I read this quote recently, and it got me thinking. It’s from Marcus Aurelius.
“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself, I have to go to work as a human being. What do I have to complain of if I’m going to do what I was born for? The things I was brought into the world to do. Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”
My youngest and only child still in school started back this week, and it feels like this has been my literal struggle. To get up out of my warm bed and go to work as a human being, as a mom.
It has felt so hard.
Honestly, though, I’ve never really been a morning person. My parents struggled to wake me up every morning for school, and I frequently pulled the covers back up over my head and went to sleep.
This isn’t precisely the struggle Aurelius is talking about here.
It’s more of a metaphor about choosing to huddle and hide or get up and grow. The choice to evolve and progress, challenge ourselves to change or stay in our comfort zone.
So here’s the thing I want to propose: there is a time for huddling under the blankets and staying warm, and there are times to get up and do the work as humans that we were created for.
Nighttime is one of those times where huddling under the blankets is helpful. Our bodies were designed to rest, to lay prone, and sleep deeply. There are so many amazing benefits to sleep, including weight loss benefits.
In this case, huddling is helpful.
If we are getting back in bed during the day instead of getting work done or taking care of our responsibilities, if we choose to lay in bed and watch TV instead of keeping commitments we have made to ourselves, this huddling in bed is hiding.
Hiding from the hard, hiding from our work as human beings, hiding from responsibilities, hiding from ourselves.
Huddling under the blankets to stay warm isn’t the only kind of huddling and hiding we do.
Sometimes we want to hide from our choices. We deny that we are not planning ahead and are eating crap instead. I hear my clients say things like, “I think I’m eating pretty good, but I’m not losing weight. This isn’t working.”
Ignoring what’s happening does not change it. It does not make it go away.
Thinking that we should be able to eat what we are eating and not make any changes, and the scale should just change because we want it to does not change the results we are creating for ourselves.
If we are unwilling to look at what we’re eating, what is actually going in, and why, if we are unwilling to see where we can make changes and adjustments and say no, because we just don’t want to, well, that’s hiding.
Hiding from reality
Sometimes we want to hide from reality.
We want to hide from the reality of our bodies from the reality of our lives. So we keep blazing past our emotions, eating to escape them, and “starting over” daily or weekly.
Eating garbage that doesn’t align with our goals, overeating to escape emotion, not following the plan our adult brain made for us, and then looking the other way and saying, “I’ll start again tomorrow,” is hiding.
There’s no learning when we hide because learning requires accepting reality. Facing it head-on and then deciding how we want to move forward — that is helpful.
Designed to learn
When we set a goal we want to achieve, our brain will usually want to huddle under the blankets and hide from the discomfort, but that is not what we were created for.
We are programmed as humans to want to learn and move forward.
Think of how quickly a baby human does this. It’s easy to see that we are wired for growth and change when you look at how quickly and profoundly a baby changes in the first year.
Obviously, our growth slows from there, but we are still driven to learn and evolve on an ongoing basis. Adult humans are not much different. We just have more skeptical brains with a lot more experience and acute awareness of discomfort as danger.
Learned fear of failure
Toddlers are not afraid to fall as they’re learning to walk. They expect it. They know what’s coming. They don’t freak out about it. They just get back up and keep trying.
As we get older, that fear of falling, of failing, rises to the top and starts to inhibit us from pushing ourselves to learn and try new things.
We often use our fear of failure as a place to huddle and hide.
Taking time to rest
That being said, just resting at night is helpful, so is slowing down as we work toward goals just to be where we are. We don’t necessarily want to be in push mode all of the time.
There’s a time for rest along the way.
We have to have some time along the way to celebrate and feel gratitude. To not push, but to rest and honor our achievements and reassess and refocus on our goals.
Sometimes we might be frustrated with ourselves for huddling under the blankets and after we make mistakes, when it may actually be helpful because it’s coming from kindness.
Questions to ask
Only you know if your huddling under the blankets is helpful or hiding.
But, here are some questions to ask yourself to figure it out:
- What do I believe going to work as a human means for me?
- What was I brought into the world to do?
- What was I created for?
I realize these can seem like unanswerable existential questions, but you don’t have to discover your purpose or know the meaning of life to answer these.
Don’t worry about what other people think the answer is or what should the answer be? Down the road in your life, it may change. This is not set in stone. It’s just a starting point.
Once you have an answer, it’s much easier to know if you’re huddling to hide or if the huddling under the blankets is helpful self-care.
Much of what we face on our journey of weight loss can be both hiding or helpful. That’s why it’s so important to know what going to work means to you, so you can start to discern the difference.
Look at the consequences instead of feelings
We can’t necessarily go off the feeling to discern whether it’s helpful or hiding.
Sometimes we will feel discomfort, but that doesn’t always mean stop. On the contrary, it can mean keep going!
Sometimes we will feel comfortable, and that is a sign of stagnation and not moving toward our goals.
So it’s best to look at the consequences to help you decide.
Only you will be able to discern the difference for yourself.
Trust your instincts.