Hello All! I hope you had a positive and forward-moving week.
This is week two in our series on Self-Care. If you haven’t read last week’s post, click here to access The First Step to Self-Care. Last week we explored the different roles you have in your life and took a look at what you currently do in those roles vs. what you expect of yourself or what you’d like to see yourself doing based on your core values.
Next week we are going to pick up where we left off with the identification and articulation of our goals and come up with three small steps that you can take over the next little while for each of your goals to ease your transition from “here” to “there.” Any lasting change to our thinking and our behaviour comes gradually. It just doesn’t stick if we try to rush it. That’s because we don’t have the understanding or the life experiences that help us see the value in sustaining that change when we rush it rather than truly embody it. We also need to learn to make space in our daily lives for these new and different behaviours and, when we already have full-to-bursting lives where many things are falling through the cracks, it takes some time to create the space for something new without simultaneously increasing your stress level (which rather defeats the purpose of any new life enhancing behaviour, I think).
This week we’re going to set our foundation firmly and clearly so we’re on solid ground as we move forward with our gentle steps towards lasting change. It occurred to me as I penned the last article inviting you to explore your goals, that when I first did this exercise, I struggled to clearly articulate my true goals because I was missing a very important piece. I was missing a clear understanding of what my core values were. I had no foundation. And without a solid sense of my values, I was like a feather in the wind, blown up and down, here and there, by whatever or whoever was around me at the time. I had nothing to anchor me and so even when I knew I really wanted to honor myself and say no to a request, I felt pressured and confused if something conflicted with my true feelings and needs (i.e.. Someone might be mad or disappointed if I said no, even though I really didn’t want to do “x”). Without a solid sense of my values to anchor me and help me clarify my priorities, I just didn’t know what to do from moment-to-moment. That sense of confusion and the ensuing lack of trust in myself led me to feel anxious constantly and to use food and body image focus to numb out and cope with my distress. It was a vicious cycle and I couldn’t make any consistent headway with my food stuff or my insecurity until I had some solid ground under foot.
Values. If you’re struggling with overeating, restriction or purging and/or general dissatisfaction with your body it’s because you’re out of sync with your values. Or rather, your behaviour fits the values of your family or of society or whatever it is you think you’re supposed to be (based on what others have said or done in relation to you) but it doesn’t fit what’s true in your heart; what you truly believe is most important and so you experience conflict in the form of anxiety or depression, and the need to withdraw and isolate yourself.
If your core values were truly a fit for your behaviour with food and your current methods of achieving your goals for happiness and peace and body size, you would experience no distress or conflict when binging, purging or restricting. In other words, if being thin truly were the most important thing in your life and you really believed that that’s where it’s at, you wouldn’t feel any concern or guilt or shame or distress around those behaviours and you would not care who knew or who saw you, etc. You would be truly and totally at peace because your actions would be in alignment with your words and values and that is the definition of integrity. When we are in integrity we can only feel one thing: PEACE.
So, by virtue of the fact that you don’t feel peaceful and proud about your relationship with food or your body image, we can know, without any doubt, that your true values do not include binging, purging or restricting or, in other words, being thin at all costs and numbing out to your problems.
You can never get a true grip on your relationship with food if you try to approach it from any other direction than natural eating: Eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full. Everything is okay in moderation; no guilt.
If you’re not entirely clear on what your core values are, I encourage you to try the following exercise as it will provide you the foundation you need to be able to hold steady and take this journey to Self-Care to its full realization and a fulfilling, passionate and peaceful existence.
First, make a list of the things that you or people around you say they like or admire in you. (Not physical traits like eyes, hair, nails, legs etc. but behaviours – things you do or opinions that you hold that others have expressed appreciation for.)
Next, (And you’ll likely find this one a lot easier!) make a list of the behaviours or thoughts that you judge most in yourself. [i.e. lying, sneaking (lack of integrity), being late, not following through on plans/commitments, not treating my body well, not exercising, not working as hard as I can on “X” (career, education, parenting, relationships etc.), not calling Auntie Em back in a timely manner,…etc.].
