The Battle of Old You vs. New You

When you decide to courageously make a change in your life, any change, anticipate the Tug-of-War. Yes, it will be a bloody brawl between the Old You vs. the New You. The Old You is mightier. He or she has been around longer. Has stored ammunition. A fortified fortress. Your brain and behavior just go there. It’s automatic and easy. You can do the old behavior in your sleep.

Thus, if you really want transformation, we need to get the New You up to speed. We must quickly and solidly build new habits and behaviors that can withstand the Old You. Through consistent risk, practice and repetition, we can carve out new neural pathways toward a Better You. That Old You will be left raising that white flag.

But, expect that Old You to revolt. It always does. That’s why people struggle to change. Why they stay stuck in old destructive patterns. It is hard work to start, to outlast that dip in enthusiasm that always shows up in the middle and then to finish the job at putting that Old You down.

But you can do it. One day at a time. With encouragement from others and an eye locked on the prize, change is possible. A New You is out there waiting. Just grab hold and get in the game. Tug-of-war it is.

Loving Your Body

Are you in a life-long war with your body?

Sad, really. That we preach depth, heart, soul and character yet spend so much mental and emotional attention on whether our pants fit or if our butt looks too fat. No doubt, it will be a death-bed regret – why I wasted so much energy thinking about the number of calories in a piece of cheesecake and when I can get to the gym to burn them off.

It’s time to call a truce with the amazing machine we live in. The one that ensures our life and breath 24/7, 365. Here are a few tips to turn your enemy into a friend:

  1. Develop a right-sized relationship with your body. In other words, stop avoiding your body and stop obsessing over it. It is important enough to pay attention to and not so important that it is the only thing you pay attention to. Notice it, listen to it, breathe into it. Feed it. Take care of it. Respect it. Learn to recognize what it needs when it needs it. But don’t be consumed by it. Give it enough cognizance to keep it happy and running smoothly. Then, let it do its thing while you focus on more important things.
  2. Stop making shit up in your head. Be realistic. You probably aren’t as ugly as you think you are nor are you the next super model lining up for a photo shoot. You are probably perfectly average – just like the rest of us. Yes, you might be too thin or too fat. Healthy or not so much. Whatever you are, face the truth and make that your starting point. Besides, you know that true beauty is not skin deep. How you feel about yourself and how you carry yourself reflects an energy that is attractive beyond physical appearance. Beauty is a state of mind that expresses the whole person, not just our physical being.
  3. Know your true enemy. ‘Cause it ain’t your body. Your body should be your friend. We just insist on scapegoating it, making it the problem. After all. what did it really do to you? Your enemy could be the sugar industry. Or the media that dictates what our bodies should aspire to look like. Or our emotional appetite – the one that we try to satisfy with food rather than the love it is actually hungry for. Or our critical nature that needs to beat our self up. Or our perfectionism that will not go quietly away. Or our low self-esteem that needs to constantly compare our self to other people. Whatever it is, figure it out and then, go to war. But leave your wonderful body out of it.
  4. Give up being a victim. You get to choose. How you treat yourself. How you let others treat you. What you put in your mouth. When, how and if you move your body. How you dress. If you undress. In all things, empower yourself to remember that you get to make choices. No victims allowed.
  5. Know the difference between being healthy and fit and being thin. They are not always equivalent. And in case you don’t know, the former is better than the latter.
  6. Eat respectfully. Be mindful of the nutrients your body needs to function at its best. Eat cleanly. That is, eat plenty of good food. Ditch sugar and the pretend foods that compromise your digestive health, your hormonal balance, your mood and energy levels. Furthermore, pay attention to how you eat. Are you shoveling like an animal or dining with grace and style? Your body – and your self – deserve civility.
  7. Dare to accept. Counteract those voices in your head that tell you that your body is not “right.” Overpower these negative thoughts with positive, kind ones. Embrace your beauty and your journey toward self-love in all aspects of who you are. Wear clothes that express your person to the world. Work with your body as a friendly partner, rather than battling against it.
  8. Practice appreciation. Stop and realize what all your body does for you and can do for you. It can run marathons, make human life, hug a child, carry you through unspeakable pain, dance, laugh, make love. Every single day it has been there for you. Celebrate its amazement. Embrace its possibility. Meanwhile, stop judging others for their bodies. We are all doing the best we can at any given moment with what we have allowed our self to know. We are no better, no worse. So, lead with grace. Life just works better that way.
  9. Actively care for your body. The better you treat it, the better it will treat you. You know the drill – rest, move, eat well.
  10. Strengthen your emotional core. The healthier your psyche, the less strain you are asking your body to hold for you. Developing a solid foundation of warm self-regard will give you the wherewithal to accept, appreciate and care for that wonderful physical house you call home.

There is hope to end your lifelong battle with your body. It starts with your relationship with self. Changing and re-creating the image of you in your own mind. Working through your emotional resistance to nutrition and love. Allowing abundance, rather than deprivation, to be your life mission.

Once the war with your body is surrendered, food and your body can be enjoyed with abandon. No guilt. No comparison. No perfectionism. No self-criticism. Just pleasure and freedom as the ultimate ingredients to life’s mighty dish.

Suck It Up

Inadvertently, I had the same conversation with both my teenagers recently. Different circumstances, same theme. My son led with his anger. My daughter with her pain.

“This place is not for me!” yelled my son.

“I can’t do this,” cried my daughter, a box of tissues emptied beside her, the dirty ones crinkled in a pile on the floor.

At first, I listened. I validated. I was the Super-Mom container. I let them know that I understand their difficulty, their frustration, their near impossible situation.

Then, I told them I was going to tell them something that they would not like.

Ready?

