TRUTH: Some people are great at “cold turkey.”
Whether it’s quitting an old habit or starting a new one, they make a decision and boom, they never turn back. These people usually have laser focus (they know what’s important to them and they don’t lose sight of it), they have a strong sense of self-worth (they know what’s important to them and they don’t give a crap what other people think), and they are masters of discipline and boundaries (they know what’s important to them and they know how to prioritize it and say “no” to other people and things). I, my friends, am most definitely NOT one of those people. At least I’m not yet. Or not anymore. Not as much as used to be.
Boundaries and discipline do not come easy for me. Peer pressure creeps in. Nostalgia temps me. Laziness, fear, doubt, insecurity, “FOMO,” you name it… they all whisper their sneaky little words into my ears and tempt me away from whatever it is that I’ve decided that I want to do. And you know what happens? Regret, self-loathing, shame.
Nothing good, that’s what happens.
Since my last post I’ve dropped the ball on quite a few things: this blog (for starters), my normally healthy diet, budgeting and conscious spending, running, keeping my house tidy, playing ball with my dogs as often as I’d like to (which used to be daily occurrence), and most likely a few other things that I can’t even think of right now. Which isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed many moments in the past two months, but some of that joy is definitely overshadowed by the nagging regret, self-loathing and shame that comes with wishing I hadn’t “fucked up…again.”
And it feels like fucking up. Even though I submitted a bomb ass application for a job, got three interviews, made some pretty awesome salads and dinners, didn’t completely fall apart when one of my dogs ran away for forty-two hours, hosted some memorable events for my Meet Up group, did some volunteer work, read 60% of a book I’ve been wanting to read, and leaned in to the discomfort of vulnerability with the person that I’m dating, I also put my a lot of what’s important to me on the back burner because “excuses.”
“You can work on that later…”
“What’s one gluten-filled donut really gonna do…?”
“Don’t be that annoying person that makes a big deal about going somewhere with gluten-and-dairy-free food…”
“Just go, so what if it’s pizza, you don’t want to miss out do you?”
“You can dust/sweep/mop/whatever tomorrow”
“Running isn’t that good for your back anyway, you should start swimming instead.”
“Are you really going to reactivate your $40/month gym membership just to go swimming? Running is free.”
“You shouldn’t care what your body looks like anyway, you don’t need to work out.”
“So what if it’s not that good for you, it’s going to go to waste if you don’t eat it.”
“It’s too hot anyway, you can play ball with them later”
“You deserve to have fun”
“He wants to spend time with you, don’t take it for granted, it won’t last forever”
“You’re like the only non-Jewish person you know with any savings, you can afford it…”
“Fuck it… why not.”
These and so many more are the BATSHIT CRAZY THINGS I say to myself because boundaries are not my strong suit and despite being “woke” and knowing that my worth is not determined by what other people think of me, I still struggle with wanting to belong, wanting to be accepted, wanting to be loved and, consequently, being afraid of rejection, of being judged, and of being left behind.
I’ve come a really long way in terms of self-acceptance and self-love these last six years, but for those of us that aren’t great at “cold turkey,” old habits really do die hard.
On my best days I know how to stay grounded in my own goals and values and in what makes me really, truly feel good about myself. I make positive choices that leave me feeling good in the present and in the future. On other days, however, I forget that instant gratification isn’t true fulfillment and joy; I let myself get caught up in the moment without first asking “how are you going to feel about this choice tomorrow? next week? next month?” And on those days I invariably make choices that don’t align with my goals and values, ones that I inevitably end up regretting. On those days, I wear my “fuck it” attitude like armor and I stuff my face with pizza, say “yes” to things I’d rather say “no” to, indulge in hour-long Facebook binges while saying “later” to the things that I know will actually leave me feeling the most accomplished and good about myself.
And that’s when things get really dangerous.
Because for me, the regret that follows shrugging off what I really want in favor of the instant gratification of feeling wanted, appreciated, accepted, and loved often leads to the aforementioned sense of “failure,” which brings with it the aforementioned sense of “shame,” which brings with it thoughts like, “what the fuck is wrong with you? why can’t you do anything right?” or “seriously???? again??? are you ever going to learn??” followed by my favorite “what’s the point if you’re just gonna keep failing?” And that’s when Shame wins, because it convinces me that since I’ve “fucked up AGAIN,” I might as well just keep fucking up some more since, you know, it’s inevitable that I’ll do so anyway.
