So a new member of Sick to Fit asks the following question:
How do you address a lack of self-esteem or how do you keep going when regret, guilt, frustration, etc., make you question if the effort is worth it?”
So first thing I want to do in responding to that question is honor where the asker is right now, which sounds like a painful place.
And I have been there and pretty much everybody I know has been there.
And so I want to acknowledge that that place can hurt and it can be confusing.
And the voices in our heads when we are in that place can be cruel and the opposite of productive.
So when we're in that place, the thing to do first is simply to breathe and get into our bodies, because we aren't going to solve this in our heads or at our heads is where the mess is.
And our heads are not trustworthy at this point. Do you agree that when you are swirling in thoughts of regret, guilt, frustration, unworthiness,
that's not a safe neighborhood?
Right. You don't want to hang out there.
What is a safe neighborhood?
Our bodies are safe neighborhoods.
I don't trust my thoughts, but I trust my heartbeat.
Put your hand over your chest and you feel your heartbeat.
That's not lying to you. That's a real heartbeat.
Put your fingers on your wrist. Feel your pulse. That's real.
The thoughts in our head can be complete lies. They can be fantasies. They can be insane.
But our bodies are real.
So let's get when you're when you're feeling that craziness, the first thing to do is to breathe awareness into yourself, into your body.
Take a breath and notice that your body responds to that breath.
Chest rises, belly made to stand, shoulders may come up.
You may feel cold, air the tip of your nose and just identify as a body.
The second thing I want you to do is notice that all those emotions and thoughts and judgments are actually your interpretation of physical sensations.
Now, you may not believe me and you may not be able to follow that line directly right now, especially people who have a history of trauma
where there was a time in your past or the experience that you were experiencing in that moment was so overwhelming, you kind of checked out – dissociated – and because that became a protective pattern.
So you may not be able to connect with your body fully right now.
Don't worry about it. That comes with time. It comes with practice.
It comes with a willingness to come back into the safe neighborhood of our flesh.
But if you can't feel that, at least do the breathing, maybe move your one foot, wiggle the toes, clenched and unclenched the toes of one
foot and just notice that you notice that to begin to bring yourself back into the body.
But once you're there, once you've made that journey, however long it is for you, you will realize that every emotion you have, every thought you have is a translation of a physical sensation, because our bodies are sensing machines that create thought, create emotion to help us navigate the world.
And it's through our senses, through touch, sight, smell, sound, and particularly how we translate those inputs into our bodies themselves, into our what's called proprioception, the feeling of having a body.
So guilt, frustration, regret are all sensations.
You can try this, you know, try to make yourself feel guilty.
Think about the worst thing you've done or not the worst thing. But, you know, maybe a two out of ten on a scale and something that was embarrassing to you.
You said you did you kind of regret and notice that you can feel something in your body.
It might be a hollowness in the pit of your stomach.
It might be a palpitating heart.
It might be tension in the back of the neck.
It might be pinching between the eyebrows.
All these emotions are they are physical sensations that we give a name to and we give a story to.
So what does all this have to do with how do we deal with it? How do we deal with it? So the question is, how do you keep going?
So, like, you know, how do you address it?
I don't know exactly what that means or you know, but the question is, how do you keep going when you have these sensations?
So what you understand is that all of the feeling of I want to give up, whether, you know, is the is this worth it is not really the question.
You're not sitting there like a bean counter with a calculator counting.
Well, what's the benefits of not having diabetes or heart disease versus, you know, the urge to eat a candy bar?
Like, no, that's not the calculus you're doing.
You're not really asking, “Is it worth it?”
You are asking a different question.
The question and it's actually two different questions.
So one of the questions is, “Is this worth the risk?”
And what do I mean by risk?
I don't mean the risk of a heart attack or diabetes because you know what those risks are.
You know, the risks of obesity on your joints, on your heart, on all the organs in your body.
You know, the risks of your lack of self-esteem, when you feel like you're not in control of your your own behaviors, your eating your movement, your words, you know, all of the costs.
But there's a there's a risk of trying and failing.
That's really at the heart of this: “What if I try and fail?”
So that question about is it worth it? Is really a question of self-protection, because if we if we say, oh, it's not worth it, I don't even care.
I don't care anymore, that actually serves a function.
It doesn't serve the function of our health, but it serves the function of protecting our heart.
