Declaring Our Independence

Each year on July 4th, I celebrate my independence from my eating disorder once again.

It doesn’t matter how many years have passed, or how many other (and possibly even greater) challenges I may have faced since then. I still celebrate my recovery from “Ed”, as many eating disorder sufferers today term their disease, with all the gusto and force of the newly recovered, hardly believing my good fortune, scarcely comprehending the courage in what I have just achieved.

“This,” I find myself thinking to myself once again, “is worth all the hard work and effort and the years of struggle it took to get here. This is worth the time, the expense, the pain and suffering of the in-between days when I was neither as sick as I had been nor as well as I might yet be.”

In other words, each year, and yet again, I rediscover that recovery is worth it.

There are so many incredible experiences that I have had since that I could never have had while I spent my days engaged in the endless ruminations over weight, calories, numbers, sizes, shapes, portions, and reflections in a coated aluminum pane of glass that my disease required of me.

There are so many bright lights, interesting sights, fascinating people, fun hobbies, rewarding work, and loving connections that I never was able to participate in while my time was wrapped up with “Ed.”

But I can and do participate in them now.

While today, on some level, it is hard to believe that it took me as long as it did to choose to work as hard as I knew I was capable of working towards my own recovery, I liken that to the process that one goes through from denial to acceptance when they are dying, whether it be an emotional or mental, or a true physical death. 

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross writes about this process when she outlines her research into the Five Stages of Grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, grief, and acceptance. I went through all of these stages, and sometimes out of order, and definitely multiple times, on my own path towards choosing and then achieving recovery. Some days I was very accepting of the fact that I was ill and needed to work hard and follow the advice of my treatment team in order to heal. Other days I was not as accepting, for whatever reason, whether it was because I was scared I wouldn’t know who I was without a day consumed by “Ed,” or whether it was because I didn’t feel quite as sick that day and I thought that maybe it wasn’t as serious as my team had made it out to be.

There were also many other reasons.

But whatever the reason, I grieved, erratically but in time fully, and when at last I woke up one day to discover that I had been in sustained recovery for quite some number of days, I felt the impact of the independence I had won for the very first time.

In those first moments of awareness, all the fireworks on the planet would not have been enough to express my triumph, or my joy. Every Fourth of July since then, as the fireworks explode overhead, another, identical set of fireworks explodes in my heart, and I count my blessings, and I thank myself yet again for displaying the bravery and the perseverance and the vision to pursue my recovery like my life depended on it….because it did.

Looking back, I can see that now. Even if I had managed to survive the ravages of my eating disorder and somehow settle into “maintain,” I would not have been living. I would have been existing, trapped in a cycle of endless painful application for acceptance from a part of me that would never willingly have given it, no matter how nicely I asked.

Today, I can ask for and receive my own acceptance, and all in the space of a few moments. I have learned how to extend the same kindness and compassion that I offer to others to myself as well. No longer do I find my principle source of self-esteem in what I achieve, but rather I take it genuinely from not even who I am, but from the simple fact that I am.

I am a human being. I have faced death, and not just physical death but death of all my hopes and dreams, and I have survived. Not only have I survived, but I have won my independence. Today my work and my passion is to share with others what I have discovered about the power of the human spirit to not just survive but to triumph over adversity. Through my work, through how I live my life, and most of all through how I celebrate the Fourth of July each year, I am living proof that recovery is not just possible, but real.

And I wish the same for you.

If you are struggling to overcome a significant life challenge such as an eating disorder, and you don’t want to wait until the next Fourth of July to get started towards your goal, then Southlake Counseling can help. At Southlake Counseling, we not only have more than two decades of training and expertise that supports us in our life-changing work, but each member of our staff also brings to the table their own personal experience of recovering from a significant life challenge. In other words, we get it, we have been there, we understand what it takes, and we can help you to get there too. If you are ready to say “no” to staying stuck and say “yes” to celebrating your independence, we look forward to hearing from you! Contact us at www.southlakecounseling.com for more information.

Be Well,

Kimberly

 

 

Weekly Meditation: I Have the Right to Discover and Celebrate My Unique Beauty

This week marks National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 20-26, 2011). During this week each year, we honor those who struggle to recover from life-threatening eating disorders, and we resolve to do what we can within our spheres of influence to create a space for all body shapes and sizes to be honored and appreciated for the unique beauty they convey. We can start with ourselves. We can start by noticing where we are tempted to see the absence of beauty in ourselves and others, and strive to perceive its presence instead.

