The Past May Have Shaped Us, But We Have the Power to Change

“If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down.” ~Toni Morrison

Our very first relationship is the one we develop with ourselves. However, even that one is shaped by outside forces.

You may or may not believe that we choose our family. Regardless of your position regarding how your soul made it to your parents’ household, the truth is that the environment we are born into determines a great deal of the rest of our lives. This is especially true about the way we relate with ourselves and others.

We learn by observing and experiencing the dynamics in our home. Our brains absorb the discourses. The judgments passed over us and the stories told about us become a part of our personality. The words we hear from the voices around us become embedded into our inner voice.

We end up with a creation from the hands of Dr. Frankenstein: a patched up combination of voices that we later adopt as our own. That voice plays a huge role in how we develop a relationship with ourselves and, therefore, with those around us.

The outside world shaped the inner reality that, in turn, will facilitate how we relate to that outer world.

We learn from the way that our caregivers react to stress, from how they manage their anger, and how they engage in arguments.

We learn from how they treat themselves, us, and the rest of the world.

We learn about limitations and about fear.

We learn to worry and to lie.

We learn to yell out and to bottle it all in.

We learn to over-react and to act like leaves at the mercy of the wind.

We learn to micromanage and to be oblivious to life.

We can learn the extremes. However, we can also learn balance.

What is your vision for yourself? I’m talking about a real life vision, not about your annual income goal, or your income-to-debt ratio, or that degree you’ve been meaning to get. I’m not talking about the car you want or the trip you’ve dreamed of. Not that those things are bad or meaningless; they’re simply not a vision, they’re goals.

What I am asking is: What is your vision? What state of being do you wish to create for yourself? What kind of relationships to you want to nurture? How do you want to feel? 

My parents did their best to give me the best they had to give. I learned about hard work, being of service in the community, and believing in the divine. However, I did not develop anger management and conflict resolution skills, calming strategies, a healthy self-concept, or effective communication and decision-making skills.

In other words, I was a typical clueless adult who was able to make money and run the rat race functionally. But I knew very little of myself, or how to develop healthy relationships with myself and others.

As a matter of fact, I had no idea what healthy relationships looked and felt like. This led to a bumpy road that involved quite a few panic attacks, aggression, toxic relationships, isolation, and a social media and sugar addiction. The details of my journey are truly irrelevant. However, the lessons gained do have value.

It started with answering questions I had never asked myself. Also, tools such as meditation, counseling, spiritual work, a lot of reading, journaling, praying, and developing a support village assisted me in the journey.

Being open to the process is quintessential. So, I invite you to address the following questions with an open heart and observe your thoughts about yourself and others.

Take note of the things you visualize on a daily basis. Do your visualizations match your vision? Or are they hindering it?

What does a healthy relationship with yourself feel like?

How about the conversations you have with yourself? How did that voice form?

Where do these stories about yourself come from? Are you truly that person?

How is your relationship with yourself? Are you hyper-critical? Do you “bash” on yourself? Or do you make excuses for yourself?

What type of relationships do you envision for your journey?

What type of narratives do you create in your mind with those who surround you? Do you imagine arguments? Do you mentally practice “come back phrases”? Do you spend time rehearsing irrelevant hypothetical situations? Do you declare negative labels on the rest of the world?

Your early caregivers started the work of raising you, but you are the one responsible for continuing it. We are never done growing. You are not done. The universe is not done with you. Now it’s your turn to help yourself create the reality you envision for yourself.

About Oñi Adda

Oñi Adda is a Yoruba Iyalosha. She is also a teacher of children with special needs, a mother to a wonderful four-year-old walking piece of sunshine on Earth, and a legendary bathtub singer. She believes that our journey on the material plane has one purpose: to grow. That growth leads to Light and Light leads to unity in our communities.

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How I Stopped Emotional Eating and Started Feeling Better About Life

“Don’t forget you’re human. It’s okay to have a meltdown, just don’t unpack and live there.” ~Unknown

For the longest time, I wanted to lose weight. I wasn’t terribly overweight but it seemed to me that if I could just have the perfect body, life would be amazing.

So, I threw everything but the kitchen sink at my food and exercise habits.

Never one to settle for small wins, I pushed myself to have the perfect diet—I prepped meals at home, didn’t eat out very much, and worked out as often as I could. Yes, the kind where I would run myself ragged and feel exhausted for the next two days.

My day until 7 p.m. would go according to plan. I’d use all of my willpower to eat right. The moment I finished work, though, life would go downhill. I would self-sabotage, stuffing myself at dinner and snacking until midnight to feel better.

I would fall asleep feeling guilty, sick, and ashamed of what I was doing. I would berate myself for not having the self-control and the discipline—this was just a pack of cookies and I couldn’t even say no to it?

I hated myself while I walked to the convenience store at midnight to sneakily buy another pack of chips. It seemed like I was compelled to eat against my will. My life felt out of control and there was nothing I could do about it. More than anything, it was this feeling of helplessness that really hurt.

At the same time, I had a career in Fortune 50—by all outward means a great job at an amazing company—yet I was sad, disenchanted, and felt like I didn’t belong in my first couple of years there.

