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Severine Takes Her Medicine


Severine

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So it's Tuesday morning and I'm lying in bed, milking the four minutes before I have to get up and have a shower for all they're worth. I've got one eye open and I'm groggily scrolling through the New York Times' Morning Briefing on my phone (because what better way to start the day than review a list of all the messed up stuff going on in the world) and at the bottom I see this:

 

xJFjGCJ.png

 

See it right there? In between a report on the stock market and a fluff piece about quinoa, there's the line that made me sigh heavily and put my phone down, feeling guilty and discouraged. I got out of bed and went to have my shower. And standing under the hot water, attempting to transform into an alert and functional human, I couldn't stop berating myself. Because of course I know what I should be doing (exercising, eating well) and I even know how to do it. I've done it in the past. And I know it'd make me feel better. But I am mostly not doing it. And I am feeling worse physically as a result, which I then tell myself I deserve because it's my own fault. Lots of guilt and self-judgement.

 

During the last challenge, @Tanktimus the Encourager said something on @fleaball's thread that stuck in my head. He said that negative self talk shapes our perceptions of self, which in turn shapes our behavior. It's something I've heard dozens of times before, of course, but this time it felt fresh, somehow. It felt urgently relevant. I've been grappling with issues of identity and self-esteem recently, and trying to tackle long-established maladaptive coping mechanisms, and I'm finally starting to realize that the things I previously dismissed as "normal self doubts that everyone has" are actually...not. It's not normal to constantly judge and criticize and lecture yourself.

 

So back to Tuesday morning. I realized something really important. Sure, it is a problem that I am not exercising as much or eating as well as I should be. But it is also a problem that my response was to stand in the shower berating myself about it. It's a problem that my response was one of guilt and disgust and self-excoriation. And maybe it's even the more urgent problem.

 

The-Perfectionists-Guide-to-Results-Lo.jpg

 

I am unfortunately a perfectionist, and despite a lifetime of achievements in academic and career settings, I've got this picture of myself in my head as someone who is never good enough. I'm never satisfied no matter what I accomplish. I discount my good qualities and just see the flaws. If I fail, I say, "well of course" and if I succeed, I say, "well that's better than nothing but you should have done it sooner. And why didn't you do this other thing too?" And this has become a self-sabotaging mindset that's preventing me from making progress in fitness and just generally making me a less confident, less resilient person.

 

I'm not saying I want to stop seeing flaws in myself. I think self-improvement is a part of what makes human life worthwhile. Sickly sweet inspirational things that tell people they're 'perfect as they are' don't ring true to me. But I want to be able to see my flaws in the same patient and understanding way that I see the flaws of my friends and family. I want to see self-improvement as an act of loving investment in a person I see as wonderful and worthwhile, not as a kind of punishment or atonement.

 

So anyway. This challenge. I don't want it to be about striving to hit difficult goals. Right now, for me, that would be a recipe for neurosis. This time is all about self care and trying to change my perceptions of myself. This is a small part of my overall strategy (therapy, etc) but hopefully it'll be a helpful step in the right direction. 

 

Strategy #1

Enjoyable daily exercise helps my mood and energy levels and makes me feel good

The New York Times was right about one thing: exercise is a great medicine. And I could use some right now! I'm not setting a minimum time per day or specifying the type of exercise. In the past with exercise goals, even when I was meeting all those requirements and technically winning at the challenge, I was constantly quietly disappointed, always telling myself I was just doing enough to tick the box but really I could have or should have done more. So this time the goal is not just to exercise but to be okay with exercising just as much as I actually want to and feels good. And more importantly to work on how I think about it. Instead of logging time I'm going to log how I felt while exercising and afterwards. I'm going to focus on seeing it as a positive act of self care instead of a metric I'm trying to satisfy.

 

Strategy #2

Replacing critical and cruel self talk with realistic supportive and compassionate self talk would be really healthy for me

This is obviously hard to measure but I think it's important. My plan so far (and I'm open to suggestions here) is to spend a few minutes journalling each day, listing a couple positive things about myself (without qualification or minimization the way I normally do) and, if I find myself unable to stop thinking about negatives, I will practice listing a few things I want to work on, but talking about them in a compassionate and constructive way instead of as a terrifying list of flaws and things I have to fix or else I'll be awful forever. I'm also going to try to be more mindful of my thoughts/words, and when I catch myself saying something critical about myself, I'll try rephrasing it into something nice enough that I would feel comfortable saying it about a loved one, instead of the asshole way I normally talk about myself.

