By nature, people do not like ultimatums. They are threatening, limiting, and just plain passive aggressive.
So, imagine how terrible it is when you give yourself one ultimatum, or worse, many.
For some people — especially perfectionists and black and white thinkers — giving ultimatums is a way of life. Even though it may seem like ultimatums are a motivational tool they are very self-destructive.
I know because I used to give myself ultimatums.
It was part of my “all or nothing” thinking. Either I was going to get “x,” or I’d never get “y” .
In fact, here are some examples of ultimatums I used to give myself on a regular basis.
“Either this guy is “the one,” or I’m through with dating.” “Either I get this promotion, or I’m quitting.” “Either I stick to this diet, or I’ll be a failure forever.”
Those are all pretty threatening, limiting, and passive aggressive, right?
So, why would I do this to myself?
Why giving yourself ultimatums will never motivate you to change
When I would propose these scenarios to myself, I was literally retaliating against myself.
By only ever give myself the choice between complete success or total failure, I would unconsciously attack myself. I wouldn’t just limit the action itself as a success or failure; I would confine myselfto being a complete success or total failure if I didn’t receive a desired outcome.
The problem with this way of thinking was that when I was only giving myself one of two possible outcomes — I always placed every problem 50% against myself.
With those odds, I wound up struggling between the demands I had placed on myself and the results of those requirements. This is where my inner conflicts began, and one of the ways to fight internal conflicts is to start allowing yourself to have more than two options when you desire a specific outcome for yourself — or others.
Instead of declaring, “Either this guy is “the one, or I’m through with dating,” I began saying things like, “Perhaps, I’m not what he is looking for, but that’s okay. I’m now one step closer to finding someone who thinks I’m amazing – so, really this is progress.”
Positioning the relationship prospect as being only a success or a complete failure, provided the potential for only adverse outcomes – and put way more pressure on myself (and potential) suitors
My expectations were setting me up for disappointment 99% of the time.
I learned that changing the way I placed my expectations (and allowing for a range of possibilities) created higher odds for positive results.
At one of my former jobs, there was a vending machine. If you work in an office, chances are there are one (or five) convenience portals to grab food.
The first six months of working in this particular office, I didn’t know anything about that vending machine. Not a thing. I couldn’t have told you one item that was in that machine. You get it.
One day I was informed that I had to take on a new, challenging and time-consuming task that would take up approximately three days at the end of each month. And then that one task turned into multiple responsibilities also expected of me each month. And needless to say, some of these tasks did not come easily to me and often frustrated me to tears.
When I couldn’t balance out reports or my workload started to become completely overwhelming, I began to feel the stress. At first, I tried to incorporate stress relief tactics like mindful breathing and going for a walk out to get some fresh air. However, one of those days on my ‘time out,’ I decided to walk into the office kitchen and look into the abyss of the vending machine.
I bought a package of Skittles and brought them back to my desk and ate them all as I continued to work my way through stressful tasks. I did the same thing the next day and the next day and every month-end after that. In fact, I kept a bowl of change for the vending machine in my desk drawer to be sure that I could get my ‘Skittles on’ during the end of month duties.
After five months of my vending machine habit, I put on six pounds and spent about 400% above the wholesale cost of Skittles in the process. I also noticed the days I would eat sweets while trying to work through reports and reconciliations, I would go home feeling depressed and would eat more when I got home or drink one too many glasses of wine. Stress begets stress begets stress, am I right?
Why am I eating this?
I have this saying that emotional eating is a lot like Dumbo’s feather. I’m assuming most people have seen or read the story of Dumbo, but in case you haven’t, Dumbo had unique, oversized ears that enabled him to fly. When Dumbo first discovered his talent, his friend and confidant, Timothy Q. Mouse, gave Dumbo a ‘magic’ feather which would enable him to fly. In the end, Dumbo loses his feather but still manages to fly without a hitch. The feather gave Dumbo a false sense of confidence, support and security. My Skittles compulsion (and every other food I used in times of stress, pain, and sadness) were not so different than Dumbo’s feather; they provided me with a false sense of confidence, support, and security.
We emotional eaters all have a bit of that Dumbo’s feather element when it comes down to it.
When we are feeling discomfort, pain, insecurity or shame, we turn to food to give us much-needed self-care that we need at that moment.
I’ve had people tell me over the years that they struggle with food (and subsequently their weight) because they were having a bad day. They didn’t get that job, their friend got angry at them, nothing in their closet fit them, or something traumatic is lingering in their subconscious, and they need to “quiet the noise.”
I want to be clear, in my opinion, there is nothing inherently wrong with emotional eating. It is an attempt at self-care — to soothe and manage our emotional discomfort. Many people feel additional shame and discomfort when they emotionally eat because they feel like they are helpless or powerless to food.
Emotional eating is not about being helpless or powerless it is about feeling helpless and powerless over emotions. Emotional eating is a behavioural response, and therefore it can be managed with the right support system, knowledge and tools.
One of the first steps that can be taken to manage an emotional eating trigger is to stop, look at the food and ask yourself, “Why am I really eating this?” – and here are some questions to provide you with an honest answer:
1. Am I truly hungry? True hunger is physical. When we are truly hungry, there are physical cues supplied by our bodies such as weakness, depleted energy, lightheadedness, and shakiness. If you are feeling physical symptoms of hunger, your body is telling you that, yes, you do in fact need to eat something.
