At the start of the year, I found myself contemplating a goal around shopping and my possessions.
Considering implementing a one in, one out policy. Or a shopping ban for January. Or fix it February focusing on repairing things I already own.
As I evaluated different options and tried to figure out what was best going to accomplish whatever it was I was hoping to accomplish, I realised something.
Whenever I don’t trust myself to make good decisions, I try to create some rule or restriction or regimen to remove the decision making.
In theory, this doesn’t seem like such a bad plan. It reduces cognitive load, freeing up brain power for other things (how much time can we spend agonising over buying a pair of shoes right?).
In reality, it never works for me. My tendency is to rebel against whatever boundary I’ve come up with. My self-imposed restrictions never last long.
I used to fight against this as it was some kind of deficiency. What can’t I just do what I want? They’re my rules so why can’t I stick with them?
Huge amounts of frustration, disappointment and chocolate eating ensued.
All in all, not a very healthy, self-aware approach to shopping. Or eating. Or any other habit that comes to mind.
But there is a different way.
By being more me.
I’m intuitive and very self-aware. I needed to learn to trust those instincts. All of the feedback I need on my choices is available if I just listen.
Learning About Yourself
The first thing that strikes me about the above situation is I was attempting to a force a solution that works well for others. I wasn’t searching for a solution that fits who I am and my natural dispositions.
Maybe you read the introduction and feel the complete opposite of me. Rules and regimes make you feel free. Knowing when you’re hitting the gym and following a diet and having a plan feels light. It feels like a framework in which to play. Basically, the thought of structure feels really good. Properly liberating.
Or you’re in my camp and structure feels suffocating. The instant you attempt to plan out a month’s of activities, you have a serious compulsion to do anything but what’s on the plan.
Whichever end of the scale you identify with or how strongly doesn’t matter. What matters is realising where you sit so you can play into it more.
When it comes shopping, I know instantly when I try something on if I feel really good. That’s my gold standard. If it gives me that feeling then I can buy it. If it falls short then I don’t. There’s no need for rules or restrictions or limitations. Well, there is one. I need to try it on. Online shopping is no good because I’m hopeless at sending things back and I need to try something on to spark the feeling.
If you’re struggling figure out the best approach to something, work with who you are. Think about the areas in your life that work well and what the common denominators are. Is it when you are a part of a team so always have accountability? Or is it when you have to pay upfront so the money ties you in.
Kindness and Forgiveness.
Obviously, it’s all very well to say be you but you can get a bit cloudy and lost sometimes.
A beautiful yoga teacher of mine talks about polishing back the dirt and grime of life on the mirror so we can see ourselves clearly. This is very much a process and polishing can take some serious elbow grease so it’s not necessarily easy.
So need to learn to be kind and gentle and forgiving with ourselves when we don’t nail it.
Again I’m making it sound so simple.
But I’ve been there, berating myself for not following through on the promises I made to myself. Talking to myself like I’m somehow less than. That it’s some kind of failing or shortcoming that I can’t follow my own plan.
It’s not even that I can’t. It’s that I don’t want to. Why would I try to force myself to do something that doesn’t feel good? It seems crazy now that I reflect on it, that I would even attempt to self-impose something that feels suffocating and limiting.
Shouldn’t we be the most patient and understanding with ourselves? Shouldn’t we know ourselves best?
But it’s a process of learning and relearning. Of falling off the wagon and dusting ourselves off.
We’re not always going to get it right. We’re going to eat a cookie just because it’s there. We’re going to buy a top because your girlfriend said it looked amazing even though you weren’t sure about it (and then wear it once). We’re going to go on a second date when the first date told ys all we needed to know.
We are gloriously human with all of the complicated emotions and biological feedback that comes with it. We don’t get it right all of the time. We get tired. We get emotional. We get preoccupied. We get overworked. We don’t always have the full use of our decision making facilities.
That’s ok. Let it go. Learn from it.
Refine. Get better. Improve.
Beating yourself about getting it wrong does not contribute to any of these outcomes.
In fact, it detracts from them. The negativity breeds more negativity.
How familiar does this scenario sound? You had a bad day at work where your boss delivered some pretty blunt negative feedback. You got yourself some chocolate to go with your lunch because you deserve a treat after being talked to like that. On the train home, you go over and over the conversation, coming up with smart remarks you wish you had said but also know you never would. Instead, you snap at your sister, who was only trying to support you. So now you have that to feel bad as well so you skip dinner in favour of a tub of ice cream…
And so it goes. Mentally, emotionally, physically treating yourself and those around you badly.
It gets pretty ugly, pretty fast.
How different things are when we treat ourselves with a little compassion.
On our lunch break, we go for a walk, blasting upbeat music until we’re bouncing as we walk. We hit the gym, sweating out the frustration and getting high on endorphins. We accept our sister’s support, grateful to have someone we can count on. We get to the end of the day, taking on the useful feed
Positivity breeds positivity.
Trust Your Intuition
It is such an easy thing to stay but not always an easy thing to do.
Remember, you are getting feedback all of the time both physical and emotional. There is a whole goldmine of information on what works best for you. To figure out whether planning, accountability, flexibility or something else entirely is the best approach to get you closer to your goals.
If in doubt, if it feels good, properly good, then you’re on the right track.