 

Strategy #3

Feel good about being productive, but realize that infinite productivity is not a sane goal

In other challenges I've talked about how powerful momentum is: when I get something done, I feel good, and that helps me feel capable of tackling other challenges. The more productive I am, the more I feel like I can accomplish. I have a tendency to go overboard, though - I become obsessed with ever increasing productivity. And inevitably I burn out. So I'm going to try a strategy that worked well for me in the past, but with a twist. Remember when I had the goal of doing one important thing from my to-do list every day? I'm going to do that again, but I'm also going to add the goal of doing one relaxing or fun thing every day. Because working hard is easy, but balance is hard.

 

Strategy #4 

Be honest with myself about why I'm eating

This is a really hard one. Food issues are my gordian knot, and unsurprisingly really closely intertwined with my self esteem and anxiety issues. Emotional eating is something I struggle with, and I have a bunch of hangups and fears and insecurities about food and body image. I'm not going to solve this overnight, but I do want to try to pay attention this challenge to eating more mindfully. Food tracking is easy, but more importantly I need to face the scary question of why I eat certain things and how I feel about the food and about my behavior. I'm not going to set a calorie limit or anything like that. But I want to try to pay attention (without a bunch of self judgement) to what is driving me to eat other than actual physical hunger.

 

Sorry this is so long!

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This is great!! Following~~

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37 minutes ago, Severine said:

Sorry this is so long!

Please. I'm pretty sure mine is longer. ;):P

 

Also, I really like your goals and how you are focusing all of them on mindset and how you feel, instead of checking it off or hitting a specific limit. I'm finding that approach so much more useful to me too.

 

Really self care is simple. Just do what feels loving in the moment. Sometimes loving is doing the tough task so it is done. Sometimes loving is taking a long walk to listen to nature. Sometimes loving is slowing down. Sometimes loving is jumping up and down perhaps on a trampoline ;). The point is that self care isn't only about massages and bubble baths, it is the daily focus on taking care of ourselves whatever that means in any given moment. One example for me is playing video games: sometimes it is loving, sometimes it is destructive, the difference is usually the reason why I am playing. 

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Wow, you really nailed the way you phrased those goals. That's some good stuff. One tweak I'd offer is to change "realistic but compassionate" in goal 3 to "positive and affirming." The "Realistic" part can be twisted into paralysis by analysis when you try and figure out what's realistic.

 

Eating feelings is a tough one, I used to eat my boredom. Eating was recreational for me, which led to me overindulging. I'll be following along.

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Here for this!

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5 hours ago, Dagger said:

Really self care is simple. Just do what feels loving in the moment.

 

I hate to disagree (it's one thing to disagree with someone being a jerk - that's easy - but when people are being nice and trying to help, it makes me very anxious to be contrary) but for me this is unfortunately not an accurate statement at all. 

 

For one thing, I have a really hard time trusting my own wishes/preferences - often they're temptations I need to struggle against rather than things I want to be guiding my decisions. And another issue is that different parts of me usually want different things simultaneously, so the answer is never simple. And when my goal is to do what is good for me, there's the question of what exactly I mean by that. By what standard, according to whom, on what timescale? Etc. Plus I have a bunch of dysfunctional coping mechanisms - things that might feel extremely soothing in the moment but are ultimately destructive. And my anxiety issues mean that these moments of decision often stir up a lot of meta-analysis and second guessing and such.

 

So it should be simple...and maybe one day it will be. But right now, not so much. Which is why I feel like I need a much more structured approach of thinking in advance what self care needs to look like, and planning out how to implement that, instead of a loose guiding principle (like "do what feels loving") that I trust myself to apply moment to moment. I'm just not there yet.

 

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4 hours ago, Tanktimus the Encourager said:

Wow, you really nailed the way you phrased those goals. That's some good stuff.