This week I resolve to: Remember that I bring a unique and unrepeatable beauty into this world, and I deserve to celebrate and enjoy this beauty, and encourage others to see and celebrate their unique beauty as well.


Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Fat Talk Free®Week – A Message of Hope for All of Us!

Many women I speak with each week about disordered eating, body image, and eating disorders are mothers. Or daughters. Or sisters. Or best friends. Or all of the above.

Each woman is grappling with her own perceptions of the obstacles that stand between her and feeling at home in her own skin. I notice that most are also concerned with how their inability to do so may be affecting those whom they love most – their mothers, their sisters, their daughters, their best friends.

While any lasting, worthwhile change usually cannot occur overnight, and may take weeks, months, or even years to fully bear fruit, there are efforts going on right now to ensure that the legacy we leave for each other and for future generations treads more kindly on our perception of our body’s unique and worthwhile beauty, just as it is.

That is not to say that we can’t all do our part to learn how to take the very best care we can of our physical body, one step at a time, and many women who come to Southlake Counseling come because they want to do just that. But this movement takes us beyond our individual efforts and into a societal shift that will make this process easier – and more fun – for all of us.

Take “Strong is the New Thin,” for instance. This is a Facebook-based movement that repositions physical health and strength as an admirable, desirable goal.

Or the emerging “real women” and “authentic women” monikers, meant to denote a woman who is beautiful in her outside-the-thin-box skin.

One of my personal favorites is “Fat Talk Free® Week,” an annual week-long event spearheaded by a partnership between the team that wrote the Reflections: Body Image Curriculum and Tri-Delta Sorority.

The event began a few years ago as a way to promote the curriculum’s scientifically-measurable ability to boost body esteem among sorority women. Now it has caught on at a national level, moving its social media and promotion headquarters to Facebook and digging in its heels to reach out to women of all ages, shapes, and sizes with a message that it is not okay to say no to your own unique beauty.

Fat Talk Free® Week is coming up again this year October 18-22, 2010, and I want to encourage all of you to be a part. You don’t need to wear anything special, buy anything special, or do anything special – other than cutting out all “fat talk” from your life for one short week, and encouraging others you care about to do the same.

Part of saying YES to life is saying NO to the things – and the words – that keep your spirit, mind, and heart feeling small, stuck, and discouraged. “Fat talk,” as I often mention privately to individuals who come to me for counseling support, is a short, straight road to low body- and self-esteem, which then leads to depression, discouragement, and repetition of the same disordered eating thoughts and behaviors we are working so hard to overcome.

So for one week, let us practice saying YES to life together by cutting out “fat talk” from our vocabularies. We can start by finding other ways to compliment our female (and male!) friends and family members. Instead of complimenting them in body-based ways, we can spend an extra moment to think of something else nice to say.

In this way, we can make a commitment to moderate the thoughts in our heads before they emerge from our tongues as words, asking ourselves, “is it kind to me? is it kind to others?” before we speak.

We can also make it a practice to journal out a few short notes at the end of each day of Fat Talk Free® Week, asking ourselves how we are feeling about our bodies and ourselves after abstaining from esteem-damaging fat talk over the past several hours. Do we feel more hopeful? More secure? More self-loving? More inclusive and accepting of others?

And if we like what a week of conversation with no references to “I really shouldn’t eat that” or “Thanks for the compliment but I think this blouse makes me look lumpy,” then we can choose to keep it going!

So as we embark upon this week-long adventure together, I would love to hear your experiences of Fat Talk Free® Week – and please feel welcome to share them day by day by posting your comments here!

Remember, saying YES to life starts by saying NO to those things that would keep us from the fullness of recovery, health, and wellness that we dream of. If we can dream it, we can do it – now all that is left is to say YES to it and begin. If you need extra support to be able to say YES out loud and “go for it” to build the healthy, wonderful life you are dreaming of, contact us at www.southlakecounseling.com today. We look forward to helping you reach for and achieve all of your recovery, health, and wellness dreams!

Be Well,

Kimberly

Wednesday’s Weekly Inspiration: Today is Always a Good Day to Persevere

Our own perseverance is a quality we often both discount and take for granted. In so many tasks we persevere seemingly effortlessly, because we perceive that we have no other choice. For instance, no matter how much we worry or complain, bringing a child into this world will always take approximately nine months. We know this going in, so we are willing to persevere through the uncertainty, the discomfort, the fear of the unknown. We take it day-by-day, without even realizing that this is what we are doing, as we patiently wait for the brilliant results we know are coming.

