Head Strong

I’ve been thinking about where I put my energy.Ā  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1) Over-thinking, calculating & attempting to control the Universe

2) Work and then more work

3) Chores and obligations

4) Worrying and recounting my failures

5) Relationships

6) Myself

Um. Something is very wrong with this list.

Not only am I LAST on the list, I am giving precious energy to negativity in the form of controlling, worrying and focusing on failure.

This? Simply will not do any longer.

I’ve been trying to give myself permission to change. Which, I’m realizing, requires diving right into a big ol’ pool of Fear with a capital F. I’m so afraid of not succeeding, of not being liked, of letting go of my coping mechanisms that I am saying this is good enough. This feeling as though I am only living my life at 60% is good enough? Really?!

Dear Self,

I beg to differ.

Love,

Me

P.S. You are full of crap.

I told my therapist that I want to change things about my life. She told me I have to stop living in my head and get to the business of being. She told me I can’t move forward until I bring awareness to my entire body. Because when I lay down on the couch in her office she always starts off the session with asking me to assess my body- how does it feel, what do I notice, where is my focus. Well my focus is always in my head because I have disassociated my brain from my body. There is nothing below my shoulders I am particularly fond of and since my body has been this “other” thing that I have dumped all my self-loathing on for years and years, I don’t see it as “mine”. It’s just this thing that embarrasses me. Like a loud-mouthed, obnoxious, garish, rude in law that ruins every party and who invariably sits next to you at the family picnic every year. That’s my body to me. Annoying. Disappointing. Irritating. OTHER.

I know I talk about this endlessly and it’s likely boorish but I’m stuck and want to be unstuck. I don’t know what to do to be in my body. My therapist has me meditating daily. At first she said, do it for twenty minutes. And I balked. I automatically thought I CAN’T DO IT. Then she said- do it for fifteen. I countered with ten. She laughed at me negotiating meditation time. We compromised on 12 minutes for this week.

Can anyone relate? I’m not looking for diet advice. I’m looking for stories where you had an internal switch flipped or an epiphany or maybe it was as simple as choosing a new path and forging ahead. Have you changed something big about yourself and have you sustained that change?

I realize it’s a lot to ask but I need some reinforcements up in here, please.

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30 thoughts on “Head Strong

  1. when i’m all jacked up in the head about myself, I stop where ever I happen to be, and breathe and remind myself, to enjoy and be in this moment, just one moment. I have found if i do this at least once a day, some the of the other ancillary, anxiety feelings ease for a moment.

    it’s not the body, shell or confusion we should take from this life but the little moments of love, acceptance and true connections.

    and i SWEAR I have not been drinking when writing this.

  2. I guess for me what has helped is focusing on what my body CAN do. It might not look the way I want it to but it takes me where I want to go, you know? I can hike and see beautiful things, I can walk to where I want to go, I can cuddle and have sex and give and receive pleasure, all with my body. And hopefully someday I can grow a baby with this body as well. So even if the look is all wrong it is still so capable and functional, and obviously a crucial part of me being able to live the life I want, and even though it sounds obvious, thinking about that stuff really does help me appreciate my body instead of focusing on the layer of fat that I wish wasn’t covering it.

  3. Forgive me as I’m
    typing this on my phone in an airport. I would normally probably be much more long-winded.
    So, I know you said you weren’t looking for diet advice (I want you to know I’m not ignoring that) but I have to mention the book I just read (twice), Women Food and God. I had to mention it here because it addresses so much of what you’re talking about here. Body awareness, mind-body connection awareness, and prioritizing yourself enough to change your belief of what you actually deserve in this life.

    Normally I am not one to tout the “next big thing” but this book has done for me just what you’re talking about, that turning point, that change in thinking. It really has been remarkable. In the last month I’ve been more connected with myself and my thought process that probably ever before. And, even though food is part of the title, the book addresses that this is so much more than food and weight. It really helped me realize that everything I believe about myself and my worth is reflected in how I treat my physical being, in s spiritual way.

