The desire to heal my relationship with food had me constantly trying to figure myself out. I was always the girl in the book store combing through the diet and self-help sections looking for the newest book that was finally going to fix me.
It took me a long time to understand that I was continuously shooting the arrow at the wrong target. I was always looking outside myself for a solution. Looking to the next diet plan. The next exercise program. A new and improved system that would make everything click.
And with time, I came to realize that I was constantly in a state of seeking something outside of me:
I was looking for “well dones” and “pats on the back” at work to let me know I was doing a good job.
I was looking to awards and achievements to measure my success and contributions.
I was looking to the scale and my running log to tell me I was fit, healthy, and strong.
I was looking to my friends and family for words of affirmation and praise to make me feel valued, loved, and worthy.
These are just a few examples - the list could go on. But, ultimately, I was relying on external feedback to let me know that I was on the right path and that I was good enough.
And it wasn’t until I made a deep commitment to focusing on cultivating a relationship with myself that I realized that what I was looking for wasn’t OUT THERE.
None of it was. Not the answers. Not the solutions. Not the validation. Not the confirmation. It was all within me.
And while I always understood this on some level - as I think most of us do - I found myself easily forgetting. After all, it is so easy to get wrapped up in the outside world.
Especially given we live in an extrinsically motivated society centered around a system of reward and punishment. We are essentially taught very early on to measure our value, our worth, and our effectiveness using outside measures.
I mean stop and think about it for a second. Think about how externally motivated our culture truly is.
We complete tasks in exchange for money, praise, or recognition. Or in an effort to avoid punishment or criticism. And just about everything is incentivized. Everything from performance challenges in the workplace to things like reading and behavior in schools. If you do this - you’ll be rewarded with that.
We are surrounded by messages and images that tell us that beauty is measured in terms of our physical being. And to be considered attractive, we must look a certain way, talk a certain way, and act a certain way. And therefore, we focus on tightening, toning, and firming. We try hard to cover up our perceived flaws and imperfections.
We can track and analyze data on practically anything. Our fitbits alone measure our steps, our calories, our macros, and who knows what else. Shit, the damn thing even talks to you if you aren’t on track to meet your quota on any given day.
I don’t need to go on. I’m sure you get the idea. My point is that we’ve been conditioned to place a lot of value in the external.
And I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with data or creating measurable and actionable goals. I actually graduated with a degree in Math and Computer Science - and you’ll love this - a minor in Statistics. It all has its place and can be very useful in guiding decisions.
But what I am saying is that sometimes, we put too much stock in the external. Too many eggs go into this proverbial basket.
Our first stop when we have a question is to google it or to ask Alexa. We seek out other people’s opinions and advice when we have a problem. And whether we realize it or not, we often pursue praise, recognition, and approval when we are looking to feel loved and worthy.
And it makes sense, right?
When we have a problem or a question, we want answers. If something is broken, we want to spring into action to fix it.
Plus, human beings are a social species driven by the need to belong and be part of a community. Not too long ago, if a person was kicked out of their tribe it would have been a serious threat to their very survival. It was very difficult to survive on your own so we’ve actually evolved to desire approval and want to feel accepted by the masses.
So it’s not hard to see how we got here and why our focus is where it is. But all of these things encourage us to continuously look outside of ourselves. We rarely stop and pause to connect to our inner knowing. So it takes mindfulness, awareness, and intention to begin to shift our focus.
And I want you to know that I write this from a place of pure understanding and desire to shift my own focus. Because turning my attention from the external to the internal is something I work on daily. It is an intentional choice that I make every single day. And while I haven’t completely unhooked from extrinsic motivation, praise, and criticism, I can tell you this - that the time and energy that I have dedicated to exploring and strengthening my inner world has made a MASSIVE difference in what I experience in my outer world.
I am truly amazed at the opportunities, the connections, the ideas, the creativity, and the experiences that have presented themselves as a result of doing the inner work. They are undoubtedly related to my willingness to attempt to really understand the confines of my own mind. To shining a light on my thoughts, my stories, my patterns, and my belief systems. To looking at and challenging what underlies my judgments and my biases. To really working on and through my stuff.
And all of this helps me understand that to truly improve any facet of your life, you must start within to experience the result out.
So what if we could start to shift things around a little bit? What if some of the time and energy that we dedicate to seeking answers, solutions, fixes, and validation was dedicated to doing the inner work?
What if we had enough trust and faith in ourselves to know that what we are looking for from the outside world always lies within. We just have to be willing to pause and get quiet enough to listen.
Does this message resonate?
Working to achieve optimal health is simply a pathway to help you cultivate a better relationship with yourself. Interested in learning how I can support you to live a happier and healthier life? Contact me today!