It's Not So Hard!!
Saturday, October 05, 2019
A short excerpt from a Spark message I'd sent to a good Spark friend recently, musing about the pressures of perfectionism . . .
"I DO think that we've been socialized to believe that every worthy accomplishment is the result of "discipline" and "efforting" and "will power" and "virtue". Whereas maybe it could just be about gentle kindness to ourselves and other people. If we insist upon making it harder than it is (and in ways that are counterproductive to experiencing the peace and confidence we want to experience) then . . . is it possible that whatever unfairness we experience is an unfairness we are imposing upon ourselves?? And, I suppose, the question might be why we do that??"
I won't quote the response (It was private) but essentially it seems that we've been encouraged to believe that the harder we work at something, the more we deserve good results. Virtue is rewarded. Or virtue OUGHT to be rewarded and when it's not . . . that's not fair.
So we keep on working hard (for example, tracking calories and denying ourselves preferred foods and denying ourselves food at all if it's "not time", no matter how hungry we are, and engaging in vigorous exercise even to the point of self-injury). But nevertheless, the good results we deserve just don't happen.
We are starving ourselves of self- kindness. I sometimes think that the incredible proliferation of pricey spa-services in the last decade or so is simply an attempt to buy the kindness for ourselves -- delivered by strangers -- that we cannot or won't permit ourselves to give to ourselves. An ad in my newspaper this morning, with the picture of a blissed-out woman wrapped in fluffy white towel turban and spa robe: offering a discounted day at the spa for a mere $437.00. Pedicures and manicures and facials and aromatherapy and massages and more and more variations on the theme -- hot rocks massages and avocado oil massages and chocolate massages and more and more and more.
But: not surprisingly, if the only kind thing we ever do for ourselves is feed ourselves, because we do HAVE to eat something sometime, then it's pretty predictable there will come a time at which we WILL lose self-control and discipline through exhaustion of will power and give up on the efforting of self denial.
Remember "spare the rod and spoil the child"? Which meant IF you spare the rod (beating your child) you will spoil your child (he or she will grow up bad).
"Spare the rod and spoil the child" most certainly did not mean "you ought to spare the rod" (not engage in harsh physical discipline) and "you ought to spoil" (dote on, care kindly for, ensure the comfort and well-being of) your child.
But if we are harsh with ourselves in the way many of us were taught to be by harsh (if possibly well-meaning) parenting, then it's pretty likely we'll rebel against ourselves, as so many of us rebelled against those harsh parents.
We WILL binge, we WILL over eat -- in the name of "treating" ourselves. Just this once. And the result?
Yup, we can count on triggering the renewed cycle of self-loathing and greater rigidity of control and MORE exercise and . . . yeah. All of that. As the price of being acceptable, both to ourselves and to others around us.
So: what if we decided to spare the rod of self discipline and to simply engage in body kindness and self care?
What if we thought that it's not difficult at all to have a healthy body? With health defined not as somebody else's predetermined idea of what my body size and shape should be, but rather as the natural body size and shape I achieve when I take care of myself?
What if we believed that all we need to do is pay attention to our own body signals? For physical and mental and spiritual health . . .
To eat when we're hungry. Choosing foods for optimal nutrition -- the ones that truly taste best and smell best and have the most beguiling range of textures anyhow? To enjoy each mouthful. And to stop when we're just about full, reassuring ourselves kindly that we can eat again when we're hungry again.
To move in all the ways that feel best. For cardio fitness and muscle strength and toning and flexibility and balance.
To live in the moment, accepting some anxiety and stress are inevitable -- like the weather, like the tides of the sea ebbing and flowing. But not to angst about anxiety, not to stress about stress.
It does not need to be so hard. It's really NOT so hard. Not hard at all. The opposite of hard in fact -- not harsh but gentle.
We long to BElong. To just BE in our bodies.