What you are NOT asking about healthy eating but definitely should (especially if you are struggling with weight issues)

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Are you struggling to lose weight?

Are you struggling to maintain your weight in spite of watching everything you eat and making sure it is healthy and wholesome?

Are you interested in going beyond healthy foods and the right “diet” to improve your health outcomes?

If you answered YES to any of these questions then this blog post is for you

These are some common health issues that my clients face. We address these as a part of complex chronic health conditions in my health coaching practice every single day. 

One of the questions that I get asked a lot at work and elsewhere is about which foods should one be eating or which particular “diet” they should be following. Since nutrition is a major part of my coaching practice, I discuss this in great details with my clients and come up with customised food plan solutions for each individual based on what their body needs at that time to heal. 

However, what I am most certainly NOT asked is about HOW they should be eating. We all know that the right type of foods makes a huge difference in our health outcomes but what we may not realise that it is equally important HOW we are eating and WHEN.

In this post, I have decided to share with you some of the key interventions that I introduce early in my coaching sessions regarding how we should all be eating in order to ensure maximum absorption of nutrients. This is often the missing piece in terms of seeing the health outcomes that my clients have been seeking for many years. This is particularly true for those who have been struggling to lose weight in spite of being focussed on eating healthy and wholesome foods. 

When hungry, just eat

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Except that many of us are struggling with knowing what to eat and when and have quite a complicated relationship with food. As infants and young children, we know intuitively what and how much to eat to satisfy our hunger. However, pretty soon as we start growing up food starts to serve many other purposes- to soothe, to distract, to entertain, to numb, to reward and even to punish. 

What was once a healthy, meaningful and simple relationship gets entangled in all sorts of thoughts and emotions many of which are not constructive.

Our simple cues of hunger and satisfaction get hijacked by our conditioning and our minds. Where we were once completely tuned in to our bodies and used our intuition to guide us to healthy eating habits and food choices, we struggle to do so once we become adults.

What we need to keep in mind here is that it is not constructive and fruitful to assign blame to people and situations that led us to this place. It is, however extremely empowering for us to realise that we have the power within ourselves to first become aware of this conditioning and then do what is necessary to change our habits and negative patterns that have become a way of life.

One bite (or sip) at a time

How many times have you sat down to eat your food while watching your favourite show or while doing something on your phone only to finish your food without any real recollection of the taste, smell and any real sense of satisfaction?

We have a cardinal rule in our house: no phones at the table. At all.

This applies to our guests and all the family members. With a 13 yo and an almost 10 yo it becomes extremely critical for my husband and me to portray what kind of habits we want them to develop while eating. It doesn't really matter how young or old our children may be, as parents we are most certainly  ROLE MODELS for our children and we need to lead by example.

The point I am making is this. Whether we are working on our own health issues or trying to inculcate good habits in our children, the process is really the same. And it all starts by developing awareness. And this does not need to extremely complicated. Start by taking a small step today.

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called."

A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

 

Do this: when you have your first cup of tea (or coffee) in the morning, take your time to really savour it. Take a few extra moments and notice the colour and the aroma of the tea. Feel the liquid in your mouth and throat as you take a small sip. Notice the warmth as it goes down your throat and allow it to fill your body with its warmth and flavour. Repeat this till the cup is empty. If possible, take a moment to thank the people and the process behind the cup of tea that you hold in your hand.

 

A mind (not food) journal  

You may already be aware of the concept of keeping a food journal or using some kind of tracker to track the number of calories or even the categories of foods you are consuming. This is usually quite common in most of the traditional “diets”, especially where weight loss is concerned.  

We eat to satisfy many types of hunger beyond the obvious physiological needs that we have as living beings. We eat to feed the hunger of our eyes, our hunger for aroma, for sensations and our minds.

We eat when we are....

Lonely

Sad

Heartbroken

However, you must understand that no matter how much food we put in our stomach, it can never satisfy or ease the emptiness in our hearts. This is where a mood journal can help you to understand why you eat. While doing this it is very important to use a compassionate and kind voice and not judge yourself for the choices that you are making right now as this process can become counterproductive otherwise. Remember, this is to help you to become more aware and in tune with your eating habits.

The mood journal can be written using the various prompts given below. 

Track the foods that you are eating for a month and write down how they affect your mind, body, thoughts, and feelings

What foods do you eat when you are sad or lonely? (make a list of foods)

When you feel like having a snack or a drink in between meals, what were your thoughts and feelings just before you decided to have one?

