Tag Archives: letting go of our story

Change How You Talk To Yourself, Change Your Story (and Your Outcome)

Try changing how you talk to yourself when something is too hard. Can it change your story? Can it change your outcome?

On the rail trail, my feet hit the gravel covered ground one after the other.

I’m out for a run with John (who is training for his 1st 5K).

The first few minutes of a run are so hard for me. Every time. Without fail.

Doesn’t matter how much or how little I’ve been running lately.

It doesn’t matter if I’ve been eating well or living it up.

It does not matter what kind of shape I’m in or what kind of night’s sleep I’ve had, for me, the first 10 minutes or so always feel like my feet are encased in cement blocks.

But if I can just get through those first few minutes, I come out on the other side and start to feel like I’m gliding easily. One step falls in front of the other, over and over. I find the natural rhythm that comes from my body, a pace that I set. I start to feel like I could keep going like this forever (barring any foot or knee pain surfacing as it sometimes does!).

During those first 10 minutes where I just want to stop, there are countless thoughts that appear in my head and most of them have to do with “Just stop running.” “You can stop now.” “You should walk instead, this sucks.” “Why are you doing this. Let’s walk!”

Years ago, I went around saying I wasn’t a runner, because when I felt the difficulty of those first few minutes and heard those thoughts over and over again, I did stop. I took those things to mean that this wasn’t for me. The story I was telling myself about my abilities and it being hard added up to giving up.

There is massive power in the stories we tell ourselves.

If I tell myself, I’m not a runner, then I become someone who doesn’t run because I believe the story I’ve made up.

Doing something differently though brings me different results and allows a new story to form.

On some runs, as my feet hit the trail, one after the other, those first 10 minutes are still hard. And I still have thoughts about how I should stop and how it would be easier if I just started walking. But on some runs, I add some of my own thoughts. I say to myself:

You can do this.

You are amazing.

Look at how far you have come.

How incredible is it that your body can do this?!

I love that you are doing this.

I can’t wait to see how far I can go today.

This feels good.

You really are amazing.

And guess what happens? Those 10 minutes pass faster and the entire run feels better. I feel better. The story I create changes from my mind telling me “this is so hard, I shouldn’t do it”, to “this is hard but I’m totally capable of doing it and it’s going to be great”.

And the result is that it is great.

(Just to be clear, I am not advocating for ignoring your body when it warns you that something is dangerous. Sometimes our bodies tell us we should stop because we’re going to injure ourselves or that we’re not at that level of fitness yet. But you know the difference between that and the habitual negative self talk that we sometimes get into. I always recommend listening to your body (and that is not the same as ignoring the bullshit we like to tell ourselves). The mean and demoralizing chatter that comes from our brain is not the same as the warning signals our body sends. Always use your best judgement!)

The words we use to talk to ourselves are so incredibly powerful.

Most of us try to motivate ourselves with shame. It doesn’t matter if it’s to stick to some sort of goal, to make habit change or push ourselves out of our comfort zone. If there’s something we want to do but it’s really hard, shame is our go to.

You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. You don’t have what it takes. You just can’t do it.

Sound familiar?

These thoughts are not just something that happens with challenging physical endeavors. It’s something that will happen when we apply for a new job, when we go out on a date, when we try something new or anytime we’re doing something unfamiliar.

Shame “speak” protects us emotionally. We know that if we feel bad enough about something we might have the motivation to change it. If we feel bad about ourselves, we’ll stay small, we won’t take risks and we are less likely to get hurt. As far as our brain is concerned, that is always the goal (to stay SAFE) so it really thinks by putting these thoughts through your head when you’re trying to do something difficult, it’s helping. It’s trying to be a buddy! This is something we subconsciously do – and there’s no way to stop those thoughts from appearing. But that doesn’t mean we have to let them be the star of the show or in control.

When these thoughts show up, if we take a minute to step in and use the part of our conscious mind that we have access to, we can add our own spin to motivate, to encourage, to inspire.

You are not your thoughts. And just because you think something doesn’t make it true.