But when it comes to working toward our own recovery, health, and wellbeing, we give up so easily! We don’t know that we have that same ability to work at it day-by-day, to persevere, and to patiently wait for equally brilliant results.


Today’s affirmation: Today I will remember to keep my eye on the prize, be patient, and persevere.

 

Wednesday’s Weekly Inspiration: Defining and Experiencing “Beauty” is Up to Me

We have all heard the saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

But how many of us have spent any time trying to figure out what image of beauty is in the beholder’s eye?

If we look at ourselves and attempt to fit the unique portrait of beauty that we present into a cookie-cutter image in our mind’s eye, we miss perceiving the truly unique beauty we actually possess!

So before we can behold beauty, we have to ask ourselves some simple questions, “What does beauty mean to ME?” “Do I think I/she/he/it is beautiful?”

It is very self-respectful to allow ourselves to choose whether to see beauty in a person, object, or experience.

And our own answer just might pleasantly surprise us!

Today’s affirmation: I get to choose my own definition and experience of beauty!

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: The path to body peace is paved with good intentions

In this final post of our three part series on examining body peace, it is time to acknowledge that our intentions have always been good.

Your intentions have always been good.

Not a one of us, when we were small, dreamed of growing up to hate our bodies. I know I didn’t!

While in other blogs I may write from a more objective, clinical space to help you better understand medical complexities in layman’s terms, in this series I am speaking to you directly from the heart.

I want you to know that I, too, had great intentions even while my eating disorder was getting worse and worse, and even when I feared I wouldn’t survive it. At no time in my journey to where I am today was I trying to develop a life threatening disease. I wasn’t trying to kill off my body. I wasn’t trying to worry those around me. I wasn’t trying to fail at life or destroy my potential to live it.

I developed my eating disorder for two reasons. One, I had a biological predisposition to do so. And two, I experienced a variety of environmental triggers that in turn triggered my own inner survival mechanism to  control what was within my power – my own body.

The path to body peace often makes several detours along the way, but there is never a lack of good intentions. In fact, after more than two decades of serving and supporting individuals to move from the dangers of an eating disorder and low body esteem back to the holistic health and wellness they desire and deserve, I can state with the utmost confidence that I have not yet met a person struggling with body dissatisfaction and eating disorders who didn’t have good intentions.

We mean well. We truly do. We are trying to make sense of a complex world full of complex choices and complex people. We are incredibly strong, and even while enduring experiences that might level others, we survivors have found a way to survive.

Now, it may be that the way we survived such experiences in the past no longer works for us now, but that does not take away from the fact that we survived them – somehow.

Again, we had the best of intentions.

So now, to seek and achieve body peace, it is time to re-examine our intentions in light of the new information we have that what we did yesterday or last year or ten years ago to survive is no longer the only or best option we have. It is no longer the path we wish to choose to get to where we want to go.

We are ready to try something new.

Knowing this, we can now make a new intention to choose a different path than an eating disorder or body dissatisfaction to manage life’s stressors.

Wow!

For instance, we can choose to seek help, and in so doing we can choose to work on the intentions beneath our intention to survive, which may include our intention to thrive, to love, to succeed, to connect, to experience, to accept ourselves and others as we are, to serve and give and also receive and appreciate all that life has to offer.

Again, these intentions have never changed – and they never will.

All that has changed is the path we now choose to get there.

At Southlake Counseling, we have more than two decades of experience with guiding and supporting individuals just like you to achieve and exceed your recovery, health, and wellness goals. We offer the full range of professional support services, from dietary and nutritional coaching to group support to wellness consulting to individual therapeutic sessions. Visit us to learn more about how you can put your wealth of good intentions to work for you in a positive, nurturing, self-respecting way as you say “no” to body hate and YES to life! www.southlakecounseling.com.

Be Well,

Kimberly


Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Without war, we wouldn’t know peace

I know what you are thinking – where there is a will to avoid war, there is always a way.

I couldn’t agree more.

However, after more than two decades working in the clinical field as a trained health professional, it is clear to me that sometimes we are at war before we realize what war is.

