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The perfectionism-self image issue.

Perfectionism may show up in many areas of life in different forms and degrees. At first, there’s the belief that perfectionism is a wonderful self motivation tool that will help us better ourselves. Then, it gives us a strong illusion of control over self and the environment. Towards the end, it affects the way we think, live and enjoy life. Deep inside us a never ending battle begins: fear, shame and stress take over, and feelings of unfulfillment and unhappiness prevail no matter what.

In reality, perfectionism is “Self abuse to the highest degree”. I insist, do read this again please: Self abuse to the highest degree. 

Since self image is the idea one has of one’s appearance, abilities, and personality, our image of perfection is the reason we reject ourselves. Self abuse comes from having an image of what it means to be perfect and never being able to measure up to that ideal.

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Perfectionism and shame lead to psychological self abuse by affecting the way we think about ourselves (self image) and the world around us; it may also lead towards physical self abuse in the form of excess work, over-exercise, drastic unhealthy diets or eating disorders; and spiritual self abuse in strong feelings of unworthiness and frustration for lack of willpower. Perfectionism can only limit and constrict, it could never provide growth.

Perfectionism and shame always go hand in hand. When a person is asking too much of herself (himself) without any compassion, the –I’m not good enough– belief unavoidably establish itself inside her(his) head. It is the reason why we don’t accept ourselves the way we are, and why we don’t accept others the way they are. A life style that often leaves us in suffering.

The perfectionism-self negative image issue affects not only the way we look at life but sooner or later it affects our health too. It is a fact that this issue produces the kind of stress leading to hormonal imbalance, weight issues, metabolism and  immunity problems, mood changes, imbalanced diets, binging, guilt, shame, food deprivation, sleep issues, heart conditions, etc. In order to take care of ourselves it is necessary to identify and accept perfectionism and then, start to eliminate all practices and habits that support it.

Healing perfectionism and self image is not just a decision, it is a journey and it’s a journey that seldom happens alone. It requires patience, perseverance and support but most of all it needs kindness. This journey, although not easy, is essential to physical, spiritual and emotional health and happiness. As a rehabilitated perfectionist, believe me, I know.

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the web

Intruder alert: Food obsession present.

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Out of all the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings within us, our obsession with food and body is seldom considered a health threat. In fact, it is accepted as the healthy thing to do and sometimes it is even admired and glorified.

Although not true for everybody, it is common for us to spend part of the day wasting time and energy on food related thoughts like: Food quantities, which foods are “bad”, which foods are “good”,  at  what time is best to eat, try this old diet, try that new diet, try a detox, read about food, count calories, etc. It is also common to let ourselves be consumed by negative thoughts such as: I don’t look like I “should”,  I am not thin enough, not muscular enough, not attractive enough, etc.

This kind of thoughts have a strong tendency to become obsessions.  It is a fact that there are people who never have a need to diet. Yes, these people exist. But the truth is that most of us are either new to dieting or have been chronic dieters for years and we are all equally sorrounded by a collective obsession on food. An obsession that blinds us and in some cases, consumes us. This obsession on food and body  may become an intruder who slowly poisons life’s good moments.

On the other hand, we are also sorrounded by tons of information from friends, experts and all kinds of media. As a result, the good foods vs bad foods debate becomes a constant presence everywhere. Since some people choose to eat vegetarian, some choose a high protein diet, some eat gluten free, fat free or low carb, some eat all organic, the “perfect food or diet” debate never ends.

Over time, many discover that the perfect eating approach only works for a while and gives temporary results. We realize that the constant struggles of daily life, together with this obsession, eventually end up leaving us frustrated, anxious and full of disappointment.

Therefore, obsessing with food and the body we “should” have is just the tip of an iceberg in a constant search to fulfill the need to feel good about ourselves and live a happy life. There is an urgent need to be aware of this, let go and start working towards self consciousness, listen to our own bodies’ signals and symptoms, discover what is good for ourselves in an individual way. Also, it is important to learn that food is not the enemy, it exists to nourish us, to give us joy, vitality and health.

Lets discover what our own body needs, explore, heal and find a new path to health and happiness through small daily changes and self-awareness.

Choose to be kind and grateful. 

Image from the web.

 

 

About a mirror challenge.

 

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”

I have been ‘face to face’  with an array of mirror references these past couple of months. Things like: “The power of looking at yourself in the mirror”, “mirror exercises”, “mirror therapy”,  “affirmations in front of mirror” and such things just kept appearing in my life via conversations, classes, books, tv programs and movies.

So, I got interested in the subject and paid attention. I even read some more about it and experimented with it. I discovered that sometimes we look at ourselves in the mirror and get a very satisfying result, but also discovered that mostly when we look, when we really look, the results are not so satisfying.

Sometimes we observe and what happens next goes like this: We look too old, too tired, too skinny, too fat, too weird, too tall, too short, big this, small that, too wrinkled, too young, too hairy, too big, too small, etc. Also, on rare occasions, we may even look at ourselves with such daring attention that we achieve eye contact with our reflection and we do not like what we see or how we feel.

On the other hand, while practicing and experimenting on myself, I discovered a doorway to amazing thoughts and feelings to work upon. It was really interesting.

So I thought I could share some simple ideas in case anyone got interested and wanted to try working a little on self discovery, self care and self love through mirror work. It requires daily practice and some courage.

Practice A: Learn to look at youself in the eyes in front of mirror for some minutes and then say to yourself: “I love you” several times each day.