If you have a date with a new person coming up, your go to thought might be something like: “Ug, he’s not going to be interested in me. I should cancel before he rejects me. This is going to be awful.”  When that shows up, so what? Add to it by telling yourself something like this instead: “I can’t wait to meet this person. I hope we have lots to talk about. I’m excited to see if we have chemistry. I’m a good catch and this will be fun!”

If you have a job interview, your go to thought might be something like: “I don’t know what I’m talking about. I answer every question so badly. I can’t sell my best qualities. This is a nightmare and I’m not going to get the job.” Well, when that shows up, so what? These thoughts aren’t you. Add to it by telling yourself something like this instead: “I am going to be relaxed and be myself. I know my field and I have a ton of great stuff to say about it. I am going to blow them away and if I want the job, it’ll be offered to me.”

You can even try this with the negative thoughts you have about your body, or about the food you eat. Add your own positive or neutral spin on those thoughts.

This isn’t magic. You can’t make things happen that weren’t going to happen otherwise, but you can change how you show up in life, how you interact with your world and how people perceive you. The most important thing is be more proactive with your self-talk will change how you perceive yourself and over time that will add up to a little less of the bullshit self- talk and more confidence and surety in every area of your life.

Because you ARE amazing, valuable, talented and worth it, even if sometimes you don’t believe it.

Some stuff to get your journal out for:

Where do you keep giving up on yourself when you hear negative self-talk thoughts?

What stories are you telling about yourself based on intrusive negative thoughts?

During those times, what are some more motivating things you could tell yourself?

What do you need to hear from yourself?

Just try it. I promise it will change everything for you.

Do you want to learn more about feeling confident in your relationship with food? Are you just in the beginning phases of trusting yourself? If so, click the image below and grab my copy of “You Have What it Takes“, a guide full of questions to help you improve your relationship to food.

It Doesn’t Need to Be This Complicated

There can be joy and relief found in letting go of our eating and body issues. You don't HAVE to hold on so tight.

There can be joy and relief found in letting go of our eating and body issues. You don’t HAVE to hold on so tight.

We think that healing this relationship with ourselves, with food – stopping the dieting, stopping overeating, ending restriction – we think it’s really complicated and that there must be some big step we just don’t know about because if we did, then we’d finally solve this thing once and for all.

Do you ever feel that way? Like, there’s just one more bit of information, some diet, exercise routine, some book, some workshop, somebody somewhere that’s just around the corner that has the answer you are looking for.

(Hard to hear) Newsflash: There’s nothing else to wait for. There’s no other teacher you need. No other info you must learn. No secrets knowledge being held from you.

If you’ve been going at this awhile – then, you have all the pieces you need to pull yourself out of this.

You have the ability to put each tool and everything you’ve ever learned about your struggle one into practice (you may or may not have support to do that – if that’s the case, we need to build that up).

Put it all together, apply, practice, share, keep no secrets, and you’re going to get better. Perfect? Fuck no, no one is. But less pained? Less frustrated? Less burdened? Less exhausted from trying to keep this thing going? YES.

So what’s the problem? If we are honestly doing the work, then why do we still struggle so much? There are two simple reasons I can think of:

The first one is because we haven’t let go of our desire to have this problem. This problem keeps us from really “blowing” up. There is something appealing about it – on some level. We believe that if we really do give up all our “controls” – the things we use to keep us running on this hamsterwheel, if we stop counting calories, if we really do allow ourselves to eat as much as we want, as much as our body requires, then we’re going to weigh 400 lbs. If we stop telling ourselves how ugly and unlovable our bodies are, then they’re only going to get even more unlovable. Even if intellectually we know all the things we need to do and we do them 80% of the time – we hold on so tightly to our old familiar and comforting problem because we aren’t totally convinced that it’s a problem.

There’s a teeny tiny part of us, who doesn’t want to admit to anyone – and would certainly never say it out loud – that she really doesn’t want to stop dieting. Dieting is a safety net. And we think we can get better by having our cake and eating it too. We want to be able to eat mindfully and diet. Over exercise to burn calories and listen to our bodies. We want to stuff our faces with all the foods that set off our binges and we want to stop eating when our bodies tell us we are full. We want it both ways.

We are stubborn little shits!

