Commitments and Balance
“Don’t make commitments you can’t keep….and still live a balanced life.” mm
Perhaps you’re wondering why I added that little bit on the end there? Well, since you asked…
Most people will agree that the definition of Integrity is somewhere along the lines of “doing what you say you will” or “words and actions in alignment.” I concur with these definitions. But there is a very important piece of the puzzle missing, or inferred:
Integrity = Do what you say you will as long as it doesn’t harm you.
In order to be living from this definition of integrity you have to
- Be well aware of what you’re feeling and needing and
- Be well aware of your deservedness to take care of yourself first and foremost.
No, that is not selfish, it is self-loving. It is necessary as a fundamental framework in your life to honor your commitments to yourself first and foremost.
Doing what you say you will do, to those who use food to cope typically means this:
Honoring your commitments to others, no matter what has changed in your life, no matter how that person is treating you, no matter how you’re feeling, no matter how it may harm you to follow through or undermine your trust in yourself. (Because you said you would do it and you don’t want anyone getting angry at you, feeling disappointed in you or thinking you’re a flake).
At the risk of being ultra cheeky – for a good cause: Can you say “Martyr”?
If you resonate at all with that definition of integrity, your definition of integrity needs a tweak.
What you’re considering to be integrity is not integrity at all, it’s Martyrdom. Regardless of what you’ve experienced in life so far; regardless of what the key people in your life have told you about what you’re “supposed” to do or how you have to suffer to make others happy, the truth is, you deserve, as does everyone else on the planet, to consider your needs first and foremost.
And rather than making you selfish and a bitch and inconsiderate and thoughtless, considering your needs first and foremost means you’ll be strong and clear and aware and more happy, more open, more loving, more grounded and more able to be there for the key people in your life and for society at large.
It is scarcity, or the perception of scarcity, that makes us selfish because it makes us grasp and cling to people and things. When you trust yourself to take care of yourself first and foremost you realize you don’t need to cling to anyone or anything in order to be happy. You create your own happiness from within and you naturally want to share this happiness and peace with others.
The martyrdom is kept alive by the story that you will be rejected or “judged” for taking care of yourself; for setting boundaries; for saying no; for creating a life that has balance and your self-care at its base rather than running around like a headless chicken trying to make everyone else happy and make everyone else like you.
Each of us who use food to cope do so because we are trying to find a way to be in the world and be happy but at the same time, we believe, because of our interpretation of past experiences, that we can only be happy when “everyone” likes us and is happy with us. This, by the way, is one of the primary characteristics of a codependent approach to the world and it is always at the root of your use of food to cope.
The story that your sense of happiness and peace in the world depends on others approving of you, or being happy with you, is what keeps you stuck feeling anxious and overwhelmed because you know it’s a losing battle! You know, on some level, that you really can’t keep everyone happy, not for long anyway, and so you’re chronically anxious just waiting for the next ball to drop. You’re so busy trying to make the rest of the world happy, juggling all those balls, that there is no time for you to take care of yourself:
- to make honoring choices around food;
- to be present enough to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full;
- to get adequate rest; to exercise moderately and regularly;
- to have moments of rest in each day and really feel deserving of them; and last but not least
- to say no to things that you don’t want to do or that conflict with your overall balance and care.
You see, folks that are balanced, peaceful, vibrant, passionate, and self-confident know that if any request or commitment has the potential to undermine their health and balance (emotionally, physically, or spiritually), all bets are off and that they are entitled by the fundamental principles of basic needs to change their minds, to set boundaries, and to care for themselves first and foremost. They don’t even question it. It just is. It’s the solid framework on which the rest of their lives are built. And that fundamental consideration of their needs and balance first and foremost allows those balanced, happy people to go with the flow and ride the many waves that life brings with grace and dignity; being true to themselves, their feelings and needs, first and foremost. It is a very strong and grounded place to live from.
Folks that use food or drugs or alcohol or procrastination or isolation to cope with life don’t have this solid framework yet. In fact, they were taught something else entirely. They were well, and I mean WELL-schooled in the art of codependence: Taking care of others’ feelings and needs regardless of the cost to yourself because what other people think of you is far, far more important than what you think or feel about yourself..
You can’t hold on to this approach to the world and to yourself and really let go of your use of food to cope. That’s because food is a coping strategy that you use when you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed, and as long as you believe that you are responsible for everyone else’s feelings and needs, you’re going to be anxious and overwhelmed and depressed. Trust me, I’ve been there.
For this week, if you’d like to experiment a bit, notice the thoughts and feelings that arise in you as you make commitments to others or as you are following through on them (or not). Just notice, maybe write a few of those thoughts down. Allow yourself to become more aware of the times when you are getting hooked into that old harmful codependent approach to life and notice how it maintains your need for food to cope.
Remember, food is not the problem. It’s just a sign, telling you that you have needs that aren’t being met. If you keep ignoring the sign, nothing can change. But if you just take the time to read the sign and look for the needs and learn to meet them in life-enhancing ways, you’ll be surprised how easily and quickly your whole life turns around.
It is quite common for people who have been using food to cope for decades to let that go entirely in just a few short months. It doesn’t have to take long and it doesn’t have to be hard. You just have to take the steps to change your approach to life and to yourself.
I’m here to help if you’re ready.
Stay tuned next week for part II of this when I talk about how the fear of making mistakes keeps you stuck.