My own worst enemy

This afternoon I rushed up the stairs towards my desk on the second floor. As I neared the top the burn in my legs was too much, and I got all sooky. I commented to a friend coming up the stairs behind me that I was sure they got higher every day. As he drew level with me he said “you’re going up them a lot faster than you were a couple of months ago, though!”

I was struck by the truth of that comment. Two and a half months ago I had major surgery and was weak as a kitten, and here I am berating myself for being somewhat unfit and a little overweight. I ride to work most days, and I also take the kids to school in the Christiania bike. A couple of days ago I started a strict diet and I overdid it, leaving me without enough energy to ride today – for which I was furious with myself. In my head I was counting the kilos I could have lost if I’d been more careful, the kilometers I could have ridden, and the energy I could have had.

I never counted on this
guess that’s the way that it goes yeah
you used to be someone I knew
somebody I could understand but
now I don’t know what to do
and I don’t know who you are no

Lately I’ve been really stressed, and I can tell that I’m right out on the edge, because I’m starting to berate myself for the way I’m feeling. I’ve been feeling as though I don’t have the right to feel this way – that my circumstances don’t justify it, and that I am not coping. I’ve been kicking myself for not being stronger, more in control, more rational about things.

Beating yourself up for the way you feel is a famous losing strategy, and it’s a demon I have fought before. I suspect that it’s a clear indication of how out of control I am, when I start to do it again.

This evening I was chatting with a colleague at work. We’re both trying to lose weight and feeling frustrated about it, and we realised that neither of us have been focusing on the gains that we have made. The positive lifestyle changes, and the achievements that aren’t quite as visible in the mirror as we’d like them to be. She commented that we really need to be kinder to ourselves.

all those things I hear you say
you talk that way you’re a stranger and I
I don’t know where to begin
don’t want to hear it again
I don’t believe anymore

That’s when it suddenly struck me. I’ve been bullying myself. I hate bullies, and actively oppose them whenever I can, and yet I have been bullying myself in a most thorough and callous fashion. I have been my own worst enemy. Rather than celebrating my health gains post surgery, I have been kicking myself for not achieving more. Rather than being kind to myself under stress, and seeking as much support as I can, I have been curling up into a ball and shouting at myself for not coping better on my own. It is bullying of a most vicious and unpleasant sort – all the worse because like the most effective bullies, I know my victim’s weaknesses intimately, and can go straight for the jugular every time.

If someone makes a negative comment or belittles my concerns, I inwardly agree and kick myself a little harder. If someone makes a positive comment I dismiss it out of hand. The friends I trust and should most listen to are accorded little weight in this aggressive campaign, and I wind up paying attention to exactly the wrong people, because their comments are closer to my own self image.

and this is all I know
I know I’ve heard it before
I don’t believe anymore
Icehouse – Don’t Believe Anymore

My daughters go to a school that uses restorative practice. This is a positive, constructive approach where the emphasis is on recognising what happened and its impact on all concerned, and then focusing on how it can be fixed. What can we do to make it better? Rather than punishing the bully, restorative practice seeks to understand how and why the situation arose, and how everybody felt, in order to make sure that it doesn’t have to happen again.

I am a big believer in restorative practice. My bully and I are going to work together to develop an anti-bullying strategy in this head of mine. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t. But when I forget and accidentally bully myself, I’m going to try really hard not to beat myself up over it.

Are you bullying yourself?


6 thoughts on “My own worst enemy

  1. Joe

    Long term weight loss is Really Hard. Not only is one battling huge amounts of autonomous / habitual behaviour driven by physiological feedback as soon as you are “off normal”, not only are our biological signalling systems simply not tuned for continuous availability of food, but even when you’ve got that conscious control all working together … unless you exercise your socks off (and I mean HOURS per day) the most carbon you’ll burn out of your body in a day amounts to only 100g to 200g weight loss.

    (It’s “easy” to “lose weight” for about four or five days, while dropping fluids and reducing the total carrying content of your digestive system, but it’s really only 100g to 200g “under the hood” anyway.)

    It’s an undertaken to be treated with caution, and gentleness.

    Sometimes I like to point out “we lose weight by breathing”. Because it’s literally true. The breakdown of tissue / sugars into chemical reactions for energy results in spare carbon in the blood stream which exits the body only via binding to oxygen and breathing out. Just how much carbon can you breathe out in a day?

    (On another website I designed an icon for mood display … depicting lounging in a chair with an arrow pointing to my beer belly and a mouseover caption “Doing my bit for global warming. (Sequestering carbon.)”)

    1. lindamciver

      In theory my focus is on lifestyle change – more exercise, less carbs (contentious, I know, but it works for me). But the more my mental state deterioriates, the more I focus on my weight. A very visible signpost.

    2. lindamciver

      The other aspect is that building muscle mass helps make ongoing changes to metabolism that help with weight loss as well as general fitness.

  2. Dana Tymms

    What an insightful idea, that of “bullying oneself”. Just as one should be in the habit of making positive (genuine) comments to others, so should one do unto oneself.
    All the best m, Linda. Also great previous article on being Green!!

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