Finding balance

A few months ago, I wrote an article for Best Kept Self about what I had learned from my eating disorder.

The therapist I saw to help me work through this told me that recovery for eating disorders is typically 5-7 years. Initially, I found this statistic discouraging and felt a little hopeless every time I thought about it. 5-7 years? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

However I will say I’m glad she told me this for a couple reasons: firstly, when I feel like I move forward and then two steps back, it helps to know that relapses are normal and part of the recovery process. And secondly because I know that every new day I have the opportunity to work on it and continue to learn to find balance.

Balance is tricky. We hear often ‘everything in moderation.’ I think this is a great motto to live by, but I also think what Oscar Wilde says about moderation is important too:

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Moderation can easily be turned into a pursuit of perfection. Trying to find the exact amount of fruits, veggies, grains…but also indulging…it can be easy to get caught up in attaining the absolute perfect balance, something that is just as real as the Tooth Fairy (hope I’m not offending any believers out there).

Keeping this in mind, I will say I’m a lot closer to healthy and balanced eating than I was before. Here are a few things that have helped me:

1. Exercising.

I know, you’ve all heard this a million times before. The thing is, you hear it so often because it’s true. When you exercise you do something good for yourself. This act prompts you to do more good things for you. It’s like Newton’s Law of Motion: an object at rest will stay at rest, an object in motion will stay in motion. (I know, look at me, bringing in science and stuff). But this law really applies to us as well. The effort and time you give to and for yourself makes it easier to make good decisions that also serve you thoughout the day. I worked out off and on during college, but since I joined (and started paying for) the gym here in Charleston, I’ve gone 5-6 times a week almost every week. And this has helped me to 1- allow myself to indulge on my own terms without feeling guilty and 2- do more good things for myself. There are so many benefits to exercising regularly, I know you know what they are. But in case you need another one, remember Newton’s First Law of Motion.

2. Finding enjoyment in eating healthy foods.

One of my pitfalls in college was trying so hard to eat healthy without worrying about how it tasted. The thing is, whether we want to admit it or not, we have taste buds. And I think we have them for a reason and we should honor them. Instead of forcing ourselves to eat broccoli if we hate it, or beets or okra (we call it no-kra in our family), eat foods that you actually like to eat. Yes, this may mean adding dressing or butter or salt or even spending $6 on a deliciously overpriced green smoothie, but it’s worth it. You’re worth it. Depriving yourself will only work for so long, I promise. Try new foods and new recipes, healthy eating doesn’t just happen. It requires thought and effort, but there definitely is a way to eat well and enjoy it (cue Hannah  Montana’s Best of Both Worlds).

3. Control the thought spiral.

If it were possible to have a PhD in downward spiral thinking, I would have it. One small, potentially negative thing happens and suddenly everything’s a mess, I’m the worst, I hate everyone and the world is ending. When I realized I had this tendency to immediately run to the worst possible (and often highly illogical) conclusion, I was able to see how self-destructive and generally unhelpful it is. If you get a note on something you could improve on from your boss, that doesn’t mean you’re getting fired. Likewise, one unhealthy meal, or even a week of meals does not mean ‘everything’s ruined’ and that you need to compensate for it by only eating rice cakes for the next month. Now when something upsets me, I stop and think about why I’m actually upset (being hungry/tired/stressed doesn’t help) and how this can be fixed if it really needs to be. I like to think about some of the things I’m grateful for in that moment too. The truth is, our initial emotional reaction to an event or decision, often prompted by the ‘lizard brain,’ is far from the reality of the situation.

I think it’s important to note that balanced eating isn’t really something you achieve once and then you’re done (sadly). It’s a way of thinking and decision-making that happens daily. The more we are able to make healthy (do not read perfect) choices for ourselves, the easier and more habitual it becomes.

And if you ever get discouraged about where you are in your search for balance, just tell yourself this:

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The truth about your self-worth

The truth about self-worth

As my dating fast comes to a close, I want to share a few more things I’ve learned from these last few months.

I think the biggest thing is actually pretty obvious, but not necessarily easy to feel all the time.

You really can’t determine your self-worth from a guy.

I know, crazy right?