In hindsight, I can see how I turned to food for comfort; it was why I always overate at night when I was drained out after a long day. It was the time when I needed soothing to make myself feel better, to numb the voices in my head that told me I didn’t belong, and to quieten my mind, which was always searching for answers to existentialist questions of “what is my purpose in life?”

The more and more I ate to soothe myself, the more and more my body craved food. I felt restless if I wasn’t stuffed. Instead of stopping to deal with the pain rationally, I tried to use diet, exercise, and willpower to exert some semblance of control over my otherwise clueless life.

Soon, I realized that I was in a deep hole and that all conventional attempts to get myself out of it weren’t working. I couldn’t go on feeling like this day in and day out, so I began to make a series of mindset and behavioral shifts to start feeling happy again.

As a bonus, I also lost twenty pounds in six months, stopped having cravings, and finally felt in control of my life again.

My biggest mindset shift was being compassionate with myself.

  • Where previously I judged myself harshly, now I try to do my best without criticism.
  • Where previously I would look for perfection, now I accept that I am dealing with a difficult period in my life and it’s okay to fail sometimes.
  • Where previously I would try to numb my emotions, now I accept that I can’t fix them immediately.
  • Where previously I would expect myself to overcome challenges in a jiffy, now I realize that these things take time.

My biggest behavioral shift was noticing and facing my emotions.

1. I began to notice and realize for the first time when I actually overate.

For me, it was at night after work, and no degree of willpower or keeping trigger foods out of reach seemed to help. Just noticing this pattern, however, helped me anticipate what was coming so I wasn’t caught off guard. Automatically, this made me feel more in control of what was going on with my eating.

2. I started noticing my feelings during the urge.

What was that emotion, raw and murky, that I sub-consciously didn’t want to face? Was it tiredness or sadness? Exhaustion or a pick-me-up? Often, the reality of a purposeless existence hit me hard once I was back home and all alone. The last thing I wanted to do at that point was deal with it, so I ate to forget it instead.

3. I honed it on what I actually wanted to feel—what was it that food would give me?

Did I want to be warm and comforted? In control? Alert? I was always seeking comfort, so I made myself some hot tea and sipped it mindfully, feeling the tea warming my entire body. I always eventually took a deep breath at the end of it and I felt much better.

Sometimes this relief was only temporary; I would be fine for a few hours, but by midnight I would be reaching out for food again. That’s when I realized that I also needed to face my emotions.

4. I had to take the hard step and allow myself to feel my emotions.

For me, it was sadness and hopelessness. I didn’t try to forget it. I didn’t try to distract myself from it. I just accepted the feeling.

Sometimes, it would wash over me like a tide and I’d feel like crying. At other times, I felt numb and empty. All of these feelings were only natural and perfectly normal. My body and mind were just seeking some acknowledgement and I would feel a sense of relief that the knot of emotion that was so tied up inside me was finally out.

5. On some days, allowing myself to feel my emotions was enough. On other days I had to address my feelings head on even if they made me uncomfortable.

I asked myself why I kept feeling this way. Was I just tired and overworked? Was I unhappy at where I was in life? I kept asking myself why again and again until I found a reason that resonated with me, that wasn’t just another justification to myself. I was experiencing a quarter-life crisis, it was affecting me every day and that was okay, because now I could deal with it rationally.

6. Lastly, I always gave myself the choice to eat at the end of this exercise.

If I still wanted to eat, that was fine. If I didn’t, that was fine too. It was important to me that I controlled my actions, and wasn’t a victim to my feelings.

In hindsight, I realize that at the end of the day, it’s not our conscious habits or behaviors that determine our happiness. It’s our unconscious desires, fears, and emotions that go unaddressed that eat us up from within, literally in this case.

If you want to stop emotional eating, recognize that it started as a symptom of something much larger—perhaps dissatisfaction with your career, finances, or relationships—something you didn’t want to face head on.

As the eating habit evolves, it gets more and more compulsive so there is a combination of mental, behavioral, and emotional hacks that all need to work together to heal. That is why conventional dieting and fitness advice doesn’t work. That is why relying on willpower doesn’t work. It’s normal that these things don’t help, and you’re normal for feeling this way.

Remember that how you respond to an emotion or a craving is your choice, always.

However hopeless you may be feeling now, know that you have the power to make changes that can transform your life. You just have to start again, even if you fail sometimes—but this time, start differently. Use your emotional awareness to beat comfort eating at its own game.

About Sai Aparajitha Gopalakrishnan

Sai helps ambitious women quit emotional eating and cravings so they can focus on their careers and families instead of fighting food all the time. A childhood psych buff and big-time foodie, Sai blogs at My Spoonful Of Soul. Get her three exclusive free gifts for Tiny Buddha readers that step-by-step guide them on their journey to quit emotional eating.