    Of course, you might have already read this book but if you haven’t it might be worth looking
    at. For me, it has been the right thing at the right time.

    I’ll shut up now (can you imagine if I were typing on a proper keyboard right now?! šŸ™‚ ) but if you want to talk more or anything, please just say the word.

  4. Of course something’s wrong with that list – I’m not even on it. (ha)

    To be honest, setting physical goals has been an incredible means to advancing myself physically and emotionally/mentally. If you’ve ever watched Biggest Loser, you see these massively obese people losing weight. But, you also witness all them shedding huge mental blocks that have contributed to their weight issues. I think every one of us has those kinds of epiphanies when we train for something much harder than we’ve ever done before … whether it’s a Couch to 5K or Marathon.

  5. Hi Sizzle, This is by no means the answers to your conundrum but I really enjoy watching Gok Wan’s “How to look good naked” I’m not sure if there is an american version, even if there is I’d recommend the British version, it’s not about losing weight or changing your physical body, it’s a true appreciation of what you’ve got, the women featured come from all walks of life, all shapes and sizes, it’s fantastic and fun and heartwarming, stream a few episodes and check it out. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/how-to-look-good-naked

  6. For me, all of the crap you mentioned came down to me seeking validation – by appearing competent, in control, by being the “go to” person – all performance based stuff. I was trying by all the methods I had available to me to validate my own inner person. I also resented the hell out of HAVING to do all that shit just to garner some points/praise. And as a result of my perceived short-comings, I didn’t cut myself very much slack. What I’m doing now that helps me is whenever I start to get churned up and begin to:

    1) Over-thinking, calculating & attempting to control the Universe

    2) Work and then more work

    3) Chores and obligations

    4) Worrying and recounting my failures

    I ask myself why? What need am I trying to fill? What piece of validation am I craving? Once I realize my motivations, it just seemed easier to let all the activity around it go. I can now say to myself “I’m just needing a little validation” and give myself a pep-talk. I hate to get all John Bradshaw-y, but once I realize that my inner little girl just needed a little positive re-inforcement, I could self-validate and go on with being kinder and gentler with myself. When I started to treat my whole self with lovingkindness, the other crap got easier to deal with.

    Your worth is not based upon performance. Treat yourself with as much love and care as you do that darling nephew of yours. If it helps, picture yourself at Finn’s age – a darling, lovely little Sizlet.

  7. yes!!! And it happened after the most powerful 20 minute meditation I’ve ever had!

    I have discovered that meditation isn’t about silencing your mind. We have multiple thougts and voices constantly speaking to us causing constant noise and chaos in our heads. By meditating, imagine yourself sitting at a table where you are the complaint department and your thoughts get in a single file line. One by one, they each get to speak and you listen and acknowledge them. And when you do? They go away! The end result is a quiet mind! It’s the result, not action! Does that make sense? You’ll be amazed to find out what’s rattling around up there! Personally, I’d like the last 4 years of my life back, but I have no one to blame but me for never taking the time to stop, listen and hear, ME.

  8. It’s like reading something out of my own head while reading this post. I was literally sitting on the metro this morning almost envious of those who can seemingly flip a switch and just… forge ahead with this new life change or whatever.

    It’s a constant struggle for me to re-orient my thinking toward things that aren’t negative or super controlling.

    I have been trying positive visualization. Instead of saying “I will get healthy,” I say “I am getting healthy.” My best friend works for Lulu Lemon and is working toward being a trainer and someone who also, well, in a way, life coaches. And as cheesy as it sounds, making goals with check points, as well as positive visualization and present language has helped.

    Although if you find any good pointers, let me know, because (as always) I am a work in progress.