Oh Shame, what a cruel little bastard you are.
Fortunately, a few years ago I recognized this ridiculous pattern and realized that I can stop it in its tracks simply by:
1) Acknowledging that I’m in it
2) Thinking (or saying) “Oopsie Daisy”
3) Getting back on the bandwagon
Silly (and simple), but it works. (At least insomuch as it gets me back on the bandwagon and feeling determined again).
Imagine for a moment a toddler learning how to walk. He/she stumbles (as is normal) and mom or dad swoops in. Now, if mom or dad swoops in and says, “ugh, why the fuck did you do that, you’re such an idiot,” chances are toddler isn’t going to have the confidence to stand back up right away. Instead, he/she will probably burst in to tears and avoid doing anything that leads to feeling unloved again (in this case, standing up and trying to walk). Way to go parents… On the other hand, if mom or dad swoops in with a kind smile and a lighthearted “oopsie daisy,” chances are the toddler won’t ascribe any negative emotions to falling, he/she will just smile or giggle and then most likely stand back up again and go about the business of trying to master bipedalism.
Well, my dears, however old you and I may be, our egos are eternal toddlers. If we’re going to build up our resilience to the natural tumbles that come with trying anything, ever, and if we’re ever going to get back onto our chosen bandwagons, we’ve got to learn how to talk to ourselves more like supportive parents and less like an angry Christian Bale.
Dear Awesome Human,
I made a BOO BOO. I totally let my desire to fit in, to feel loved, to belong, and to not risk failure steer me away from my goals and from the things that make me feel best about myself. I’ve been eating crap and it’s making me feel like shit (mentally and physically). I’ve been procrastinating on the things that I really want to do because I’m still a
little lot afraid that I’ll fail and consequently feel devastated and unworthy. I applied for a job that I’m not sure I even really want because it felt “responsible” and easier than doing the harder work of being an entrepreneur, of forging my own path, of leaning into the discomfort without any certainty or stability. I’ve been slacking on showing my dogs love even though they mean the world to me. I’ve been slacking on cleaning up around the house even though having a tidy home makes me feel good about myself. And I’ve been slacking on a few projects that I want to complete even though doing so would make me feel pretty darn accomplished and good about myself.
And before you ask, it’s not because I’ve been “oh so busy” (even though I have been, a bit). It’s because I’ve been struggling to set boundaries with myself and others and I haven’t wanted to sacrifice instant gratification for longterm fulfillment. (And when I say “long-term” I mean end-of-the-week, end-of-the-month, end-of-the-year). Really, it’s because I let fear, doubt, insecurity, and shame win.
My bad… I forgot that I’m a total badass who knows better. I’m gonna go clean my kitchen now and make a decent breakfast while I do some meal planning, goal setting, and action-step scheduling for the coming month.
Yours in awesomeness,
How’s THAT for breaking the pattern of self-hate? Sure, it’ll creep up again; old habits and all… But it creeps up much less than it used to, and the more I “oopsie daisy” my way back to where I actually want to be, the less I hear the whispers of doubt, fear, insecurity and shame. So if you don’t mind, I’ll be sticking around this time and posting on here more often. I might even pop back in in a few days just to tell you about a new scheduling system that I’m super happy with (after years of trying and ditching planners like it was my job).
Until then, though, ask yourself what goals, habits, routines, or commitments are you feeling bad about not sticking with? What does your self-talk around this behavior sound like? Are you hesitant to get back on the bandwagon because you feel ashamed of your perceived failures? If so, remember that acknowledging that you’re stuck in doubt, fear, insecurity and shame is the first step to kicking those creeps to the curb. Once you’ve done that, acknowledge that you fell off the bandwagon and “oopsie daisy” you’re way back on it. Go on. I got you. (And if you fall off again, that’ll be okay too.)
P.S. If “oopsie daisy” feels just a little too ridiculous for you, try my other favorite “my bad.”