to rest and figure out a foot injury since the beginning of the month. Turns out it’s a stress fracture. If you know me at all, you know that sitting still isn’t my forte and that I like to do lots of things that involve sweating and using my foot. Naturally, not being able to do them is a big ol’ bummer.
But beyond just being disappointed that I can’t run or do yoga or CrossFit or whatever the way I’d like to, I’ve also noticed something bigger going on with my emotions in the midst of all this: I’m feeling worthless (or at least not optimally worthy). It looks like this: not thinking that I “deserve” to eat dessert since I’m not working out, not feeling like I’ve accomplished enough in a day and thinking that since I can’t work out, I should be way more productive, not bothering to take care of myself in other ways (putting off things like painting my chipped nails or folding my laundry, etc.). It feels like this: crappy. And that old perspective on self esteem is what was driving the whole mess.
Realizing that I’d like to feel good about myself regardless of whether or not I’m succeeding or failing is kind of a big deal. Great success requires being brave enough to take on challenges. What comes with taking on challenges is failure. When we’re striving for a new level, we’re stretching ourselves. If we’re not failing, we’re not trying hard enough. If I want to be excellent, there’s no room for letting my failures (or successes) dictate how I feel about myself at the core.
Like the article says, self esteem based on success is fragile. I’d also argue that if your self esteem is situational, it can be fleeting. I wrote about how we can get caught up in if only thinking and chase one thing after the next after the next to no end in that post on Monday–and the same thing applies here. From one thing to the next, when will it be enough?
The article has its own suggestions about what a better option for building self esteem might be, namely compassion: “Compassion, along with a less self-centered perspective, can motivate us to achieve while helping us weather bad news, learn from our mistakes and fortify our friendships.” While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with focusing on yourself or putting yourself first, I think this suggestion is just a nicer way to tell people to get over themselves, which sounds like a good first step. The article also points to using values instead of failure and success as a way to measure our worth. I agree wholeheartedly and think that the best way to look at this all is to consider the question, in true coactive coaching style, “who am I being?”
If we are in touch with our values and what we stand for in the world, we have a way of measuring how we’re doing–and good way to build up our self esteem. Sure, we might still see ourselves in negative light, but if we’re disappointed with ourselves for failing to honour a value, that’s the kind of feedback that we need in order to course correct and become a more fully expressed version of our most authentic self.
I’m aware that this might be “out there” for some people. We tend to focus on the doing (the “active” in “coactive”) but in this situation, a little shift back to the being (“co”) is worth a shot. Being asked who you’re being in the world can be different. Thinking about who you want to be in the world can be revolutionary.
What do you base self esteem on?
Who do you want to be in the world?
a life lesson, a coaching gem, a question to get you thinking–what better day than monday for a positive post?
A six pack.
An expensive car.
No more debt.
What am I talking about?
These are all ways to finish the “I’ll be happy when…” thought I know we all think sometimes.
Last week, I was on a lovely vacation with my family in the mountains of BC.
We were pretty busy but not busy enough to stop me from getting into my head one too many times and catching myself thinking those kinds of “if only…” thoughts.
These family vacations are annual occurrences and they always involve beautiful places, lots of good food, quality time, and me getting spoiled. Two years ago, I was on one and can remember thinking how even though it was pretty darn good, it would be better if only I had company of the male persuasion.
This time around, I’ve got the company of the best boyfriend a girl could ask for, but the if only thoughts still crept in, this time around if only I could run or hike (I’m dealing with a foot injury that’s slowing me way down) and if only I had a “better” body.
But this time around, I’m calling bullshit.
If you’re in the habit of finding and focusing on what’s missing, you’re missing out on what’s really here. Getting into the trap of if only thinking is a sure way to feel like things aren’t, like you’re not, like your life isn’t…good enough.
And that’s a crappy place to be.
When we tell ourselves we’re not/things aren’t good enough—like we do when we start the if only tape in our heads—of course we’re going to feel bad.
Need an example?
Lucky for you, I’ve got the real life situation that inspired this post for just that.
Last week, I had the option of focusing on not being able to run/hike on my vacation, which inevitably upset me and made me cranky, which of course made me bad company and took away from the trip. Alternatively, I had the option of focusing on the quality time I was spending with my family, the other things I could enjoy on the trip (rope swings require very little use of a sore foot, for the record), which was a much cheerier way to look at things.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get down in the dumps a bit last week (before coming to this conclusion of course) or that switching the perspective was easy or natural. But difficult as it was, it did feel good. Rather than focusing on what’s missing, shifting to gratitude and appreciation for what’s present is a recipe for feeling content and blessed.
