If you struggle with food, you’ve probably asked yourself “what’s wrong with me,” on at least a few occasions.
It’s a funny thing we humans do when have any kind of unwanted habit or state that we haven’t been able to overcome.
I mean, what other explanation is there? A “normal” person would be able to control themselves with food, or stick to the diet, or stay away from sugar, or like their body… right?
So if you haven’t been able to do that, it’s easy to conclude that there must be something “wrong” with you.
And then we go looking to find out what that is. We typically don’t have to look far… in fact there are all kinds of diagnoses and things that could be wrong with us when it comes to food. Things like:
Or in my case, “eating disorder”
At first having this kind of label provides a sense of relief. To be able to give a name to what’s wrong with you means maybe, just maybe, you can fix it.
The problem is, what starts as relief and a sense of hope soon becomes an identity.
Suddenly you’re saying:
I AM an emotional eater
I AM a food addict
I AM a binge eater
Next thing you know you’re in total resistance. You hate that identity, you reject it, you want it gone, you start obsessing about how you need to fix it, but there it is stuck to you like glue in direct proportion to your resistance.
The reason for this is twofold. First, the primary job of your subconscious mind is to always, always preserve your sense of identity by choosing thoughts and behaviors that reinforce that identity – even if you don’t consciously want to. And secondly, the simple universal law that what you focus on expands. Therein lies the danger of labels.
Even worse, the general idea that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you is disempowering, damaging and depleting to your soul. It’s not a resourceful state from which to make choices. Plus it’s just frickin’ not true.
The Truth with a capital T is that there is nothing wrong with you. A habit or a conditioned pattern, no matter how you define it, IS NOT WHO YOU ARE.
Most of us never stop to think that there may be a positive intention behind even our most troublesome unwanted habits. You came up with the habit in the first place because it was a great solution to some problem you were experiencing – usually when you were very young.
Even if it was a little misguided it was a way to get your needs met on some level. To deny that is a form of self-rejection. And self-rejection never works. All you’re doing is rejecting a younger part of you that wants what everybody else wants… love and acceptance.
I’ll share a personal example.
I recently discovered that I have what’s called an “anxious attachment style.” This is one of 4 common styles of relating that are explained by an area of psychology called attachment theory.
In my case, what this means is I have a tendency to get a little – or sometimes a lot – preoccupied and emotionally needy within my intimate relationships. I can look back on my life and see that it’s always been there, even as a little girl.
It also explains a lot of the challenges that I had in my marriage and pretty much in all of my past relationships. It’s led me to make some questionable choices, to cling to relationships that really weren’t serving me for far longer was healthy, to hold back on sharing my true needs and feelings, and generally drained a lot of my energy over the years.
So initially I was thrilled to make this discovery. Finally I had a “name” for it, and I felt a little less crazy knowing there are a lot of other people who share this same pattern.
However, this sense of relief quickly turned to judgement and in intense desire to be rid of it! I’m walking around my house, driving in my car, doing my laundry, etc. thinking about my anxious attachment and how badly I want to fix it. (And getting really frustrated that it keeps hanging around!)
And then I remembered. This is exactly how I used to relate to my eating disorder. And this is exactly what kept it stuck to me like super glue for 20 years.
I don’t tell this story often, but there’s a secret to how I released my 2-decade struggle with bulimia virtually overnight…
I remembered there is nothing wrong with me. I stopped putting energy into the label. I stopped fueling that identity and instead began to feel gratitude for what it had been trying to do for me for all those years.
And that opened the door for me to be able to do some deep inner work – from a place of consciousness and adding freedom and choice to my life – rather than trying to fix or remove something that was wrong with me.
And I can do the same with this anxious attachment habit, just as you can do with whatever habit is no longer serving you.
A good friend said to me the other day… “Forget the label! Everything is just energy – it’s all just how the energy moves.” And I found that so freeing.
So next time you go looking for what’s wrong with you, or find yourself energizing what you’ve already decided is wrong with you, I invite you to make a new choice.
Choose to detach from the label and send love to the habit. Send love to the part of you that created it. Thank it for whatever it’s been trying to do for you, and notice what happens. Where does the energy want to move?
I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
P.S. One of the practices that has been super healing for me (and that I’m currently working with around my anxious attachment) is sending love to my inner child – the part of me that created the patterns that I’m now ready to shift. Simply find a photo of yourself as a little girl, and spend about 10-15 minutes a day looking into her eyes, sending love to her, and appreciating her for the genius solution she came up with to get her needs met when she didn’t have any other options.
It truly works miracles!