On Changes and Patience
After our massive episode all about mindfulness last week, I kept having this thought coming up again and again and again. Carlos and his sister have this incredibly annoying habit of singing the same song for hours if anything during the day reminds them of the lyrics to that song. It drives me absolutely crazy because they just won't quit! Well, this thought was kind of like their endless singing, and it was as follows: "you forgot to talk about patience".
In fact, Out of all the support I've given you on going vegan, cooking more at home, improving your relationship with food, improving your body image and quitting the dieting rollercoaster, along with all the other topics that are regulars in our blog and podcast, we had yet to talk about patience. Especially when it comes to the topic of changes and patience.
In today's episode we'll be talking about two essential steps in making any big change. I'll also be sharing what my favorite part of brownble is, and we talk about how that ties into honesty (the type you need to have with yourself), and the importance of embracing steps back. We'll also talk about why society has forgotten to nurture patience and why people aren't practicing it anymore, along with what children can teach us when it comes to this trait, and the one thought a kid has that we can learn a lot from when facing a challenge. Spoiler alert! It has nothing to do with perfection or with being the very best right off the bat.
The content I love to give you, and the one I'm always passionate about writing and recording, always has to do with one of three things, finding yourself in the midst of all this noise the world constantly brings along (i.e. finding YOUR way as we discussed last week), loving yourself in the midst of all the messaging we get that says we have reasons not to, and making the changes you feel inspired to make so you can find your little sweet spot. Then there's also cooking. Weird blog and podcast right? By now you know why all of these things go together, and why for me they were so closely linked. It wasn't because I needed to change the way I ate to find balance or love myself, it was actually that the way I ate was a little sign, a little symptom that taught me that lots of other things needed to be healed and mended, and when that did, food and eating found its place of equilibrium too. Another thing that runs through all of these topics though, which we haven't discussed, is the need for patience.
Patience is something that will soon go bye bye if we're not careful. Now Amazon has the option of getting something delivered on the same day, we post something on social media and get the instant gratification and rush of people reacting to it and liking it, the days of waiting for your Netflix movie in the mail are gone (remember those days? Oh my gosh!). Quick deliveries and instant family movie time are all things I cherish, but if there's something I know about self care and wellness is that all practices need to be practiced, and we are losing the practice of patience.
When it comes to the thousands of people who read this blog every month, and the countless we've helped go vegan, we encounter a lot of "I tried it once and it didn't work so I'm giving it another shot" cases. When it comes to the many of you who listen to our podcast for support with your relationship with food or body image, I read so many emails and comments that show the frustration of not being there yet. When it comes to cooking more at home, or setting a little time aside to prep some basics for the week, I hear that after a few stumbles it's been so hard to keep it up. When you come to me for support with the social aspects of being vegan, so many of you tell me that your family will never understand, they will never budge, they will never support you. When it comes to exercise, movement, or self care, you often tell me your stories of how you just have such a hard time keeping things going after the initial week but you want to keep things going. If you think I'm going to tell you these thoughts are somehow bad, think again.
Before I tell you why I'm mentioning all this, let me just say that your emails, your comments, your instagram messages are my favorite part of what we do. Today we're going to talk about patience but if there's one thing you're all rocking at, it's the ability to be vulnerable and share your struggles. This is such an important part of the puzzle, the first step to patience, and I'm in such awe and admiration of you each and every time you tell me something is hard.
If there's one place to start, it's with being able to say that, outloud, to recognize that we are perhaps struggling a bit more than we thought we would. It's important because I can tell you this right now to help ease your mind: it is SO normal to have struggles, set backs and steps back.
It's not only incredibly normal, it's an essential part of the journey (and this can be any journey, from improving your relationship with food, getting in the kitchen more, to having a better relationship with yourself and your body or going vegan). We need to start letting go of that aversion we have to making mistakes and having difficulties. When we begin to actually embrace that these will be there and they will be a part of our journey, boy does everything change! You begin any journey of self discovery or change with a completely different energy and perspective, really open and ready to learn and truly live it, rather than closed off, trying to avoid mistakes and trying to protect yourself even before the road has gotten rocky.
All this to say: mistakes, GOOD! Difficulties, GOOD! Learning through setbacks, GOOD! Being vulnerable and admitting when you're in need of support, BETTER THAN GOOD!
If being able to recognize we're having a little setback or an off day or a bad day is step 1, step 2 is remembering patience.
Patience is a skill that anyone who works with children has developed at warp speed, whether it's parents or teachers. If there's something they have, it's patience. I used to think it was because children tested your limits all the time and you were forced to reach for this ability wherever you could get it, but after teaching for many years I think it comes from somewhere else.