The second reason we’re struggling so much is that there’s a faction of us who doesn’t believe that this problem is solvable. We see magazine cover after cover with headlines of “How to lose 10 lbs in 10 days!” and “How to firm up that flab!” month after month. If weight problems were so simple to solve, wouldn’t magazines have run out of stories to run on it yet? We’re all still fighting the fight. Still looking for a solution. We’ve been told that most people gain weight back after losing. We hear how people in recovery from eating disorders must remain vigilant for life. We’ve heard the message loud and clear that this is a losing battle – so why really try? I’m not saying that healing from this stuff is easy (it’s not) but going into it believing that there is no way out, that you are destined to be “sick” or in pain and struggle forever is the surest way I know to be in pain forever.

So if you see yourself in either of these, how do you get out of it? How do you really stop it?

You have to want to get better more than you want to hold onto what is keeping you unwell (whether that’s the desire to have this problem or the belief that it is unsolvable).

The very thing you want to get rid of is the very thing you are clinging tightly to. You can’t move on from here if you don’t let go.

Believe that this problem isn’t helping you in any way.

Believe that it is solvable.

Believe that this doesn’t have to be a big issue in your life if you choose otherwise.

This part actually isn’t complicated. Please don’t look for the hard part (we’ve already been doing that all along!). Let go of your need to hold this problem so close to you. You will take a huge sigh of relief at the thought of not struggling with it anymore. You know those deep breathes you take after a really good cry? Those ones that feel like your lungs are breathing for the first time? It’s like that.

For me, I simply choose to not participate anymore.

I refuse to be complicit in torturing myself for a moment longer. Merriam-Webster defines “Complicit” as “helping to commit a crime or do wrong in some way”. That’s right – it is a crime. The way we treat ourselves (withholding or gorging on food, beating up our bodies with negative thoughts etc) is a crime and it’s certainly “doing wrong”. We don’t have to do it.

I’m not going to go along with it – with the craziness that bingeing and dieting over and over brings me – because i don’t have to. I don’t have to hold onto this shit like it’s some precious special part of me. It’s not. I am not special because I am not as heavy as I could be or because I am flawed in my eating history. My problems don’t make me unique and I don’t have to carry them as if they were my life’s work. I don’t have to believe that this is unfixable. Nothing good comes from that.

There is no positive side of still holding on to this part of myself. I don’t see any benefit to continuing it so I’m just going to stop. I don’t want to torture myself anymore. I don’t want to cause more struggle and pain. I see more benefit in relaxing about my “flaws”, relaxing about what I eat, relaxing in the standards I hold myself to.

I refuse to participate in the bullying of myself.

Are you here? Have you arrived at this place too? When you do, it really is as simple as just saying “I don’t want to do this to myself anymore.” We have to want to stop more than we want to continue.

I deserve more. I will feed my body the way it wants to be fed. I will care for it the way it wants to be cared for. I will not torture myself anymore.

We can uncomplicate it if we want to.

Let go. There’s no prize or reward to holding on to your pain or for believing you are unfixable or for wanting to struggle.

No more.

What would happen if you let go of it (it being your problem) for a week? for a month? for a year? forever? What would happen? Do you feel like it would be a catastrophe? Your life would completely fall apart? Would it fall apart briefly but you know you’d ultimately right yourself and be ok?  If you recognize that all the important pieces of your life would still be intact if you let go of this – you’re ready. You can let this go. If you think you desire not struggling with this shit more than you want to keep this pain, you are ready. Set it free. Let it go.

Letting go of it doesn’t have to mean that you can’t have goals and don’t want to improve your fitness level or lose weight. Sometimes we think that not having a food issue anymore means giving up on how we look or feel about our bodies. It doesn’t have to mean that. You may find that those things are actually easier when you aren’t clinging so tightly to the preconceived notions and ideas that are keeping you stuck and miserable.

If what you believe and think was working, you’d be there by now, yes? But you’re not. You’re still struggling up and down with the same 10, 20 or 30 lbs and you still find it challenging to choose meals in a restaurant that you “want” vs. what you “should” have. This shit isn’t working for you, so why are you working so hard for it?? Don’t.

Again, this part is not that complicated. You can put it down.

