Why the downtime you “sneak” doesn’t really count

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The other night, I stayed up much later than usual, watching a marathon of the HGTV show Fixer Upper and eating taco-flavored Doritos.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I paid for it with stomach discomfort all night and lousy sleep.

The odd thing about it was that, although I had told myself I “needed” this TV and Doritos “binge”, it didn’t really feel good. It didn’t quite seem to scratch the itch I’d thought it would.

I then remembered that my mother had once told me that, before he retired several years ago, my dad would often stay up late watching TV on weeknights, even though he was very tired. “It’s his only way to have time to himself,” she said.

And then I knew what my Fixer Upper-Doritos binge was about (because — honestly? — I don’t even like Doritos that much — they were only in the house because my partner loves them): It was my way of “sneaking” downtime that I wasn’t openly giving to myself. 

What’s going on when we “sneak” things for ourselves? When we do it in secret  — even if the only person we’re hiding from is us?

Geneen Roth, author of many wonderful books on our relationship with food, wrote that as she healed from emotional eating, an important part of her process was to eat in full view of others. Even if what she was eating was a whole chocolate cake.

I realized after my TV-and-Doritos escapade failed to give me what I’d hoped it would that I’d fallen back into an ancient pattern (and ancient IS the right word here, as my ancestors did it, too): believing that I only deserve open-ended time for myself once I’ve “earned” it through achieving.

Through “upping my game”. Through “checking off the to-do list.” Through challenging myself and “succeeding.”

Many people I work with tell me I am gentle, and while gentleness is indeed part of my true nature, I am also very driven. This driven-ness has a positive aspect — I stick to things, I usually do what I say I’m going to do, and I (definitely) know how to push myself.

But this driven part of me has a downside, too — it doesn’t know when to quit. It doesn’t have an “off” switch. It doesn’t always let go when it’s time to let go, either.

So part of the reason I am gentle is because I need to teach myself gentleness. Or maybe I am continually learning to embrace the gentleness that was part of me as a child.

This gentle part of me (and the driven part of me, too!) needs open-handed rest, rejuvenation, kindness, solitude, and daydreaming. It needs it not because I’ve “earned” it, but because I exist and it’s a true need at times. In fact, it’s a true need regularly.

Over and over I revisit the same learning: It’s okay to give myself something just because I feel the need for it.

As my teacher Mark Silver says, we don’t eat or drink once and never need to eat or drink again. We get hungry and thirsty multiple times per day and we fill those needs. We don’t expect that we will never again be hungry or thirsty just because we ate and drank one day.

The same goes for other needs that may not be as apparent (or as culturally acceptable!). I don’t have to “earn” downtime. It is a need, and the need for it will arise again and again. And I can give it to myself because I exist. Not because I “deserve” it.

But I had forgotten this. And the part of me that felt angry and neglected and sad that I had forgotten wanted some kindness, some gentleness, some acknowledgement. It reminded me by staying up late in “binge” mode.

It’s totally okay to watch multiple episodes of Fixer Upper (I love Fixer Upper!) and eat delicious food. As long as I am giving it to myself as a gift. As long as I am enjoying it. A little indulgence can be a truly good thing, especially for those of us who tend to go too far in the other direction and push and deprive ourselves.

But when we can catch ourselves going too far in the other direction — when we notice before we swing too far out of balance — we are giving ourselves the true gift.

And when we’re “sneaking”, there’s a part of us, in that act, that wants to be seen. To be acknowledged. (A client told me a while back that she was “sneaking” time to write in her journal — some part of her wouldn’t allow her full permission to openly connect with herself.)

Our egos can be very tricky here. In my case, I was giving myself downtime here and there — but it was conditional downtime: you can have this, but only if you make up for it by working really hard later.

So the key here is giving ourselves what we need with no strings attached. (Check out my post on the difference between self-care and self-indulgence, here.)

Do you notice yourself “sneaking” something? Is there a message there for you? I’d love to hear from you.

And, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or disconnected from yourself and are needing support, I hope you’ll check out my Stellar Self-Care Coaching Program. I’ll continue enrolling clients in this one-on-one program through August 31, 2016.