At that point, it is time to call a spade a spade and take the steps necessary to return ourselves to the peaceful state we prefer.

For instance, I see many individuals who are suffering from an eating disorder. Anorexia, bulimia, eating disorders not otherwise specified, and binge eating disorder are increasingly common in today’s “War on Obesity” thin-obsessed culture.

Here is the problem we are facing – the world we live in glamorizes declaring war on our own body for the purposes of making peace with other dreams we hold dear – like the dream to be accepted, to be loved, to be successful. Somehow, without our probably even realizing it (I know I didn’t realize it when I was in the early stages of recognizing my own battle with an eating disorder 30 years ago!) we have adopted an internal belief system that states that where we desire peace, we must also accept war.

There is another way.

But for those of us who are suffering with an eating disorder, it is both useless and unproductive to spend time beating ourselves up for what we could have or should have done differently.  An eating disorder is a lethal psychiatric disease for which there are effective treatments, and just like any other disease it deserves our highest respect and the full complement of professional care.

So for those of us who are suffering from an eating disorder, or from other forms of body-war such as low body-based self esteem, poor body image, disordered eating habits, and reluctance to engage in life’s opportunities due to how we believe that we look, we must simply acknowledge that for reasons we may not even fully understand, we have declared war on our body, and we now instead desire war’s opposite – body peace.

Body peace IS possible. I know that it is possible because I too at one time declared war on my body, and I was able to turn my own ship around and instead declare first a truce, and then a state of peace, with my own body.

It is no one’s fault when an eating disorder develops. No one single factor causes an eating disorder to unfold. Eating disorders are a complex dance of biology, psychology, and sociology, and just like for any other disease, when all the causal elements are present in one place, an eating disorder is likely to arise.

What is then important is to turn our attention from focusing on the problem – the war we were waging on our body that we now must wage against our eating disorder – to the opportunity. The opportunity is the chance to get better, and in the process to fully understand our own weaknesses, strengths, motivations, dreams, beliefs, judgments, expectations, needs, and desires at a deeper level than we ever dreamed possible.

In short, we get the opportunity to examine what it feels like to be at war, and to use that example to try on a different state for size – a state of peace. We can literally use the feeling of war to remind us of what we do not want more of, and instead turn our attention to anything that feels unlike war – and use that as a guide to explore moving closer to a state of peace.

In that way, the war can even be a gift. It is a clear sign from within telling us that something is wrong and needs our attention. It is a flag of warning trying to get our attention, and we should thank it for its devotion to warning us now, before it is too late.

If you are suffering with disordered eating, low self esteem, low body esteem, poor body image, or unwillingness to engage in all that life has to offer due to how you perceive yourself in the mirror, you both need and deserve help and support.  I am living proof that there is a different way to live life – before I became a health professional, I experienced what it felt like to stand in those shoes, and that is how I know it is possible to break free.

I started Southlake Counseling, the first comprehensive eating disorders care facility in the Davidson area, for precisely this reason. At Southlake Counseling, our staff is more than just skilled, trained, and experienced. We are compassionate. We can empathize. We have been there and we know how it feels. We can help you say “no” to the precariousness of living life side-by-side with an eating disorder and instead say YES to life!

Don’t let another day go by where you live at war with the skin you are in. Remember, without war, we wouldn’t know peace. To learn more, visit us at www.southlakecounseling.com

Be Well,

Kimberly


Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Making Peace with Your Body

When I was struggling through the recovery process to overcome my eating disorder, the word “peace” was never found in the same sentence with the words “my body.”

Yet today, I am able to see and support my body in all ways with a feeling of peace and also with gratitude for all that my body does to support me.

You may be reading this – or may even be tempted to skip reading this – for precisely the same reasons I would have been tempted to skip it when I was in the midst of the recovery process.

“Make peace with my body?” you may be thinking, “Impossible.”

But it is not impossible. You have my word on that.

Now, is it easy? No.

Does it happen overnight? Nope.

Does everybody achieve it? Not by a long shot.

But we all have the potential to make peace with our body, to love our body as it is, for all that it is. In fact, making peace with our body is good practice for making peace with ourselves!

But it is up to us. We get to choose how we will go through this life – how we will feel about all things “us” – starting with the physical expression of our uniqueness that we call “my body.”

In this first of a three-part blog series, we will examine some basic concepts that can be helpful no matter what your current state of health or fitness may be. In following posts we will devote more time to examining special instances where making peace with your body is even more critical – for instance, if you suffer from a health condition like an eating disorder.

