I am unbelievably grateful that I am no longer caught up in my former binge eating habit. But when someone asked me last week if I was proud of myself for leaving it behind, the question caught me off guard.
I don’t feel proud at all. Pride isn’t the right word.
Pride puts me in the picture in a meaningful way, as if I actively did something to be proud of. In the case of binge eating, I can honestly say that I don’t believe I did.
By the grace of something far wiser and more powerful than myself, I experienced a sea change. It was a deep, foundation shift in the way I viewed myself and my habit that naturally, quite easily, led to behavioral change.
I saw things in a new way and that didn’t take hard work on my part. For whatever reason, my mind was open and ready to hear something new. When I did, it was as if that part of my life had been rearranged, similar to how you might feel when you move into a new home. You’re the same, your family is the same, your stuff is still there, but everything looks different.
So for that life-changing insight I am incredibly grateful…but not exactly proud. I received a blessing that I didn’t have to earn or work for. I was the recipient of something that is free and possible for all people: I was not the change agent.
I have kicked and formed habits the hard way, by willpower and discipline, and blood, sweat, and tears. I quit smoking 12 years ago this month that way and I am proud of myself for that. I became a daily exerciser at that same time by often hating it but doing it anyway until it became my new normal. (And then there’s my ice cream “habit”. I’m proud of myself for saying no…when I manage to say no).
Those things we work very hard for in life are typically cases where we change our behavior without the initial internal, foundation shift.
But what I wanted to share today is that it isn’t always that way. When you’re open to it, you can be blessed with an internal shift that does most of the work for you. Then you get to feel awe and gratitude and humility and a whole different set of emotions.
When you set your sights on a deeper understanding rather than trying to manipulate behavior first, you make that type of change more likely.
Look in the direction of a deep shift. If you’re focused only on what you can see—your unwanted behavior or the way you feel—you’re looking at a tiny sliver of after-the-fact experience. You’re looking at the end result only. Get curious about what creates your feelings and behaviors; what’s operating under the surface.
Wish to see something helpful rather than simply to behave differently.
It’s easy to get caught up in our behavioral agenda. When I was deep in my habit, if I had been granted a wish it probably would have been “I wish to never binge again.” But I can see now how that would have sold me short.
I was binge eating to relieve some temporary suffering. Our habits are terrible long-term strategies, but very effective short-term band-aids in that way. I don’t want to just take your (albeit harmful) band-aid behavior away…I want you to see something that will help you not need a band-aid behavior.
Acknowledge that your habit is your best attempt to feel better in the moment, and look toward what you aren’t seeing. Look toward the thinking that is in the way of your innate peace of mind.
Then, you will be opening yourself to an insight you can feel grateful for.