  9. I’ve been where you are (and it’s still a struggle) – there was ME (brain) and there was IT (body.)

    I followed some of the advice that others have given – focus on what it can DO (you went white water rafting! You can stroll at the zoo!) but the thing that really helped was that I took a long look at myself. NOT a critical look, but I looked at what my body looked like. Some of this involved looking at myself naked.

    I know that SEEMS weird, but for me I spend so much time trying to HIDE that I hadn’t any idea what I was hiding. It was depressing at first, and then the more that I did it the more I got used to it. It wasn’t so SCARY. (And I also realized that overhead light can be murder to cellulite, and that it rarely if ever looks that bad!)

    It’s hard to accept something if you don’t know what it is that you’re accepting…

  10. I suffered from serious depression from 19 through my mid-late 20s. I started yoga by chance (a boy I liked was into it), and then studied meditation/consciousness studies when I went back to school. It just so happens that together they changed my life–essentially ridding my body/mind of depression–and there’s really been no better motivation for me to continue with it. It’s necessary for me. I consider that…sort of an epiphany, but more this coincidental or fated series of events (depending on how one wants to look at it–I don’t even know half the time) that completely changed my life. I was also in intense therapy for years dealing with shit, so that helped as well. I’m more aware and open now as a result. I have ups and downs, but hey–who’s perfect? No one I know!!!

    I follow what my body and mind tell me to do; at least, that’s where I start when all else (reasoning, logic, emotions, clarity, etc.) fail.

  11. I think deciding not to diet made me realize that I could just actually accept my body for what it was without driving myself crazy.

    I think it works differently for everyone and there’s not always some magic moment where everything gets better and at most you just have to make sure you are pointed in the right direction.

  12. There have been two life-changing epiphanies or what-have-you in my life. The first was when I was finally able to admit I was no longer a Christian. It might seem small but letting go of the guilt and being able to speak honestly about my views on Christianity freed me to go forward on a new path of authenticity. The second was when I decided to move to Seattle. I had tunnel vision; I didn’t do anything that did not help me on my path to my goal. When things get tough now, when I feel disconnected from myself, I just think about those two moments and try to draw strength and courage from that same place. Also, I like to make lists. And do a meditative activity (for me it’s baking).

  13. I can relate, though for me it’s ME (brain) and IT (anxiety)

    I don’t have any advice or wisdom to offer. I’m still waiting for my breakthrough. I’m stuck where I know what I need to do (brain says “resume therapy!” “exercise more!” “eat less sugar!”) and what I feel able to do (anxiety says “fuck that!”) All I can offer is support. It’s so hard to hate part of your self (whether it be physical or mental) I hope that you find your way to becoming unstuck.

  14. My ephiphanies always come from alone time. Not analytical alone time, just alone time (I try to vacation alone once a year). Having some time to just be yourself tends to make things pretty clear.

  15. Aw, my little kitten. Maybe a weekend retreat to LSL’s house is in order. I’m a little concerned about you, even though at the same time I feel confident that you’re in the process that you’re craving so much even as you write about not knowing how to start it.

    I have made significant changes and sustained them, even fairly recently, and I know how those came about for the most part. I’ll share any of it, but I’m not sure if what works for me is what would work for you. And what if figuring out what you need to do is the most important part of the process? I don’t know. I do know that the part you can control is you, so that’s the good news. The list up there? You have total control over that. And I hope you’ll rearrange the items soon because I like that bf of yours and it’s not going to work in the order it’s in now. I guess with any change that I’m resisting, I start by answering the question: What am I getting out of the status quo? Because I subscribe to the thought that if I wasn’t getting a pay off in some fashion, I would have already made the change.

    I think you’re smart, beautiful. and sharp as a tack. And I think you are enough just as you are. xo

  16. What i think your therapist wants you to do is communicate with yourself, and get in touch with the other regions of your body and self. You hit the nail on the head, what with talking about self-loathing, and disassociating your brain from your body. There are two ways you can pursue this, for starters.

