More Straight Talk, Less Assuming

I think it’s safe to say that most people are aware of the phrase “ask and ye shall receive.” But it’s equally true to say “speak up and ye shall stop brooding inside.”

I recently attended one of those corporate seminars designed to build your skills in a particular area. The one I attended was on taking control of your emotions. The information was hard to hear at times, but in the end I realized it was true for my life and, consequently, important advice to heed.

I am aware that I need to rewrite the “tapes” in my head, and to challenge my thoughts on how I perceive certain issues so I’m not beating myself up mentally by obsessing over the same issues. But I also need to find a way to confront these issues more frequently–ideally as they arise.

When I say “confront,” I don’t mean in a negative way. I simply mean identifying a problem and approaching it with the intent to solve it. This could be by halting negative thoughts, or by encouraging myself to talk through a problem with someone. This is something I don’t do frequently enough now.

It’s been building in my mind that a lot of my problems, and a lot of the reason why I eat to make myself feel better, stems from me not letting people know how I feel about various things. (I think boredom also causes me to misbehave with food, but I’ll have to explore that some other time.)

It never fails; someone does or says something insensitive, and then I go on about my life like everything’s “fine,” while I’m feeling some other kind of feeling on the inside. And then I eat, and I feel worse. Then at some point, all of the frustrations come tumbling out, like clothes from a quickly spinning dryer when the door is abruptly opened. Sometimes my frustration is directed at the appropriate person, and sometimes it’s not. This might make me feel worse and cause me to eat more.

Lately I have picked up courage to address some issues proactively, and I’ve been surprised to find out that I’m often reading a situation wrong, and that it’s not as big a deal as I thought it was. This had saved me a lot of drama, and from having to stew in my thoughts for too long and find damaging ways to soothe myself.

What kinds of strategies have I been using to turn the page in my life?

Turning the tide on internal dialogue. I can’t do it anywhere near 100% of the time, but I try to counter my negative thoughts with something positive. For example, if I start concocting a scenario about why something had played out the way it did, I try to stop myself and think of another, more positive solution. I think this is the thing that will be the hardest for me to do, but I think it will have the most benefit in the long run.

Writing out my feelings. This has been a good way for me to get my mind out of the rut that it often finds itself in when I just try to think my way through an issue. I find the full story is more likely to present itself when I write things out–and that I may even get a solution or a new way of approaching my problem.

Writing little love letters to myself. One thing that I’m really committed to try from the seminar is the use of written affirmations. At many points in my life, I’ve heard people suggest writing out a series of short sentences focusing on positive attributes that I’d like to develop. I never really took those recommendations seriously in the past, but I have now written up some affirmations to review on a regular basis. I haven’t done it for a week yet, but it does feel good to read them, because it guarantees I’ll hear something positive that I’ve thought. I think it will get me to start thinking positive thoughts more regularly.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt. When my mind goes on autopilot down a dark alley, I’m expecting everyone to be trying to take advantage of me, or to otherwise show meanness to me that I did not deserve. This is another hard thing for me to do, but I have been trying to assume that people have a reason for their behavior other than to mess with me. More often than not, this is the truth, but it’s not something I’ve taken for granted before, for many reasons.

A family member asked me what all these self-talk strategies had to do with eating. I have a gut feeling that there are other people out there like me, who have negative feelings that they don’t allow themselves to experience, or allow themselves to get rid of. I think we hold these feelings inside and eat to the point where there’s a nice cushiony barrier to keep our feelings from getting out and hurting somebody (or to keep us from getting hurt by insults we imagine someone will throw at us if we would try to proactively deal with a situation).

I think excess food offers feelings of comfort and protection for many of us. I share these kinds of stories because I believe there are people out there who, like me, want to take down the barriers they have erected and connect with themselves and others in a way they haven’t had the courage or self-awareness to do before. I have given myself the permission to embark on this challenging but rewarding journey in the shadow of my weight loss efforts, and I hope that you will do the same.

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