You have goals. You have a plan. You know what you need to do to reach your destination.
And then the inevitable happens. You mess up. You skip the gym, or eat a cookie…you just generally do something that does not get you closer to your goals.
Here is where it gets bad:
You beat yourself up. You let guilt settle in and you mentally berate yourself for “being weak”, ruining your progress or just generally sucking at life. You go through an internal process of judgement and hateful self-talk about how you aren’t good enough and will never reach your goals.
WHY!!!!!??? Why do we as women feel that we are deserving of this punishing behavior? Ask anyone who has ever had a goal if they were perfect in pursuit of that. 100% guarantee the answer is no. No one is perfect. And that is okay. Not only is it okay…it is preferred to make mistakes.
Because every time you make a mistake, you are learning.
For example, let’s just say that you know that Tuesdays are your long day at work. You are generally exhausted after a 10 hour day, and your tendency is to skip your workout and go home and crash on the couch. So instead of option 1 : Plan to workout because you HAVE TO. Go to work, get exhausted and decide to go home instead of the gym. Sit at home feeling like garbage because you messed up and let guilt cause you to feel hopeless. Eat what’s left of a carton of Ben and Jerry’s in the fridge because, why not? You already screwed up. Then spend the next few hours feeling like you will never succeed and you are lazy. -OR- Option 2, which is so much better: Plan your rest day for Tuesday. Or go to the gym early before work. Easy enough. After missing 1 or 2 days at the gym from being too tired to go, you recognize this pattern, and you implement a solution. Voila!
See my point. It isn’t about being perfect. It is about knowing yourself. And a mistake is really just an opportunity to learn something about yourself. Something like: I get tired when I work long days. NOT: I am lazy and I suck, and I skip the gym too often. There is a difference. But how cool is it that every day we are gathering more information about ourselves and our patterns. It’s like we are developing a little “owner’s manual” for ourselves, and each time we mess up we add a new chapter.
The one thing I insist you stop doing is talking to yourself like you are a failure. Negative self talk is damaging. It is hurtful, and it chips away at our self esteem. You may not even realize you do it, but pay attention to your thoughts. If you think things like “I always screw up”, “I will never get this right” or “I am fat and ugly and I hate how I look”, you need to stop. Seriously. You NEED to. It is not okay to do that, and you are being effected by it.
So how do you stop? First, you have to take note of the fact you are doing it. Pay attention, and hear what you tell yourself. If it is negative, note that. Secondly, try to reframe your thinking. If you think “I am fat”, change it to “I am working hard to change my physique, and I am proud of how far I have come”. Lastly, understand your “WHY”. So if you think you are “fat” ask yourself this: Why is that bad? How do you think things would be different if you were thinner? What differences do you hope to see in yourself and your life by losing weight? Why is it important to you to change your body?
It probably sounds cheesy in a way to sit and walk yourself through this, but it is amazing what things you can learn just by asking questions. We often just tell ourselves we are terrible, and then feel bad about it, but what good does that do? If anything it kills our self-efficacy and makes us feel like we really can’t reach our goals.
I am here to tell you that yes, you can reach your goals. No you aren’t weak. You aren’t a failure. You don’t need to “get it together”. You simply need to accept your struggles and mistakes as lessons, and use them to propel you forward toward your long-term goals.
I have gotten to a point where when I overeat, I actually get excited because I can look at the situation and ask myself “What emotions did I have that may have brought this on? Did I go too long without eating and now I am overeating because of that? Was my last meal not sufficient, or did I not eat enough protein to keep me full? Am I feeling like I have to eat every bite because I have been depriving myself too much, and now I want to eat it ‘while I can’?” Once I answer these questions, I use them to better prepare for my next day. And then I get better at preventing those kinds of things from happening at all.
Sure, I could sit and tell myself I am the worst person on earth for overeating, and that I should just have more willpower. But that never worked for me, and I doubt it will work for you either.
So next time you make a mistake, resist the urge to beat yourself up, and learn something about yourself instead. You are worth it!