 

So, full disclosure, the first thing I thought when I read this was "haha yeah, I'm great at phrasing things well, but actually doing any of it is another story." So yeah, my mental equivalent of those old men on the balcony in the Muppets show is really vigilant with its cynical put-downs. But hey, at least I noticed it happening! I'll try to look at it this way instead: I don't yet know if I can do these things. But I know that I want to, and that, if I can, it will help me. So I'm going to try.

 

4 hours ago, Tanktimus the Encourager said:

One tweak I'd offer is to change "realistic but compassionate" in goal 3 to "positive and affirming." The "Realistic" part can be twisted into paralysis by analysis when you try and figure out what's realistic.

 

That's a good point, I guess. I'm really wary of the danger of being too soft on myself, and thereby enabling self-destructive behaviors, but you're right that 'realistic' is probably not the best criteria there. 'Positive and affirming' sounds potentially too coddling of real flaws, though, and for better or worse I am anxious about that. I think 'supportive and compassionate' is more what I'm aiming for. Like, I don't want to decide that my emotional eating is acceptable, and I certainly don't see it as positive. But I do want to be compassionate about it.

 

4 hours ago, Tanktimus the Encourager said:

Eating feelings is a tough one, I used to eat my boredom. Eating was recreational for me, which led to me overindulging. I'll be following along.

 

Yeah, sometimes it's boredom for me but much more often the triggers are anxiety or worry or self-criticism. If you're inclined, feel free to share what helped you get through this!

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12 minutes ago, Severine said:

 

I hate to disagree (it's one thing to disagree with someone being a jerk - that's easy - but when people are being nice and trying to help, it makes me very anxious to be contrary) but for me this is unfortunately not an accurate statement at all. 

 

For one thing, I have a really hard time trusting my own wishes/preferences - often they're temptations I need to struggle against rather than things I want to be guiding my decisions. And another issue is that different parts of me usually want different things simultaneously, so the answer is never simple. And when my goal is to do what is good for me, there's the question of what exactly I mean by that By what standard, according to whom, on what timescale? Etc. Plus I have a bunch of dysfunctional coping mechanisms - things that might feel extremely soothing in the moment but are ultimately destructive. And my anxiety issues mean that these moments of decision often stir up a lot of meta-analysis and second guessing and such.

 

So it should be simple...and maybe one day it will be. But right now, not so much. Which is why I feel like I need a much more structured approach of thinking in advance what self care needs to look like, and planning out how to implement that, instead of a loose guiding principle (like "do what feels loving") that I trust myself to apply moment to moment. I'm just not there yet.

 

I now realize I kinda forgot the second half of my thought... oops...

 

I meant to say it is simple, but that doesn't make it easy. Like self care in theory is easy. It basically is being loving to yourself, taking care of yourself, whatever that looks like. But it isn't easy, and the practice of it certainly isn't simple at times. In fact it can be pretty darn hard.

 

My struggles with it doesn't look the same as yours. But I do struggle with it, both remembering what and why, and with following it and with knowing what is the most loving in any moment.

 

Basically, you are right. And I feel not quite annoyed, but unhappy that I managed to forget to put in the second part. I was like seconds from writing it and then went on about the other stuff first and then forgot to get back to the second half. I'm sorry.

 

Today is a good example. In the middle of the day, I recognized I'd really need meditation and a walk, but then I somehow managed to miss doing both of those today. And almost every moment of the day I felt like I was following what was most loving. Only when I scrutinized my day very closely did I find points where that wasn't true. Where my continuing refreshing of this forum was a sign that I was off balance.

 

So, I'm sorry I managed to say only half my message so you felt anxious about disagreeing with me. Because we are in agreement about this. It isn't easy, and especially not when trying to get to a better place of self care. It will never be a breeze, because it is easy to forget or just dismiss when in a good place or in a bad place for that matter. Sorry.

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Great challenge!  Good luck! :D

 

6 hours ago, Severine said:

not just to exercise but to be okay with exercising just as much as I actually want to and feels good.

I especially like this one!

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1 hour ago, Dagger said:

Basically, you are right. And I feel not quite annoyed, but unhappy that I managed to forget to put in the second part. I was like seconds from writing it and then went on about the other stuff first and then forgot to get back to the second half. I'm sorry.

