Sitting in Failure

Breaking up with dieting isn’t a story of triumph. It’s a story of failure and resilience.

Failing feels so raw. It feels so raw because we have so much entangled in our triumphs. When we “win” we feel worthy, loved, excited, and we celebrate. We are a culture of celebrating the triumphs and quietly ignoring and pushing down the failures.

If we don’t discuss it or nobody knows about it – we didn’t fail.

Chronic dieting continues this story.

We announce to ourselves or to those around us that we’re going to lose weight and then when we don’t stick to the diet, we feel like a failure. This story isn’t new. We know this story all too well. But what about when we’re giving up dieting? It’s not a straight arrow rising to the non-dieting proverbial mountain top view.

It’s full of swerves, curves, falls, triumphs, and failures.

But at its core – it’s a story of resilience.

We have in our minds this idea that giving up dieting means that we no longer feel triggered by diet culture and the expectations of society to look and be a certain way.

And I’m here to tell you – this is a whole lot of B.S. We don’t magically get to a point where we no longer feel triggered. We don’t magically get to a place where we just love the way our bodies look.

Nope. It doesn’t happen.

This should be a sigh of relief. You don’t have to be perfect at this. This journey is full of failures and small wins.

We don’t give up. We keep going. We keep fighting. We keep showing up to our recovery. We keep wanting to say no to our dieting talk.

But how? How do we do this when the diet culture noise is so loud? How do we resist the urge within to go back to what is comfortable, what we know – dieting?

We have to come up with a new way of handling our triggers that leads us to quicker recovery time.

We each have our own unique Shame Spiral Points of Entry. We all have familiar stories of shame. Sometimes it’s getting a bad review at work, sometimes it’s not getting a call from the great date you had, sometimes it’s a break-up, sometimes it’s failing that exam, sometimes it’s not losing weight… the list goes on.

What happens is the story of shame gets kicked off in our minds and once it starts it’s incredibly hard to shut it off. This is where the spiral begins. And it can be a quick, dark spiral that leads us to feel really crappy about ourselves. For some of us, that can be saying “screw it” and eating all the things, or others this can be restricting what we’re eating. The truth is – how we respond is irrelevant. The point is – it is rooted in a shame spiral.

I know this spiral well. I’ve been in the depths of it. And I still fall into it from time to time. But what I have done that I’m going to share with you is build resilience so I don’t stay in it for too long.

The first two steps in getting out of the shame spiral are…

1. Acknowledging that you’re in it, to begin with.

For me, this looks like literally saying it out loud – just to myself. I am in a shame spiral. The simple act of acknowledgment allows you space and mental clarity to start to take action and move through it. When we ignore it and allow it to take over is when it can spiral for even longer.

2. Allow myself to feel it.

This is when you identify what you’re feeling and allow yourself to feel that way. Things I have said to myself in this phase can be as hard on myself as they come, but I acknowledge that it’s how I’m feeling. Examples of things that I have felt about myself – failure, embarrassed, dumb, ugly, lonely, etc. But I identify how I am feeling at the core. Then I allow myself to feel it. I don’t stuff it down. For me, this can be released by crying. Others might find it helpful to journal or maybe even doing both. The point is to allow yourself to truly feel it.

I believe there are 5 steps that I flow through when I’m in a shame spiral, but I find the first two steps the most challenging. It’s really hard to allow ourselves to feel what we’re feeling. We’ve built in these survival techniques to help us get through it as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Of course, this makes complete sense – why wouldn’t we have created techniques to numb our feelings so we don’t feel them for too long?

Here’s the thing though – we can’t move through them and heal them if we don’t acknowledge that we’re in it and how we’re actually feeling. They also can’t grow in the light.

We take the first step out of it. We feel. Boy, do we feel. We talk. We cry. We acknowledge that we’re upset. That we feel let down. That we’re hurting. That this is hard. That it isn’t as easy as we hoped or thought it would be.

And you know what we do. We keep going. We keep ignoring the voice in our head saying to give up.

Each failure is a step towards our inevitable triumph.

The more we practice these steps of building trigger resilience, the shorter the time we’re in it lasts.

When I was in my most recent shame spiral, a dear friend of mine, Dr. Crystal Frazee, leader of the #GoodWomanRebellion, said this to me and I hope it helps you as much as it helped me. You can find her on Instagram @drcrystalfrazee

“May you have a strong back and an open heart. And you have both of those. The strong back is to bring yourself upright and to carry forward and to continue to fiercely protect yourself from any of those shameful thoughts or ideas because you are magnificent, intelligent, and capable and have so much to offer. This failure has no reflection of those capabilities. Fiercely navigate your boundaries with that. The open-heartedness is to be with the outrage and sadness and fear with now having to deal with this and sitting and be open with it and communicating it with the people closest and dearest to you. There is a way forward.”

You are not alone. We are in this together.

To your resilience and triumphant failures.

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