Patience: Reflections on This Necessary, and Challenging, Ingredient for Change

Patience can be challenging. Here are three mental practices that helped me to cultivate it during my eating disorder recovery, but which can apply to any journey of change.

Photo by Andrea Reiman on Unsplash

I came across a quote this morning that really resonated with me and was just what I needed to hear. It said, 

“Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.” – George Bernard Shaw

While I don’t believe those are the only two things that define us, I needed to hear this. Lately, especially with work, I’ve been finding a tendency to not see patience as a virtue, but rather as a sign of being wrongfully okay with not doing enough or pushing myself hard enough…. which is funny that I should have to learn this lesson again because of how much I had to learn it during my eating disorder recovery.

However, I believe that is how life is – there are so many opportunities for us to work on valuable things, and we’re given many chances to do so, which can seem like a negative but I like to see it as a blessing. I try to….

I wanted to write today about some things that helped me to cultivate patience during my recovery journey as they’re what I need to remind myself of now. I hope they may be able to help you as well, regardless of what your own journey of change may be.

Change is hard, but I believe what makes it truly hard is our impatience for the final outcome and how hard it is to hold onto hope and faith when we don’t see the changes we want to fast enough.

With the help of many great therapists, and many self-help books, I found some ways to think about patience that made it easier to cultivate it and to hold onto hope when things felt like they were changing too slowly, or not at all.

Here are three mental practices or ways of viewing things that helped me the most.

1. A Turning Ship

One metaphor that really resonated with me was that of a giant ship in the process of turning. I remember it being described to me how this could not happen in one move or one instant, and that’s just how it was, but how it didn’t mean that steady progress wasn’t happening. I could see it so clearly for the ship, and in moments of frustration or hopelessness it helped me a lot to conjure up this image.

2. A Blossoming Flower

Another metaphor that helped me a lot was that of a flower blossoming. I liked how it was explained to me that of course the flower was meant to blossom, it was the natural progression of things, AND it still didn’t happen overnight, or even at a perceptible rate.

I also liked the concept of how even if blossoming was the right thing for the flower, how it wouldn’t be right if the flower bud was forced open too quickly. 

This helped me to accept that even with things that are natural and meant to be, they aren’t meant to happen always immediately. Nature has its own timing, and it is up to us to do what we can within this natural flow, and then to learn to be patient and have faith.

3. Pause, Reflect, and Appreciate

Another practice that really helped me was to remind myself to consciously consider how far I had come, especially remembering how where I was now had seemed impossible at one point. This helped me to realize that the same would be true for my future – that just because something didn’t seem possible now didn’t mean it wouldn’t happen with time and continued gradual effort.

It also helped me to feel more grateful for where I was, even if it wasn’t where I ultimately wanted to be, and to not feel quite so hopeless and discouraged.

With compassion and so much hope for your journey of patience and change,

~ Sarah 

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