 

Today is a good example. In the middle of the day, I recognized I'd really need meditation and a walk, but then I somehow managed to miss doing both of those today. And almost every moment of the day I felt like I was following what was most loving. Only when I scrutinized my day very closely did I find points where that wasn't true. Where my continuing refreshing of this forum was a sign that I was off balance.

 

So, I'm sorry I managed to say only half my message so you felt anxious about disagreeing with me. Because we are in agreement about this. It isn't easy, and especially not when trying to get to a better place of self care. It will never be a breeze, because it is easy to forget or just dismiss when in a good place or in a bad place for that matter. Sorry.

 

Noooooooo don't be sorry! It just makes me feel bad for mentioning it, lol. Let's all agree to not feel bad about anything on this thread today. I get what you're saying, honestly: the underlying concept is simple, in theory. I think I'm just frustrated because I keep telling myself it shouldn't be this hard. But it certainly feels hard. And I tend to believe that the reasons it's hard are all related to me being a fuckup. Which obviously is (a) probably not entirely true and (b) super unhelpful. 

 

Anyway, everything is good and I truly appreciate all posts and perspectives on here, whether or not we agree!

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1 hour ago, zeroh13 said:

I might borrow some of these challenge ideas...

 

Hey the more people joining the alliance of Let's Not Be Assholes To Ourselves, the better! Be sure to let us know when you have a new challenge thread - or are you doing everything in your save file thread now? Anyway, either way, don't be a stranger.

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9 hours ago, Severine said:

Noooooooo don't be sorry! It just makes me feel bad for mentioning it, lol. Let's all agree to not feel bad about anything on this thread today. I get what you're saying, honestly: the underlying concept is simple, in theory. I think I'm just frustrated because I keep telling myself it shouldn't be this hard. But it certainly feels hard. And I tend to believe that the reasons it's hard are all related to me being a fuckup. Which obviously is (a) probably not entirely true and (b) super unhelpful.

I'd say it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you are not a fuckup. Instead just look at what society and media teaches about self care:

  • It is selfish
  • It is all vague affirmations
  • Or it is all bogus
  • Bubble baths, massages and spa days is the only way to self care. (No, that is luxury and can certainly be nice)
  • Everything for your job
  • Everything for the people in your life (parents, children, etc.)
  • It is weakness. You can't be strong if you need to take care of yourself

Etc. etc. etc. etc.

 

Both our societies (US and Swedish) don't know how to teach self care and what it actually means. And society (and the media) affects us on a deep level. If we don't have good role models outside what society teaches, how the hell would we learn self care? For realz? How would you?

 

When workaholism is seen like a virtue, why would anyone know how to slow down and take care of themselves?

 

This is obviously my opinion. But just look at who I learned the most about self care from: Kate Marolt. And do you remember how I saw what she did before I actually got to know her and tried her things? Hocus pocus, woo woo, magic, oooh. That is what society taught me to think about it. New agey in that crazy way of not being connected to reality. Then when I got to know her and actually gave it a fair chance, I realized it wasn't hocus pocus or woo woo. A lot of it is just guided meditation and visualization.

 

It isn't about asking the universe to fix everything and expecting it to just show up. It is asking the universe and then going out and doing it. For me, asking the universe feels like gentle accountability, it is like I tell everyone what my intention is without actually telling a person. I state my intention to myself so I will follow it more. And then I don't have to worry about if there is a universe out there that can help me or not, because I'm helping myself.

 

But now I've gotten down into the weeds.

 

My point is that society makes it damn hard to learn self care, so is it surprising that so few people know how to do it?

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I relate to a lot of this and I like how you've made yourself goals without the stress of trying to perfectionist the f*** out of it. I have that issue too. Following along for support. you got this!

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18 hours ago, Severine said:

Yeah, sometimes it's boredom for me but much more often the triggers are anxiety or worry or self-criticism. If you're inclined, feel free to share what helped you get through this!