Take a few minutes to think about how your life would be if you chose to let go of this struggle once and for all and instead chose to put caring for yourself far above weight or food stuff. Go to a quiet place with a pen and paper and answer the following questions about this problem (our need to diet, to overeat, to hold our bodies hostage). Feel free to answer in the comment below, on Facebook or even by shooting me an email (I will respond to you!). Are you ready to uncomplicate things?

Are you ready to uncomplicate things-

I sincerely believe that one of the main routes out of our eating and body struggles is through self-reflection. Get to know yourself, how you feel, what you think, what is just under the surface! When it’s not a secret anymore, when we aren’t hiding from ourselves, it’s hard to not want to do better for ourselves. I’ve cycled up and down in all these places that I write about so many times and the only time I’ve felt like I wasn’t constantly grappling for stable ground was when I decided to put caring for myself first instead of letting my eating issues dictate my day. I know you can do the same.

One of the most helpful things in the world is sharing your struggle with another person. I invite you to schedule a free mini session with me to discuss your goals and challenges around dieting and body image. How can I be of support to you? Do you get my emails?

Stuck? Or Just Stuck in Your Story?

I love a good story - is yours serving you or holding you back?

I love a good story – is yours serving you or holding you back?

Do you ever feel stuck? Like no matter what you do, you can’t get out of your own way? That you were dealt the short stick in life? That there are too many obstacles in your way? That things just don’t work out for you? If this is happening to you, it’s possible that you have created a “story” for yourself and you’ve gotten stuck in it’s web.

We all have a story or stories. Something that has made us who we are today. We cling to it tightly and carry it with us everywhere we go. We use it to explain why we are the way we are and why we say the things that we do and why we can’t do certain things. We use it to protect ourselves from pain. We use it to continue doing behaviors that don’t serve us. Our stories formed in order to serve us in some way – it’s possible that the did help us at one time, but they may not be serving us now.

What’s your story?  Think you don’t have one? Sure you do – most of us have at least one (and some of us have many). How do you know what yours are?

What does a story sound/look like?

Think about the recurring thoughts about yourself that you’ve had throughout your life. The ones you may not say out loud to anyone else but have thought over and over again. The ones that have influenced almost every decision you’ve ever made. The ones you might have only shared with your closest friend. The ones you wrote down in your journal. It might be one long detailed story that originated from a specific event or it might be little bits and pieces of things that were said to you that you came to believe were who you are.

I’ll tell you some of mine:
(some of these are past stories that are no longer true for me, others are still a part of my internal dialogue)

I’m the fat girl. I’m lazy. I’m so awkward. I never finish what I start. I’ll never meet a guy who I like as much as he likes me. I’ll never meet a guy who likes me as much as I like him. I don’t have what it takes to start my own business. I’m not as smart as I think I am – there’s no way I could get through grad school! I’ll never be able to just eat without thinking about my weight. My stomach is so disgusting. I’m physically strong. I’m meant to do more than sit a desk and type and answer phones all day. I’m funny.

Maybe you don’t identify with mine but here are some other really common ones:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’ll never have/get what I need.
  • I’ll always struggle with __________.
  • I don’t deserve to ____________.
  • I can’t do __________ because people will think__________ about me.

Do any of these sound or feel familiar? Notice most of them are negative. If you rely heavily on your “story” or if you tend to feel stuck a lot – I’ll bet that most of yours are too.

Why do we create stories for ourselves?

In so many ways, our stories developed as a way for us to make sense of a situation or to protect us from something in our lives. Some of the things our stories protect us from are certainly real threats, for example, someone who has been mugged may worry about going out at night alone and might buy mace to protect themselves. Their story (I’ve been mugged – it’s dangerous out there) is protecting them from what is a legitimate threat.  But most of our stories are protecting us from things that we believe are real threats but may not be. In many ways, our stories keep us living in or fearing the past or prevent us from taking risks, being vulnerable or pushing out of our comfort zone. Some of us make our stories such a big part of us that others can see them within a few minutes of meeting us. Have you ever met someone and quickly got the vibe that they had really low self esteem or that they have lots of bad stuff happen to them? It’s because they’re living their stories in such a big way that it becomes almost a flag that they wave around.

