self criticism

Enjoying the Struggle…Loving the lifestyle

We’ve all been told that “life is about the journey more than the actual end result”. But the reason I think many of us fail to find joy along that journey is because we don’t actually sit down and decide if that journey is right for us. We get excited about achieving the goal without questioning what it will take to achieve it…and if we enjoy that kind of hard work.

The people who rise to the top of the corporate ladder, love the long hours and the pressure it takes to get there. The people who have a loving relationship with their spouse and children are people who value spending time with family over making extra money. The people who write novel after novel are people who love spending hours alone in front of the computer.

So, if we find ourself hating the circumstances of our lives, the question we need to ask ourselves is, “are we up for the struggle?” Or, I prefer to ask, will I enjoy the lifestyle?

Back when I was getting certified for Pilates, my teacher asked all of us a very important question: “Do you want to be a Pilates instructor or a Pilates enthusiast?”. Well, we were there to get certified so obviously we all wanted to be Pilates Instructors! He questioned us further…”what will your life look like? How often do you think you’ll actually get to do Pilates?”

I can tell you the answer to that. For the past 15 years I have probably spent as much time in the car driving to studios, gyms, people’s homes, etc as I have spent actually teaching. AND…aside from the classes I teach at the gym, I only manage to fit in a few Pilates exercises a day. In fact, there are plenty of videos on-line that are designed specifically for instructors because they only have 15 minutes to work out between clients! (whereas the enthusiasts, come take class with me at least 3 times a week!) And, I’ve also had to work with people in acute pain, debilitating injuries… and many with challenging personalities.

So, if I didn’t like driving, I’d be miserable and probably fairly angry. If I wanted every day to be 9 – 5, structured, and secure, I’d be a nervous wreck. If I only wanted to work with super fit and easy going people, I couldn’t make ends meet without another job.

The question then has to be, am I up for the challenges this lifestyle will give me?

If you want to be an actor, you will likely have to work as a waiter or caterer in order to keep your days free for auditions. You will also have to make enough money to be in class, hire a coach when needed, and do a lot of acting for free. (auditions) And then when you do book a job, you will then have to memorize lines, wake up for early call times, and deal with a multitude of inflated egos. If you become famous then you will be stared at in public, be photographed without your knowing, and answer the same questions over and over at all the press junkets to promote your current project.

That will be your lifestyle.

If you want to run a nightclub, you will have to like late nights, drunk people, loud music and flaky employees.

If you want to be in a band, you will have to practice for hours on your own, practice even more hours with the band, work nights and weekends, and lug your gear from gig to gig.

If you want to lose 100 pounds, you will have to change your lifestyle entirely starting with the food you eat. (And changing our diets is by far the most challenging part of losing weight.)

The fact is, you WILL face challenges. Obstacles WILL arise. So don’t turn yourself into yet another obstacle by complaining about the path along the way. If you can’t embrace the lifestyle (i.e. the challenges you will face) take a good look at that goal. Because yes, achieving it will likely feel awesome. BUT, with that achievement comes the work to get there. And if you can’t enjoy the work, you won’t put in the energy needed to actually succeed.

But, if you choose wisely, the obstacles, the struggles, the ‘work’…won’t feel like work at all. It will be just part of the journey.

If you want help with this, get in touch and we’ll go to work!

And if you liked this, repost, retweet, and forward it to friends.

“We are the Choices we Make”

“We are the choices we make”…Meryl Streep

News flash…you will never “find” yourself. The truth is, we “create” ourselves…every moment of every day.

That means our thoughts, our language, what we choose to act on, and what we choose to skip, all will have an effect on our lives. And not just our lives, but the lives of others as well.

We all know that saying “one person can change the world”…well, the reason it sounds cheesy is because there is truth to it. The ripple effect is real. There was a study done on this very topic. (“Implications of Vascular Theory of Emotions”…very dry read!) It’s summary states that 1,000 people are within 3 degrees of each other. That was not a typo…you are 3 degrees away from effecting the lives of 1,000 people. So how you show up in your life really matters. There is no better time then right now, to own our lives and the actions we take. And not just the big juicy actions…the little decisions matter too. And how you talk to yourself is crucial to your success and self worth. Despite how small this distinction is, it’s effects on your life are huge.

Do you ever listen to what you say to yourself? We all do it…we all have that running commentary going on in the backs of our minds. Who does your voice sound like? A cheerleaders or jailer? A loving supporter or destructive tyrant? A compassionate parent or an abusive one?