Unlike the other self esteem stuff I did, I came at eating from a behavioral direction. I did the standard NF one-small-change-at-a-time thing. My first challenge after getting back to the boards. I made my eating goal to limit the times I ate out. The next challenge it was cook paleo at home and limit eating out. Then it was limiting non-paleo meals. Then after a while I went to two non paleo meals. Then I started tracking, then focused on macros. The self-esteem stuff happened, and it certainly helped with the behavioral changes.

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On ‎4‎/‎19‎/‎2017 at 8:46 AM, Dagger said:

Really self care is simple.

 

23 hours ago, Severine said:

I hate to disagree

 

"Simple" is rarely "easy." So you're both right. :) 

 

After all, "simple" is the essence of something without a lot of fluff and bright lights and advertising. I read something once that compared doing something simply (I think writing, but now I can't remember) to glass: Stained glass has been around for millennia but clear glass that you can actually see through came much, much later.

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First of all - @Severine - I'm pretty sure you wrote you initial post right out of my head.  I mean - in HS I did gymnastics and was a frickin' cheerleader (not that it made me popular - that's a whole different story).  In college - I was in aerobics classes so much, the teachers tried to get me to get certified to teach.  Then I worked at a desk job for a living and going to the gym 3 days a week to stay somewhat in shape (although I totally thought I was fat - pffft), then I was on call and working 80 - 100+ hours per week and not working out AT ALL - and I've just never gotten back into that groove (15 years later).

I never took time for myself.  My HUSBAND gets mani\pedi's more than I do.  He has to constantly remind me to do things for myself.  I'm getting better - but it still feels selfish even though I KNOW I have to take care of myself.  Walking up a flight of stairs should have me gasping for breath.  I can't blame hubby's preferences for my eating habits any more - I love veggies, but stopped taking the time to make them for myself.  Ordering pizza is too frickin' easy!  And every time I would start a new program, I'd last a week or 2 and done.  Heck, I think I first joined NF a couple of years ago....

Nothing I'm doing is hard - but overcoming bad habits is certainly not easy.  I'm trying to build habits back to reduce the really destructive ones - Eat Veggies (so I'm not just eating crap), Go to bed and get a good night's sleep (so I don't compensate being tired with eating crap), Stop beating myself up - count the good things (so I don't rebel and eat like crap).

After the last challenge - which I TOTALLY expected to fail spectacularly with - and didn't - I am seeing a difference in my mood.  I'm scared to say I've turned a corner (to only fail again) - but I'm trying to apply my coding background - so you failed, learn from it and fail better!  I may never run 5 miles per day again (because that age thing creeps in) - but for starters, I want to walk up that flight of stairs with my backpack and carry on bag and not feel like I need an inhaler when I get to the top.  I'll get there!

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23 hours ago, Severine said:

 

Hey the more people joining the alliance of Let's Not Be Assholes To Ourselves, the better! Be sure to let us know when you have a new challenge thread - or are you doing everything in your save file thread now? Anyway, either way, don't be a stranger.

I think I'm going to try using both. Keep the challenge slightly more focused, and the other one life stuff that's not related. Maybe? I'm just kind of experimenting right now.

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Even though the challenge technically starts on Sunday, I'm considering tomorrow my first day because I like to keep the weekend as a unified block. This week has been mostly about getting ready, and reflecting, and (if I'm honest) a little bit about "I'm going to eat this unhealthy thing because soon I won't be allowed." Which is of course not a healthy attitude but I'm letting it happen because I don't have the spoons to fight that battle right now. A couple extra days of indulgence won't make a huge difference, and if that's what it takes to feel ready to start, then so be it, even if it's kind of dysfunctional.

 

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day:

  • A guy is coming to do the annual maintenance on the central a/c system. This is happening at 8AM because Past Severine has no regard for my desire to sleep in on the weekend
  • I'm helping someone set up an irrigation system (it's a dude I used to farm with...he's never set up a pump before and I have so I said I'd help)
  • I'm going with a friend to the March for Science in the afternoon, assuming everything works out as planned
  • We have symphony tickets for tomorrow night
  • Sometime in between that stuff I need to review some Spanish, finish up some stuff I'm helping @Dagger with, do laundry, and call my grandparents

It's all stuff I want to be doing but it's kind of exhausting to think about it all at once. Momentum always gets me through busy days though, once I get started.