Children are great teachers of patience. They are in school or at home constantly experimenting through play and through learning, making one mistake after the other, and although the feeling of impatience is also common amongst children, what I'm talking about is the patience that children develop when it comes to waiting and continuing to try again and again. Children don't come to the table with all the pressures adults do with thoughts like "I'm going to do this perfectly and be finished at 3", or "I'm going to be the best at this even though it's my first day", or "I just can't fail because that will mean I'm not worthy". Kids come to the table and face a challenge with only one thing in mind: let's do this thing!
They try to assemble a new toy with zero interest in reading instruction manuals, they hand in homework when they think it's had enough time and effort put into it so they can move onto something else, they face a white sheet of paper when the teacher says "paint something" and they instantly begin adding color to the page. There is a place for playfulness, a place for experimentation, and if something doesn't work out, if the toy falls apart, or the homework needs to be redone, or the picture didn't come out the way they wanted, they start over again, with no moral judgements. They simply try again.
Even when simple activities might be done with impatience, there is patience in the act of coming back to it, there is trust that eventually they will figure it out.
We start losing that sense of patience, that willingness to try again, when we start judging ourselves from the perspective of perfection, from the perspective of comparison, and from the fear and the running away from mistakes even before we've made them.
Instead of running away...
So instead of running away, instead of the idea of making mistakes and taking steps back clouding that childlike playfulness, instead of approaching a new habit with the idea that we have to master it immediately, let's begin by facing the fear and embracing it When we're beginning a new challenge or on this journey to change, let's begin by embracing the idea that just as if we were little kids, we are going to stumble, and that doesn't mean anything when it comes to our worthiness, abilities or possibilities. We can learn from set backs, and lose the resistance and the fear we have of not seeing the perfect result right away, and just let go. Then we can get back to the drawing board and try it again.
When it comes to the many things I teach you in our blog, podcast or programs, here's what I mean:
- I mean it's ok if you're beginning a mindfulness practice and started really strong and then didn't meditate for a week because you had a deadline at work. You might be noticing that perhaps during that week is when you needed it the most and still you didn't do it so now you're beating yourself up about it, wondering why you can never stick to anything and why it's for someone who has more time than you or a life that is less busy.
... but here's another way of talking to yourself in that scenario:
Be patient. Any change needs time. Embrace what happened this week and see where you can remind yourself next time that happens that you want to try again. Get back to the table like a little kid and just keep going.
- I also mean, that when you're on a journey to better body image, and you've been using all the tools, reading all the books and you still woke up one morning and looked at yourself in the mirror and said something negative, you can embrace the moment and use it to move forward. Before you might have said to yourself "this stuff isn't working, it might work for others but not for me. Why isn't it working now? Others might actually have a fitter body and therefore it's easier to accept it. It's never going to happen because I always get back to this place again and again".
... but here's another way of talking to yourself in that scenario:
Be patient. Any change needs time. Embrace what happened this week and take notice of all the other times that you did look at yourself in the mirror and reacted with kindness. Why aren't those the times you're holding onto? Remind yourself that it takes time, and that the process is not empty of setbacks, the only way to grow is through setbacks, so expect them and welcome them instead of fearing them.
- I also mean, that when you're trying to make more vegan choices, or improve your relationship with food, or with exercise, and you took a step back, i.e., you ate something that wasn't vegan, or you binged on food, or you fell back into old restrictive habits with food, etc., you don't see it as the end of the journey, you see it as part of the journey.
You can tell yourself in this scenario that every little choice you make is an important part of the process because you're trying to find your way, and since there is no food police, and no vegan police, there's also no need to tell yourself you're not doing it right. You can remind yourself to be patient, to embrace moments like these, to embrace the learning opportunities.
Every time that little kid comes to the table to put together his toy and fails, he now knows the perfect way not to build that toy the next time. Every time he began a picture by painting with markers only to realize that he didn't like the first draft and needed to start again, he remembered that pencil might be better to start with, or, if markers are his favorite, that he needs 4 or 5 sheets of paper nearby so he can keep trying until he paints what he wants to paint the way he wants to paint it. Every time the homework comes back with red marks, he learns all the different ways a word cannot be spelled.
Expecting yourself to master any change in the first week, the first month or even the first year is like expecting Monet to paint water lilies the first time he ever had a blank piece of paper in front of him. It's like telling 3 year old Monet not to paint dogs or elephants because he just has to start practicing out in the garden right away.
You don't know where the road will take you, or what that sweet spot is for you when it comes to any change you're trying to make, but you need to begin the journey by practicing patience, and not running away from the fear of the possibility of mistakes, but running towards the mistakes so you know exactly what you don't want, and start running towards what you do want. Always with playfulness, always with awareness, and always with self kindness and patience.
That is how change arrives, it arrives not with extra strength effort, but with the release of the fear, and the enjoyment of the journey, with all its ups and downs.