You may find that some patterns emerge as a common threat across different situations that help you to understand your eating habits. In time you may also learn to make healthy substitutions and find alternatives to take care of yourself without using food as a crutch. Sometimes overeating and mindless eating are just tips of the iceberg. Food is more easily obtainable and more socially acceptable than other types of addiction and since we must eat every day it can be really easy to become a slave to our need for food.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion”

—Dalai Lama

The solution, however, is not to judge or criticise ourselves every time you overeat or eat foods that you know are not good for you. A very important part of changing your eating habits is to first change the way you talk to yourself. This is often the most difficult part of the journey for my clients. However, self compassion is indeed the way out to break free from the vicious cycle of overeating, self criticism and shame.

Given below are 5 steps that you can take today to practice self awareness and tap into your intuition to guide you to make healthier choices-

Sit down at the table for each and every meal including all snacks so that you can slow down every time you eat

Notice how you are eating- fast or slow? Mindlessly munching or enjoying each bite?

Stop multitasking and focus on the food in front of you (having a conversation with loved ones however, is not a distraction)

Notice how “hungry” you really are on a scale of 1 to 10 and try and eat accordingly

Bring into your awareness feelings of gratitude for those who were involved in bringing this food to your table (right from the farmer to the cook)

As you do this exercise you may notice your relationship with food changes over time. You may find that as you become more tuned in to your body, you start making healthier choices and start to develop healthy eating habits. You may also find that you are able to stop using food to satisfy your needs and are finally free to find other ways of soothing and taking care of yourself. Most importantly, you are able to let go of following a certain "diet" and start eating what is right for YOU. 

(However, in today’s modern world there are many external triggers and forces at play which are capable of drowning out these inner voices of wisdom and intuition. In the follow up post next week I focus on these external aspects of eating by redesigning our environment and putting in place some strategies that have been shown to work.)

How you can bounce back from life’s challenges and become more resilient

Reading Time: 7 minutes

"I’m not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship"
— Louisa May Alcott

Life is filled with all kinds of moments- both good and bad. Few of us will get through an entire lifetime completely free of challenges and stressors. Infact, pain and suffering is an inevitable part of the human condition, of being alive. Failure is an inevitable part of our life, what really matters is how you deal with it.

Some people face their failures and setbacks and bounce back by responding effectively and decisively while others never seem to get their act together. What differentiates these two groups of people? In a word, RESILIENCE. 

In my previous post (fifth in a series of eight posts), I had written about the need to look for and find the joyful moments in our lives in order to have meaningful happiness. In this post, I am writing about those other kinds of negative moments that are woven into the very fabric of our lives- stressful, frustrating, dreary, tiring, dull and even traumatic and devastating ones.

We can learn how to remain grounded in the face of adversity and not get uprooted. We can also learn to take risks and endure failure (it is not a matter of if but when) and have the courage to learn, grow and adapt.  Using the tools of self compassion, empathy, self awareness, confidence, calm and courage we can train ourselves to deal with the adversities when they come and adapt to the circumstances. In other words, we can learn to become resilient.

"Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again"

-Nelson Mandela

Many of us ask ourselves these questions when faced with adversity in our daily lives

Will I ever recover from this?

How long will it take me?

How can I help myself cope with this better?

Research now shows that our brain can be consciously rewired so that we become more resilient to future events. We know that due to neuroplasticity, we can train our brains for the better just like we would do with a muscle. Infact, due to evolution, your brain already has all the capacities that you need to develop and strengthen your resilience.

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

So the question then is not whether you can cope with the adversities that come your way, but rather how do you tap into the resources that will help you to cope with them effectively. Developing resilience is a personal journey that takes practise like any other skill. It is important to develop thoughts, behaviours and actions that allow you to bounce back and also to understand what works for you. Research also shows that the two most effective practices that help us choose new experiences and rewire and reshape our brains are mindfulness and self compassion.

We all know that despite our best intentions things go wrong, some times very wrong. But how do we typically react at that time? More often than not we criticise and shame ourselves for not knowing better, for not doing better.

We ask questions like

"Why me?"

"What's wrong with me?"

"I should have known better!"

