Diet Mentality and Insecurity – I attended the Victoria health and wellness show this weekend. I also gave a presentation at the show on Sunday to a room of 130 people. It was a blast, I so enjoyed the whole experience. And, you know, presenting for me used to be such a scary thing. Early in my recovery, when I was still quite full of the diet mentality and my old core beliefs, I really wanted to speak publicly. Part of me enjoyed it so much but I was so preoccupied with my own bad body thoughts and self-judgement that all I could think about was how fat I must look or how stupid I must sound. These thoughts would understandably undermine the quality of my presentation and I would come away feeling awful.
Inevitably when I asked for feedback sheets there would be 30 awesome ones and, yes, of course, one nasty one. There was always one piece of feedback that just stuck a knife in that weak and vulnerable part of me. Someone who thought I spoke badly or looked awkward or just spent too much time on something etc. etc.
Now, no one ever said: “You’re too fat lady, get off the podium!” Or “You don’t have a clue what you’re saying I should have stayed home!”
But at that stage in my recovery I was so sensitive to everything and anything that if you didn’t say I was God’s gift to public speaking I was a shambles
I was also buying in to the old story that everyone thought that I had done a poor job it’s just that only one person had the courage to say so! I harmed myself frequently with that old story in which I undermined all of the positive feedback and reassurance I had received to instead focus on the one person who didn’t like my message, my delivery, or perhaps me.
Diet Mentality and Insecurity, Sharing Helps!
A big part of my recovery process became focused on shifting that old way of thinking that felt so true and natural for me. It was an old pattern that came from my father. He was such a strong presence and usually so very critical and contemptuous that I came to judge myself as he judged me. Therefore, as a child, when dad approved of something in me it must be good. However, if my mom said it was good and my dad didn’t, then it was bad. Or if the entire school body thought I had done well on something but my dad didn’t acknowledge it or chose instead to focus on the thing I didn’t do right, well, none of the positive feedback counted.
It wasn’t long before I had internalized my father and a part of me turned in to my own personal abuser. Enter the Drill Sgt. “Perfection and nothing less” was his motto.
Now add to that old “every one has to like me” story, the following ingredients:
- I have to be completely perfect in all ways
- Any negative comment I get, even if it’s only one, is really what everyone’s thinking
- Until I no longer get any constructive feedback or outright criticism in any way I will be completely “unperfect” and therefore, undeserving of love and compassion.
- and the worst thing of all! That I blush uncontrollably when I’m nervous or uncertain in myself.
And you have a completely red, blotchy, nervous, insecure, people pleaser who will compromise herself in an instant if she thinks that you might like her more for it.
Well that was me! And it wasn’t until I began to ask myself about the double standard I was holding in life that things began to shift and life became a safe and joyful experience. On one side of that double standard I was awful and imperfect no matter what anyone said and any positive comment was to be immediately discarded as someone “just being nice.” Any negative comment was immediately taken as some great truth and insight into the core of my being and I put all my energy into immediately cleansing myself of that terrible trait or behaviour so as to never again feel the pain of that judgement.
On the other side I always saw the best in others. I was willing to forgive and empathize and offer scads of compassion to friends, family, colleagues and yes, the grocery clerk and gas jockey too. They were completely acceptable humans regardless of their shape and size; regardless of how well they spoke; whether they blushed or got blotchy like me; whether or not they dressed well or had a degree etc. etc.
It seemed to me, when I got down to looking at it, that everyone was deserving of empathy and compassion but me. Everyone deserved a break and a second chance but me. Everyone was perfect just as they were, but me.
Something about that didn’t seem quite right. So, was I ready to take everyone else off their pedestal and judge them as harshly as I did myself? Or could I do the absolutely unthinkable (in my Drill Sgt.’s eyes anyway) and raise myself to an equal level with everyone else? Could I allow myself to paint myself with the same brush as that which I color everyone else? It was a pretty foreign concept I tell you. And for some months I felt as though I were doing something wrong. Sometimes I felt so strange challenging myself to judge myself as I do others that I was certain at any moment someone was going to tap me on the shoulder and say “Excuse me miss, you’re not allowed to consider yourself equal to the rest of us humans, you’re clearly still not good enough for that. Back to the drawing board you go!”
Well, fortunately that never happened. Not exactly anyway. Some people in my life didn’t like it when I began to treat myself better. They didn’t like it when I didn’t defer to them and their needs and ideas so readily any more. But they were the minority and they have since either changed their tune or gone by the way side to make space for the amazing human beings that are in my life now.
So, now if I blush I know it’s because I’m either a wee bit nervous or insecure. Perhaps I’m getting a bit caught up in wanting to please the other person or make a good impression. And you know what I do then? I remind myself that it’s okay to be nervous in new situations and that the only person’s approval and reassurance I really need is my own. Then I ask myself how I think I’m doing. That question alone brings me back in to myself and to the place where I always want to be coming from: my truth, my integrity.
As long as I’m acting from that I know that I’m doing what’s right for me and that if anyone doesn’t like that or doesn’t get me it’s okay. I’m far stronger when I come from that core place within me than when I look outside of myself for approval. And so will you be.
So, suffice it to say, the presentation I gave this weekend went great. I was a little blushy at the start mostly from excitement, but a little nervousness too. So I just reminded myself that I believe in myself and that I know my stuff. And I do, and I did.
So, as you go about your week keep in mind that as long as you continue to demonstrate less regard and acceptance for yourself than you do for others, people will be prone to continue to treat you as though you are less than they are, even if they don’t consciously intend to. This only serves to reinforce your old story that you are less worthy than others.
It also serves to keep your use of food to cope firmly in place. You can’t let go of that coping strategy if you’re feeling anxious and uncertain about whether you are acceptable or not. You have to know that you are acceptable to yourself and then food will simply become food.
And, being acceptable to yourself isn’t about what you weigh or how you look. It’s about you demonstrating to yourself that you are a trustworthy person. That you will put yourself first and not compromise yourself to gain the approval of others. Prove to yourself that you are a person you can trust in all areas of your life and you will feel greater respect and security in yourself immediately. You’ll hear a lot less from the critical drill sgt. within and you won’t need food to cope anymore.
Challenge yourself to model love and respect for yourself and the world will respond in kind.