It’s safe to say that for a long time I was not thriving, just surviving at life. Faking it until I could make it, which overall was not a great strategy for me.
I began developing an awareness of my thoughts and feelings in my 20s, mainly through talking therapies. This allowed me to be heard and perhaps more importantly to hear myself. I began to be more at ease with the me inside my head.
Awareness is a perfect place to start
During that time, I became conscious of a deeply ingrained pattern of behaviour. I tended to comfort eat, which used to baffle and frustrate me. I would to be so “good” with food for a while and then undo all that effort and self-control by binging. I felt shame, anger, frustration and guilt which may or may not have resulted in more binging. It slowly dawned on me that I used food to squash and suppress unwanted feelings. When I took notice of those feelings and asked myself “what’s really going on, what do I need?” things began to shift.
Over a decade on and my relationship with food is better now that it has ever been, however it’s still an area of vulnerability for me. If I’m not taking care of my total wellbeing, I’m less able to notice and deal with what’s going on for me, which leads to old habits creeping back in. I know I need sleep, exercise, connection with others, quiet time and walks in nature to be at my best. Once I’m more aware of my feelings, I’m closer to answering that “need” question. The answer is often surprisingly simple.
Need versus want
I’ve wondered if noticing my wants and needs was a skill I never developed or perhaps something I’d lost through lack of use. I found my answer at 5.30am this morning in the shape of my 3 year old son. He woke me with his mumbling noises and in my sleepy haze I had no idea what was going on for him. A bad dream, unwell, wet bed, I simply didn’t know. So, I asked him “what’s the matter, what do you need?” and he told me. He had a blocked nose, wanted olbas oil to help him breathe and a cuddle in my bed. Easy, I could do that. It demonstrated to me the importance of asking the right question at the right time. We avoided upset and frustration, and within a couple of minutes we were almost asleep again, his warm little body content beside me.
So, what do you need? There might be something, or nothing, and either way it’s fine. Just remember is that it’s ok not to be ok. The important thing is what you do about it when you’re not ok.
“You are allowed to be a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.” – Sophia Bush