We blame ourselves and others and try and fix things rather than giving ourselves a break. Instead of tuning into our emotions and how we are feeling at the time, we do anything and everything to avoid feeling pain. And when we do that, we often get hijacked by the way our feelings filter our perceptions and our emotions guide (or rather misguide) our responses to our experiences. All this usually happens at a level that is below our radar of consciousness and undermines our confidence and our ability to bounce back from life's challenges.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, helps us create a moment to moment awareness that helps us become free to choose how we respond to painful situations in a kind, curious and non judgemental manner.

As we practice doing mindfulness, we find that it leads to self awareness and brings clarity in seeing how we react to a situation, respond in a more effective manner and face the prospect of change in a much more open manner. It helps us to engage with our feelings and get curious about what emotions we are experiencing and how they are connected to our thoughts and behaviours.

It is important to acknowledge those moments in our lives that threaten to overwhelm us, make us feel ashamed and isolate us. Mindfulness helps us to become aware that we are feeling something in those moments and enables us to investigate the stories that we often tell ourselves. We can also see what is true or not true about what we are noticing and what is working and not working in what we are observing.

(Take out a bit of time to do the following activity and note down your responses to the prompts given below) 

Think back to a time in your life when you were in a difficult situation recently and try and remember as to what you were feeling at that time -

I felt _______________________ (disappointed, frustrated, sad, regretful, heartbroken, confused, scared, worried) right now

 I was __________________ (in a lot of pain, ashamed, embarrassed, overwhelmed)

I am not sure what I was feeling, I simply wanted to feel better

You have just taken the first step towards acknowledging your feelings that come with accepting failure as an inherent part of our life. Practising mindfulness is an important skill that you can develop to take this level of awareness further.

Many of us have a notion that being resilient means being tough and that it hardens our weaknesses and helps us become less vulnerable to hardships in life. It could not be further from the truth!

Resilience in fact requires flexibility, mental suppleness and being open and vulnerable so that we can access the broken and dark places deep inside us. It requires that we really see ourselves- our hurt and pain, thoughts and feelings, our beauty and longings, wounds, mistakes and regrets and make space for them so that we can hold them all with compassion, curiosity and love.

We also need to realise that we deserve to feel better. Seeing ourselves this way also helps us to become more tender with ourselves and as we do so, we often see a path to becoming more tender with others, too.

Self compassion is a wholesome combination of acceptance and connection- both to ourselves and others. Using mindfulness along with self compassion helps us to reshape our brains and guide it in a positive direction.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing

-Naomi Shihab Niya

(You can also read my earlier post on a related topic of self acceptance  at "How self acceptance can compensate for being ‘NEVER ENOUGH” )

Take out a few minutes to do the following exercise and then write down your responses

First, think about times when a close friend feels really bad about him or herself or is really struggling in some way. How would you respond to your friend in this situation?

Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you typically talk to your friends. Notice any warmth, concern, and goodwill arising in your own heart for your friend. Allow yourself to feel the empathy, compassion and love that arises naturally in you.

Now think about times when you feel bad about yourself or are struggling. Was there any difference between the two responses? 

Now return to the feelings of warmth, concern, and goodwill that you felt for your friend earlier. Without changing anything, simply redirect this flow of empathy, compassion, and love towards yourself. Allow yourself to receive your own empathy, compassion and love for your own pain, for your struggle or whatever you have done or failed to do. 

How did this exercise make you feel? Did you notice anything different about how you respond to your own pain versus that of a friend? What would you do differently with this awareness the next time you are hurting?

There are too many people in this world who are struggling today- they act out instead of feeling hurt, they inflict pain instead of acknowledging it and choose to live a mediocre life to miminise the risk of being disappointed. In other words, they end up living a life that is filled with unfulfilled dreams, fear and regrets.

It doesn't have to be this way though! You can make different choices with different outcomes. 

Can you think of ways to....

be present in your life?

show up just as you are when you need to without trying to control the outcome? 

enjoy the journey- to find ways to pause and savour all that comes your way?

show yourself the same compassion that you would show another who is hurting and understand that you deserve the same kindness and understanding? 

incorporate tools of mindful self compassion in your life to be able to bounce back from life's challenges?

The sufi poet Rumi captured the essence of what I have said in this post so beautifully in his poem  "The Guest House"

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Find your RHYTHM and replenish your energy

Reading Time: 6 minutes

(This is the third in a series of 8 posts that I am publishing every week on the topics of self worth and self compassion)

If you have read my earlier post you would know why it is important to protect our most precious and valuable resource- TIME.