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me” is total Bullshit.

Words mixed together into sentences are bundles of emotions. They can move you to tears of joy, or tears of pain.

Words matter.

Most of us have some fairly vile self talk that we fall victim to sometimes. And we all know that we would never say those things to another living being. For some of us, our self-talk is so violent it’s not fit for anyone to hear. Yet we listen anyway.

Why is it important to change our inner dialogue? Well, let’s apply some common sense. Let’s say the only water you drank was polluted and toxic? What would eventually happen? You would BECOME polluted and toxic.

It’s the same with thoughts! If all you feed yourself is harsh criticism and shame, you will BECOME fearful of everyone and most likely paralyzed by your shame.

So how can you expect to go out and take risks, and make the world a better place, if you think you are something to be ashamed of?

It’s time we changed our relationships with ourselves. And it starts by tuning in to what we tell ourselves on a daily basis.

I call the negative talk in my head “YSR radio…You Suck Radio”. And when it’s on in the background, I don’t just turn down the volume, I change the damn station!

I’m over simplifying, I know. But this self monitoring doesn’t’ have to be a total drag either.

Pull out your journal and write out your own “You Suck Radio” program. This won’t take long because you know it by heart by now. But taking the time to put it on the page is useful because then you can use your own words to shift your perspective.

For example, maybe you are unhappy with your weight. Write out all of your self talk around how much you weigh, why you’ll never improve, why you are destined to be as fat as a house for the rest of your life…(that was my self talk by the way), etc. Go for it. Let that vicious voice in your head have it’s say…and write it all down.

Now reread what you wrote. Is any of that true or helpful in any way? Does thinking you’re destined to fail motivate you to take positive actions in your life? And can the opposite be true as well…like the times you actually DID succeed at something?

What are you focussing on? Your successes or your failures? Is “You Suck Radio” blaring in your head? And if so, how do you think that will affect your day? How will it affect all the people you interact with today? Remember…we are all just 3 degrees away from affecting 1,000 people.

Start to listen to your thoughts about yourself. Your words matter whether they are directed at you or other people. Write them down and question their validity. Tune in to what station is playing in your head. And if it sucks, change the station.

Don’t forget to forward this to your friends, repost, and retweet!

The Truth about Change

Growth does not come from a checklist…The truth about change.

Real change can only happen when we love ourselves enough to stand up and do what we know is best for us.
Take a look at your To-do list. How do you feel when you read through it? Could you easily call it your “ to create more joy in my life” list? Does your list make you feel passionate and inspired? Does it help you feel happy?

Or, is this a list of “should’s” to someday feel like a better person? In other words, if you check all the boxes does that mean you’ll feel more validated, more worthy, more acceptable?

For some of us, our to-do lists have become a hustle for our self-esteem. We believe that the more healthy, organic, spiritual, and meditative we are, the ‘better’ we will be as people. On top of that, we have to take actions towards our goals, make more money, and somehow find time to stay current on the latest TV shows. Not to mention keeping up our Instagram feed…

The problem isn’t our goals or our desires or all the actions we intend to take each day. The problem is when we turn these goals and actions into a gauge of our self worth. Because if achieving all these things is our only way to feel okay with ourselves, our days will leave us exhausted and empty. After all, even if we do accomplish it everything, tomorrow we have to start all over again…new day, new list.

For many of us, we have ‘self improvement’ reasons behind our plans. “If I include a green drink every day, my liver and kidneys will be happy. If I practice guided meditation I won’t get sick. If I stop procrastinating I’ll actually have enough time to practice yoga. If I get off my ass and exercise, I’ll be worthy of that gift massage I’ve been putting off.”

This sounds more like a “I’ll be a good person if I do these things” list to me.

Notice your plans…are they more about how to fix yourself than to create more of what you’re passionate about? Ask yourself this question…”Do I think that if I accomplish everything on my list, I will like myself more? That I’ll be a better, more acceptable, lovable person?”

Seriously, why are you doing what you’re doing?

More importantly, does getting all that done feel freeing to you?

Unfortunately, often we are so desperate to feel good about ourselves we can’t accept ourselves as we are in this moment. Believe me, if constantly viewing ourselves as a self improvement project actually helped motivate us to take action towards our dreams, then I’d be all for it!