It wasn’t until several months into the fast that I began to understand fully how deep my need for affirmation was. The second I considered a guy as more than a friend I immediately questioned if I was good enough for him. If I was pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough, successful enough…Instead of wondering if he was the type of person that I should invest time in, I wondered if I was worth his time.

I believed that if I received his attention and affection then I would know, that I’m worthy. I felt all my insecurities that I hadn’t thought seriously about in a while come rushing back and threaten to overwhelm me.

Not fun.

The truth is that kind of thinking is completely backwards. Looking to someone else to fulfill your need for affirmation is a dangerous game to play. Not only is it unfair to expect that person to see and understand your need for affirmation, you’re also using them to satisfy this need instead of loving them.

Use ≠ love

And the even worse part is that if your affirmation needs to come from other people, you will never be satisfied. You might feel good for a little while after you receive a compliment or get asked out on a date, but that feeling will eventually fade and you’ll start anxiously waiting for the next sign of affirmation.

And then, when that person doesn’t tell you what you need to hear, you’ll get upset and your insecurity can start a fight or turn inwards and fill you with doubt and frustration.

You have to know, really know, that you’re worth it. You’re worth being taken out on a date, you’re worth pursuing, you’re worth spending time with.

So of course, the question is, if you don’t find self-worth in other people then where do you find it?

Great question.

What I’ve come to understand recently is that there are two aspects to self-esteem. One is what you know and the other is what you feel.

What you have to know is this: you are here for a reason. Out of all the possible combination of genes, you are the one that was born and no one else is the same. You have a unique set of talents and gifts that no one else has. You have a unique role that no one else can fulfill. I know it sounds cheesy and cliche, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. You are valuable because you are one and only. If you don’t do what you are meant to do, no one else will because no one else can. It is up to you to realize what you have to offer the world and let go of your insecurities in order to pursue your purpose.

So maybe you already cognitively understand this, but you don’t feel it. And maybe because you don’t feel it, you decide this isn’t true.

The thing is our feelings can be misleading. Our emotions are constantly changing, they really are just a primal reaction to what happens to us or a thought we have. You might feel bad because you didn’t have time to accomplish everything you wanted, that doesn’t mean you actually have a valid reason to be guilty. Right?

So what do we do about this?

First of all you have to accept that we won’t always feel great about ourselves, that is just part of being human. But just because we don’t feel worthy and valuable, doesn’t mean it’s true. Then there are also things you can do to help when you’re dealing with feelings of low self-esteem.

Feelings ≠ truth

#1. self-care is essential.

It really is. Exercising, eating foods that are good for you and sleeping should be non-negotiables, at least most of the time. Also wearing clothes that fit well and reflect your style, not to impress others but as a gift to yourself. Additionally, doing the things you love is vital to have a healthy relationship with yourself. Make time to read, write, walk your dog, play tennis…that is an important part of who you are.

#2. community.

Friendships are really important. Having people on our side who care about us reminds us of our value when things get dark inside our minds is essential to our self-worth. Our heads aren’t always the best place to spend all our time, even as an introvert I urge you to find people you enjoy spending time with.

#3. take the focus off yourself.

Our culture is very narcissistic. I mean, selfie was word of the year in 2013. And as much as I value self-care, the reason I value it so much is because it enables us to be our best selves and to offer the world so much more than our exhausted, run-down, insecure person. If we always are thinking about ourselves, it’s no wonder we experience so much insecurity. You’re the only thing on your mind. I’ve noticed that if I turn my focus to more of what I can do today and long-term to be of value to others, I stop worrying so much about my own self-esteem and think more about how much I have to offer the world.

I hope this helps anyone who is battling with self-worth, it’s a tricky issue! Feel free to comment or send an email if you have any questions or notes about this topic, or anything!

xx

Miranda

 

High Standards: why I have them and why you should too

High standards: why I have them and why you should too.

I’m going to go ahead and give you the key takeaway from this post:

You should have high standards for yourself, your relationships, your career and your life because you deserve them.

I just saved you five more minutes of reading; so, you’re welcome.