Above image © Johanna Goodyear | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Five things I’ve learned about trust

This is my second post for The Declaration of You BlogLovin’ Tour (scroll to the bottom of this post to find out more). This is the final week of the tour, and the topic is Trust.

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I used to think I couldn’t trust others and I couldn’t trust life. It took me a long time to see the turnaround: It was me I thought I couldn’t trust. Once I saw this, I wanted to really know what it meant to trust myself. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned:

1) Trusting myself means that I allow myself to experiment, to stretch, to make mistakes.

I first encountered the idea of trusting myself when I discovered the writing of Geneen Roth in my early twenties. I was a chronic dieter at the time, and Geneen’s concept of trusting myself to know when I was hungry and to stop eating when I was full was a radical thing to me.

When I first tried it, the perfectionist in me wanted to “do this trusting myself thing right.” I thought if I made a mistake, it was proof I couldn’t trust myself.

It took me a few years before I’d integrated the truth that trusting myself is about the way I relate to myself when things don’t go as I want them to — it is about the way I relate to myself, period. It has nothing to do with being “good” or “right” or even wise. It is a way of living in the world. It is a choice.

2) Self-trust is intimately linked to self-acceptance.

If I’m judging myself, you can bet I am not in a place of self-trust. In fact, I’ve found that my intuition will “hide out” when I’m judging myself harshly. Intuition is fierce, but it’s often quiet and subtle in how it comes to us.

My cat usually disappears when someone who speaks loudly and has heavy footsteps enters the house. Intuition is similar — it tends to hide out in the closet when my inner critic starts raging. It’s not that intuition is afraid of the inner critic (intuition fears nothing; it simply is). It’s more that intuition (like my cat) has a very low tolerance for drama. So it goes silent and seems to disappear when that harsh voice within me goes on a rampage.

I can always reconnect with my intuition, though. I just need to get quiet again. Intuition never fails to show up when I’m in a place of peace. And the more deeply I can accept myself, the more peaceful I feel.

3) Trusting myself means having faith that my intuition is there for a reason, and taking the risk to follow it.

It’s the process of acting on my intuition that makes me feel alive, not the outcome, which will never be completely within my control, and which, I’ve found, I often cannot accurately predict.

The more I trust myself to take action on my intuition, the better I get at it, because I create more and more evidence for the fact that it feels good and right and empowering when I trust myself. It’s like strengthening a muscle. (You may not be sure you have the “self-trust” muscle if you haven’t used it a lot — but you do. Trust me.)

4) No one else’s truth is a substitute for my own.

The best help from others is guidance that points me back to my own inner compass, and reminds me how important it is.

It’s good — and often necessary — to gather information and receive advice from others, especially those who’ve been where we are. But at some point, we need to sift through this guidance, integrate it, and check inside ourselves for what feels right for us.

How do we know it’s time to stop going to outside sources? When the information we’re getting is creating more confusion, not contributing to clarity.

5) “Trusting myself” is a belief system.

There are no guarantees of what the outcome will be if I trust myself.

I may trust myself, take action from that place, and find that things happen in a way I couldn’t have predicted.

I’d love to tell you that the way they happen is always better than I could ever have imagined — but while that is sometimes true, it doesn’t always feel like that. Sometimes, I trust myself and things don’t turn out the way I’d like them to — and I don’t understand why things happened the way they did until years later, if at all.

But regardless of outcome, it’s a heck of a lot easier for me to make decisions — and to live with them — when I operate from a platform of self-trust. It comes down to how I want to live: From a space of doubting myself, or from that solid foundation of knowing I’m worthy of my own trust.

I know this: It feels better to trust myself, and to act on that trust, than it does to spin my wheels in the sticky mud of indecision, doubt, and fear.

What have you learned about trust? I’d love to know — feel free to share, in the comments!

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The Declaration of You, published by North Light Craft Books and available now, gives readers all the permission they’ve craved to step passionately into their lives, discover how they and their gifts are unique and uncover what they are meant to do. This post is part of The Declaration of You’s BlogLovin’ Tour, which I’m thrilled to participate in alongside over 200 other creative bloggers. Learn more — and join us! — by clicking here.

Top image is “Ferris Wheel” © James Hearn | Dreamstime Stock Photos