But that is not how growth works. I repeat:

Real change happens when we love ourselves enough to stand up and do what we know is best for us. We naturally ‘improve’ when we are passionately living our lives…not when we are checking things off a list.

So, when I work with people on their goals, the first thing I get clear about is why they want those things in the first place.

And then? We toss that old to-do list. Instead of a long list of not so exciting things (I mean really, how exciting can green juice be?) we come up with 3 actions a day.

Personally, every day I write the 3 things I will do that day to help me feel like I’m moving closer to my desires…not my self esteem. The difference might seem subtle but it’s effects are huge. Working for what I’m passionate about creates energy and is exciting. Whereas, making up for my supposed shortcomings is depressing and only fuels my self-shame.

What if you rewrote your health plans in ways that excited you? For example, instead of listing ‘yoga 3 times a week’ how about saying, ‘this week I will move in ways that feel great 3 times’. Maybe yoga totally fills you with mojo. Great. But by taking away the restriction, maybe you’ll bust out the African drumming album and dance your ass off instead. (also excellent exercise and super fun!)

How could you revamp your spiritual practice? Maybe instead of insisting on doing a seated meditation every day, you could instead say “I will connect to my source every day”. This opens you up to more ways to fuel that desire. Yes, you could sit and meditate. But you could also include the option of compassion meditation (something that does not require you to sit still for any period of time…contact me if you want to learn more about it at brigittadau@yahoo.com). Simply stopping to enjoy nature for a moment could be a beautiful way to connect to your source. Also practicing mindfulness, or noting what you are grateful for could be a way to keep your spiritual commitment.

Putting extra pressure on ourselves to get things done will never lead us to joy and liberation. Loving ourselves, will. And by making your desires easy and fun to act upon, you’ll immediately start to move in the direction you want to move in. Your days will begin to change and be less about proving your worth through accomplishments. They will be more about bringing your true self to all of your encounters. And when you show up authentically in your life, your need for approval automatically dissipates.

So, go back and take a good hard look at your goals and your to-do lists…are they bringing you joy? Do they light you up? Do they fill you with enthusiasm? Or do you feel like you are hustling for your self worth? Don’t get trapped by your “should list”. Instead, lighten up on the restrictions and write your new “path to Joy” list.

As always, if you liked this, repost, retweet, and forward to someone you care about. And if you want help with this, get in touch.

 

Mindful Eating

Using Mindfulness to stop Distracted and Emotional eating

Raise your hand if you eat in the car. Do you tend to overeat when out with friends? Are there times you find yourself eating when you aren’t even hungry? Do you read or watch TV while you eat? Do you tend to overeat when you are around your family?

So many of us have a distorted, unhealthy relationship with food. I’ve had issues with food since I was a young child. So, getting over emotional eating was a part of my path to healing and ultimately re-creating my relationship with food.

The real gateway for me was what Geneen Roth (author of the fabulous book, “Women, Food, and God”) calls the ‘presencing practice’ also known as ‘mindfulness’.

In a nutshell, mindfulness is simply being totally aware in the present moment.

How do we apply this to eating?

Here are some things to try:

For one meal a day, do nothing. Just sit and eat your food. And, be present. Notice how it tastes, the textures, the smells, the colors. If you had to describe this food to someone who has no clue what it tastes like, what would you say? Also notice your feelings? Does eating without distraction bring up anxiety? Or other uncomfortable feelings?

The first thing that happens when you do this, is you slow down your eating. And if you are eating to stuff down your emotions I guarantee you are eating too fast.

The other thing that happens is your body is now free to tell you how it’s feeling and more importantly, when it’s had enough to eat. The cue to stop eating is usually subtle. And if you were raised to “finish everything on your plate”, then your natural experience of feeling full is likely skewed.

For me, if I’m paying attention, my breathing changes when my body has had enough. It’s subtle, but eating beyond that moment would be overeating.

I promise you if I’m out with friends I will often miss that cue! But, if I remember to eat just one meal a day, totally present without distraction, I will be more likely to notice when my body really has had enough.

Some of us eat so unconsciously that we’ve forgotten how it feels to feel hungry. So, that is another thing to try to do once a day…

Don’t eat until you feel actual hunger. Our natural feelings of hunger are also subtle.

I’m not saying to starve yourself! When you’ve gone too long without food, that’s when “I’m hangry” kicks in. And that’s when you are more likely to choose something with too much sugar in it. There are countless commercials preying on that very impulse telling you things like “you’re not yourself until you have a snickers bar”. So no starving!