2. What is happening right now? Stress and anxiety are two big triggers for emotional eaters. In the situations when you have the urge to eat something, take an inventory of what is happening at that moment. Are you at work? Are you under the pressure of a deadline? Did you see or hear something upsetting and you’re unsure what you can do to process your anxiety? Did something or someone remind you of a painful memory? At that moment take a minimum of two minutes to breathe and ask yourself, “What is happening right now?” Write down your feelings and give yourself 15-20 minutes to take a break or grab a drink of water. Giving yourself time to assess the situation and the feelings you are experiencing can help you become better aware of ‘why’ you are eating when you are eating.
3. What can I do instead of eating? Okay, so you have assessed the situation, and you know you’re not truly hungry, and you’ve taken your time to ask yourself what is happening at the moment – so now what? What can you do instead of eating when you are feeling anxious or stressed? You should not ignore your feelings because they are valid. If you are feeling anxious, stressed or triggered in any way, you should work on strategies that will help you tackle those emotions. For example, in my situation with stress eating Skittles while feeling under pressure at work – in hindsight, instead of turning to junk food during those times, I should have talked to my boss and told her I was struggling. I am not blaming myself for not asking for help, but part of my emotional need to eat was based on feelings of insecurity about my work but led me to ignore the fact that all of us have to ask for help from time to time. There is no shame in asking for help or admitting that we feel overwhelmed. As you work on building confidence with food, you will become more in touch with what triggers your emotional eating, and that awareness will help to better equip you with strategies and solutions for the times you need to exercise self-compassion without using food to cope.
It is important to remember (and yes, I am a bit repetitive – sorry!) that emotional eating is an attempt to self-care. It is also important to remember that emotional eating often leads to feelings of shame and that sense of guilt can lead to emotional eating. While I do not believe there is anything shameful about wanting to care for ourselves and show ourselves compassion, I do think that it does negatively impact our ability to have confidence with food. The ability to trust that we can make the distinction between needing food for physical survival and relying on it for emotional survival and learn the way to give ourselves the best chance of repairing the relationship between food mind, body, and soul.
If you are interested in working on repairing your relationship with food by working with me one-on-one, please email me at email@example.com and don’t forget to subscribe to post updates!
As an American living abroad during the past two election cycles, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with the state of things back home.
To say things are toxic would be an understatement.
It seems like everywhere you turn, people are at odds with each other about everything.
“Things are changing, get over it.”
Before I became a coach, I used to be one of those folks who walked around thinking, “just get over it.”
However, these days it is my opinion, and the belief of many great scholars, thinkers, and leaders before me that love and compassionare necessities for living an honest and substantial life.
And the truth is; I couldn’t do this without being more loving and compassionateto myself.
Self-compassion is something with which the majority of us struggle.
It’s much easier to beat ourselves up about our perceived failures or prop ourselves up for our perceived strengths while comparing ourselves to the faults and advantages of the other people than it is, to be honest with ourselves.
When we evaluate ourselves so stringently, it doesn’t just stay with us.
When we are cutting towards ourselves, we tend to be less kind to others in turn. I’ve worked with clients who pick apart other people’s lifestyles, partners, and appearances and it is just down to how they feel about themselves.
We all have done this, and it is not helpful, because as the saying goes (and I may be butchering this, so don’t quote me!) “What Sally says about Jane says more about Sally than it does about Jane.”
In other words,we only end up burning ourselves by thinking and saying cruel and judgmental things.
It is not entirely our fault. Sometimes, the human default setting is not to reassure ourselves that people are doing the best they can.
Sometimes, our default setting is to scrutinise others as harshly as we would ourselves.
When I ask, is social media a mirror of discontent I mean it regarding how we judge success and failure nowadays. Is everything we scroll and swipe through our way of looking for a source of feedback by comparing what we see in others in ourselves?
I see this especially on social media over and over again. And I’ve fallen victim to it myself. Say you’re having a bad day and are frustrated with your life, all it takes is a scroll through Instagram or Facebook to watch the highlight reels of other people’s lives to set us off into critical mode.
But guess what? Most of what we see on people’s social media accounts is (at least) slightly fictional. I have worked with individuals who show how great their relationship or career is online and then tell me things are hanging by a thread in real life.
Our perception of other people’s lives doesn’t obligate us to beat ourselves up for not having the same story as they do any more than it does to judge them for living differently than us.
And truthfully, most people are not very transparent about their true selves, and it keeps them from being able to show their vulnerability. If you’re as big of a fan of Brene Brown as I am, then you know what the cost of hiding shame and vulnerability is.
Success is not having an expensive car, high paying job, significant other, or 1% body fat.
Failure is not the absence of those things either.
Success and failure are just feedback, and they are what make us more resilient.
Your resilience is far greater than you give yourself credit. Just stop and think about all of the things you’ve been through in your life – hell, this month alone. I assure you that you have picked yourself up and dusted off more times than you even realise. Positive Psychology also states that those with a high level of self-efficacy are not only more likely to succeed, but they are also more likely to bounce back and recover from failure.
So, what if you could be more aware of your resilience? What if you could constructively comfort and console yourself along the way?
Being kind to yourself, when you need it most, is a necessity it is part of what being human is.
As Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the world of self-compassion states: there are three main components to self-compassion — self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. It is part of the human experience to feel vulnerable and to experience failure or disappointment, but what we don’t need when this happens is to be our worst enemy. It is our moral imperative to build a healthy self-support system and realise that we all feel discontent and we all struggle.
Self-compassion will enable us to be less critical of ourselves and others and further develop our resilient spirit.
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