Here’s the deal: high standards and being a perfectionist are NOT the same thing. I already wrote a post about the dangers of being a perfectionist and I stand by what I said.

Having high standards doesn’t mean you, or everything you do, is perfect. It doesn’t mean you’ll never mess up, it doesn’t mean you’ll never fail or never disappoint yourself or someone else. You will oversleep, you’ll miss the gym, you’ll eat too much, you’ll forget something important for work and you’ll wear your shirt inside out. (Hopefully all of this won’t happen on the same day, but, you get what I’m saying).

Having high standards means having goals for yourself and your relationships that are worthy of who you are.

Having high standards means taking care of yourself. Always aiming to get enough to sleep, stay active and eat well, even if that doesn’t always happen.

Having high standards means dressing in a way that reflects your personality, your love of beauty and most importantly, your dignity.

Having high standards means only being friends with people who love, care and respect you and treat you in a way that reflects that.

Having high standards means knowing your talents and pursuing a career that enables you to use them.

Having high standards means knowing your worth as a person and not allowing any relationship in your life question, undermine, or contradict that.

The thing about our standards is that you only live up to the standards you setMeaning if you are afraid to go for what you really want and work hard to get it, you won’t get it. In order to achieve something we have to first recognize that it’s possible. Unfortunately people often close the doors on their dreams because they tell themselves it’s unrealistic and that’s that. I know that you are completely capable of achieving whatever you want, but to do so, you have to raise your standards to the level you ultimately want to reach.

People will challenge you. People want to feel better about their decisions, so they try to make yours more like theirs. This is an important reason why I always have surrounded myself with friends who inspire me to be better. Look around, are the people you spend time with encouraging you or bringing you down? It can be hard to face but letting go of the people who affect us negatively is crucial to success.

What do you really want? What kind of lifestyle do you want to have? What kind of relationship do you want to be in? Take the time to think about what it is you want, it can be scary to admit because it seems so out of reach; but I’m here to tell you that it is completely possible, you just have to raise your standards and start working to reach them.

The dangers of being a perfectionist

The danger of being a perfectionist I used to take pride in the fact that I was a perfectionist.

I mean, surely wanting things to be perfect is a good thing, right? Perfect grades, perfect body, perfect behavior…perfect life.

Who wouldn’t want that?

I loved watching movies and TV shows and reading books that depict what I liked think was the standard to strive for. The beautiful girl with a perfect family who finally gets the perfect guy by the time the show/movie/book ends. I always gravitated toward friends who seemed to have it all together. They were, (and still are), high-achievers with a lot going for them.

I knew that I compared my life to that, to other people, whether fictional or not. After every movie, book, encounter with someone I admired, I felt I had a better idea of what it meant to be perfect and what I needed to work toward.

Somehow I never took into account my high-achieving friends’ flaws, or the fact that the movie/book/show wasn’t real, the characters and their lives weren’t real. Even though I understood it was fiction, or that my friends weren’t actually perfect, I didn’t consider that when I compared myself to them.

This, of course, led to a lot of unhappiness. We all know “comparison is the thief of joy,” especially comparison to a standard that isn’t real. But I refused to see that, I thought that any unhappiness I felt was because I wasn’t enough, I wasn’t working hard enough to attain my standard. And I felt that when I finally did, I would be happy.

During my therapy sessions for my eating disorder, this search for perfection surfaced. It had never occurred to me that this was a bad thing, much less the reason for my continual feelings of unhappiness and inadequacy…and even my eating disorder.

I think that a lot of us struggle with this issue. The little voice in our heads that continually tells us we are not enough, we need to work harder, we need to be perfect, and when we hear it we accept it as truth.

It’s not. That whisper is a lie from Hell. This is the truth:

“I praise you, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14.

God made us; intentionally and unequivocally. You have been on His mind for all of eternity. And He made you specifically for a unique role and purpose that no one else can fulfill.

“Perfect” is a lie that you can never attain and that will steal your joy and prevent you from fulfilling your purpose and understanding your beauty and value.

The Catechism tells us that “Human is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake”,220 and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity.” CCC 356.

It is the fact that God made you that you are valuable, not because of what you do or don’t do, say or don’t say etc.