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It’s Okay to Have Feelings, So Stop Saying “I’m Fine” When You’re Not

I’d rather be honest and authentic and disappoint some people than to exhaust myself trying to keep up the façade of perfection.” ~Crystal Paine

So many people walk around each day masking their true feelings because they are considered the “strong one,” “the upbeat, bubbly one,” or, since they give so much of themselves supporting others, they’re not seen as having any emotions other than happy. If you’ve ever felt like you had to hold it together all the time to keep up a façade for others, there’s freedom in letting people know that you have feelings too.

Keeping it together has always been my thing. You know the phrase “never let ’em see you sweat”? Well, even in my worst moments, I would keep it all in place and poised for the public, but I’d be secretly dying on the inside, because of the pain or challenges I was going through.

It can catch some people off guard to see you be real, revealing that you don’t have it all together, and at times their responses can leave you wounded. I know that feeling all too well.

A few months back, I attended an event to support a colleague and I bumped into someone I knew well. He asked me how I was doing, and I responded honestly with “I’m hanging in there, but I’m fine.”

He immediately made a face and seemed disturbed by my response. He said, “Woooooah, you gotta change that. You sound too defeated and that’s not what I want to hear from you.”

He went on to say, “What you said makes me want to back away from you and go the opposite direction. It’s too much for me. You must always answer with a positive response.” He then went on to provide ways for me to respond in the near future.    

What this person didn’t know was, I was feeling down and discouraged because I felt I wasn’t as far as I should be in my life and business.

I had poured all of myself into doing things to get the business running consistently; however, whenever I looked at all the effort I put in and saw things not happening as quickly as I thought they should, I felt as if I’d failed. So, it was a tough time as I sorted through those different emotions.

At first, I felt lousy about my response, because with me being considered the “upbeat, strong one,” always smiling and helping others to feel better, there is an assumption of how I should be at all times. I thought I had somehow let that person down by revealing my true feelings in that moment. I also felt embarrassed, because I’d exposed a small part of myself and felt like I was rejected and told how I should sound.

But after I thought about it, I realized I was fine with my response because it was a genuine answer. I am on a path of making true connections with others, and I no longer want to “act” and pretend to be fine when I’m not.

While this person didn’t have any ill intent and actually thought he was being helpful in telling me how I should respond, it clearly made it uncomfortable for me to open up to him the next time around.

It made me think about why some people try to force others to hide behind a mask. Why do people expect you to always be “on”?

This was a moment for someone to find out what was truly going on with me, to find out why I seemed so down and to make a true connection, instead of offering me another mask to wear in his presence.

This led me to wonder, when we ask people “How are you doing?” are we really open to an honest response or are we looking to hear the template response we so often hear, “I’m fine”?

I also thought about how many people wear a mask every day or keep a façade to avoid showing their humanity and potentially making others feel uncomfortable. The people we interact with every day are carrying worries, concerns, and emotional pain within, and we cannot ask them to put on a fake smiley face and tell them to be on their way. These people need someone to truly see them.

If you sometimes hide your true feeling behind a mask, here are a few ways to begin opening up.

Practice honestly connecting with people, even if you start small.

As psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith wrote, “When you open your mouth, you’re also opening your heart. And knowing that someone truly hears what you are feeling and understands you is soothing to the soul.”

If you’re not accustomed to opening your heart to people, start small by sharing one thing you’re thinking or feeling but may be tempted to keep inside. Opening up to others will allow you the space to be yourself, and from there you’ll clearly see who’s willing to receive what you have to say with an open heart. You’ll also begin to forge deeper relationships through your honest connections.

Also, be the person who allows others the space to just be, and offer support and guidance as needed. Ask about their lives, and let them know you’re happy to be a nonjudgmental ear. Giving people room to share pieces of themselves lets them know you’re there for them and they can be honest with you.

Allow yourself space to feel.

Many times when we avoid sharing our feelings with others, it’s because we haven’t given ourselves space to identify and process our emotions. We try to cover them up or engage in activities to mask the pain, but they don’t go away when we do this. Left unprocessed, our feelings tend to leak out in other ways. For example, we may overreact in unrelated situations.

Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel, without judgment, and learn to recognize when you’re lying to yourself, telling yourself you’re “fine” when you’re not. The first step to being honest with others is being honest with yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

We tend to beat ourselves up when we do not respond, act, speak, or think how others believe we should. This can put pressure on us to shift to meet everyone else’s needs without truly acknowledging our own.

Get in the habit of checking in with yourself and meeting your emotional needs, whether that means processing your feelings in a journal or practicing self-care. The more you respect your truth and your needs, the better you’ll be able to communicate them to others.

It’s a heavy burden to hide behind a façade or wear a mask. Allow yourself to experience the freedom of being authentic in each moment and making genuine connections with people who can receive your feelings.

There’s power in putting down your super hero cape, being vulnerable, and sharing your truth. You don’t have to hide, pretend, or feel bad about not always being the “strong one.” You’re not weak, you’re human, and you never have to apologize for that.

About Raphaela Browne

Raphaela Browne is a Certified Transformation + Career Coach and Nonprofit Organizational Consultant, committed to supporting professional women and organizations with embracing change and transitioning seamlessly to their next big thing. Schedule a complimentary session by clicking the link Schedule your session here or visit her at www.raphaelabrowne.com for more information.

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