Courage to Own Our Lives
In my last post I talked about how courage is a vital ingredient in achieving sustainable weight-loss and restoring health. Rising above the health and weight challenges we face involve growing into ourselves–and that usually requires a moderate dose of courage.
For me, getting well meant getting real long enough to sit with the discomfort of my feelings. Instead of viewing my perfectionism as a strength, I had to accept (with a lot of resistance) that it stems from a fear of not being worthy. Excellence, I learned was not the same as perfection. Perfection is trying to achieve that which is impossible. Digging deeper into where the fear of being unworthy came from got ugly at times. There were days when I felt brave enough to face my demons and there were others when I would get fed up and decide I wasn’t going there. I would run in the opposite direction until I had refueled and was feeling brave enough to go back.
Be Brave, Not Stupid
While I claim to be a courage junkie, I do approach it with caution. Living a courageous life is not to be confused with abandoning caution or common-sense. Fear is there to protect us from some real dangers. However, never taking a risk because of the potential of ridicule or failure makes it near impossible to live a life of meaning, purpose and fulfillment.
Some people have a running buddy. I have a courage buddy. If you don’t–get one. Having a courage-buddy for pep talks and to work through what’s realistic is invaluable. We hadn’t even planned to be each others ‘courage-running-buddy’. We were both coincidentally (no such thing!) done with letting anxiety rule our lives and realised we were both practicing, what I’ve named, small-but-brave-acts-of-courage. Instead of traumatizing ourselves with big, potentially disastrous leaps, we generally stick to small steps. If you’re terrified of public speaking, don’t sign up for a talk in front of hundreds of people. Start with five people and work your way up.
Be Brave Enough to Face Your Feelings
As the focus of my work became more centered on why and how people eat and less on what they are eating, I was surprised at how much resistance people had to uncovering the deeper issues that related to their relationship to food. People who struggled with binge eating assured me they were not emotional eaters, they just lacked willpower, that it really was just about what they are eating–they simply needed to stick to the program.
Then there was a woman who admitted that achieving her ideal weight terrified her for several reasons. She was afraid that she would appear conceited, that friends and family might not like her anymore and that she might end up leaving her husband because she would end up thinking she is too good for him.
Discovering how we have arrived at our current weight or what contributed to a decline in our health demands being honest with ourselves. Many choose the sedation of denial because we believe that we do not have the courage to address what we uncover. It’s no secret that digging deep and self-discovery can get messy and downright painful. But remember. When you do renovations, it always looks worse before it gets better. Imagine saying, “I am never remodeling my kitchen because I don’t want to have deal with a mess, not even for a short time.”
Find the Courage to Save Your Life
Courage, for me, has three components: digging deep, finding your voice as well as action. You need to dig deep to discover what’s underneath the fear and you need to be brave enough to be vulnerable and continue with the action regardless of what you learn about yourself, a situation or others. This is where every-day courage, like finding your voice, being genuine and making yourself vulnerable gets overlooked because we’re so used to associating courage with heroic in the moment, life-saving events. Everyday courage is every bit as life-saving; the problem is that we don’t recognize it as life-saving when it is about saving our own life. Summoning the courage to leave an unhappy marriage, a soul-sucking job, a toxic friendship, healing dysfunctional thoughts or core beliefs, transforming a negative self-image or healing less than marvelous health are all examples of the heroine’s journey. It’s the small steps and changes, the seemingly insignificant acts and words, that fuel a small, but steady burning fire.
Redefine, Re-prioritize and Transform
Redefining priorities especially if it does not fall under the category of what society expects from us can be especially terrifying in the face of a society that seems to have an ‘ideal’, cookie-cutter blueprint for how every role, activity and category should be followed. Many of us are burnt out, sick, overweight and plain unhappy because we are running for someone else’s expectation of what constitutes a happy family, a fulfilling career or a rewarding life. Many of us don’t even realise that it’s someone else’s dream we’re living. We’ve seen it and heard it so many times from the media, friends, family and everywhere else that we actually think it’s our own. The best question I asked myself is: “What would you do if money was no object and nobody would judge you?”