But first, I want to share some of my favorite basic self-assessment tools that can help you get started on the path to lasting body peace and acceptance.

In my own experience as both an eating disorder survivor and as a professional working in the field, I have found that it is critical to assess where you are as a measure of what is not working and a tool for defining what you want.

So if, in this moment, you and your body live either completely or somewhat at odds with each other, then take a moment to examine where you fall in relation to the statement, “I accept and love my body unconditionally.” What comes to mind first when you read that statement? Jot it down.

Now you know where you are. You just put a dot on your own map – “you are here.”

Next, you have to figure out where you want to go – not where you think it is reasonable to go, or where you think it is possible to go, but where you would like to go. What are your goals when it comes to body peace? Do you long for total body confidence? Total body acceptance? Total body love?

Take a moment and jot down any goals that come to mind. Now you know where you want to go. You have put another dot on your own map – “your destination is here.”

Next, it is time to take a look at what seems to be standing between you and your goal. In other words – if you do not at this present time totally accept and love your body peacefully and unconditionally, then what could help you to do that safely?

It is also of critical important to be realistic here. Otherwise it is easy to set yourself up for failure by reaching for a goal that is literally impossible to achieve, whether due to genetic body type and features, health needs and requirements, or some combination thereof.

When you are done applying these basic assessment tools, you will have a roadmap of sorts that lays out on paper where you are now, where you want to go, and some of our own ideas about how to get there.

The next step is to identify safe, healthy, and affirming tools to help you get there. While it is possible to do this work on your own, it is always advisable to take help and support from knowledgeable professionals as well as family and friends while you are on the journey. Making the transition from body-hate to body-peace can be physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging, and having a knowledgeable, skilled and compassionate support team in place assures the highest chance of success.

At Southlake Counseling, we have more than two decades of expertise in helping people just like you to meet their recovery, health, and wellness goals, including transitioning from a place of total body non-acceptance and hatred to a space where the body is loved and accepted as a valued friend and protector. If you are having difficulty setting and meeting your body-peace and acceptance goals, contact us. We have been there. We know how it feels. We can help. www.southlakecounseling.com

Be Well,

Kimberly




Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: “Fat” is Not a Feeling But I FEEL Fat!

We all have “fat days”. Even if you are a man reading this, you probably are not scratching your head wondering what a “fat day” is. You know.

We all know. 

Fat days are like cold-and-flu season, garden weeds, or your dog’s next teeth-cleaning appointment – they are going to come. Inevitably. There is no sense trying to run and hide.

But what can we do? If having “fat days” is more about management than elimination, and we are all going to “feel fat” from time to time, then where is the dividing line between the inevitable and its amount of influence over how we feel about ourselves, our bodies, and our lives?

Once again, it boils down to knowledge…and choice. First, we have to understand and decode where “feeling fat” comes from and what it means to us. Next, we have to decide if this business of “feeling fat” still works for us, or if we would prefer to make a new choice in how we understand and deal with fat feelings, and fat days, in our daily lives. 

So where do we start? We can begin by exploring where feeling fat even comes from, how it started, and why it is so much a part of our culture today that we often accept it without question – and even welcome it in as a helpful, rather than harmful, regular houseguest.

In 1995, the Discovery Channel reported the sad but fascinating results of the introduction of western television programming into the culture of the little island of Fiji. Prior to receiving access to westernized shows like “Melrose Place” and “90210”, only three percent of Fijian females suffered from eating disorders. Three years later, 74 percent of Fijian girls reported feeling “too big” and 62 percent had gone on a diet.

We may not think the environment around us gets under our skin, but we don’t have to look very far to see how much influence it actually has on our day-to-day routines and perceptions of ourselves and others. We feel fat because anti-fat messages are everywhere we are. Billboards, television and movies, advertisements, even our daily dialogues with each other are full of labels like “thin” and “fat”, “good” and “bad”, “healthy” and “unhealthy” – and almost none of it is backed up by actual scientific facts.

In fact, most of the steady diet of fat-bashing that we take in has one purpose and one purpose only – to induce dis-ease so that we will spend our hard-earned cash to fix a problem that is all in our heads!

Okay, so now we know. We have been told to feel fat, and we have – up until now at least – very obligingly obeyed. But now we really do feel fat – so what options do we have to extricate the word “fat” from the very real and valid feelings we are having underneath?