    You know that exercise, where you start at your toes and you work your relaxation all the way up to your forehead– supposedly to fall asleep? That exercise never worked for me, and the reason why is exactly what you said: the lines of communication were pretty much cut down. Start at your toes, and just sort of feel that. Think about what you like, there. Pretty nail polish is a good beginning. Then, think of the sensation of your “thought” being maybe like a lover’s hand. Move that hand upward, and feel what that is like, to be in your skin. Does it feel good? Bad? Is there a Why? Think about your body as if you were exploring it for the first time.

    Another thing is to look at you body as if it were someone else. Chances are you would be MUCH kinder to someone else, than you would be to yourself. You have been noted as being pretty, curvacious etc etc before– can you see that? Admire that in yourself, as you note the sensation in that sector, as you move up. Maybe this will take 5 mins when you look in the mirror in the morning. You can easily spend 5 more thinking about how things have felt, when someone else admired you. Establish a Telegraph Line of Communication thru your Body, so that when it tells you it hurts or is unhappy or needs love, you will respect it. It will only better you, to be complete and have lines UP again. šŸ™‚

    The fact of it all is, Yes– you are All Connected. You are more than just your brains. Looking at your list you gave above, one would argue you are VERY involved in life, and do a quantity of great stuff every week. I wonder why you continue to badger yourself for being busy, and a hard worker and a conscientious list-maker? Aren’t those admirable, noble qualities?? Wouldn’t you LOVE an employee like you, working for your happiness every day?

  17. I think your therapist and my therapist should have lunch, because sometimes therapists need a little therapy themselves, to help them deal with their over-thinking, controlling patients.

    This week my therapist is helping me focus on not starting from a place of deficiency–i.e., not taking every piece of bad news as proof that I’m morally/emotionally/physically unworthy of love. When I figure out how to actually follow his advice, I’ll let you know.

  18. I’ve been doing yoga and a bit of tai chi lately- all super easy kinds, but both with think-about-your-body aspects (some meditation even) that have helped reduce my brain/body disconnect at least for a while.

    May sound new-agey, but I’m also hooked on reading The Fluent Self. It’s a blog all about destuckification (so dubbed by author Havi). What I find really helpful is giving myself permission to think or feel whatever I’m thinking/feeling but to notice it. When I do, say, “hey, I feel bummed because I’m beating myself up again,” in that moment of noticing, I tend to break the negative thought cycle.

    So you might notice, “Iā€™m so afraid of not succeeding, of not being liked, of letting go of my coping mechanisms that I am saying this is good enough. This feeling as though I am only living my life at 60% is good enough? Really?!” As well as noticing things you feel you should be doing/feeling/achieving. You could remind yourself that your feelings are temporary and don’t define who you are.

    Along those lines, at any rate. I recommend hitting up the source for better examples. Lots of useful tidbits (and big ideas) in playful language. No violent approaches to change. Worth a look.

    As for big, personal sustained change… when I was young, I rarely read for pleasure. Just after college or thereabouts, I read a mystery my mom recommended that I loved. I became a reader. In 2004, I joined an LJ movement to read 50 books that year. I read 51. Since then, I’ve read at least 45 each year (except for the aberration of 2007 in which I only read 17). Even with the lapse, I consider it a sustained change.

    Lots of other evolution in the works but it’s too early to judge. šŸ˜‰

  19. I’ve found that epiphanies or moments of clarity happen when I’m not searching for the answer. I know, annoying isn’t it? I let things be and the answer pops up. Some of the time.
    It’s hard to accept your body. I’ve done the same in trying to separate one from the other. But Jess has a good point, focus on what you can do with your body because you might just start to make it a part of you again.
    And definitely, definitely at least once a week, don’t think, just do something. Anything. Even if it’s just taking a walk.

