This week I thought I’d give you a little communication assignment and ask you to provide me some feedback on what you discover by saying thank you, I’m sorry, and I love you. Your feedback and my knowledge on the subject will form the body of next week’s Tools For Recovery article.
One of the hardest things that we who use food to cope have to learn to do is to find true peace and comfort with being honest about our imperfection. Yes, folks, we are imperfect. We screw up, we stick our foot in our mouths, we forget birthdays, forget to return calls, inadvertently (and perhaps sometimes intentionally) say things that hurt people’s feelings. We sometimes run late, we make errors when we text or email people, we don’t always follow through on our commitments to ourselves or others.
We err. It’s human.
But because of our A+ in Co-dependent training (yes, all compulsive eaters have one!), we feel incredible pressure to be perfect; to not make mistakes or let anyone see that we don’t know the answer to something. In Co-dependence 101, we learned that we are responsible for everyone’s feelings. We also learned that others can say and do things that hurt us but we’re not allowed to say anything or have feelings about it because they will get mad or upset or tell us we’re overreacting. We learned that what others think of us is true and right and what we think or believe is wrong.
As such, being perceived as good, nice, smart, pretty/handsome, and successful is fundamental to our survival in the co-dependent world.
The anxiety that gets created within us at having to adhere to these inhuman expectations of external responsibility and perfection is what triggers us to develop coping strategies (ways of numbing out or changing our focus) such as binging or restricting.
The problem really isn’t food. If you’ve been connected to The CEDRIC Community for a while, you know this. If you’re new, you’ll prove it to yourself soon enough.
The problem is the stories we’ve been told and the life experiences that seem to “prove” them are at the core of why we feel we are responsible for the needs and feelings of others and that we are not good enough to be loved or to be deserving of respect and kindness and healthy relationships.
The CEDRIC Method is all about helping you to prove this to yourself quickly and simply, and to then set about shifting those old stories to the truth.
The truth is:
You are responsible for no one’s feelings but your own (dependent children are an exception as they need us to verbalize their feelings for them so they can begin to understand what they are feeling and why);
You have not just a right, but an obligation to speak up for yourself respectfully when something is happening or someone is behaving in a way that doesn’t feel safe or respectful to you;
Your perspective is just as valid as anyone else’s. Based on what you know about the world and believe to be true from your life experience, your perception is valid. Once you understand that your perception of the world has been shaped by confused and often bogus messages from others (who were also struggling and confused), you will be less and less attached to being “right” and more and more open to finding the truth in each perspective, including yours, and to being gentle with yourself and others around the things you didn’t know.
So, this week your challenge is an all-or-nothing thinking challenge.
The old mindset often sounds like:
If I say “Thank you,” that means I’m making myself vulnerable because I admit I appreciated/needed whatever I’m saying thank you for. It obligates me to other people.
If I say “Sorry,” that means I was wrong and that means I’m admitting I’m not perfect and others will rub it in my face or make me feel bad or guilty.
If I say “I love you,” it means I’m putting myself out there to be rejected, and I will be rejected, so I’d better not say it.
That’s the old Co-dependent A+ training mindset. It’s a total pile of crap in reality, but as long as you believe it and as long as you continue to assume others think the same or to surround yourself with others who do think the same, you will believe it’s the truth and not just a ridiculous and dysfunctional belief system like “the world is flat,” or “If you float, you’re a witch.”
So, the challenge for this week is to do the opposite of what you’ve been taught.
I want you to say thank you every chance you get. Every time someone, (co-worker, partner, child, friend, parent) does anything at all for you or around you (i.e. picks up their shoes, puts a dish in the kitchen, passes you a message, points out something your forgot or didn’t know), I want you to say:
“Thank you, I appreciate that.”
Every time you have contact with someone close to you, someone you really care about (even if you’re really pissed off at them!), I want you to say “I love you” at some point in that contact. Yes. I do.
“I love you.”
Every time you make a mistake, forget something, say or do something that was less than stellar; every time you feel yourself wanting to close off, walk away, defend yourself or shut down, I want you to stop, take a deep breath and say:
Yes, I’m serious! And don’t try to explain or try to point out what the other person also did that they should be saying sorry for. Leave that up to them. They’ll likely follow your example in time – everyone in my life has, even the toughest nuts. Just say “I’m sorry.” The old all-or-nothing thinking will tell you that means you are wrong! That means you’re taking all the “blame” and that you’re opening yourself to judgement and rejection.
The truth is “I’m sorry” simply means “I made a mistake and I want to rectify it.” Or “I realize that what I did/said did not meet needs for you.” It’s not the end of the dialogue, it’s just the beginning.
If this feels a little too tough as a starting point, say this: “I’m sorry for my part in this situation.” And then explain what you feel your part is. Again, don’t expect anything from the other person. This is you taking responsibility for you. Co-dependence teaches us to expect others to meet our needs. Healthy interdependence teaches us that we are responsible for our needs and that others are only responsible for theirs. A good relationship of any kind is one in which your values and principles and needs and mine are enough in alignment that what you want / need is not a compromise of my needs/values but rather, overall, in alignment with them. Yes, we stretch ourselves for others in good relationships, we hold the space for others moods and needs, but we don’t accept abuse, and we don’t compromise our needs for others.
So that’s your challenge. Thank you; I love you; I’m sorry. Say these things as much as you can, everywhere, all the time this week.
Trust me, this is the fast train to emancipation from perfectionism and self-loathing. You will feel so much self-love and so much freedom, so much maturity and grace in just exploring this challenge for a week; it will change you and your relationships forever.
Please email me and let me know how it’s going so I can speak directly to your sharing and your experiences in the follow-up article to this exercise next week.
Have a fabulous week.