Understanding their purpose

My beliefs that I wasn’t smart enough for grad school or that I didn’t have what it took to start a business were my subconscious way of protecting myself from taking risks – saving face! The thinking was: What if I failed? If you don’t try, you can’t fall flat on your face right??? It’s better to not try at all. My beliefs about not finding someone who could love me and vice versa stopped me from having to take an active role in my dating life. If I believed that it was impossible to find someone with an equal interest in me then I had no responsibility to put myself out there (ironically this post is going live on my 4th wedding anniversary – I killed that story!). Believing that I’ll never be able to eat without worrying about my weight, kept me from exercising and allowed me to continue eating foods and in quantities that made my weight remain an issue. I thought these stories were serving me. I thought they were protecting me.  But they were protecting me from even giving things a go! There came a point where these stories were causing me more pain than protection. That’s when I knew these stories had to be let go of.

Alternatively, my belief that I’m strong (whose beginnings were cultivated by pulling older my sisters around our neighborhood in a radio flyer wagon as a little kid) has allowed me to become strong. I never turn down an opportunity to lift a heavier weight, or do one more pushup or carry a big box. When men kindly have offered to do something for me because it was heavy and I’m a girl, I decline – not to be rude or because I’m a feminist – but because I’ve learned to take great pride in my physical strength (and I enjoy it). When I worked for the Department of Housing in college, my coworkers always volunteered to carry furniture into the dorms with me. Why? Because I made the work easy – I was able to carry more weight than anyone. I love this story and love how it makes me push me forward still. I know part of the reason I clung to the strong story was that it was protection from the fat label (sure I was fat but I was also strong!) but even as I’ve shed the “fat” label the strong story has always been a positive thing. This story is serving me. This story acts like a teacher who encourages and fosters growth and pushes me to be who I can be. Stories like this can stick around because they’re giving me results that I’m benefiting from.

Keep it or let it go?

How do you know if it’s time to put a story down or let it stick around?  First off, you need to know where your story came from. Write this stuff down. You may think you don’t know where your story originated but I’ll bet with a few minutes of journaling you can come up with 2 or 3 memories about that story. Once you know how it was created, ask yourself how was it serving you? What was it protecting you from? And then, how is it serving you now? Do you like how it is serving you? Do you like the results you are getting from staying in your story? If yes, keep it, encourage it, grow it. If you don’t like how it is serving you or if you don’t like the outcome it is bringing, then you know it’s time to put it down. If you feel stuck and like you aren’t moving forward, then your story is probably getting in the way.

Fears of letting go

Some of you may see that it’s time to let go of something but fear putting an unhelpful story down. I get it. We think that by no longer living in our story daily, it will mean that what we’ve gone through isn’t important or that we won’t be who we are, or that our worst fears will come true if we stop believing something (If I believe I can eat normally, I’ll gain 50 lbs! If I stop blaming others for my lot in life then what if I still can’t get what I need? etc). But putting down your story or letting go doesn’t mean any of that. If your story keeps you from taking responsibility, you’re putting all power for change in someone else’s hands and you’ll stay exactly where you are.

Your past experiences happened – no one can take them away from you (good or bad) -and they absolutely affect the fabric of who we become (but we have a choice in what we do with the experience going forward). Our past is our past and it does not need to be our future. Sometimes we keep our stories held so tightly because they keep us connected to someone who is no longer with us or no longer in our lives but I promise you, that your connection to that person exists even if you put the story down.

And guess what? Because these stories are a part of who we are, even if we put them down and begin believing something that serves us better (believing that you can eat normally and that you can lose weight, or believing that you are good enough and will have enough), if we don’t like the results or don’t feel safe there – we can always pick the story back up again! It all goes back to how it is serving you. If you are honest with yourself, you will know if the story is worth pick up again. Is it bringing you more pain to believe or live in your story? Is it preventing you from doing things that will help you grow? Only you can answer these things and you have the choice to stay in your story or not.

Which will help you get closer to the life you want to have – staying in your story or beginning a new one? If your story is causing you great pain but you want to continue it, ask yourself why you are choosing to bring yourself pain? Questions like these can help you determine what to do and can make a huge difference in stepping forward into the person you want to be.

Do you have a story that is getting in your way? How has it served you? Please share in the comments!