  20. I’ve had this happen. And for me, it’s about less thinking and more doing. I figure, you can think about things as much as you want — but at some point, you have to get out there and practice. So don’t be afraid to fail (you will before you get the Ideal You) right — just go out and try to keep making the next good decision for yourself. And when you’re doing things you shouldn’t be doing…stop it. šŸ™‚ No excuses.

  21. Your body lets you recieve pleasure, and has been healthy and robust all these years. I think when you put it in terms like that, and in knowing how much you actually do give of yourself? You can’t help but feel some gratitude. Getting in touch with that truth helps you see and feel that.

  22. I have such a hard time getting out of my head, I don’t even know wher to begin. You know what helps me? Thinking about someone else. Realizing my issues are not that important. But… that is just avoidance, right?

  23. So hard, right? So hard. So, first give yourself permission to feel like it’s hard to change.

    My epiphany was exercise. I am not an athlete. I am not coordinated. I used to talk my way out of gym class; I never really played sports. But I can dance to rhythm, and after about a year, I stopped feeling like a poser at yoga and actually felt like I was doing something.

    Somewhere along the line, I learned to let go a little, and it wasn’t by talking to myself in my brain. It was by focusing on something physical for a while. And it freed me up to submerge myself in shutting off my brain for an hour and completely focusing on my body. But yoga’s great because it’s not “how can I change this body”, it’s about “how can i enjoy silence with my body” and “wow, look what i can do. this is hard work, but i am doing it”.

    The thing about it is, it’s commitment. It’s a lifestyle change. I haven’t lost a ton of weight from it. But I feel stronger and more in control. I spend energy on my body that I would normally spend with negative thoughts and anxieties in my brain. I feel more energetic, my moods are more stable. And my doctor confirmed that even going twice a week has dropped my blood pressure signficantly.

    Your body lets you be the achiever you are. You are talented and smart and committed to your career. Once you love, you love deeply and with a loyalty that’s hard to find. Your body lets you enjoy food, walk on the beach with Mr. Darcy, and say sassy comments and blog and share your life with us.

    So, um. That was my epiphany… which morphed into a pep talk. I hope that helped!

    Anytime you want to talk I’m here. I’m the last person on the planet to say they love exercise but it has done a world of good for my brain space and then the benefit came later that my body looked better. Hang in there!

  24. I didn’t read all the comments, so forgive me if I’m being repetitive. (I read a couple.)

    Letting go of all of that is going to be difficult. I can be a bit cold and logical, but I find visualization really helps. “What would I look like if I put myself first.” (And for fear… you do the old what’s the worst thing that could happen. (i.e. I lose my job and The Man moves out. Then what? Then I get another job (or start my own shop), and you rebuild my love life. Next. Seems to work for me.)

    Not saying some parts of this won’t be challenging. But all in all, people are supportive of change.

    On the body-mind thing, I was reading a book called No Boundaries, Ken Wilber (it has its moments), but the chapter on Mind-body awareness was particularly useful. It’s how I came to decide to run the first marathon. But, I will not lie, it is not easy. I, much like you, had a hard time connecting. (In fact, I’m struggling with this anew.) — There was one exercise I found useful, I’ll see if I can find the book and email you the passage.

    Finally on mediation — do you have to do 12 minutes all at once? Maybe for now it’s better to do two six-minute sessions? I start to really hurt if I sit for too long… then I itch… then I just have to peak to see how long is left… then work your way up?

    Not sure this is worth anything. Good luck with this.

  25. A couple years ago, I read Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth” and did the online book club he had on Oprah’s website. The couple months I was doing it, I felt more in tune with myself than I think I ever have. The book is sort of mind-bending, but if you can track down either the podcasts or the webcasts of the book club, I think it could help you with the meditation and being in your body. I always find that when I’m reading books on spirituality or related topics, it helps me be more grounded in myself or present – because it reminds me to do so. We all need constant reminders, I think. Let me know if you figure it out because I’ve fallen off the horse of late. šŸ™‚

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