First, we can start to access our power of choice by working hard to understand what “feeling fat” means to us. We have to recognize that “fat” in and of itself is NOT a feeling . More accurately, “feeling fat” it is an edgy little ache that grabs our attention long enough so we will trace it back to its source and deal with the real root issue. So when we feel fat, we can instantly snap to attention and begin our sleuthing process – tracing it back, and back, and back, until we uncover what triggered the fat-feeling so we can deal with that and move on to recapture our sense of health, wellness, and balance.

If you are struggling with or in recovery from an eating disorder, you may already be familiar with the technique of naming your fat feelings. This is a very helpful approach that involves building your emotional vocabulary. There are five major emotions – anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and happiness – and about a million permutations of each. For instance, if we know it is not “fat” that we are really feeling, could it perhaps be “anger”? Or is it instead a permutation of anger – maybe “rage”, “annoyance”, “hostility”, “displeasure”? In this way you can take your power back by naming what you are really feeling, and investigating what your real emotions are trying to tell you so you can work through them and return to peace and equanimity again.

You might also want to try another code-breaking exercise to figure out what “fat” really stands for in your life. In this exercise, you will complete two sentences. First you will write down: “Thin =” and complete the sentence with appropriate descriptions of what “thin” means to you in that moment (examples might include: good , happy, desirable, successful, popular, attractive, etc). Next, you will write down “Fat =” and complete the sentence with your assessment of what fat feels like to you in that moment (examples could include: disgusting, irresponsible, lazy, unattractive, unacceptable, lonely, unsuccessful, etc.). In this way you can backtrack to discover what you are really feeling, and begin to deal with those feelings.

At Southlake Counseling, we understand how painful “feeling fat” can be – we have spent years honing our skills for battling back against our culture’s focus on the socially-acceptable prejudice of weight-ism and helping others to do the same. If you are having trouble completing the exercises above, or if you try your hand at them and find that strong emotions are coming up and you need support to work through them, visit us at www.southlakecounseling.com. Let us help you to start your New Year off on an empowered note by saying “no” to feeling fat in 2010 – and saying YES to feeling what you really feel, owning your right to have and express your true emotions, and doing what you need to do to live the life of your dreams!

Be Well,

Kimberly

Why Can’t I Ever Be Good Enough?

Do you often find yourself thinking you are not smart enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, not strong enough, not talented enough, not loving enough, not disciplined enough, not brave enough, not generous enough…fill-in-the-blanks NOT ENOUGH.

 “Not enough” often begins as a simple quest to be a better you. At first it feels normal, natural, reasonable even. You want to excel, to achieve, to do your best.

But somewhere along the way, the “enough” line in the sand gets moved, and before long you are routinely holding yourself to standards you would never dream of imposing on those around you. You wake up each morning, and instead of jumping out of bed feeling inspired and excited, you are battling waves of exhaustion and fear before the day has even begun. And even when success comes your way, you cannot allow yourself to enjoy it, because you are always bracing yourself against the next wave of self-disappointment.

Before long it feels like your life is one long hopeless lunge towards the carrot you no longer believe you have any right or ability to catch.

 How does this happen?  How could our good intentions to be our best get so twisted and tangled?

The foundation is often laid in our early years, long before our brains possess the abstract reasoning abilities to separate out the negative messages swirling around us from our internal assessments of those messages’ validity. When those around us experience shame, assign blame, externalize anger, or otherwise involve us in their own power struggles with themselves, we come away thinking their emotions, feelings, and thoughts are our own.  They feel inadequate…we are the inadequate one. They struggle with poor body image….we perceive ourselves as “fat” or “ugly.”  They have a bad day at work….it is our fault for not being “good” enough.

In short, we do not learn well where they end and we begin.

So what is the solution?  The simplest answer is found when we examine what happens when someone throws a boomerang in our direction. When we catch it, we send the sender – and ourselves – the message that whatever it brings to us is ours. But what happens if we don’t choose to catch it? When we refuse to reach out and catch a boomerang, it has no other choice but to return back to its sender, and we are freed from the burden of a battle that is not our own.

I used to catch the boomerang every time. I took in each message the world around me threw me that I was not enough as I was, that I needed to prove myself to earn my place, that I needed to change my outsides before my insides would be acceptable, that all my worth was tied up in my accomplishments. When “good” things would happen, I would experience a momentary high, only to be laid so low again when the tide inevitably turned. “Not enough” became my middle name…and in time it was the only name I recognized as my own.

