We all have dreams, things that we are passionate about, things that we want to pursue or overcome. Yet we all have an inner critic – a voice that tells us that we’re not good enough or that our goals are too far out of reach. We have moments of divine inspiration where we believe nothing in this world could stand in the way of achieving our incredible ideas, yet instantaneously feel disheartened and caught in our tracks, unable to move forwards and overwhelmed by the task at hand.
During recovery from my eating disorder, I constantly swung between these two extremes. At one moment I thought that I would be able to tackle recovery and achieve it within days, however on the other hand my negative inner critic with its demanding ways challenged my motivation to seek recovery.
Having admitted defeat, I expected everyone around me to make positive, recovery-focused changes in my life, to keep me accountable for my meal plans, to make my inner critic disappear and to cheer me on every step of the way. However, truth is, that never happened. My friends and family actually went beyond that. They bent over backwards to help and support me without success because the missing key was that I did not want to help myself.
I was the one thing that was standing in the way of recovery – yet I didn’t realise that at the time. I bought into the lie that I wasn’t good enough, or strong enough or motivated enough to recover and instead stayed captive to my eating disorder and put my mental and physical health at risk until I had this realisation.
Perhaps I’m not the only person who has had this realisation or who has stood in the way of recovery. Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you’re not seeing results or progress because deep down you know you are standing in the way of your own success or triumph story. Maybe it’s time we took a step back and spend time identifying the things that are stopping us from achieving our goals such as recovery, especially up until this point.
When I reflect back on my personal recovery journey, I can easily identify a few specific things that stood in the way of recovery.
How we stand in our own way
Fear often scares us out of pursuing our goals. For me I was fearful of admitting my struggles. I feared what people might think about my struggles and the implications that might have. I was fearful that friends and family would look at me and treat me differently. More importantly I feared success. What would happen if I successfully recovered? What did recovery actually look like and what changes would that bring to my day to day life? What would I do then? Who would I be without my eating disorder? All these questions could easily derail success.
It’s so easy to evaluate yourself based on what your peers are achieving. When attending recovery groups there was always someone in my eyes that was better at having an eating disorder than I was. They were better at restricting, better at exercising, better at standing in the way of their recovery. However looking back on these moments, this constant comparison was not beneficial in my personal journey to recovery. My path was unique – therefore it was important to banish comparison and keep my eyes to myself, focusing on the steps that I had to take and the goals that I wanted to achieve.
Change and trying new things are big parts of recovery. When someone suggested art therapy to me, I laughed. Why? Because it was not something that was widely accepted at the time. However having this narrow view of recovery and not being open to new ideas and approaches was only a hindrance. It preventing me from trying different activities and strategies that could have potentially helped me in my recovery process. Needless to say in the end a more creative approach to recovery is what worked for me.
Setting unrealistic goals
Sometimes we set goals that are so unreasonably high that we set ourselves up for frustration. If that happens one too many times, we give up altogether. My approach to recovery demonstrated this. Once I started my recovery journey I honestly believed that my thoughts, emotions and behaviours would changed within a week. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case. I had to be more realistic. Instead of having seven bad days, I aimed for six bad days and one good day. And then I aimed for five bad days and two good days. And then I aimed for four bad days and three good days and before you knew it, I was having more good days than bad days and recovery started to become an attainable goal.
We all expect immediate results in all that we do and when we don’t see those results, it’s easy to become discouraged. It took three relapses before I achieved full recovery. In each of those dark moments it would have been easy to give up, yet I chose not to. I chose to get up and try again because after experiencing what a life of recovery would look like I decided that recovery was worthwhile and worth waiting for.
Focusing on the past
We often get mentally stuck on things and events that happened in the past. Things that didn’t work for us. Negative words and comments that were said to us. Mistakes that we have made. Yet recovery taught me that life is this beautiful thing that allows us to dream, wonder, create, make mistakes, build, transform and love. And that if we want to embrace these beautiful things then we simply need to leave yesterday behind and let go. Not ignoring the lessons that might have been learnt from our downfalls and mistakes, but allowing those lessons to help us make new choices and new discoveries each day in our own individual way.
Truth. Our thoughts become our emotions that become our actions. Belief in ourselves is the single most important factor in achieving recovery or other goals in life. During recovery I had to retrain the way I thought about myself and my situation. Each day I would say positive affirmations over myself or write my negative thoughts down and try and replace each of them with a positive one. It helped me to become more grateful, cheery and optimistic during the whole recovery process.
Same thing, same outcome
When you feel like you are stuck in a rut, it may be because you keep trying things that aren’t working. I once saw a dietician for a whole year and made no progress. Why? Because I didn’t like her. I had no respect for her and her attitude towards my situation annoyed me, yet I kept going. Did this produce the results I was looking for? No. Therefore it was time to change. It took another two failed attempts of seeing two different dieticians before I found one that I respected and was willing to work with. Recovery is about constantly testing, adapting and changing until you find the support that you need to help you in your individual journey.
I’m sure there are multitude of other things that stand in our way in life. However, remember the only person stopping you from achieving your dreams, your recovery, your success is yourself. You have far more potential than you’ve ever given yourself credit for. So take a moment to step aside, reflect and allow yourself to remove the things that are standing in your way of living a healthy, fulfilling and enjoyable life.