I tell you this to keep it in mind next time you feel that how much you accomplish or how well you do something or how you look determines your worth. You have worth and dignity because you are human.

Understand that you are valuable, worthy, beautiful and loved.

Not because I say so but because it’s true. No one is perfect, the sooner we can embrace this and accept ourselves flaws and all, the sooner we can move forward to grow in virtue and fulfill our unique role.

Life lessons I learned from Pam Beesly

I love The Office. It is my favorite TV show. I have seen every episode multiple times and know WAY too many lines by heart. Regardless about anything else, if someone else thinks The Office is awesome, we can be friends.

There are many reasons I love The Office so much; it’s funny, witty and generally isn’t crude. It is entertaining but also can be deep and creates drama without being a soap opera. I love that the characters are believable, especially Jim and Pam. They are just average people working in a paper company living ordinary lives.

The more I watch the show the more I find myself relating to Pam. She is kind and warm and funny, but she isn’t perfect. Sometimes she loses it, sometimes she makes bad decisions and sometimes she doesn’t achieve what she set out to do.

As someone who likes to look up to people who have it all together, it is nice to see someone who is awesome but not perfect. No one actually is perfect, but through social media and the natural human tendency to hide anything that is wrong, it sometimes feels like everyone else is doing a lot better than you.

Here are some life lessons I learned from Pam Beesly:

It’s okay to lose it sometimes.

Generally Pam isn’t very dramatic but there are times when something is just too much. For example when Michael dates Pam’s mother she (understandably) releases a previously unseen wrath upon Michael that culminates in her slapping him. I do not advocate violence but I do think emotional health is crucial to our general well-being, and this includes expressing our emotions and not just trying to subdue them all the time. While losing our temper isn’t the healthiest or most effective way to express ourselves, (even Pam admits it wasn’t satisfying), it happens to all of us and it doesn’t mean we are crazy or unbalanced, but rather that we are human.

Watch the famous slap here.

Failure isn’t always a setback 

Pam decides to go to art school and after failing a class she decides to come back to Scranton instead of staying in New York to re-take the class. Later in the series Pam becomes a saleswoman at Dunder Mifflin and doesn’t succeed in making many sales. At this point she confides in Jim: “I don’t want to fail. Again.”

No one wants to fail, it doesn’t feel good and often it doesn’t make us look good either, which in turn makes us feel worse. But when Pam moves back to Scranton after failing out of art school she is able to move forward in her relationship with Jim. They get married and start a family. Pam understood that staying in New York away from Jim would prevent her from advancing in her relationship with him. She chose to prioritize love over her success in art school.

After not doing well in sales, Pam becomes the office administrator, a position she feels much more suited for and in which she thrives. Her trying and failing in sales enables her to find a job which she enjoys much more.

I failed to graduate in May this past school year. Even though it was what I had planned and what I had told all my friends and family I was going to do, I became too overwhelmed with my work load and had to extend my college career a summer session. It did not feel good to drop the classes and it felt even worse telling my family and friends about my decision to do so. But I knew pretty immediately afterward that I had done the right thing. I was much more relaxed and well-rested the rest of the semester. I was able to enjoy my last few months on campus and did better in everything in which I was involved.

Failure isn’t always a setback, sometimes we have to try something and fail to find a better way.

You don’t have to be perfect to be worthy

What I love most about Pam is that sometimes she does or says something dumb. She makes mistakes and she fails. She doesn’t eat only what is healthy or wear what is most fashionable. She loses her patience and dates (and almost marries) the wrong guy. But she is also kind and warm and funny and helps people that she sees need it, she never loses sight of who she is or gives up trying to be better.

It is hard for me to accept myself and my worth when I know my shortcomings. I know that I lose my patience many times a day, I know that I care too much about what others think, I know that I make stupid grammar/spelling mistakes and am not good at math. I know that I have hurt people who love me and trusted people I shouldn’t have. How is it that I am still worthy of being loved?

Pam helped me see that though we are not perfect and will always fall short, we are still capable of doing good and deserving of love.

In the end it isn’t what we do or don’t do that makes us worthy, it is the dignity we have as human beings. We were made with love to be loved and to give love.