When I entered my own process of recovery, I heard over and over again that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again expecting different results.” Slowly but surely, I learned how to catch myself when I was about to step onto the hamster wheel of “not enough” once again, and I learned that I could back away and head off in a new direction instead…a direction that felt more self-affirming, more self-loving, and more interested in the quality of the journey rather than in arriving at any specific destination.

Since then, I have dedicated my life to the pursuit of unconditional self-love and self-acceptance. I have realized over the years that it simply feels better to be my own friend, to stand on my own side. I have also realized that when I feel better about me, it becomes easier to allow myself to succeed, because my definition of success has changed accordingly.

When I view myself as “enough”, regardless of what a single day’s events may bring, I allow myself to celebrate even my foibles and fears as the teachers they are, and I hold up hope high in front of my own eyes as the carrot I have already attained.

An Experiential Example: Go Ahead, Compare Yourself

When you read the phrase above, you probably caught yourself saying, “What? Compare myself? But I’ve been told comparing myself to others is the root of all my problems!”

My answer to this is, “It depends on what you focus on.” For instance, what normally happens when we compare ourselves to others is that we think we are comparing apples to apples as we are focusing on specific areas where we believe we don’t measure up.

However, we rarely spend any time examining our standards for comparison. Are they realistic? Can the subject of our comparison even meet those standards – in other words, are they even attainable?

So let’s take a simple example to illustrate the point. You might want to have your journal handy for this exercise.

For part one of the exercise, think of someone whom you believe embodies your “physical ideal” – the person you most wish you looked like. Now compare your own physical measurements to that person. Spend a few moments dwelling on the differences you perceive between you and the target of your comparison. Notice your inner state, your thoughts and the emotions you are experiencing as you ponder those perceived differences. How do you feel? How willing are you to actually “go for it” and reach for your own stars while you are experiencing these types of thoughts and emotions? Jot down some notes in your journal.

Next, make a list of all the achievements you are proud of, from early childhood to the present day. Be sure to list out every accomplishment you can recall – big or small. Now, compare your list to that of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at age twelve. Consider as you are reviewing your own list of accomplishments to date that, by that time Mozart was twelve years old, he already spoke fifteen languages and had composed numerous major pieces of music, including an opera. Again, spend a few moments dwelling on the differences between your list and Mozart’s list of accomplishments. Notice your inner state, your thoughts and the emotions you are experiencing as you ponder those perceived differences. Ask yourself how willing you are to actually “go for it” and reach for your own stars while you are experiencing these types of thoughts and emotions. How do you feel? Jot down any notes in your journal.

The first time I did this exercise, I felt predictably miserable by the time I reached this point. I was also wondering what the heck the purpose of the exercise was – I was perfectly capable of making myself miserable without any extra help, thank you very much!

And that is precisely the point. Let’s just say you have believed for quite some time that, if only your outer appearance looked different, or if only your list of accomplishments were longer, you would feel so much better and be so much happier, more successful, and more accepted.

Yet you are wasting so much perfectly valuable energy that is gridlocked in just getting you through a day bogged down by impossible comparisons – energy you could be pouring into your work, your family life, your relationships, and your relationship with YOU. You think the comparisons will help you feel better, do better, be better.

But they are the obstacle – the only obstacle – in your path.

So the question then becomes, “When does it make sense to let those comparisons go, in the name of actually experiencing that happiness, joy, success, satisfaction, body- and self-love they have been promising to deliver to you one day, some day, when you finally measure up?”

And the answer is, “NOW.”

Letting go of “not enough” can feel daunting when you are facing down the challenge alone. But help is available. At Southlake Counseling, we know firsthand how painful it feels to live in a constant state of self-disappointment. We understand how powerful “not enough” can be as a negative motivator. Most importantly, we know that it is possible to break free into “enough” – to learn to love ourselves, our bodies, our relationships, our lives, and ourselves, right where we are, as we are.

If you want to say NO to “not enough” and say YES to life, contact us today at 704.896.7776 or Kkrueger@centerforselfdisocovery.com  We look forward to meeting you and celebrating the day you look “not enough” straight in the eyes and say “never again!”

Be well,

Kimberly

p.s. Stay tuned for next week’s Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator for more on this important topic.