(You can read the earlier post HERE)

In this post, I am focusing on yet another important resource that we often take for granted - ENERGY. We often feel that we have an infinite amount of energy that we possess as we push through life ignoring our natural cycles and rhythms even though our body's internal clock has evolved over millions of years to be in sync with nature. But because of our fast paced lives, we are often living a life which is completely out of sync with that of nature. Today, many of us are paying the price for this in terms of feeling overwhelmed, tired, exhausted and drained of energy. 

When we live under chronic stress, live sedentary lives and eat a bizarre combination of processed foods that are alien to our bodies, we are completely removed from what evolution has prepared our bodies and our minds to deal with over millions of years. In our chaotic lives, we eat at all hours of the day and night, barely get enough sleep and are constantly distracted by our devices and media.

Is it any wonder then that so many of us struggle to lose weight, feel vibrant and healthy and live to the fullest?

Do you....

Wake up in the morning and not feel refreshed?

Need coffee, tea or sugary beverages to keep you going through the day?

Lack the motivation to accomplish even the smallest tasks?

Struggle to lose weight in spite of a healthy diet and regular exercise?

Feel your mind racing even though you are physically tired?

In my coaching practice, we address these issues by finding out the root cause and then making lifestyle and dietary changes to support it. My clients are taught to understand that our bodies have an innate biochemical and genetic rhythm which has evolved to rest when it becomes dark and to wake up when the sun rises. In other words, each and every cell in our body has an internal clock. This is because every function in our body has a specific time as it cannot do everything at once. Scientists have also learned that while our circadian rhythm is influenced by light, the timing they follow is controlled internally by our genes.

Each of us must find our rhythm, it allows us to thrive. Finding it is often difficult in today's noisy world but it is important if we want to feel centred and balanced. Living in sync with the seasons of nature helps us find a wavelike rhythm and routine. This gentle repetition allows us our minds and our bodies to replenish and rejuvenate on a regular basis thus ensuring our wellbeing at a spiritual, emotional, physical level.

(You can read about the power of a morning routine in my earlier post HERE)

Finding a routine which helps you to work with your body's natural rhythm and not against becomes important. It helps add stability to our lives and makes us feel more balanced and secure. It is equally important to understand the remarkable resiliency our bodies posses and that when given the right ingredients, it can quickly bounce back as it has a tremendous capacity to adapt and evolve.

"I feel safe in the rhythm and flow of ever-changing life"

- Louis Hay

Incorporating rhythm in your life can be done in many simple ways some of which are given below-

going to bed and waking up at the same time every day

exercising regularly at the same time 

regular meditation

having meals at regular times

playing and also indulging in hobbies on a regular basis

spending time with friends and family

getting exposure to natural sunlight 

On the flip side, some people fall into a rhythm and a set of patterns that is self destructive. These people end up coasting through life without being able to fulfil any of their needs in a positive manner. Their lifestyle ends up working against them and holding them back.

This can also happen to the best of us at some point in our lives but most of usually find our way by making small but positive changes in the right direction. We learn from our mistakes and move towards what we desire and then moving towards it, one step at a time.

It all starts with where you are. Taking rest if you need to. Listening to your body. And getting back on the bandwagon if you do fall off. And knowing that the results are worth the trouble that you are taking right now- at a physical, spiritual and emotional level.

As you treat yourself with compassion, you start to notice that you are beginning to heal in many different ways. You will find that as you find your rhythm, your energy levels start improving over time.

You can then add a few more additional layers to your routine to give yourself a bigger boost.

You can...

hydrate yourself well every day starting with a glass of water when you wake up in the morning

get your body to move- dance, yoga, pilates or any other restorative exercise

go regularly for a walk in nature

start journaling (a stress journal works really well for some people)

ask for help for something you are struggling with (I have written an entire post on this- read it here)

focus on your "WHY" - why you get up in the morning and what you are planning to accomplish? (you can read my post on this topic here)

focus on what you can control and let go of what you cannot

By living a life that is in rhythm with the natural order of things, you will also start to notice that you get a natural high on most days instead of having to resort to artificial means of boosting your energy levels. At the same time, having a well thought out routine at home and at work will provide you with the freedom to focus your energy on your goals and things that are important to you. This can help to restore balance in your life and create a sense of order.

