The relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you have. Often, it’s the one you take the most for granted and spend the least amount of time nurturing. This relationship impacts how you move through life, how your interactions and relationships are with others, how far you will push yourself and most importantly, how you treat your mind, body and spirit.
Looking at the relationship you have with yourself can feel daunting. It often means you are met with fears, darkness and parts of yourself that you do not wish to see. These parts can wear the distracting masks of overeating, drinking too much, shopping too much, you can fill in the blank. All these behaviors are just covering up the unconscious and the old “stuff” that sits there. The egoic part of you that wants you to believe that looking at this part of you is a bad idea. So, you adopt behaviors that allow you to avoid and, in some way, make you feel safe from looking within.
As a dietitian, I counsel people on their relationship with food and their body. Some people use food to punish themselves, some deprive themselves, some use both. Some use their bodies as way to work out the demons that lie inside of them. Running away from the darkness that seeps up. When I am helping someone look at how they use food or exercise, either the excessiveness or lack of, I am helping them see what they are really fighting is the relationship they have with themselves.
Our society has made it almost normal to have this conflicting relationship. Look at how dieting has you convinced that you could be better, you need to be skinner, fitter, etc. The diet industry has done a remarkable job in finding the ways to talk to these dark parts of your mind. It talks to that part of you that has you convinced that the only way to feel good about yourself is to look a certain way or be at a weight that is “acceptable” in our society. When you buy into this mentality, as so many do, you are separating from the most sacred relationship you have, yourself. You feed the part of you that says you must cut out sugar or carbs, or workout for “x” amount of time to be okay. You paralyze yourself in shame and guilt when you overeat, binge or fall off the diet that was supposed to be the one that was “going to make you lose the weight this time.”
This separation from yourself, the concentration of only your body, creates fear. It is why you will cycle on and off diets. Its why you will judge and criticize your body. This fear is what has you believing that you must do all these things to be attractive enough, to be liked, to be accepted, to be enough.
Looking, acknowledging and finding forgiveness for yourself in these dark parts of you is what helps you to heal this separation that fear has created. In this healing, you find love. It is this love that determines your value, not your body. And the beauty is, we all have this love inside of us. It is just being willing to look underneath the darkness and peal back the layers, one by one, to find it.
This surrendering is filled with many ups and downs. Ups that make you feel a freedom you’ve always desired. And downs that have you convinced that you will just be happy if you lose the weight, then you can start trusting your body and doing the work. Letting go of the diet, the rules, the rigidity that you have created for yourself can feel terrifying. You put them there on purpose, it’s your safety net, your escape. But once you are willing to unpack these behaviors and really to look at them for what they are, you will realize that all the answers are right there, just waiting for you to see them.
This turning in, trusting this intuition that lies inside, is listening to the spirit of you. The internal guide that only has love for you. It is the part that will help you recognize the gentle nudges of hunger, the sensations of fullness. It will tell you what you need to add to a meal to feel satisfied and it likely is what you have banned from your diet because it is “bad” to have. It is the part that will choose emotional care over numbing with the gallon of ice cream. It is the part of you that will choose self-care over self-destruction.
When you are letting the inner you guide, you notice how certain foods make you feel, you notice if you feel energized or lethargic. You notice when you need more protein, when you need more carbs, when your body is asking for more nutrient rich foods. You recognize that the need for the cookie at the end of the meal is because it sounds good and ends the meal for you. It doesn’t ruin your day, make you bad or create an illusion of failure.
You see, when you start connecting into that you, you start to understand why you use food, or the lack of food in your life. You start to understand the need for discipline with a diet makes you feel like you have control because something in life feels out of control. You start to understand that you eat all the cookies because it’s something that you look forward to, it’s the highlight of the day because you don’t have connections and friendships that may feel nourishing and fun. You start to see all the ways that the food is “filling” in your life. These parts that feel really hard to look at. These parts are the separations that you have created. Looking at them means setting boundaries, saying no, giving permission to take time for yourself, getting out of the bad relationship or friendship, putting yourself out there to foster new relationships or friendships, it means taking up the space that you’ve feared taking. It means somewhere underneath all this mess, is you, and you matter, you are enough, broken pieces and all.
The honesty and vulnerability can feel like a huge leap of faith. There are all those reasons you created that separation for in the first place and that dark part of you will do a good job reminding you of that. But when you connect into that inner you, you’ll feel a place of knowing. A calmness that you will be okay. You don’t have to know exactly how you will get there. You just have to be willing. Willing to see love instead of fear. Willing to following the inner you that will lead you to the answers that have always been within.