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January 27, 2016

Yes, How You See Yourself Is Holding You Back

I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago, and she was telling me about an opportunity she got to speak at a conference.

She’s never done public speaking before, but in her local area, she’s become a leading trainer and more and more people are wanting access to her brain. Such is the case when you start becoming an expert in your field.

I asked her if she’d accepted yet and she said, “Not yet. I don’t know, I’m not a public speaker!”

This got me to thinking about self-concept—how we think about ourselves. What do we consider “like us” and what we consider “not like us.”

It’s natural to self-categorize, but I have to ask, how effective is it when we are constantly reiterating to ourself the kind of person we are, and by doing so, hindering ourselves from discovering what maybe we could do if we started seeing ourselves in a new light?

Examples of ways we categorize and use self-talk to keep us in a holding pattern:

  • I’m addicted to sugar!
  • I can’t handle being around French fries!
  • I’m just a food addict, always have been.
  • I could never do a competition/Tough Mudder/triathlon!
  • I’m not someone who does that!
  • You don’t understand, I could never do that.
  • That might work for you, but it would never work for me.
  • I just have to try harder than most people, it’s the way it is.

Can you see, by reading these phrases, how settling into these realities might hold us back?

Statements about the ways in which we are limited only serve to reaffirm those biases.

If I think that I am addicted to sugar, then I will continue to find ways to affirm that indeed I cannot handle myself around sugar, and what do you know—I will continue to struggle with sugar.

It’s becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But here’s the thing: our words have weight.

I think most of us don’t even question the things we say about ourselves, never mind the things we think. We just assume that’s the way it is and we accept it blindly. We form a self-concept around it, and then we spend our lives trying to defend that self-concept.

Really, it’s a protective mechanism. If you are even in your mind right this second defending–“But Jill, you don’t get it! I am addicted!”–then I would ask you to simply look at that. You don’t have to change anything yet, but just … notice.

If I continue to say that I am a sugar addict, then it takes me off the hook when indeed I—just as I knew I would!—overindulge again. If we say it first and then it happens, we get to be in on the joke: “See? I told you!”

I get all that. But I’m also calling bullshit.

Resigning ourselves to a reality that is anything less than full of possibility and the ability to change, grow and get better is no way to live.

It’s actually not living.


An example:

One way I did this for most of my life was saying, “You don’t understand, I have SUCH a huge appetite! Always have!”

Funny, right, because if you think about it, this statement seems benign enough.

But because I had always exercised so much (often to excess) my reality was that I was always ravenous. I spent hours every day trying to avoid eating too much, and then eating frankenfoods like sugar-free chocolate (hello, maltitol!) and Splenda, drinking a million cups of coffee and chewing packs of gum every single day to try to NOT eat.

So did I have an actual huge appetite? Yes.

But the key was that I didn’t see any reality in which that could be different in the future. I was pigeonholing myself.

Jade would say, “Jill, if you just stopped doing so much cardio, your appetite would decrease.”

I laughed in his face. It wouldn’t change! It would never decrease! This was the way I was built, and because of that fact–he didn’t understand–I had to exercise as much as I did to offset how much food I was consuming!

Can you see how this is a trap?

  1. Exercise like crazy, and your hunger and cravings increase (physiology).
  2. Then, eat more volume as a result (compensatory cortisol response).
  3. And then, have to do even more exercise to atone for all the food you ate.
  4. Aaaaaand repeat that whole process over and over until you can’t see any other reality.

Until …

I was finally so fed up with the excessive exercise and the constant white-knuckling I was doing to try to avoid eating, that I just threw up my hands and said, “Screw it, I don’t care if I gain 50 lbs this week, I just want to stop doing this!”

And so, I slowly started backing off the cardio. And what do you know, within 6 months my actual appetite also tapered off. I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT. No one was happier than me that I was wrong about “the way I was built.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 10.48.45 AMImage credit:

See, it takes courage to question old beliefs.

But before that, it takes introspection and awareness to even decipher, “What things am I just taking as fact about myself?”

What are you subconsciously believing about your own abilities that is holding you back?

You have a say in them moving forward.

It’s a copout to just assume things are the way they are and won’t ever change.

It’s lazy to surrender your abilities to unquestioned beliefs. And frankly it’s a huge disservice to yourself to assume you can’t change.

Self-concept is fluid. You can change it anytime, so long as you believe you can. It’s worth a look!

This is one of my favorite topics: questioning how we think about food, and introspecting on how we interact with it. We always have a say in our own reality.

So if you can harness that little bit of courage and self-trust to try a new way (like I did with my exercise!), you never know, you might be just as pleasantly surprised as I was. Not to mention experience a ton more liberated living and mental space for other things!

Life is too short to stress about every morsel of food that passes your lips. No thanks!

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