Expectation Is Everything: How Changing Your Mindset Can Improve Your Health
The Big Thought in this post: If you want to be healthy, you have to believe you can be. You have to expect good health. Mindset is everything.
I recently had a big a-ha moment - a REVELATION - regarding my health.
I realized that I don't expect to feel well. Not only that, but I actually expect not to feel well - to feel bad - most of the time.
That revelation was triggered by two things; a friend and a book.
I noticed that one of my best friends seems to have an expectation that he'll always feel good, evidenced by the fact that when he doesn't feel well for any reason, he announces it. If he hasn't slept well and feels a little bit tired, he makes a big deal about that. He'll mention it at least two or three times over the course of a 30-minute conversation.
Now to be clear, he's not a hypochondriac who's searching for ailments to complain about. He's just someone who feels good most of the time, to the point where, when he doesn't, it's noteworthy.
He mentions it because not feeling well is an anomaly to him. Bad feelings are unfamiliar to him.
I realized this because I felt resentful whenever he did this; I would feel deeply irritated and think "so what?" (I never said this of course because I'm not an ass.)
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However I didn't become fully aware of this in a way that I could verbalize it until I read a book by Gary John Bishop called Stop Doing That Shit: End Self-Sabotage and Demand Your Life Back.
The premise of the book is that we all have limiting beliefs which cause us to self-sabotage. Now this is not a new concept, but Bishop has a new take on this idea.
He breaks it down to the "Three Saboteurs'"- one overarching limiting belief about three main categories: yourself, people, and the world.
This book is helpful for that reason; the categorization of limiting beliefs.
I had previously done exercises based around listing my limiting beliefs, but found it to be disheartening because there were so damn many! It was death by a thousand paper cuts, an existential whack-a-mole; as one belief was wrestled with, two more emerged.
But Bishop's idea that at the core of all of the nuances lies a thick root (one belief) from which all the others stem from is a game changer, because instead of wrestling with 30-40 (more?) limiting beliefs and getting tangled up in that Gordian knot, there are only three.
When you can identify your enemy, you can deal with him appropriately.
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After reading that book, the next time my friend complained about his lack of sleep, I had my big epiphany.
I asked myself: "Why do I feel so resentful in these moments?"
I answered my own question "Because I envy the fact that he expects to feel well most of the time whereas I don't expect to feel well most of the time."
"Why is that?"
"Because pain has been the norm in my life, most of my life."
Pain was normalized for me from a very young age.
I grew up being physically abused; I was 23-years-old the last time my father hit me. My mother and brother were there, and as had been the custom, they looked away as I lay on the floor screaming and crying, being hit, as we all waited for it to be over.
Acceptance of pain.
I felt I had to accept the pain inflicted on me because my entire family accepted it on my behalf, illustrated by the fact that no one tried to stop it. Me being hurt was normal to my family. So it became normal to me.
I came to expect pain.
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Aside from being hit, my father also body-shamed me on a regular basis. He told me I was fat (I wasn't, I was a chubby kid, but never fat): he told me that my hips stuck out, my butt stuck, and that I needed to wear long shirts to "hide" these unsightly areas of my body.
That, coupled with the feelings of deep unworthiness caused by the physical abuse led to binge-eating disorder, where I ate in a manner that can only be described as abusive for over 30 years.
Although my father hasn't hit me in 20 years, I took up the baton where he left off and have hurt myself with food.
I would make myself feel physically ill, sometimes on a daily basis because I thought I deserved to feel bad. For much of my life, I haven't been able to enjoy the experience of being alive because of how uncomfortable I felt in my own skin
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I'm happy to say that I don't binge any more, but I do still regularly overeat - meaning getting to the point of being somewhat uncomfortable.
I've asked myself why, and didn't have an answer until I read Stop Doing That Shit.
I realized that the overarching limiting belief I have about myself is that I don't deserve to feel good; that I actually deserve pain.
There have been times in my life where I was so busy that I never binged or overate because I had other things to focus on.
I remember how good I felt in my body; how good it was to inhabit my skin. But I also remember what a foreign feeling it was. Feeling good felt strange to me.
And that led me to understand why I felt resentful of my friend: I was resentful of the fact that he expected to feel GOOD as a matter of course, when I expected to feel BAD as a matter of course.
But now that I've read that book, and made the connection about the underlying belief I have, I can change it.
Beliefs are not set in stone; we get to choose them. And they're easier to choose when we're aware of them.
According to therapist Marissa Peer, if you want to make change happen "You've got to make the familiar unfamiliar, and the unfamiliar familiar."
Meaning if you want to change your behaviour, you have to change your beliefs. You have to let go of the old (familiar) beliefs and adopt new (unfamiliar) beliefs.
Although I'm not used to expecting to feel good, I'm working on it evidenced by the fact that I'm no longer binge-eating - it's becoming more familiar to me to feel good in my body.
If you find yourself doing something that's unhelpful to you - that you know you don't want to be doing it but you do it anyway - there might be an overarching limiting belief causing you to self-sabotage.
Find that belief - dig out that gnarly root - and watch your life transform.
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