Ask yourself this,

"What is the ONE routine that I can incorporate in my life today that would help me the most at this point in time?"

Once this routine has been in place for at least a month, you can ask yourself the following questions to determine the progress that has been made so far.

In what ways...

do I feel less overwhelmed?

more balanced?

more productive?

more at peace with myself?

has my clarity and/or my ability to concentrate improved?

(whichever is applicable)

Finding our rhythm lays the foundation to help us achieve our dreams and lead a life that is fulfilling at the same time. It allows us to live a life filled with joy, happiness, peace and to be fully alive to love and be loved.

The Byrds had captured this really well in their song "Turn turn turn"

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose
Under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
A time to build up
A time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rain, a time of sow
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace
I swear it's not too late

Why sometimes you need to say “no” to others (in order to say YES to yourself)

Reading Time: 7 minutes

(This post is the second one in a series of posts that I will be publishing over the next 8 weeks on the twin topics of self worth and self compassion. In the first post I had broached the subject of the perils of "doing it all" and the high price associated with it. You can read it HERE.)

We have all been taught to be there for others and take care of those who love and need our help and support. We also know that we need to take care and support each other in order to grow and thrive as a part of a family, community or country. As social animals, we have been hardwired over time during the course of our evolution to get along with each other since our very survival depended on it. Hence, it is very natural that we just the thought of saying no brings us physical discomfort and do not like to hurt or disappoint others. As a result, we often end up saying yes to avoid feeling guilty, uncomfortable and even to avoid the physical discomfort of saying no.

How many times have you said YES lately where you immediately regretted your decision?

(I have written about the positive aspects of being a part of a community in my earlier post, you can read it HERE)

What usually ends up happening in our busy, modern world as a result of this is that we are often overcommitted and overscheduled. Our instinct of saying yes when we really wanted to say no to a request or a task can often leave us resentful, frustrated and burnt out in the long run. If we are honest enough, being asked to help and do things for others also makes us feel good in many ways. However, these emotions can often interfere with our clarity.

As a result, we can end up regretting our acquiescense for days, months and years which can ultimately prevent us from achieving what had we set out to do in terms of our own goals. And it certainly takes a toll on our health if this becomes a way of life. But we need to keep in mind that for each of us not our energy, but rather the TIME that we have in this world is actually the most non renewable resource that we have in our lives.

Our time on this earth is the most valuable and non renewable resource that we have in our lives.

And once a second, minute or an hour is gone, it is lost forever never to come back. Our energy and other resources can be renewed with enough rest and planning but not our time. This means that in order to live a life where we feel that we are able to contribute, achieve our goals and at the same time enjoy our time with our friends and families, we need to be clear about setting limits and putting boundaries in place.

Healthy boundaries give us the freedom to be involved in activities and causes that are aligned with our purpose and give meaning to our lives. It helps us avoid burnout, frustration and stress to a large extent by avoiding overscheduling and overcommitment. It frees up our time to spend time with those who really matter to us and to pursue hobbies and interests that we are passionate about.

"Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others"

-Brene Brown

However, for any sensitive and caring individual, it takes courage to stand up and say no to others. Women are usually much more concerned about what others think of them and even have what is called the "good girl" (and even "good boy") syndrome and have a hard time saying "no". I have realised much later that I have been dealing with this ever since I was a child. And it has only been in the past few years that I have had to learn to say "no" at times as a part of my self-care so that I could do what was needed to be done for my family without feeling burnt out, frustrated or resentful.

Those of you who have read my earlier posts on self care or have been through my self care challenge that I did recently for my Facebook Group, know that I strongly believe that as primary caregivers of most families, a woman's primary responsibility is towards her own health and wellbeing.

Only when a woman takes care of herself lovingly and willingly can she do the same for others without feeling deprived, resentful or ultimately sacrificing her own health. I also believe that those of us who have daughters have an added responsibility and need to teach our daughters by setting an example of this by practising this ourselves and ending this legacy of deprivation and burnout.

How many times have you agreed to....

do something even though there was a distinct tension in what you felt was right and what someone was pressurising you to do?

be a part of something that you really didn't have time for but you felt that would make those people like you?

a request from a family member, coworker or a friend simply because you did not want to disappoint or anger them?

Every single day people make all kinds of decisions based on what others want even as they know that on some level they may be also committing an act of self betrayal. That they are forever playing the role of a "good girl" (or even "good boy") which is hard to let go of. But at what cost?