“Suck it up! “I said.

“That’s so mean!” screamed my daughter.

Ouch. My heart hurt. I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was adultifyng. Helping them grow up. The fact that life is hard and we can’t always quit, run, hide or leave is a very important grown-up lesson to understand as early as possible.

It scares me – this generation coming up. Hard work is not their friend. Life on easy street has become the norm. Their low tolerance for frustration acceptable.

Yes, sometimes we should leave, quit, move on. But not before taking a good hard look at what is going on. If I am not being abused, then maybe it is worth the cost of the necessary hard work for the long-term gain and glory. In other words, you can’t just dump your job, your wife, your goal or your child and get a new one. Sometimes, most times, you gotta suck it up. Put on your big kid britches and make it work. And that, my friend, ain’t always fun and games.

But that’s what being an adult means. We work the long program. We delay gratification. We realize that we do what we need to do now to get what we want later.

So, for today, I guess I will be mean … suck it up.

Vacation Schmacation

I am in paradise this week. Pristine beaches – ones where you can get to the balmy 87-degree ocean water without having to step over bodies. Spanish moss hangs off the trees, bringing just enough eeriness to remind yourself that you are not home. Add to that not needing an alarm clock or make-up or even a watch. Life seems just about perfect.

And, then, as it always does, life reminds me that it is life. It ain’t perfect. To this island of heaven, we bring ourselves. The whole damn lot of who we are gets packed in the suitcase. Our feelings, issues, challenges and triggers. They didn’t get left at home.

When my kids were younger, I used to say that we were taking a family trip rather than a vacation. Because the reality was that no one was vacationing. Yes, there might be a better view out the window but we were still getting up at 5 AM. Kids were still throwing tantrums. Dinner had to be made and dishes cleaned. There is no break from the work of parenting.

And yet, now my kids are older. They can put themselves to bed and pour their own cereal. They can even self-entertain. We really should be able to take a real vacation. Right?

Nope. We don’t even get that. There is no break from the life of emotions and relationships. Because no one takes a vacation from themselves. The unconscious does no click an “off” button because you have driven eight-hours south. All of who we are shows up. And, sometimes even more so given that we don’t have the routines and known conveniences of our daily home life as a distraction.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being in paradise. I am saddening as the departure bell will ring in a few days. But, I am reminded that life never goes as it is “supposed” to go. We are stuck. Trapped in ourselves. Taking all of us wherever we go. Having a real-life experience, even when the sun is setting on our sanded toes.

Course Correction

“A little to the left, Johnny!”

“Ah, too much. Back right a bit.”

Evidently, if you are on a long flight cross country, the airplane is never on course. In fact, it stays off course. Those pilots we imagine eating chips and flirting with the flight attendants are actually busy. They are constantly course correcting. Doing the next right thing to get the airplane back on track. For the moment.

We do the same thing, you know. Except instead of compassionately accepting our perpetual imbalance as the norm, we beat ourselves up for it.

“Why did I overeat yesterday?” or “I’m terrible for neglecting the wife and kids due to my big work project this week.”

Lighten up. We are never in perfect harmony.

Instead, like the uniformed men and women who keep our skies safe, just course correct.

What needs your attention today? What have you been putting less energy into that is due a turn?

Life entails continuous decision-making surrounding behaviors that maintain our life and expand our life. Your flight will go smoother if you accept your imperfection. Just do the next right thing that will keep your plane pointed in the direction you want to go.

Got Emotional Strength?

Got Emotional Strength?

If so, you …

Keep going when the odds are stacked against you.

Feel all your feelings rather than avoiding the painful ones.

Shut your mouth when you want to yell venom to someone you care about.

Not take something personal when it isn’t about you.

Own your part in relational rupture.

Know and set limits.

Tolerate difference.

Dig for compassion.

Are curious rather than judgmental.

State what you want and need in a clear and moderated manner.

Respect others.

Are humble when you’d rather be right.

Ask for clarification when you don’t understand.

Have the capacity to feel empathy.

Hold your own while making room for the other.

Assume risk.

Stay in the game when it gets difficult.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Bounce back when there is little bounce left.

Adapt to change.

Commit to a lifetime of growing and learning.

What is Your Trigger?

What is your biggest trigger?

You know. The event, incident, button that when pushed, your insides explode. You lose all sense of rationality. Your grounded adult self flies out the window like a large pink gum wad onto the passing highway. Your regressed inner child takes over the wheel and quickly steers you off the road into a trench. You are hopeless to stay moderated and sane. That train has long left the station.

We all have these triggers. You are normal that way.

Furthermore, these bubbles of ours tend to burst at the most unexpected times. And most often with the folks we are closest to, those we rub elbows with as we pass in the hallway, rushing to beat to the bathroom – our partners and children.

Yes, we all have these triggers because we all have unhealed emotional wells deep within. They are sitting, waiting for your attention. Desperately wanting you to notice so that they can finally be recognized enough to be repaired. So, any opportunity for them to jump out and say, “There. That. Listen to me!” they will. They are pleaded with you toward a better you.

Learn to identify your triggers. It’s the first step in both managing your reactivity and healing your pain. Believe me – your spouse and kids will thank you.

One tip to helping you pinpoint what sets you off: if it’s hysterical, it’s historical. Something leftover from childhood haunts you. Yes, you are pissed that your teenager lives like a zoo animal. And yes, you are sad that your favorite character was killed off on Game of Thrones. But if the feeling is over-the-top. Out of proportion to the situation. Outsized and outweighed. Then you know that something else is going on for you. You have been triggered.

So, listen to yourself with gentle curiosity. No shame, no blame. Just be the wise, safe guide that chooses to grasp every chance you get to be the best you possible.