 

I'm feeling half optimistic about this challenge and half fatalistic and scared of screwing it up. I'm trying to be honest about the fear, at least.

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Everyone already said super helpful things about the self care thing so I won't repeat them. 

 

As far as the fear of screwing up, are you putting a lot of pressure on yourself to do well this round? 

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Je suis partie pour reconstruire ma vie

C'est dit, c'est ainsi

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9 hours ago, fleaball said:

As far as the fear of screwing up, are you putting a lot of pressure on yourself to do well this round? 

 

I mean...only in the sense that I always do? I can't change anything about the past obviously but what's in front of me now is my chance to fix it, or make amends, and to write a different story going forward. To break out of the old patterns and do better. I'm always extremely disappointed and demoralized and self-critical if I fall short, and I guess as time goes on it feels like the stakes get higher because there's more of a bad legacy to reverse and because I have enough knowledge and resources that success is very possible.

 

Obviously, this criticism of myself is part of the problem, so I've tried to structure this challenge in a gentler, more constructive way. I'm trying to emphasize self care, and to do things for the right reasons and with the right mindset. I'm trying to see nutrition and exercise as things I do because they help me feel good, rather than things I have to make myself do.

 

But structuring the challenge this way doesn't automatically remove my fear of failure, or silence the voice in my head telling me that failure is inevitable because I'm lacking in character and willpower. And even if the challenge goes well, it won't silence that voice. That voice says that no matter what temporary success I have, it'll all eventually unwind because I let my guard down and regress. Which has happened before.

 

So yeah, I'm terrified of failure because it feels like the stakes are so high. And because I don't want that voice to be right.

 

And so part of this challenge is about figuring out how to handle that voice. How to rewire my brain so it shuts up.

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I just read the above and a part of me want to nitpick about words, because the words shape reality and if you believe those words that is part of the reason you feel so much pressure, but at the same time I am wondering if that is helpful to you. If you want to know when your words show your perfectionism and so on. I thought I should ask for once. :panda:

 

Also, that voice you are talking about? It probably won't ever shut up for good. It'll get quieter and you will be able to ignore it much easier (or rather recognize the voice faster and reject it). But it probably won't ever go completely away. Just FYI since it is better to have realistic expectations otherwise disappointment is ripe (did a mangle another expression/idiom here... searching the net seems to think so since I can't find it... ah well...). (It is like body dysmorphia, just losing weight won't fix the your self image. Neither will minimizing that voice and its power make it disappear. Well, I guess that comparison doesn't work that well really. I'm not that good at comparisons. *sigh*)

 

So somewhat a downer post. I don't like that I seem to produce so many of them right now. But the positive is that it can be done. It might be slower than you like. It might be a pretty twisted road there. But it is doable. You can do this. :)

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Introduction (where I started, May 2016) ~*~ NF Character (dormant)

 

 Progress as a Nomad: Battle log where I do my own challenges

Useful posts on my battle log: Useful Links and Travel Schedule, Future Challenge IdeasGoals for 2017 as a whole, Assorted Goals (not on rotation), Elements W1D1, Last Quarter Goals

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9 hours ago, Severine said:

But structuring the challenge this way doesn't automatically remove my fear of failure, or silence the voice in my head telling me that failure is inevitable because I'm lacking in character and willpower. And even if the challenge goes well, it won't silence that voice. That voice says that no matter what temporary success I have, it'll all eventually unwind because I let my guard down and regress. Which has happened before.

A good structure to the challenge won't silence the voice, no.

It IS, however, a step in the right direction. You have weakened the voice by being gentle with yourself. Dagger is right, you won't ever get rid of the voice entirely, but you can punch it in the throat, sweep it's legs, kick it in the kidneys, make it pee blood, break it's nose and walk away making fun of it's haircut. You do that in a series of small, tiny steps. You won't notice the severe beatdown you're giving the voice in the moment, but one day you will notice the voice is weak and impotent, due mainly to taking good care of yourself.

  • Like 10

Current Challenge

"By the Most-Righteous-and-Blessed Beard of Sir Tanktimus the Encourager!" - Jarl Rurik Harrgath

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