Just choose a meal that you can eat when you are hungry, rather then at a designated time (lunch break, etc). Practicing this once a day will also help if you have a fear of getting hungry. That is quite common. Feeling panicked that you won’t have food, can lead you to eat before you are truly hungry. Which leads to overeating because your body wasn’t ready to eat in the first place. Thus, your body’s signal to stop eating likely won’t happen. If going hungry is a fear of yours, have food with you. I have nuts with me all the time so if I’m worried about getting hungry later, I know I’m covered.

Try those two exercises for a few weeks and see what changes in your behavior around food. Again, just one meal a day, totally present. And for one meal a day, wait until you’re actually hungry before you eat.

I’m here to help if you are ready to tackle this and need extra support.
Having said that, if you know you have an eating disorder, PLEASE get medical help. Do not wait or think you can handle it alone. Contact your Doctor immediately.

We all deserve to have a healthy relationship with food. And we can. But for some of us, we have to slow down and get present first.

If this resonated for you…forward it, retweet it, repost it.

And let me know how these practices went for you.

Feeding the Wolves

In Wayne Dyer’s book, “the Power of Intention,” he shares a conversation he overheard soon after 9/11.

A grandfather and his grandson were talking. The grandfather said, “I have 2 wolves fighting inside of me. One is filled with anger, hate, violence and revenge. The other is filled with love, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.”

“Which one do you think will win?” asked the grandson.

“The one that I feed”, replied the grandfather.

Stop and think about that for a second. Which wolf are you feeding these days?

Your self-talk, your values, and your beliefs effect how you react to your world. And your beliefs are created by thinking the same thoughts over and over again until you ‘believe’ they are true. Which means it’s important to know what you’re thinking!

When you are thinking attack thoughts, you are feeding the wolf of hate and negativity. Just like, when you are thinking loving thoughts you are feeding the wolf of compassion and kindness. I’m going to make the assumption that most of us would prefer to feed the wolf of kindness.

So, how do we manage our thoughts?

By paying attention. Here again, is yet another great reason to meditate and practice being mindful. And, I’m actually going to rename the practice of mindfulness to “mind awareness”, because that more truthfully describes the practice.

“Mind awareness” is exactly what it claims to be: becoming aware of what your mind is thinking. This requires you to disconnect from your thoughts and observe them, rather than associating and hooking into them. By that I mean, you don’t take your thoughts as “truths” and act upon them. Instead you notice them and allow them to show up. But, you take no action based on those thoughts because you are now simply observing them. Thus, you are disengaging from the power they have over you. They are just thoughts. You decide whether to act on them or not.

Not to get all “Matrixy” on you, but the truth is, you are not your thoughts…you are the one thinking your thoughts. Your true self is the” observing self” as some call it.

This is where meditation comes in. There are many forms of meditation. And there is a specific way to meditate for mind awareness.

Before I go any further, I want to clear up some confusion about this form of meditation. The goal is NOT to have no thoughts while meditating. The goal is to allow TONS OF THOUGHTS while meditating, and instead, notice the thoughts and then let them go.

So how do we do this? For some of us, we follow our breath in and out. Some of us use a mantra that we silently repeat in our head. Some of us listen to pretty music. (My faves are at the bottom of this newsletter) What’s most important is that you sit down and do it, not whether you’re saying the right mantra.

You sit, for a chosen amount of time, and notice when your thoughts distract you from your focus. Then, when you notice your mind has strayed, you simply return to your breath or mantra. That’s it. Easy peazy.

I can already feel your resistance…”I don’t have enough time”. First of all, you do…(my last newsletter was about that very thing and if you missed it let me know and I’ll send it to you). You likely have that resistance because someone said ’20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening were best’. Well, really? I started with 3 minutes a day! I’m not kidding, that is how I started my practice. Now, I meditate almost every day and for however long I can. Some days it’s still 3 minutes, some days 10, sometimes several times a day…As long as I’m doing it, it’s helping.

Let’s get back to how that translates into real life. When you practice noticing your thoughts when you are still and quiet, you will find it easier to notice your thoughts when you are busy living your life. And by noticing your thoughts, you can start to clear out some of the negative ones and replace them with something more positive. You will more quickly notice when you are being judgmental, impatient, and self critical. And because you are conscious of those thoughts, you can then actively begin to cultivate more compassion instead.

And, the more you practice, the easier it gets.

