Do you ever wonder how to know the difference between making excuses or justifying something versus being kind to yourself when it comes to making lasting change?
Do you have questions like:
- Am I being too nice?
- Am I not punishing myself enough?
- Am I encouraging this behavior by not being mad and mean to myself about it?
What does it drive you to do next?
I’ll illustrate this with an example – you’ve made an eating plan, and you have the goal to execute it.
But then your toddler brain starts chiming in with thoughts like:
“That doesn’t sound good. We should eat something else. There are cupcakes in the pantry; one or two won’t matter that much. I’ve been really good all week. I deserve a treat. It doesn’t matter. It’s not that big of a deal. I don’t even care. This sucks, it’s unfair, and it’s not working anyway.”
And then we eat off-plan, and then we often hear thoughts like, “It’s fine, I’ll start over tomorrow. It doesn’t matter. I don’t even care. It’s not a big deal. What’s done is done.”
That sounds kind, right? The words sound accepting and compassionate, but that isn’t always how it feels.
Stagnation isn’t kindness
Let’s say you’re working toward your weight loss goal, and you have roast chicken and veggies on the plan for dinner.
You get home from work after an intense day, and your brain is like, “Eat some chocolate. You’ll feel better. You deserve it. You’ve been really good this week. Today was hard. Chocolate will help.”
How do you feel when you think “I deserve it” about eating chocolate that isn’t on your plan?
It may feel kind of fun, like a little bit of relief, but tinged with guilt, colored with rebellion, slightly sneaky, like you’re getting away with something.
You eat the chocolate with a bit of guilt and rebellion, and then what is next?
It’s “Well, there’s ice cream in the freezer, and I’ve already had some chocolate, so who cares? The day is shot. It doesn’t even matter. I’ll just start over tomorrow.”
How do you feel when you think it doesn’t matter and who cares as you eat more things that are not on your plan?
Apathetic? Careless? Hopeless? Indifferent?
This is giving up on you. This is throwing in the towel. This doesn’t come from kindness or love.
These thoughts don’t generate feelings that move you forward. Instead, they create feelings that have you taking actions that move you backward, or at the very least have you staying right where you are.
It shuts you down to learning because we’re just sweeping it under the rug, choosing to ignore it and move on, missing the opportunity for learning and growth.
Punishment doesn’t fuel change
We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that we need to go straight into beating ourselves up about our choices.
Or, we believe that the way to change is through punishment, that instead of it doesn’t matter, it should be what is wrong with you, you shouldn’t have done that, that was dumb, careless, wrong, or bad, et cetera.
But once again, what matters is how you feel when you think those things and what it makes you want to do next.
If you feel shame and guilt when you think that was wrong or bad, that will not drive you to start sticking to your plan.
Shame and guilt don’t fuel sustainable changes!
Even if you make some temporary changes from shame or guilt, they eventually lead to more overeating and giving up on you.
Compassion leads to change
Think about the same scenario where you overeat off-plan, and you choose compassion instead.
The same sentence, “What’s done is done,” can feel like acceptance and can open us up to learning if we’re willing to take a closer look.
“It doesn’t matter, it’s okay,” can feel like love if we’re ready to let go and learn from it.
The concern driving this initial question, I think, is that if we are too kind, if we are too accepting, we will not change. But the opposite is true.
When we are kind and accepting, that is how we drive change.
Change comes not from being perfect or punishment but from learning from our missteps and deciding how to move forward with that knowledge.
Kindness has no downside
There’s a difference between choosing to slip into apathy about our food decisions and give up and choosing to accept our choices and let go of judgment.
Extending kindness to yourself about where you are has no downside.
Beating yourself up about where you are has no upside.
The most important part is how you feel and what you do next. That is the difference between excuses and justifications, and kindness.