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It's Not So Hard!!

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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.




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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • THETROUT
    I love this! I printed it out to read again in a few days.
    99 days ago
  • 2BDYNAMIC
    Such good thoughts here!
    105 days ago
  • DBSHAW
    Trying to not make it hard
    107 days ago
  • MILPAM3
    emoticon Two sides to every coin ... heads up!
    107 days ago
  • JANETRW50
    This calls to mind the idea I often used when I was coaching/managing people in my career but also when I was consciously "working on myself"

    A "weakness is often the back side of a strength"
    Being disciplined, strong, determined..... these are all strengths. But the backside is unnecessary rigidity of the most humorless variety. Seeking balance is the name of the game.

    BTW the proliferation of personal service industry is probably more related to the amount of wealth in our society than our need to replace the self-caring we fail to give to ourselves. I would teasingly suggest that a next step in being kind to yourself would be to go get a massage! Your view of these services seems to reflect that disciplined side of you. I get a massage twice a month. I often feel guilt that I can afford to indulge but never guilty over the pleasure. I do sometimes justify the indulgence with the fact that as a single person I need more human touch. And human touch delivered by a stranger is not that bad!
    134 days ago
  • IMEMINE1
    emoticon emoticon
    136 days ago
  • _CYNDY55_
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    137 days ago
  • NANCY-
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    I totally agree with "We are starving ourselves of self- kindness" We do need to nurture ourselves.
    137 days ago
  • JHADZHIA
    emoticon And there, you have expressed so eloquently, what is to be present in mind and body, listening to the signals and treating yourself with loving kindness which will in turn lead to all kinds of wonderful things without anxiety or stress and enable enjoying life to the fullest every day! You have found your inner smile which leads to an outer one, that healthy glow..
    137 days ago
  • 1CRAZYDOG
    LOVE your definition of health! THIS is what needs to be kept in mind and passed on to our kids! Thank you.
    137 days ago
  • PHEBESS
    SO true. All of it.

    I used to occasionally give myself a spa afternoon at home, just to feel pampered and to relax. A facial mask while I just listened to music for 20 minutes. A shower with a favorite scented soap, followed by the evening in a nightgown and robe, usually reading a favorite book. Nothing major - but as you say, gentle kindness to myself.
    138 days ago
  • BUTTONPOPPER1
    Excellent blog, Ellen! This really hits home and reminds me of the culture here in Japan, which is changing, but which for a long time so deeply reflected what I think you're saying about an over-emphasis on discipline and hard work. It has bothered me for such a long time how so many people here seem to believe that if you don't suffer, you're not virtuous and you don't deserve success or happiness.

    Example--my daughter took dancing class from a woman who I gradually realized had the twisted idea that hardship and misery would make the girls dance better. In preparation for a big upcoming performance, I saw this teacher jerk the arm of a girl and bring her to the front of the room, where she berated her in front of all the other dancers. For the longest time, I had been admiring that particular girl's incredible skill, thinking that she might even go on to become a professional--she was that good. It puzzled me why the teacher was trying to humiliate her in front of all the other girls. I guess she thought the girl's excellence might make her too arrogant (though the girl showed no signs of arrogance). Anyway, after that performance with all its grueling rehearsals was over, about 80% of the girls, including my daughter, quit that dancing school. And I don't know what happened to the really talented girl, but I hope she found a place where she could freely express herself and not be expected to suffer in order to be considered worthy of joy.

    Sorry this got a little long, but I saw a connection between all we were taught by fashion magazines, commercials, and the diet-focused culture of our youth and the way that dance teacher treated that dancer who was endowed with natural ability. Misery does not equal virtue! And as you say here, it's all so much simpler than we thought.
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    138 days ago
  • DOVESEYES
    Wonderful so true thanks :)
    138 days ago
  • PATRICIA-CR
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    138 days ago
  • GABY1948
    I am keeping this handy...to read over and over and over and over.......

    emoticon so very much!
    138 days ago
  • _RAMONA
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    138 days ago
  • MARTHA324
    Yikes! You are so right...it doesn't have to be so hard. Being gentle on ourselves is the way to be.

    Thanks!
    138 days ago
  • SLENDERELLA61
    Well written. Not my experience.
    138 days ago
  • QUARTERMASTER3
    emoticon emoticon
    138 days ago
  • RREDFORD5
    "We are starving ourselves of self- kindness"
    As stated above, hammer, meet nail-head. Thank you!!
    138 days ago
  • JUNEPA
    You sure do know how to hit the nail on the head

    "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".