Set your time to meditate. Remember, just 3 minutes most days is a great place to start. I don’t care how busy you are, you can carve out 3 minutes to sit and notice your thoughts. Then start to be more mind aware throughout your day.

Some people have a reminder on their phone that goes off several times a day to remind them to observe their thoughts. Some people post it in various places reminding them to be mind aware.

After a while, you won’t need the reminders. But when first practicing this, I recommend doing something to help you remember throughout the day. After all, most of us are on auto pilot for a good amount of the time so remembering to shift into awareness can be challenging. So, set up some reminders to make your life easier.

Try this for a week and see how much easier it is to notice which wolf you are feeding…and let me know how it goes!

And, if you want to go deeper with meditation and mind awareness, get in touch. This is one of my favorite practices to work on with people.

And if you liked this, remember: retweet, repost, forward to a friend!

And lastly…if you want to meditate to my fave music…check it out here
(link)

How Being Self Critical actually Sabotages Your Good Intentions

Many of us are overly critical of ourselves. Some of us are hypervigilant about what we ‘should’ and ‘should not’ do to the point that any deviation from our plan is seen as a total failure. It’s an all or nothing stance to achieving our goals and it actually works against our odds of success. (if you are a self proclaimed slacker, than this doesn’t apply to you!)

A good example of this issue is the dieter who slips up. Maybe she has vowed to cut out sugar and then eats one of the cookies a co-worker brought into the office. Rather than letting it go and going back to her commitment, she proceeds to beat herself up with abusive self talk and by the end of the day is eating an entire cake by herself.

Her self criticism actually signaled the “what the hell” response. “What the hell, I’ve blown my diet. I might as well enjoy myself and eat whatever I want.” Sound familiar?

Science has actually studied this behavior and proven that the more critical you are of yourself, the more likely you are to fail at the very thing you are bullying yourself into doing. Instead of course correcting, you actually go further off the rails. In other words, if you want to spend less but berate yourself when the credit card bills arrive, you are more likely to go out and spend more money. If you are determined to cut back on sugar, but slip up with a piece of candy, you are more likely to eat more sugar for the rest of the day. If you have promised to keep in touch more regularly and notice you have fallen short of that promise, if you beat yourself up about it, you are more likely to isolate yourself further in response to your inner critic.

Bullying and tyranny never create the positive outcomes we want. And the worse the self criticism is, the more likely we will fail.

How do you get back on track?

Self supportive inner talk. This approach actually does make us more likely to succeed. Again, there is science to back this up. Being self compassionate when you slip up actually helps ignite your “will power instinct” which we all have. It’s hardwired into our brains. We all worked at eating, walking, speaking, etc until we succeeded. We needed to succeed at these things for our survival. I have several Pilates clients who have severe genetic abnormalities that make walking a true challenge. But, they have found their way of walking so they can get from point A to point B. They didn’t give up. We all have a primal instinct to survive.

So how do we “trigger” this instinct when we are faced with the temptation to throw in the towel and say “what the heck?” By learning and practicing self compassionate support.

What would you say to a friend who blew their diet? “You are a total failure and are destined to be fat for the rest of your life!” are not likely the words you would use! You’d probably say something like, “let it go, move on…we all have bad days. Just start again.” No doubt, you would be supportive.

For those of us who have lived with our self judging self talk for many years, we will find this approach to our mistakes rather strange. It might even cause anxiety for some of us. Journalling can be a very helpful tool to help with this. Write out all your judgments, criticisms, and self shaming words. Then, imagine being a supportive friend to yourself. Write out those supportive responses. For example: “I blew it again! I’m a total failure!” can be responded to by saying, “Welcome to the human race!…we all make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world just start again.” Also, take the time to really look at those harsh words you used on yourself. Would you EVER say those things to another person? No. The truth is, your inner thoughts are skewed and you need to retrain your brain to support you properly.

If you really want to create those changes and achieve your goals, you have to learn to manage your self talk. Because if you punish yourself harshly when slipping up, you are setting yourself up to fail. Period.

Start keeping a journal. When you can, write down what that voice is saying to you in your head. Then, rewrite it in the voice and with the words of a supportive friend. Notice how you are able to “bounce back” from the slip ups when you are feeling safe and supported. Stick with this. The more you do this with the harsh thoughts, the easier it gets to then turn them into supportive thoughts.

If you need help with your inner critic, get in touch and we’ll tackle it together.