What would happen if you did start saying YES to yourself? 

There would most likely be some kind of fall out at the beginning, especially if you have been used to overgiving without setting healthy boundaries.  This would likely have trained people around you to expect you to be there for them whenever they may need you. It takes courage to be honest and open with yourself and to stand up for yourself.  Indeed, this is a critical component of self care. And while you may feel guilty and selfish for a while and face social awkwardness, boundaries are essential for your own mental and emotional well being as well as for the health of your relationships.

There are different ways of saying "no" gracefully and it starts with separating the person from the relationship that we have with them. In other words, when we say no to a request from a person, it does not mean that we are saying no to that person. Once we are clear on this, it becomes much easier to remain strong and at the same time communicate with others in a graceful manner. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when you say "no"-

Focus on what you are getting in return and remind yourself that setting certain boundaries are essential in self care

There are a variety of ways of saying no without using the word, For e.g. "I don't have the bandwidth right now", "I would like to, but I am overcommitted right now"

Give alternative suggestions and buy some time to respond to the request when possible

Check in with yourself and ask yourself  "On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do I really want to do this?" or "If I knew this person would not be angry or upset, would I still say no?"

Think about how this request would make YOU feel- would it bring joy, pleasure or satisfaction? Or is it only about fulfilling obligations and responsibilities?

Being first honest with yourself and then with the people in our lives in a compassionate and authentic manner prevents a sense of betrayal and guilt towards ourselves as well as others.  At the same time, being open in a warm and caring manner strengthens our relationships with others and makes them respect us in the long run. In any case, you simply cannot control how others will react if you disappoint them (which happens inevitably at times) while setting your boundaries. However, you can certainly control how you feel and how you choose to communicate.

At the end of the day, our boundaries reflect our sense of self worth. We practice both self care and self respect when we set healthy boundaries.

We are all unique individuals and healthy boundaries help us to maintain our uniqueness and protect our identities. Many women, in particular, find that somewhere along the way while taking care of their families and bringing up their children lose their sense of who they used to be and their voice. I see this in my Health Coaching practice. Most women who have various chronic health issues are a result of years and even decades of neglecting their own needs and wants.

We are rarely taught why we need to set healthy boundaries in all aspects of our lives. As a result, our sense of self worth gets eroded slowly over the years until we reach a stage where we can no longer tune in to what our body needs from us. At times, we need to do less and take proper rest but we can no longer heed the messages our bodies are constantly sending us. We simply choose to ignore the occasional headache, digestive troubles, constipation, tiredness which are merely symptoms of underlying imbalances. Until we can no longer ignore them.

In Functional Medicine we often say "a headache is a blessing" and it is true!

So the next time you are about to say "yes" to a request, check in with yourself. Remind yourself that you are much more than simply a mother, wife, daughter or employee. See how you feel about it and take your time in responding with grace and compassion in a clear and honest manner.

As Anne Taylor said so well

"Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won't accept."

How self acceptance can compensate for being ‘NEVER ENOUGH”

Reading Time: 6 minutes

(This series of 8 posts on self compassion is a continuation from my earlier series on self care. If you have not read my earlier series, you can do so HERE. And once again as you go through this series, you can use journaling as a tool to get to reap the full benefit ) 

“and i said to my body. softly.

‘i want to be your friend.’

it took a long breath. and replied

‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.”

― Nayyirah Waheed, poet

 

Many people struggle with low self-confidence, constantly seeking out praise and approval from others and making choices based on what everyone else does rather than what they really want or truly believe in. The innermost belief is usually "I AM NOT ENOUGH".

As a result of this, as adults, we often endlessly criticise and express our lack of self-worth by

Mistreating our bodies

Choosing to believe we are unlovable

Comparing ourselves with other people in terms of achievement, body size and shape and social circle

Judging our worth by the number of likes on social media or the number of friends rather than the quality

We also believe that loving and nourishing ourselves is somehow selfish. There is a myth that self love is the same as vanity and being arrogant, but nothing could be further from the truth. This conditioning is usually as a result of the messages that we receive from our families while growing up, media and the society at large. The focus here is not for you to find whom to blame for this conditioning, rather, it is on finding ways to overcome your negative and limiting beliefs about yourself. 

