For the past several months, I’ve been sharing excerpts from the memoir I’m writing, titled Digesting Life. The story of my struggle and recovery from an eating disorder is the basis for what led me to create the KARMA Method, the signature coaching and therapeutic method used by Bespoke Wellness Partners. My hope is that maybe some of these stories will resonate with you or make you more aware of where you are on your specific journey with whatever struggles you may be facing.
Towards the end of the year, I decided to take out my journal in which I documented my experiences in the United States. I was a little confused and scared that I was still binging and purging, and I thought that my arrival in the United States would have fixed my eating disorder. I believed that once I was removed from my dysfunctional and poor family and began my education, I would take my first big step towards recovery. I also opened up emotionally to my mom and felt that she still loved me and it felt like a big step towards my recovery. But as I was writing down my thoughts, I began wondering why I was still feeling sick and stuck.
I still had very strong urges to binge and purge and I wasn't sure what the next step should be. I then realized that as much as I knew I had eating disorders, I never acknowledged it and admitted to myself that I was sick and I needed help. As I was writing in my journal and admitting that I had an eating disorder, I figured out what the next step should be. I needed help. I wasn't sure that I was going to disclose my most private thoughts and feelings, let alone my most precious and disturbing behaviors, but at least I was willing to consider letting someone know that I am struggling.
My eating disorder journey to recovery was a long one, but the moment above shows a small step toward an integral step in the process: Acceptance. Have you been in a situation where you knew what you needed to do and every fiber in your body believed that it was the right thing to do, but for whatever reason, you weren’t able to actually follow through with what you believed was the right solution? Alternatively, do you ever know that what you are doing is the right thing and yet you are left with feelings of anxiety and guilt?
This week, I had the pleasure of meeting with Lisa, a successful 45-year-old woman who is the top executive at a big firm. While she holds an important position and manages many people and has a big say in many decisions, when it comes to making personal decisions for herself and taking some time off from work, she enters an emotional rollercoaster. We all know that once you enter that emotional rollercoaster and you are stuck in the loop, it is very hard to get out of it. So, my hope is that the following steps will help you develop better awareness, graduate to the acceptance stage which will help you feel better about your decision, and learn to be confident with yourself and trust your own decisions.
Step 1: Develop an awareness.
The most important question to ask yourself is why is it that despite knowing that what you need to do is the right thing, you don’t do it? The goal here is not to make yourself feel bad about making a decision that you know is not the right one, but rather, to find a way to bring this to a positive place—in other words, give yourself some credit for the decision being complicated and focus on your positive traits. In the example above, where my client didn’t want to take a vacation, the real reason for not taking time off was because she was being kind and considerate to everyone else who she works with and taking the responsibilities of her job very seriously. She also realized that the decision to take time off inevitably comes with a fear that she could lose her job or be passed up for a raise or promotion. So there are many factors that were playing into her decision not to take time off—and none of these make her a bad person.
Step 2: Validate yourself.
This is another extremely important step that we all must do with whatever it is we are thinking about, it doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive. To make this extremely simple —and I discuss this in many of my blogs— all you have to do is tell yourself that whatever it is you’re saying or doing makes sense based on your own experiences and rationale. Now, this of course does not mean that you have to agree with yourself, but before getting into the emotional rollercoaster, it is important that you make yourself feel better about your previous decisions or current thoughts that you’re having.
With the example above, my client was saying that she didn’t want to take a vacation because she was afraid to lose her job or that people wouldn’t appreciate or recognize her as a dedicated employee. In that case, what my client needs to tell herself so that she can calm herself down, regulate her emotions, and make the right decision, is: “It makes sense that I would feel this way because this is a very hard time and many people are losing their jobs. Also, my best friend’s husband recently lost his job…”
Once you stop dismissing your own thoughts and feelings, it is less challenging to change yourself. Once you validate yourself and are able to be more rational, you can ask yourself a question or several questions that will help you figure out whatever it is you are worried or afraid of. For example, my client can ask herself the following: “Am I a valued worker? How did other people respond to me taking vacations in the past? Will they really fire me because I’m taking a two-week vacation after not taking any vacation for eight months?" There are many more questions that she could’ve asked herself, and you can as well, but the most important thing is not to get stuck in your thoughts related to fears and anxiety but to actually get to a place where you are answering some of these questions.
Step 3: Identify patterns in your behaviors based on past experiences.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Why is it that I have a tendency not to trust my own decisions and wishes?
Is this a challenge that I have experienced in several areas of my life?
Are there any reasons that stem from childhood that may be related to my current challenges with making decisions and trusting my own judgment?
Do I think that I am “good enough” to make the right decisions?
Do I have a tendency to engage in negative self-talk and not make myself a priority?
Also, it’s very helpful to actually write down some specific situations where you knew what you needed to do but ended up ignoring what you felt was right and following something else that did not feel right. Doing this will help you identify patterns more easily.
Step 4: Quiet the noises.
Block out everything that makes the decision complicated. When your gut knows what is right, take some time to filter through the distraction and identify what is standing in the way of you following what you know deep inside is what you want and need to do. I like to refer to whatever it is that stands in your way as “the noises”—which you don’t have to ignore completely, but you should quiet down so you can connect to what you know is the right thing to do and not allow other influences to affect your decision. In the example I mentioned above, my client was thinking about her work partner who would have to work while she took her well-deserved, well-earned vacation that she needed for so many months (after working for countless hours including weekends and not seeing her kids and her wife).
Step 5: Learn to trust your gut feeling.
Once you have done all the work above, you will have a much better ability to connect to yourself and trust your own gut feeling or intuition, which is your innate understanding of something without being affected by anything else. While that feeling is not always easy to identify, it’s all a matter of practice. The more you learn to quiet all the noises around you and pay more attention to yourself and what you think is right, the easier it will be to identify what it is that you truly feel is right without being affected by anyone or anything around you.
Step 6: Be compassionate toward yourself.
No matter what you decide to do after following the previous steps, it is important that you are kind and compassionate toward yourself, which basically means that you understand whatever it is you decide to do and don’t beat yourself up no matter what the decision ended up being. By developing this self-compassion, you are not just being kind to yourself but also creating a cycle that is less negative, which will ultimately translate into making better decisions.
These are hard times for everyone, and there are many decisions to be made. Often, the decisions aren’t easy ones, but my hope for all of you is to find a time to connect with yourself, love yourself, and learn to trust what you think and believe is the right thing to do. While you will not always be able to do that, you can at least try to give yourself the opportunity to be true to yourself and make decisions that are based on your own wishes.
Acceptance isn't something that happens overnight and many of the questions I suggested you explore can be complicated and bring up lots of emotions. If you’re looking for additional help, it can never hurt to reach out.
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With much love,