Now take each of those patterns that you judge and turn it around – i.e. what would you be doing if you didn’t feel judgement? What value would you be embodying?
Honesty; Integrity; Timeliness (respect for others time); Reliability; Responsibility; Respecting my body; Health; Professionalism; Commitment and Follow-Through; Making adequate time for Relationships /Family Connections.
Look at you! You’ve got a great list of your core values here!
Now to top it off do this:
Make a list of the 3 people you admire most (don’t worry if it’s only 2 or if 5 come to mind – just go with it).
What is it about each of those people that makes you admire them. For example, they’ve achieved their career goals. They always do what they say. They don’t commit to anything they don’t want to. They can say no. They are financially successful. They are attractive. They have a loving partnership, etc.
What are the values embodied in those traits or characteristics? For example, commitment, reliability, self-awareness, honesty, self-respect, courage, responsibility, health conscious, trustworthy.
Now take your list from your own values and from the values you admire in others and put it all together. There is likely a little overlap. That’s great – it means that some of things you admire in others may already be at work in you in a way that you can see and therefore acknowledge more readily.
Okay, you’ve got your list of core values. If there is something that you value or a principle that you endeavor to uphold that didn’t make it on your list add it now:
I.E. People first, not things. (Buddha)
Or Treat others as you would like to be treated (by them or anyone else). (The Golden Rule)
Or Seek to understand (listen first then speak). (Stephen Covey)
Or Don’t say behind someone’s back anything you wouldn’t say to their face.
Or Always do your best.
Or Don’t take anything personally.
Or Don’t make assumptions.
Or Always be impeccable with your word (these last four from Don Miguel Ruiz’s: Four Agreements)
There are many others but I think the above list covers all the bases.
And one last little exercise to bring it all into clearer focus.
Imagine you’re on your deathbed. It’s just about time for your last breath. Was your life a success? If so, why? What made it a success? If not, why not? What didn’t you do that you feel you should have done? What would you do differently if you had it to do over again? What kind of behaviour or experience would make you feel proud of how you lived your life as you reflect on it in those last moments?
Add those statements or concepts or goals to your list.
Now you’ve got a rock-solid, clear foundation. These are the things that you value, truly. These are the things that make your life worth living and give you a sense of peace and passion simultaneously. If you’re not honoring these values and principles to the best of your ability (notice I said: to the best of your ability – not perfectly!? – as long as you’re genuinely doing your best you’ll feel peaceful and passionate about life, even though it’s not perfect and even though others may not approve), you will feel anxious and unsettled, like a phony or a fraud, insecure and unworthy, and you will need some coping strategy to take your focus off the places you feel you are failing or incapable of success.
So, make your list and post it in a few different places. Commit to reading it over 2 x’s a day and also as needed (i.e. whenever you feel anxious or unsettled and/or have a decision to make and you’re conflicted about what to do – eat or not; go out with George or not; go to bed or stay up and watch TV; take this job or that.)
In a few short weeks you’ll start to be able to remind yourself in your head instantly of what is most important to you and to use that information in the moment to confidently make decisions that enhance your life in all areas.
One foot in front of the other. You’re on the way from here to where you want to be.
Next week, back to our exploration of goals and how to make them doable rather than overwhelming so you can actually follow through and be consistent.
Have a great week and please consider sharing your values and principles lists with me and with the other members of your CEDRIC Community. It a great gift to have people to share this journey, and there are many of you out there journeying together without knowing it!
Whether you prefer one-on-one counselling (in-person, by phone, or email), our intensive and transformative workshops, or the self-help approach, take action today to have a stress-free relationship with food. Sign up for our free newsletter today! Newsletter subscribers receive exclusive product discounts and are first in line to get on all the latest new at CEDRIC!