I went for a walk on a beautiful sunny day and had the pleasure of seeing these deer. About two or three minutes later, I slipped on the ice and landed on my butt. I was not happy to say the least. I quickly got to my feet brushed myself off and carried on with my walk. From the outside it likely looked like no big deal. But what was going on inside my head was another story.
That slip could have ruined the walk – it could have ruined my day. Haven’t I said that eating a cookie ruined my day before? I mean, how many times have I eaten one cookie and then declared that it had ruined whatever day, week or month and particular plan I was following? How many times have I missed a work out and declared that I blew the training program?
The all or nothing mindset is some thing I have been actively challenging through my recovery from disordered eating and body image challenges. I heard an analogy once that went something like this: If someone stole $10 from you would you go to the bank and pull out $1430 and hand it over to them? Not likely. You see, there are 1440 minutes in every single day. When 10 minutes of day goes sideways and then we let it drag out into the rest of the day, it’s like we’re giving over the rest of our money. Or possibly seven times that much if we let that one moment ruin the week. How easily we give away our time because somebody said something unkind; because something went wrong; because I slipped on the ice; because I ate a cookie; because I skipped a work out…you get the point.
There’s a technique that I teach in my Living Life as a Rebel program called A.I.R. The A for a stands for Awareness, the I stands for Identification and the R stands for Reflection.
When I slipped on the ice I became Aware of how quickly I wanted to fall into the ‘the walk is ruined’ narrative. The awareness of that conversation in my head allowed me to reconnect with the sense of joy that I had just experienced standing there looking at those deer. I was able to reconnect
to the feeling of incredible gratitude that I had been experiencing enjoying a beautiful walk on a sunny snowy day and seeing deer right here in my neighbourhood.
If I let that go because of falling it would’ve been like handing over that additional thousand dollars because the fall took the 10 to begin with.
Now there’s a very good biological reason for this. We have something called negativity bias in our minds.
It’s a great survival strategy. It helps us remember the scary stuff to ensure that we don’t do those things again.
Knowing that that we have this natural tendency allows us to have another level of compassion and awareness for ourselves. The fall triggered my ‘reactive primitive’ brain. My awareness of that allowed my ‘thinking’ brain to take over and give a broader assessment of the situation and realize that walking the dog is not a dangerous act.
This was the Identification part of the A.I.R. I was able to identify what was triggered in me.
I’ve already described some of the Reflection part – the reframing of my thoughts to realize that the fall didn’t wipe out the gratitude. I also reflected on the idea of putting some spikes on my boots.
To extend this idea back into eating and body image work, we can become aware of the “I blew it” moments and transform them into a more compassionate reflection.
We can remember that it was just a cookie; that eating the cookie doesn’t mean anything other than we ate the cookie.
We can use self-compassion to decide that we’re not going to give away the other 1430 minutes to the cookie.
We can just let cookies be cookies.