Does having a deserving attitude keep you stuck?
As a therapist, working with people who are trying to make changes in their lives, I constantly hear the words “I deserve…”. I loathe hearing it as an excuse to stay stuck. The reality is you DESERVE to be happy, you DESERVE to be healthy, you DESERVE to have a good quality of life. That also means you DESERVE to work for it. The reality is that nothing good in life comes for free. Think about it. Have you ever had anything in life worth having which you didn’t work for? We all encounter obstacles, some beyond our own control (like over-controlling or negative parents which impact our self-esteem and ways we think about our body and food) but you have to decide what you want to make of your own life. Will YOU define your future or will you let those around you define it for you?
Let’s use the example of trying to lose weight or get healthier. You’re overweight and you’ve come to a point where you want to do something. You hate how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s not just impacting your life but it’s also impacting your family and friends as well. You decide to set a clearly defined and realistic goal of losing 100 pounds with the short-term goal of losing an average of 2 pounds a week. You, like most of the nation, work 40 hours a week and so you knew you’d need some extra support. You got on your Facebook page and enlisted some friends to hold you accountable. You even told your family to help make sure you get out the door to go to the gym 4 times a week. You searched for the knowledge you needed to construct a workout which would be effective. You decided to download a workout app for free which will help give you a workout plan (try Nike Training Club).
Let the excuses begin!
“I deserve to eat that”: After your first workout, things started to go south (although maybe you hadn’t realized it yet). You worked out and then said to yourself, “You worked hard on that! You deserve to go out and have a cheeseburger and fries and wash it all down with a nice big soda!” There’s that word again, DESERVE! Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I, along with several million other Americans, are definitely guilty of this at times! However, what would happen if you changed the message and said: “You worked hard on that! You DESERVE to be healthy and you’re one step closer. Keep going and make a healthy meal to help your body repair itself after that workout!” Do you see how “deserve” can be used in a positive way to push us toward our end goal?
“Just this once and then never again! This is the LAST time!”: When we make promises to ourselves that this is the absolute, positively, last time we’re ever going to have a cupcake (at least until we lose that 100 pounds), we put our minds in a state of deprivation. This ultimately leads to overeating because our minds want to overcompensate for our perceived loss. It also leads us to think about it ALL the time. The incessant thoughts and urges are a very common reason why people give in. Try telling yourself, “you can have it later. It will always be there if you want it.” When your mind frames something as a choice, even if the cupcake is delayed to an indefinite period, it helps you to maintain your willpower. The underlying “deserve” message is “I deserve to have this now because I won’t be having this later.” Be aware of the ways you end up tricking yourself into giving in.
What you actually deserve!
What is it that you believe you really deserve? Thinking of your reasons for changing the way you’re currently living is helpful and so is thinking of where you want to be 1 week, 1 month, 6 months, and 1 year from now. Create a vision of your future that is so vivid and so fulfilling that you can actually live it for a moment. THAT is what you deserve! Stay focused on all the positive gains and avoid the negative mental traps and people who bring you down.
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