Practice B: Get in front of mirror and promise yourself: “I will take care of you and even if it takes a lifetime, I will learn to love you, you have my deepest commitment”.

Practice C: Look at yourself and for each thing you see that you don’t like, find two things that are good about your body or yourself (one per day).

Practice D: Smile daily in the mirror and dance! Just move and enjoy being alive.

 

Choose to be kind and grateful.

Image from the internet.

 

 

 

 

A not so simple opinion on forgiveness

We all get hurt one way or the other. Such is life. It is the way we react that counts, or so I’ve heard. The truth is we need to forgive constantly in order to move on. In fact, we tend to forgive small things on a daily basis without even noticing. But when a major offense (or group of accumulated offenses) like abuse, serious lies, betrayal or any action resulting in a major loss comes crashing our way, the reaction is different. It may be immediate or it may take some time but we feel hurt, confused, vulnerable and  sadness, resentment and anger explodes within us.

We have a problem now, besides the offensive act commited againts us I mean. We click into survival mode and find that pain and resentment are so uncomfortable that we try with all our might to put those feelings and emotions away, bury them and forget about them. This process may last hours, days, months or years. The subsequent effort in denying what we feel may create health consequences. Now, this may not be true for some people, but for some people it is. It happens that our heart knows, our soul knows and every cell in our body knows that we are in pain and that we are unable to forgive at the moment, and our whole being acts accordingly, even if our mind says otherwise.

Permanent unforgiveness causes chronic stress. Our feelings and emotions are alive and if buried, they will try to find a way out. This chronic stress response causes our body to release cortisol and excess insulin, to say the least, which results in short term or long term health issues that may include: low immune defense system, indigestion, weight gain, inability to loose weight, excess weight loss because of malnutrition or malnourishment, headaches and even depression.

It is important to notice that forgiveness of a major offense will not take away the pain and resentment right away. Forgiveness is the switch that turns the power of healing on. Healing is a process, a slow one sometimes, which would be easier to undestand with an example of physical injury. Such may be the case of a person  riding a motorcycle when, suddenly, a newly licensed texting and driving teenager hits this person. They rush him/her to the ER and after a month in intensive care, this teen comes to see this person looking for forgiveness. This is a nice person, so compassion fills his/her heart and he/she forgives the kid. Did this person got out of the hospital the minute he/she forgave? Did the pain go away? Did the broken bones heal instantly? No. Healing will be a process of months, maybe a year or more. He/she will have scars, maybe for life and will need therapy, probably. But this person will go on and life will be good again someday because he/she is strong and just helped the recovery proccess by forgiving the kid for everything.

When a person is devastaded on the inside, the healing process may be slower than a physical one. It may take an hour, a day, a week, months even years but forgiveness always starts the healing process.

Time doesn’t heal everything, it can make it worse actually, specially if we don’t forgive. So we have to choose either to forgive, let go and start healing or to resent, hold, bury and start affecting our health. So, forgiveness becomes a self care decision. We don’t forgive for the offender, we mainly forgive for our own self. Because we should love ourselves enough to care for our own well being. Because we live once and do not want to waste away life. Because we want to help our body, soul and heart to let go and relax in order to have a good working metabolism, better health and live in the best way possible.

It is so important to take our unresolved emotional and psychological issues into account when there is a physical health problem and viceversa. Forgiveness is key, it is within our reach and it is so worth it.

Choose to be kind and grateful. 

Image from the internet.

The way we talk to ourselves

Our health is a reflection of how we talk to ourselves. It took me decades to reach this conclusion. I’m not talking about all diseases but about the mind-body stress relationship that causes an array of different symptoms even when we are “oficially” not sick via testing or a doctor’s diagnosis.

Why did it take me so long? Because first I had to re-learn that we are a whole (spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, psychological beings) and that you cannot take care of just one part of yourself and discard the others as less important. I say re-learn because we once were whole, just take a look at small children. That was before we learned to suppress feelings, emotions, pleasure in experiences  and thoughts.

We are part of a collective and  cultural subconscious. Once, Freud introduced the idea of an unconcious which guides each of us in a unique way, but this idea was incomplete. Then, Jung established the collective unconscious but the third unconscious, the cultural, together with the collective are, in my opinion, an equally powerful influence in the way we behave, the way we “should be”, the way we feel and the way we talk to ourselves.

Sometimes, (sometimes-most of the time, sometimes-seldom) we speak to ourselves in a way we will never dare speak to others. The negative self talk that continuously feeds our lives produces an almost imperceptible but chronic level of stress in our bodies that we either don’t notice anymore or try by all means to push aside and silence. It is until our bodies scream with symptoms like tension, anxiety, fatigue, no eating, binge eating, headaches, insomnia that we may begin to pay attention.

Shame, feelings of not being good enough, of not being loveable are constantly fueled by the pressure we create in our inner world by negative self talk.  This stress definitely affects our overall health: the way we feel, the way we eat and sleep, but mainly it affects the way we metabolize.

It is not easy. It takes months, persistence and baby steps to realize that the way we talk to ourselves is so powerful that our health depends on it. To realize that you can be your best positive influence or the worst self-abuser forces oneself to choose which path to follow: nourishment and peace or self destruction.

I made the choice long ago: baby steps, persistence and patience to change the neurological patterns and connections that such negative self-talk had strengthened. Practicing self-compassion, self-care and being open to constantly evolve through new tools have been the way to peace, true healing and health.

Choose to be kind and grateful.

Image from the internet.