I Nearly Purchased A Scale
January 25, 2016
It’s the end of January and for many of us, that means one thing: failure. A few weeks ago was New Year’s Day, a day notoriously filled with hopeful thinking and dramatic resolutions about how we can improve our lives in the coming year:
- This year I will eat healthy food, lose weight, be hotter, find the man of my dreams, and finally live happily ever after.
- This year I will stop spending money frivolously, pay off my debt, and finally have financial security.
- This year I will become a domestic goddess and keep my home clean all the time so that I can finally invite people over and have a better social life.
- You get the point…
For me, it’s the time of year when I inevitably come close to doing something that I know never ends well: purchasing a scale.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with owning a scale (or losing weight, paying off debt, cleaning house, etc). However, the problem here is that my desire to make this life change is rooted in a place of shame, fear, and lack. The underlying belief is that there is something wrong with me, there is something wrong with my life.
Carl Jung refers to this as our “shadow” – “those parts of our personality that have been rejected out of fear, ignorance, shame, or lack of love.” In other words, “the shadow is the person you would rather not be.” Debbie Ford in The Dark Side of The Light Chasers writes – “Our dark side acts as a storehouse for all these unacceptable aspects of ourselves—all of the things we pretend not to be and all the aspects that embarrass us.” Essentially, those parts of ourselves that we hate, resist, stuff down, project outward, or disown completely become our shadow material.
So we set resolutions. We give ourselves lofty (impossible) goals to meet in the coming year, where our worth and value hinge on finally eradicating our shadow material once and for all…and, of course, we “fail.” Not because there is something wrong with us, but because our basic wholeness includes everything – the light, the dark, and everything in between. Debbie Ford explains:
It is your birthright to be whole: to have it all. It only takes a shift in your perception, an opening of your heart. When you can say “I am that” to the deepest, darkest aspect of yourself, then you can reach true enlightenment. It’s not until we fully embrace the dark that we can embrace the light.
We know instinctively that sustainable change comes incrementally. We see it in nature… The way sea glass is slowly but surely polished and smoothed by the sandy caress of the ocean. The way trees take root and eventually grow tall and broad enough to provide shade and privacy. The way your tomatoes ripen when the tomatoes are ready to ripen (or sometimes not at all).
And yet every year, come New Year’s Day, we resist.
For me, this looked like setting the January 1st intention that in 2016 I would eat healthy food I know makes my body feel good, and that I would forgo old emotional eating coping behaviors I’ve used to regulate my emotions for as long as I can remember…… then watching myself scarf down nearly an entire bag of popcorn on January 2nd, when I had a moment of feeling isolated and groundless. Boom – just like that, I’m unacceptable, unlovable, ashamed – 2016 is a bust.
But is that true?
When we believe something to be true, we look for all of the ways we can confirm that we’re right. Psychologists call this “cognitive dissonance theory” – we seek consistency between our expectations and our reality, and when they don’t match up, we find ways to bring our experience in line with our expectations. In other words, again and again we prove ourselves right.
When we set resolutions from a place of shame, fear, and lack, we set ourselves up to be ashamed, unacceptable, and unlovable. When we make choices from a place of expansiveness and love, it feels different:
- I’m choosing to eat vegetables because when I eat that way I feel energetic and alive.
- I’m choosing to wash the dishes because it’s a way to nurture myself and create a cozy living space that I want to spend time in.
- I’m choosing to exercise because it makes me feel strong and powerful.
- And yes, even, I’m choosing to eat popcorn because it makes me feel safe and less alone.
It’s inescapable: we all have a shadow. As Debbie Ford explains, “The reason for doing shadow work is to become whole. To end our suffering. To stop hiding ourselves from ourselves. Once we do this, we can stop hiding from the rest of the world.”
With that in mind, my revamped New Year’s Resolution is clear: I choose another year of self-inquiry. I choose to know myself fully (aka, the popcorn AND the vegetables), and to allow myself to be known by the world in my full glory, messiness and all. And when this unpacking-unraveling-opening up process inevitably gets uncomfortable (after all, I’ve spent a lifetime in a cycle of disowning-indulging the popcorn), I choose to trust in my innate wholeness – to trust the necessity of embracing the light and darkness and everything in between, as a gateway to the treasure within.
Now it’s your turn – What do you choose for this year? In what ways have you held yourself back in the past, and what are you choosing to create moving forward? Sharing from the heart is always encouraged and appreciated…