I see this with many of my health coaching clients in my practice who struggle with making themselves and their health a priority. While most of my clients are women, I would think that men would have similar issues as well. And so, even as I start working with my clients on improving their diet and lifestyle, simultaneously we start working on changing the way think about themselves. Women, in particular, have a much harder time than men believing they need to take out time to care for themselves first.

For if we do not value ourselves and believe that we deserve to love and cherish ourselves, how can we ever take out the time for ourselves in our busy lives? 

And very often, this lack of self worth leads often leads us to have a long "SHOULD" list.

How long is your "SHOULD" list? 

How often do you tell yourself that 

I SHOULD…

Be taking better care of myself

Start the new diet that I came to know about recently

Be taking better care of my family and my children

Join the gym and start exercising soon

Be meditating every day

Be spending more time with my children

Be eating healthier

Lose more weight

Does this all sound familiar to you? Do you think you “should” be doing all these things because you genuinely want to or a combination of the following- misplaced sense of guilt, childhood conditioning, comparison with others, self-criticism? Are the choices that you make in your life based on someone else’s standard or your own? 

As the author, Richard Bach had said,

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours”

Instead, you can choose to drop some of these from your “should” list so that you can focus on what you really need and thus could do at this moment. This will empower you to feel there is actually a CHOICE that you can make right now. And that instead of living life on autopilot you can choose to take a different path.

A path that starts with a single thought and that is to CHANGE - the way you think and hence the outcomes in your life going forward. As you embark on this journey, you may also soon realise that we all pay a high price for remaining in the "comfort" zone in terms of unfulfilled dreams, a life half lived and countless "if only"s.

However, merely knowing this may not be enough. We need to learn to approve of ourselves and accept the way we are at this very moment in order to move forward. For it is only when we accept ourselves completely that we can create an inner world that feels safe, deserving of love and positive changes. For most people, this often begins with dealing with self criticism first.

Self criticism and judgement often take place at a very subconscious and a subtle level that we may or may not be aware of. Being critical and judgemental is the default option as it often seems safer than making changes. Change forces us to move outside our comfort zone and can be rather uncomfortable for most. However, not doing so keeps us stuck in the same patterns and keeps us from growing into the person that we always wanted to become. Showing kindness to ourselves, being patient and trying to understand ourselves helps us to move through this.

For no matter how old you are, the rest of your life ahead of you; whether it is 5, 10, 20 or 40 years. The past cannot be changed but you can change your entire future by focussing on the here and now. The sooner you realise this truth, the sooner you will be able to take the necessary steps to change your situation.

So ask yourself

What is it is that you truly need at this moment? What do you want from life? What are your dreams?

What is there on your "should" list that you can drop right now? 

(You may want to take out some time to answer these questions in your journal)

However, this is not about how others can fulfil these needs for you but rather clarify what you need, mostly from yourselfIt is far easier to let things be rather than confront the fact that just like others that we take care of, we too deserve to be looked after and taken care of. That we too need to nurture and nourish ourselves and know that there is so much more to life than who we are, what we are and where we are at this moment.

"The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear"

-Rumi

As you take out some time to quieten your mind to actually listen to your inner voice, you may notice constant negative ideas and beliefs that hold us prisoner to our thoughts about ourselves.  

It can help to ask questions like

Where did this belief come from? Does it hold true for me now and serve me today? Or do I need to let go of it?”

Over time as you are able to let go of these, they start losing their power and hold over you. Replacing these instead with positive self-talk can be an incredibly powerful tool if you are just starting out.

Some examples are given below

  • I have the power to change my mind
  • I am proud of myself for trying since I know it takes courage to do so
  • I may still have a long way to go but I am proud of where I have reached
  • I know I can try again tomorrow and learn from the mistakes I  made today
  • I can learn from this challenge and grow as a person
  • Every opportunity that comes is an opportunity to learn from irrespective of the outcome

As you move forward in this path you will soon realise that as you begin to have a good sense of our own worth, other people’s values, judgements and negative opinions matter less and less. This is the starting point of truly being present to yourself and discovering the sense of inner peace that comes with it. Simply knowing that you can show up just as you are, without any shame or guilt whatsoever, can set you free.

You will realise that.... 

 

You are WORTHY and you are ENOUGH

You are a unique individual whose eccentricities are to be celebrated

You are flawed just like everyone else and this is OK

Your mistakes do NOT define you, you need to learn from them and GROW

You are worthy of receiving love without feeling any guilt

You are truly free...