How to get out of your own way.
I am extra humbled and grateful for this fact, because a good portion of my life up until the past few years was spent dealing with a significant amount of bullshit. Depression, abuse, isolation, severe anxiety, anorexia, bulimia, so much time on the elliptical that I forgot what it was like to have friends.
I spent a good deal of my teens feeling like no one in the world gave a shit about me. Much of my 20’s were spent freaking the fuck out, because how was it possible to live a good life with such a general cloak of persistent grief? I was convinced that I came from circumstances. The kind of circumstances that made it so that it wasn’t possible for me to be calm or happy. My eating disorder was the absolute pinnacle of that belief.
My rules, my calorie counting, my weighing and measuring, my food journal, my every-single-day-no-matter-what exercise gave me things to do when I felt there was nothing else to do. The control of my body was soothing, a total fucking life raft in the midst of a big terrible ocean. I truly felt that I needed food restriction and body scrutiny to survive, because it gave me what I thought was the closest thing to peace.
By the time my eating disorder started I had spent decades looking outward to find a way to feel like I was noticeable and valuable, and in some sense, the insanity gave me that feeling. By the time I realized that my behavior wasn’t sustainable or smart or interesting, the habits were deeply entrenched in my daily activities. I quickly realized that in order to make changes, I first had to get out of my own way.
Maybe you feel stuck in behavior patterns you don’t like, or you wonder why you can’t be happy, or you don’t trust yourself to succeed. That’s okay. I felt that way for a long time too, and much of the work of my recovery was finding ways to change my mind about myself.
To do the same, I suggest you:
Be gentle: If you feel stuck in thought patterns or behaviors that you don’t know how to get rid of, it is probably for a reason. I think the dialogue about habit change is both privileged and flawed, in the sense that it doesn’t take into account things like race, class, or brain chemistry. If you want to live a brilliant and joyful life and you’re totally fucking broke, working a billion hours a week doing something you hate to just scrape by, it is likely that you will be a little fucking depressed. If your body is simply not making enough serotonin, it is likely that your brain will be impacted. There are all sorts of totally uncontrollable factors that mess with our health and happiness, and I encourage you to be extremely gentle with yourself while you navigate around them.
Even if you simply have a habit of perpetual fear or constant and nagging feelings of unworthyness, those things are deeply entrenched and won’t go away over night. Go slow when getting out of your own way. Take little steps and don’t be a dick to yourself when it doesn’t work out right away. It’s okay. You’re still going to succeed in little ways, all the time.
Be disciplined: Discipline is different for everyone. For me it means I set an early alarm, often rising before the sun, so that I can do personal things (exercise, eat wonderful food, study my text books, meditate, write a gratitude list) as well as work my ass off for Super Strength Health. It ALSO means I am DILIGENT about my rest days from exercise, I ALWAYS sleep 8-9 hours, I DEMAND one meal a week out of the house and somewhere special, and I generally don’t work after I eat my dinner. I am disciplined in terms of my productivity, but I know that tasks will simply expand to meet the time allowed, so I also must be disciplined about my off time too. I find it extremely helpful to make a calendar for myself and to try to stick to it. In the past I have viewed myself as generally lazy, and taking the time to stick to a structure has been a huge part of letting myself be both accomplished and happy. It feels good!
Be confidant: This might take the most work of all, but it is so worth the effort. At some point I realized I was totally ashamed of my eating and exercise behaviors, specifically, so I had to change them in order to gain self-esteem. This took YEARS, and I consistently had to go back to my first suggestion (be gentle!) when I faltered. Confidence doesn’t come immediately, but a good start is to try to have integrous action most of the time, and to start saying nice things to yourself. Just telling myself that I think I am rad and smart on a daily basis has been tremendously helpful. It’s the little things!
Take risks: I honestly think that taking risks has made me be more confidant (as opposed to confidence allowing me to take more risk). Sometimes a good old dash of “I didn’t believe I could do XYZ, but I did it anyway” is totally appropriate and excellent.
Get grateful: Getting grateful for your circumstance is one thing you could do, but getting grateful for yourself is actually what I mean when I suggest this step. YOU, all on your own, want to get out of your own way, to accomplish shit and to feel good about yourself. YOU are taking the steps to enjoy your life. YOU are curious what it would be like to feel like you are killin’ it at living your life. A lot of people choose to never push themselves past what they already know. Be grateful for yourself, your intention and your effort.
I believe in you, even if you don’t believe in yourself (yet.)
Now get out there and crush it!