Even though I know my way to the places I most frequently travel, I still pop on my iphone and use my GPS to help me navigate the best way there and to show me the time at which I will arrive at my destination. While I might stress about traffic or that the time at which I am said to arrived has changed, I’m never worried that I won’t get to my actual destination. I mean, how can I not get there when I’m being told step-by-step where to go and simultaneously being shown where I am on the map?
Before the advent of iphones and GPS’ (yes, I am old enough to have lived through this time 😉 ), I remember hand writing directions or printing directions online from MapQuest. There was always an intense feeling of getting close to my destination, then one of second guessing myself – Had I not written down a step? Had I missed a turn? Was MapQuest really accurate?
Sometimes it seemed that the closer I would get to where I was going, the stronger my desire would be to turn around. I’d think, I must have missed it. There’s no way it could really be this far. I’d panic, think of worst-case scenarios where’d I’d drive so far out I would be lost in the middle of nowhere and then of course my gas would run out and I would be stranded for days. I’d anxiously look for side streets to turn around and just as I was ready to haul ass and turn the car around, I’d see a street sign that I was looking for or realize I was in fact exactly where I needed to be. This has happened more times that I can count.
The stronger the desire is to turn back around, the closer we are to where we are going. The stronger the feeling of panic that we’ve made a mistake or that we’ll never get “there”, the more likely we are on the right path…we just have to go a bit further.
Misreading the Signals
Modern technology has taken some of the mystery out of navigating our world, the uncertainty we might feel in unfamiliar territory. So much so that we’re completely unattuned to relying on our own instincts to get us where we want to go.
When navigating our internal world, when working towards a goal we have, many times we don’t recognize the urge to give up for what it is: a sign.
The urge to give up, to throw in the towel – the scared feeling of this isn’t going to work so I might as well save face now and quit – is a signal that we are almost there.
Right now, I’m venturing to a “new” place in my life. I’ve made a major commitment over the last month to really heal my relationship to myself, particularly around how I relate to food, eating and my body. Now, this place isn’t wholly new as this has been a journey I’ve been on for quite some time since struggling with an eating disorder in my 20’s. The difference this time around is that it’s not directly around the food and using food to meet a certain goal – it’s around my mindset: changing how I view my body, food and the relationship between the two.
This is a journey that started when I did the Whole 30 program three years ago, a program I embarked on because for the first time ever I wanted to truly heal my relationship to my body – I wanted to learn how to feed and fuel my body in a way that was nourishing and not laden with anxiety or food shaming. I left that program feeling energized – literally. My body wasn’t as achy, my energy levels were up and overall I felt really, really good. But the program in itself wasn’t the answer. I knew that going in. Taking certain foods out and only eating specified things per the program’s guidelines was meant to help you figure out what foods worked best for your body. For me it started an exploration of designing what those foods were. But I still didn’t know enough about what foods to have, what the best options for me were, what the best time of day to eat certain foods was – any of it. And so instead of relieving some anxiety, the fear of not knowing only intensified and once again put me in a place where food had power over me.
Since doing Whole 30 the first time three years ago, I’ve relapsed and have had days where I’ve restricted food, or even if nothing changed in how I was eating, mentally I would berate myself. I did Whole 30 a second time. I did meditations on metta, loving-kindness towards myself. I worked with an eating disorder therapist and talked extensively with my life coach. And while all these things were steps on the journey, I kept questioning if I had missed a turn. Surely, I had forgotten to “do” something because I should be there already, loving myself and the body I’m in.
I just wanted to be at a place where food didn’t scare me – where I could listen to my body and know when I was hungry – where I could eat and allow it to nourish me without the fear and panic of how will this make me look?
The Fear is Your Friend
If you are venturing to a new place in your life, somewhere you desperately want to go, you’re going to feel fear. You might even panic. You will probably want to turn around, give up and return to familiar territory.
The uncomfortable feeling we get, the intense fear that comes up as we move toward the things we want, is us rubbing up against our old beliefs and programming. It’s a concept known as cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is when we have inconsistent thoughts, beliefs or attitudes especially as it relates to behavioral or attitude change. But, if we want different results than we’ve experienced in the past, we have to push through our old programming, we have to consistently keep building the habits that align with the new program and beliefs we want.
It’s scary to be in this place, where I’m pushing myself to eat consistently throughout my day instead of maybe a snack here or there and waiting until I’m done all my classes to finally sit down and eat. It’s scary to be eating higher levels of protein and fats than I ever have and to not equate eating healthy fats with getting fat. It’s so scary that some days I want to quit. Some days I tell myself maybe this place, where I am right now, how far I’ve come, is only as far as I can go and I’ll wonder, Is this as good as it gets? It makes me scared and frustrated and sad at the same time to think I won’t ever change my mindset around this to the degree I want – that I’ll never quite see what everyone else sees when they look at me.
But I also know the fear I feel, the strong resistance that’s coming up as I work toward this goal, is a surefire sign that not only am I on the right path…I’m closer than I think to breaking through it.
Right as you start to have a breakthrough, that’s when you’ll want to shrink back the most. Because that’s when things get real. That’s when you have to step up and step into a new way of living.
Changing your life is scary. Being afraid is normal. But, it’s just part of the process – and it’s a sign that you’re having a breakthrough.
The tipping point, the moments leading up to the breakthrough are always the most intense and this week I’m feeling it. If this is where you find yourself too, know that we’re in this together. Whatever you do, don’t turn around. And in the moments you feel like giving up, reach out and share what you’re up against, lean in and ask for help to navigate the hard parts, take a deep breath and remember why you started in the first place.
These are the moments most people quit. But you and I…we aren’t most people.