I read an article recently of a woman who defied all conventional happiness when she was faced with the terrifying diagnosis of MS. She quit her job and found another that paid a quarter of the salary, but was more rewarding. She downsized to a two bedroom home (her boys had to share a bedroom), learned to manage with just one vehicle and pulled her boys out of their traveling hockey team. Guess what? Her MS is in remission, her marriage is happier because they have more time and less pressure and the boys have learned to negotiate and make the most out of after-school-sports.
There is a famous Chinese Proverb that goes: ‘When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” Awakening into your power to be able to make these changes, even if they do bring about temporary discomfort or pain is what heals us. The simple acts of setting boundaries with a particular family member or colleague, allowing yourself distance from a dysfunctional situation, drawing the line at work with your workload or completely severing the ties from toxic family members not only bring us situational relief but tap into our power to transform.
A client of mine had admitted it took immense courage to stand up to her family who constantly ridiculed her new diet and lifestyle despite the obvious positive change that occurred. She found that the act of refusing not to give into their peer pressure that she was being a party pooper set the standard that she was not budging nor would she tolerate criticism; it also helped to heal her fear surrounding not being accepted by others. She decided that feeling good was more important than being accepted because she felt awful. This helped to foster a stronger sense of independence and confidence where she learned to stop apologizing for her needs and wants. Small changes can create huge results.
We’re not In Kansas Anymore – Asking the Terrifying Question “How did I Get Here?”
If we want to be in charge of our lives-we need to own all of our experiences-the good, the bad and the ugly. Uncovering how we have arrived where we have requires a tremendous amount of courage as well as humility, gentleness and forgiveness with both ourselves and those who have played a role in where we are. We are all co-creators in our life. Our role might be as simple as how we reacted to a situation and how we authored ourselves as the victims instead of rewriting our stories into timeless classics filled with lessons of growth that transform us into epic heroines.
This ‘re-writing’ can appear to be especially challenging if we unjustly suffered abuse or betrayal; of course we didn’t create this on a conscious level. It is easier, but much more painful to play into the role of the victim when people have hurt us. I have done the work of looking at past hurts and betrayals and my own role as a co-creator. In the past, I had a lot to learn about setting healthy boundaries from the beginning, using my voice and not being naïve. Facing the uncomfortable truth about my role doesn’t place the blame on me, but instead taught me how I got there and empowers me how not to end up in that landscape again.
Braving the Excuses – What’s NOT Working for You?
Being overweight or unhealthy can work for us on a subconscious level in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine. How many people say they are able to lose the weight for a time or to a certain point, but they can’t sustain it or they feel incredibly vulnerable once they reach a certain goal? Often they immediately put all the weight back on that they initially lost.
We may consciously or subconsciously believe that excess weight allows us the safety of being invisible, provides us with acceptance within our current circle of friends, maintains marital stability, protects us from heartache or that changing our eating style would isolate us from our family habits and traditions. Perhaps we associate being smaller with being less powerful, dominant or authoritative. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to associations, core beliefs and the workings of the subconscious mind. We dig deeper into this in my 8 Week Mind-Body Eating Program.
Illness may also provide us with a convenient excuse to not participate fully in life. It may offer us the attention and affection from others that we may otherwise feel we cannot have or it may offer what we believe is the only acceptable ‘excuse’ to rest and take care of ourselves. These beliefs are all flawed even if they do appear to be ‘fact’ in our present life.
The fact is that we do not actually need excess weight or illness to keep us safe from life. What we need is the courage to dig deep and uproot our beliefs, values and associations and to have faith in the process of living life wholeheartedly. This means knowing we will certainly fail and play the fool at times, but we embrace the ride anyhow. Everyday courage means going after what we want, asking for what we need, shining without apology, redefining our priorities without needing a ‘darn good reason’ to take care of our health. We don’t need illness or excess weight to shield us from life–we need courage so we can be true to ourselves–no strings attached.