Because if we care about something, we are vulnerable.
Do you ever remember trying to be cool and like, you know, whatever?
That's a very safe place to be at a superficial level.
When we don't care, we can't get hurt.
When we care, we get hurt.
And when we care deeply, we can get hurt deeply.
And when we are in the throes of an overpowering longing to be different, to be who we really know we could be, the pain of failing there seems to become overwhelming, and that's where it goes, and that's where the guilt, the frustration, the regret, the shame, the low self-esteem come from,
because actually not caring as a form of self-protection doesn't work.
Because what happens when you tell yourself, “I don't care”? Do you feel good or do you feel worse?
It's pretty obvious. Check in with yourself: “I don't care about any of that stuff.”
First of all, you know, it's a lie.
Second, you berate yourself, what's wrong with me? I don't even care. I've given up.
So then you spin into a whole new cycle of self recrimination, of self blame, of self-criticism.
So the very thing you're doing to protect your heart is actually perpetuating the abuse.
So I said there were two questions that you're really asking when you're asking how do you keep going or is it worth it if you ask, is it worth it?
So one of the questions is, is it worth the risk of me caring and falling down on the job?
The second question you're asking is, can I do it right? It's like a bet, like any other bet, you know, will this horse come in first? Will the Yankees win the World Series? Will the stock market go up or down? Will the left or the right checkout lane check out faster?
Pretty much all of our decisions are bets on the future.
And so the bet you're making on yourself, “Can I do it?”
If I don't think I can do it, then it only is rational to not make the bet.
The other thing that happens, though, when we get into this awful rising self recrimination place, rush, frustration, guilt, regret, low self-esteem is that we think the only way out of it is a giant leap forward, a total instantaneous transformation.
And we become very binary in our thinking.
I'm either good or bad. I'm either succeeding or failing. I'm either pure or impure.
I'm either on the right path or the wrong path.
And so our interpretation, our definition of what's the right thing to do becomes an impossible hurdle.
And when you think, OK, if that's the thing that I have to do, then do I bet on myself?
I've seen how I fail.
I've seen how I fall down.
I've seen how I slip up.
And falling down, failing, slipping up are incompatible with the vision that I've set out with the definition that I've created of success.
No person in their right mind would bet on themselves if they didn't think they could succeed.
So the answer here is to choose a definition, choose a protocol that when you think about doing it, you can bet on yourself, right?
Call it tiny habits, small steps, atomic habits.
There's lots of books out there and they all refer to the same idea of setting up a win that you can achieve.
Now, you're still left with the feelings, right, you still can feel a lack of self-esteem, you can still feel guilt, you can still feel regret,
you can still feel frustration.
And here is the giant secret.
You can feel all those things and still move forward; yyou don't have to act on those feelings.
It may seem like you do, but the actually what's causing you to make bad decisions is not those feelings, but an urgent need to not feel them or to not feel them fully or to not feel them comprehensively or to not feel them all the time.
The things that we do are meant to keep us from feeling regret, guilt, frustration.
When you're in the middle of taking your first bite of forbidden food, you're feeling relief.
“Oh, I God, I feel good now. I don't feel guilt, regret. I don't feel any of that stuff.”
Our bad habits, the things we do that are not in our best interests are our attempts to not feel they are systems that we have created in ourselves to avoid feelings.
So the feelings themselves are not the problem. It's the thought that we can't feel them, that we can't handle them.
So that's why I began by asking you to go into your body, because our body is where we can hold everything.
Our body are really good at holding things. Our bodies can handle those feelings.
So as an experiment, take that feeling of guilt that the two out of ten bring it back into your consciousness, notice it in your body, and now pay attention to it in your body as a bodily sensation.
And don't try to send it away and don't try to amplify. Don't try to do anything to it. Let it be what it is like.
It's driving and you're the passenger and you're sitting watching and notice as you simply breathe and allow it to be and tolerate it, that it shifts of its own accord.
Might take 30 seconds, might take 30 minutes. It doesn't matter.
But simply allowing it to be and in a sense, communicating with that feeling, “You are welcome here. You are OK. I am OK with you here.”
With that practice, you will no longer be driven by those feelings. To act in contradiction to your best interests, you can simply let them be
and continue to make the decisions that will get you what you want.
I hope this is helpful. Have a great day.