Maintenance Lesson #2: Get over the need for external validation
Saturday, January 12, 2013
Sometimes external validation can be a positive source of motivation. Case in point: color-coding my fitness calendar with markers or stickers after I finish a workout is one more reason for me not to skip exercise.
Other times, it can be bad. Weighing yourself 6x a day, letting the scale dictate how you feel about yourself. Ignoring your intuition. Believing other people over yourself. Their opinions about your body; your life; your choices, goals, values, beliefs.
Say you spend 20 months *dedicated* to losing weight [in that, weight loss IS YOUR LIFE], in which time you grow accustomed to seeing the number on the scale go down-- a reflection of your hard effort and diligence. And you receive loads of compliments that make you feel just A-OK happy as pie, because you’re finally worth noticing and talking to! After a lifetime of being told "you’re too fat", "if you’d only lose weight, then ___" [fill in the blank with all sorts of wonderful things about life, and most of all, how you’ll *finally* be 'good enough'].
And then it stops.
Instead of compliments, some of the same people previously paying you them declare “You’re too thin!”
As for being 'good enough?' “That’s great that you lost weight. Now what are you going to do about fixing the rest of your life?” You find out that, contrary to a lifetime of thinking it’s all about the weight, it’s YOU, you at your core, who is simply not good enough. 258 or 145 pounds, there will always be something that makes you flat-out unacceptable.
You take your momentum and try to apply it to different goals. You fall flat on your face. Repeatedly. Like trying in vain to get a job, and, again, being found “not good enough” by someone else’s standards. Or training for a 10K and not being able to run or do much of any enjoyable exercise for months afterwards.
You don’t know how to empower yourself anymore, because pushing yourself physically was the catalyst for your empowerment and that’s not viable anymore (a lesson in and of itself, to be addressed separately).
You see the accumulated evidence whose breadth seems to suggest a phenomenon beyond mere happenstance, and you start internalizing all that junk; anyway, blaming yourself and thinking you’re a screwup is familiar: it’s what you’ve done your whole life. Before you know it, you’re firmly entrenched in your old thoughts patterns, and it ain’t long before your old binge eating patterns join the party. Cuz guess what? It hurts to believe all those nasty things about yourself, and you get desperate to squash the pain evoked by that voice and numb out for a couple minutes, even at the cost of gaining weight and believing you're a *total* screwup.
Until you’re graced with people who are generous and patient enough to spend months teaching you, phrasing in countless ways till you GET IT:
Lesson #2: You are good enough just the way you are. You know your needs better than anyone else. Trust your intuition. Live your life the way you want.
(That's technically 4 lessons, but they're all tied it into the basic premise, so I'm lumping them together.)