I’m going to sum this one up in the words of Oprah (and you know this woman’s got it figured out), “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.”
A reminder to go along with this post is that we can’t find happiness in things. That car, that six pack, that whatever isn’t the route to a good life. Once we get whatever it is we’re after, we will just replace it with another thing to chase. Want off the hamster wheel? The trick is to enjoy and appreciate where we’re at and what we have, even while we move forward in our lives.
The next time you catch yourself tuning into the if only channel, I challenge you to ask yourself a few questions: What can you appreciate about where you’re at? What would open up for you if things/you were good enough?*
*Accepting that we’re “good enough” can be scary because it can sometimes be wrongly regarded as “giving up.” In truth, acceptance doesn’t mean that we won’t try to improve ourselves or our situations. Instead, it lets us feel good about ourselves while we make those improvements.
I’ve blogged about my stance on fitspiration (“strong is the new skinny,” etc.) before–more than once–but I think because I love me a good workout and hang around in the fitness world on the interwebs, it haunts me.
I’ll start with an apology if you share and/or like this stuff.
I do not.
This week’s offender?
Before I get into it, I feel like I need to at least give this image props for showing the gal’s face.
But that’s all it’s getting props for. My “are you kidding me?” instincts need to point out that wearing that much makeup is a recipe for a Good Charlotte-esque disaster.
ridiculously jealous of her glad that she has beautiful long hair that can blow in the wind while she does mountain climbers or burpees or sprints or whatever is about to go down in this image, let’s get real. My hair, which doesn’t even touch my neck, drives me batty when I work out if it’s not pinned into a pathetic excuse for a pony tail (a feat that requires a whole lotta bobby pins, I might add).
I’m used to the image of the pretty girl working out and I’m used to just doing my own sweaty thing with a smile on my face instead of it. I wouldn’t say “I’m over it” but I am a little bit over it. What really made me mad about this picture were the words and the messages that came along with them.
I’m all for continuously improving. Training harder, yay. Eating cleaner, maybe (“dirty” food is dangerously close to the good/bad paradigm that is a recipe for insanity in my books, but that and words like “cheat” are a topic for another post of its own). But from there, it heads into territory that I’m not so okay with.
I’m not okay with hating yourself–even your “old” self.
This reminded me of something that Jillian Michaels said when I went to her Maximize Your Life show a few weeks ago. She’d talked about how when, at the end of the season, the people on Biggest Loser would be presented with a cardboard cut-out of their old bodies, they’d initially react with disgust– kicking their old selves down, saying mean things and calling themselves gross, etc.
That makes me sad.
Just like that “gross” person was actually the person who signed themselves up for the show and did the work to lose the weight—the strong one, the determined one—the strong person that this fitspiration is so ready to become has to come from the “old” girl.
Saying this seems stupid, but: you will always be you.
What I’m getting at is this: hating yourself is the fastest way to make yourself feel like crap, not for making lasting change in your life.
You can trust me on this one, I’ve dabbled in it.
Whenever I’ve tried to hate myself into change—beat myself up for drinking too much coffee, told myself I’m a pig and that I need to eat less, called myself lazy for not working out, etc.—it’s backfired. Feeling crappy, I end up doing more of the things that “sabotage” myself in an attempt to feel better—eating more, spending more money, etc. etc.—and end up a not so happy camper no better off than I was in the first place.
Trying to change your life is hard. When you feel bad, it’s even harder.
So what’s the alternative?
Loving yourself into and through change.
Play on your own team. Notice when you’re beating yourself up and get out of that headspace. Find something positive to focus on, like what you’re presently achieving and the kind of person you’re already in the process of becoming. Be patient with yourself.
Self-esteem and the way you look at and talk to yourself matters. Put the same amount of effort into learning to love yourself that you do into attempting to “fix” yourself and I have a feeling you’ll be a heck of a lot better set up to achieve whatever your loved and happy little heart desires.
When you love yourself, you take care of yourself.
When you take care of yourself, things get better.
Love yourself now.
What goals do you set based on what’s wrong, broken, or needing to be fixed? What could you use that energy for instead?
What do you beat yourself up for?