    Yesterday on the Beck Trek, it was about giving ourselves credit and how we have trouble with that because we don't want to take credit for something we should be doing anyway. I ventured I could allow myself to take credit for something I put effort into. Rather I should take credit when I act with " gentle kindness to myself and other people" When I" choose optimal nutrition" and " move in all the ways that feel best. For cardio fitness and muscle strength and toning and flexibility and balance."

    Give myself credit for acts of kindness to myself, not for making effort to use my willpower to follow rules and lists to improve my life. Keep it simple. The rules are guides that can lead to better health. The real credit should be for an attitude and follow-through of seeking to do the best for my body.

    I want to discover the "natural body size and shape I achieve when I take care of myself"

    Thanks Watermellen. Quite an epiphany for me today :)


    138 days ago
  • JCMSMILE
    Awesome blog!! I've never been gentle towards myself...I guess it is time to start!!
    138 days ago
  • SUSIEMT
    You are such a smart woman! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    138 days ago
  • ALICIA363
    Yes!
    “We are starving ourselves of self- kindness.” Brilliant insight.
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    138 days ago
  • MTN_KITTEN
    … if the only kind thing we ever do for ourselves is feed ourselves …

    No wonder we reach for food when life is difficult, feelings are hurt, and total tiredness sets in.

    We need to learn a new … kinder gentler way of taking care of ourselves.

    We are making it harder than it needs to be.
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    138 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/5/2019 2:02:52 PM
  • KALIGIRL
    Here's to self kindness!
    138 days ago
  • NANASUEH
    This is a point I've been noticing more. If I'm gentle with myself and not "yank the leash", the urge to binge has not been as strong and easier to distract/forgotten.

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    138 days ago
  • 36BEATRICE
    Your insightful blog reminded me of the following story:

    https://paulocoelhobl
    og.com/2015/09/04/the-fisherman
    -and-the-businessman/

    (in case the link does not work, , I found this old story by looking for "the fisherman and the businessman", quoted in Paulo Coelho's blog)


    Also, re: spa I grew up in a city where there were beautiful (mosaic, copper, stained glass) and completely un expensive spa facilities, complete with Hammam, ice cold bath and everything in between. It was not a big deal to go there, spend an afternoon chatting with (same sex) friends and come out of it renewed. In other words it was natural to take care of our well being.

    Less is more....


    138 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/5/2019 12:10:54 PM
  • SLIMMERJESSE
    Wonderful blog.
    138 days ago
  • OVERWORKEDJANET
    You said a lot of good things!



    138 days ago
  • JEANKNEE
    There were three words in particular that struck me in your opening sentence following the preface. The words: "worthy accomplishment".

    And, this particular passage is speaking to me as well:

    "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 . . . "

    What's striking me in particular is the word "health" and the following thought followed: What if one is paying attention to their own body signals and is not healthy. Does that constitute failure?

    My immediate response to that question was "I think not!"

    Might there be something I can do to address an illness and restore health? Maybe. Maybe not.

    Had an interesting conversation yesterday afternoon/evening with an amazing young man I'd just met. The conversation related to "losing" the "battle" with cancer. In other words, death viewed as the ultimate failure. Death is not the ultimate failure nor is health the ultimate accomplishment.

    Do I desire to be healthy? Of course, I do!

    Am I a failure if I don't achieve health? No!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and spring boarding my own thought process. I'm going to sit with the "worthy accomplishment". Each word is feeling particularly loaded for me at this point. It will be interesting to see what arises.

    I'm going to have a visit with a sister I've not seen in nearly a year and we live mere miles apart. It speaks to the insanity of our lives. I am SO LOOKING FORWARD to being with her!!!
    138 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/5/2019 11:28:04 AM
  • NEW-CAZ
    emoticon
    138 days ago
  • BCHARIE
    So bang on!!!!! ❤️
    138 days ago
  • HAPPYSOUL91
    I am going with gentle kindness to ourselves and other people. I believe that is the way to live, accomplish our life purpose and enjoy each day. emoticon
    138 days ago
  • PENOWOK
    Plenty of food for thought
    138 days ago
  • ONEKIDSMOM
    "health defined ... as the natural body size and shape I achieve when I take care of myself"

    Amen, amen, and amen! emoticon emoticon
    138 days ago
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