Yesterday I wrote about the importance of self care to be healthy and the sad truth that most women lack the muscle around taking care of themselves.
At the root of most women’s inability to practice self care is a lack of belief that they are worthy and deserving of such “extravagance” , which I will address in my personal story below.
Maybe you found paleo as a way to naturally heal health issues and support your body. It’s an excellent start to take out the foods that are inflaming your body and replacing them with foods that are nutritious and life-giving.
You may find, as I have, that eating a clean paleo diet on its own is not enough to experience true health and well-being. Perhaps you have experienced some results, but have plateaued, or simply recognize that there is more at play here than just the food.
I will talk about autoimmune conditions specifically in a follow-up post, but it is my belief that the root cause of autoimmune disease is an inability to love yourself. I know thats a pretty bold statement and you can Checkout this post to learn more.
What starts as negative thoughts and feelings about yourself turns into your body literally attacking its own healthy tissues and organs.
I’d like to share my personal story with you today to illustrate how the beliefs, emotions and thought patterns established during childhood need to be addressed so you can be truly healthy and why so many women don’t feel like they have permission to take time for or invest in themselves.
Like so many, I did not grow up in a home where self love or worth was modeled well for me.
My mom was abused by her father in various ways and her mother was bipolar (which she unfortunately inherited from her). She had such low self esteem that she attracted men into her life who validated her beliefs about herself, and I was born into this toxic environment.
After years of personal development, I know now that my mom did the best she could for me and that she was living out the cycle of dysfunction that she grew up in. That doesn’t change the fact that my own view of myself and my value in the world was heavily distorted by what was modeled for me as a child.
As a very young girl, I watched my mom struggle financially, often worrying how she would be able to feed and house me. I watched her derive all of her value from how skinny, pretty and attractive she was to men. I watched her remain in an emotionally abusive relationship with my stepfather for 15 years because she didn’t believe in herself enough to leave.
I was told by my stepdad that I was “just like my mother” almost everyday, and coming from him and their relationship, that wasn’t a compliment.
Even as a very young girl, my conscious mind knew something wasn’t right, but I was still receiving strong subconscious programming about myself, my value and my place in the world in living in this environment.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the conscious vs subconscious mind, here’s a brief overview:
It’s widely agreed in the field of psychology that our issues as adults come back to our early childhood environment, namely the influence of our mother and father (or whoever our primary caregivers were).
From the time we are born, we begin to develop the conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind.
“Your conscious mind is a bit like the captain of a ship standing on the bridge giving out orders. In reality it’s the crew in the engine room below deck (the subconscious and the deeper unconscious) that carry out the orders. The captain may be in charge of the ship and give the orders but its the crew that actually guides the ship, all according to what training they had been given over the years to best do so.
The conscious mind communicates to the outside world and the inner self through speech, pictures, writing, physical movement, and thought.
The subconscious mind, on the other hand, is in charge of our recent memories, and is in continuous contact with the resources of the unconscious mind.
The unconscious mind is the storehouse of all memories and past experiences, both those that have been repressed through trauma and those that have simply been consciously forgotten and no longer important to us. It’s from these memories and experiences that our beliefs, habits, and behaviors are formed. (Source: The Mind Unleashed)
Ok, back to my story. As I grew up in this toxic environment, I was developing beliefs about myself and the world around me that were not very helpful. Here are just a couple:
“I need to be perfect to be loved.”
“I need to be skinny to be loved.”
“I am not lovable as I am.”
“My security (home and food) can be taken from me at any minute.”
“I need to work as hard as I can as long as I can everyday to have any chance of survival.”
Of course, I was not consciously aware that these beliefs were forming, but the actions I took as a response to these deeply held beliefs made perfect sense.
I began using unhealthy foods to comfort myself as I feared having our home taken away or to simply tune out the fighting around me. Toasted wonder bread sandwiches with fried bologna or hot dogs were my favorite (eeeeeewww).
I worked really hard in school to get good grades and got my first job when I was 13. I ended up getting a scholarship to a very competitive college and also having to work full-time throughout, so by the time I graduated, I was a full-fledged workaholic.
I still battled with food. On the one hand, it was a lifeline of sorts. I could turn to it for relief from stress, to checkout, to dull the pain. On the other, if I let my cravings take me over, I became fat and unattractive, which further perpetuated my feelings of worthlessness. It was a vicious cycle.
By the time I’d graduated from college, chronic stress had become my norm. Paying the bills, getting the grades and keeping up with my extremely high expectations of myself was already taking a toll on my adrenal system.
I kept taking on more work, more responsibility, and rarely took time off for myself. The sad truth was that I didn’t even know how to relax or unwind without food or alcohol.
I hit rock bottom in my early 30s when I lost my business that I’d worked on for several years, spent many thousands of dollars to build, and even went through a bankruptcy over. My hair was falling out in clumps, my body was puffy and inflamed, and emotional eating was at its peak.
I was introduced to some courses and books around that time that helped me to begin understanding what was driving my behaviors with food, stress and overworking and was able to start making some changes. (This is a gross oversimplification for the purpose of this post. I could write a book about what I’ve learned in the last 6 years.)
I started slowing down and taking more time for myself.
I stopped numbing myself with food.
I recognized how much stress was robbing me of health and happiness and began training myself to be more calm, trusting and peaceful inside.
As a result, I ended up getting into the best health and lowest weight of my life and soon after met Craig and soon after that became a mom. (Wow, that was fast.)
Becoming a mom has required that I revisit this whole conversation around self-love and care as the foundation to my health because my time is so much more limited and it’s so easy for me to slip back into my old patterns of overworking, overeating and under-loving and caring for my body, mind and spirit.
I know that I am not alone in the things I’ve dealt with in my life. Women, by and large, are not good at taking care of themselves. We are far more comfortable taking care of others to the detriment of ourselves, and everyone around us suffers.
We learn how to treat ourselves by our own mothers, who learned from their moms, most of whom did the very best they could to raise us well, but did not live truly fulfilling lives. There is a better way available to us, but we must surround ourselves with those who will give us that permission and light our path.
When I find myself sick, short-tempered or frustrated with Craig or Orion, I have to stop and consider if I’ve done anything kind and loving for myself that day (or even that week). Taking the time for myself, believing that I’m worthy of such extravagance as having an hour or two of time for myself is a discipline, a muscle that I must continue to build.
In June, our family moved back to Maui, and I started thinking about how I could be of better service to the women in my paleo community. We all need time to rest, restore and do the work beyond eating paleo to reset our stress responses and our natural tendency to care for others more than ourselves.