There are times when we need to give ourselves some tough-love, so we can live a more gentle life.
Sometimes you just have to stop. Sometimes you just have to put stuff down and leave it. Sometimes you just have to walk away. Sometimes you have to give yourself some tough-love.
This has been something that has been missing from my self-love arsenal, if you will. It’s actually not very present in any discussions about how to feel better. Most of the discourse around how to feel like you are “enough” is very focussed on all the gentle stuff– meditation, affirmations, journaling, self-care. And I’m not knocking it. There’s a good reason for the gentle stuff.
We are too hard on ourselves. We beat ourselves up for not being good enough, smart enough, thin enough, strong enough. For not being a good enough mom, a good enough wife, a good enough friend. For not excelling in our career enough, for not exercising enough, for not feeling peaceful enough.
So, clearly, there are really good effing reasons to learn to be kind to ourselves. To learn to be gentle and caring and to treat ourselves with the kindness we have so long denied ourselves. I am in no way saying that isn’t probably the most important lesson we need to learn. I am just suggesting that it’s not the only lesson.
There are times when all the tenderness in the world isn’t working. There are times when we need to stand up and say enough is enough. There are times when we need to be tough with ourselves so we truly can live a more gentle life.
If you have followed my story at all, you are probably aware of the fact that I have struggled with body image most of my life. My feelings about how my body looked basically ruled my existence. I dieted, exercised, and criticized myself into an anxious, depressed, big ball of mess.
I did finally decide that I couldn’t live like that anymore and I started to crawl my way out of the huge hole I had dug for myself. Working to release myself from the overriding belief that the size of my body was a) the primary factor in my happiness and b) that it was the thing that would validate my worth was the hardest, but most important, thing I have ever done for myself.
Have you ever heard that saying about how the longest journey is from your head to your heart? Changing long-held personal beliefs is a perfect example of that journey. We often understand a thing with our minds before we believe it with our hearts. This is what happened on my body image journey. I totally got it in my brain that believing my body was my sole-source of my worth was ridiculous (at best) and devastatingly damaging (at worst). My mind was 150% on board, but it took my heart longer get there.
I took this head-to-heart journey seriously. I was patient with myself (sometimes– I did try). I worked on gentle-ing up (made-up-word alert) my thoughts about myself. I started trying to focus on and nurture other aspects of my life– my kiddos, my hubby, my friendships, my career. I stopped punishing my body and allowed it to actually eat and rest.
Journaling helped. Kind thoughts helped. Supportive affirmations (not the cheesy kind) helped. Just finally relaxing helped. But the problem was that, despite all of this much needed gentleness, I found myself continuing to keep a secret death-grip on body-shame. I still kept it as something that I would go to when I was stressed or anxious or insecure.
(Side note here.) Reality is that body-shame will probably always be something that is triggered when I’m feeling that way. It’s not realistic to think I will never wish I looked differently. But there is a difference between being triggered and slipping into it vs. holding onto it and secretly nurturing it. (End of side note.)
I’ll be honest. It can be hard to shift a belief you’ve had your whole life. It can be hard to quit criticizing and judging yourself all the time. And that was my biggest problem. I was still judging myself for not maintaining my weight loss– for gaining weight– and for not dieting again to fix it.
There it was. The judgement that all the gentle and kind words couldn’t erase. And I knew it was holding me back and keeping me small and afraid. And I finally– FINALLY– got sick of it.
Seriously. I was so done with making my body be the thing that determined the quality of my life. Done. Fucking done. So done. And that is when I realized I needed something stronger to help me release my grip. I needed to surrender.
I know the hopeful ideal of surrender is one of gentle release, one of cloud-floating ease. But the thing people often don’t get about surrender, is that ease generally comes AFTER the release. And also, the ease isn’t a permanent state (which is kind of a bummer, but that’s just the way it is).
In order to get to the ease that comes with surrender, I had to do some straight-shooting, tough-loving, move-the-hell-on-ing (made-up-word alert #2) talk with myself. I knew that, if I wanted to be happy, I had to decide to let go of the judgement about my weight. It was time to just stop. Nothing fancy. Nothing magical. Nothing miraculous. It was just time be done and move on with my life.
The decision to stop is an incredibly freeing decision. But, in keeping with our theme of reality, it is not usually a one-off thing. It wasn’t for me. Sometimes you have to decide 42 times in a day or 4 times in a day and the next day 0 times and then the day after that 11. But what you get from surrendering– the ease and freedom to actually do things in your life that matter– is worth it. It’s worth it every time.
Is there anywhere in your life where you really just need to stop? Anything you are doing that is holding you down and keeping you stuck? What is the judgement you have about yourself that feels so heavy– the one you’re sick of carrying?
Maybe it’s time to give yourself some tough-love and to decide you will finally stop. Because sometimes you just have to stop. Sometimes you just have to put stuff down and leave it. Sometimes you just have to walk away. Sometimes you have to give yourself some tough-love…