September 1st! WhatsApp and Facebook have been alight all week with pics of my nephews and nieces going back to school; which for me seems way too early yet I am sure it is about bloody time for the parents who have done their best to entertain them this summer.
I started thinking about when I was younger going back to school myself and I realized that September was often a time I felt pressure to do more and get busy. This week I look at my own relationship with my inner drill-sergeant as well as my use of work and study to isolate and avoid social occasions. Social occasions are challenging in their own right so before we get onto the festivities later in September, I invite you to pause for a look inwards at your own relationship with work and play and to access how you feel about the ramp up in the social calendar due to kick off at the end of this month.
Please also join me in my ‘September Affirmation Challenge’ to re-enforce or initiate positive self-esteem as we face off to the new terms challenges and opportunities.
Do you have an inner drill-sergeant?
I felt somewhat sad for the little girl who put so much pressure on herself to be perfect. The little girl who would study after the induction day at school, when the rest of the children were catching up on summer happenings. My parents didn’t put this pressure on me, neither did the school, I had my own internal drill-sergeant who was there from the beginning pushing me on and on. I needed to be the best so relationships came second to anything that would make me ‘better’ or ‘enough’.
September in the working world was different, but not different enough. September would roll in and the year-end would suddenly come into focus. What have I really achieved this year? Summer often left me feeling un-accomplished given half the team were on holidays at various times and despite having never been told I was lazy, I would begin to worry that I wasn’t doing enough. Working in business development and marketing also meant that this time of year is when you get your strategy together for next year. This was the stuff I loved getting involved in and I would be working double speed to try and impress and get included in the conversation.
You will hear that eating disorders are common with type-A personalities and that perfectionism is a trait shared by many addicts. I cannot tell you if this is true for all, but for me, I can see how my need to be perfect and to perform all the time and be ‘enough’ was key to me catching my disease and for it’s maintenance for so many years.
The urge to get down to business
With school and work pressures (or in my case self-imposed pressures), my eating disorder had so much ammunition to break down my defenses. Fear of failure left me with thoughts of self-doubt and self-criticism on replay. Getting my head down and doing work or study at night instead of socializing seemed to be the answer to my problems.
I would think to myself ‘If I get this done, I will feel better’ or ‘if I don’t stay up and finish this I will never catch up’. Getting down to business (whether study or work) typically meant doing some research and writing on a topic. Something that is often best achieved by being alone. But being alone, I would then be vulnerable to worse thoughts and would have the perfect environment to binge. Stuffing food in my mouth as I get through some more work. There are often many good reasons to dedicate more time to work or study but I urge you to ask yourself a few questions before setting up a routine without any social engagements, fun or rest time.
- Who is telling me I need to do more? is it my teacher, my boss, my parents or is it my inner drill-sergeant? Could this be my eating disorder trying to get me alone?
- What would I like to do today? Can I fit in something I enjoy? Like listening to music or reading a book I like?
- Have I told anyone else my worries about the work or school? What have they suggested?
- Have I connected with others today? What is stopping me? Do I really need to do this other thing or have I time to ask someone else how they are doing
Asking these questions doesn’t have to change your mind or your work or study schedule, but it could highlight to you some of the fears that are driving you.
Avoiding Social Gatherings
I don’t know what came first for me.. the perfectionism or the social anxiety. Either way, I turned to work and study often as a way to avoid social obligations. This brings me onto the second reason September is quite tricky, especially here in Asia.
From the last hurrah to the summer months, we skip straight to the Mid-Autumn Festivities at the end of September this year. There will be more family and social occasions on the horizon and let’s face it this is the beginning of many such celebrations before the year ends. Whether it is Halloween, thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years we will all face some group settings these coming months. The dual pressure of socializing (or trying to fit in) and the meals that will be served during these ‘special occasions’ is a huge challenge for someone with an eating disorder.
In the coming weeks we will be focusing on surviving such occasions on the site. We have an exclusive interview with Dr. Simone Blaney, Clinical Psychologist and eating disorder specialist; to discuss what challenges are faced during these times and some really practical advice on how to not only survive but enjoy these occasions. For now, I urge you to consider how you feel about the upcoming festivities and changing work routines. Look at identifying you triggers and look at which self-help strategies you think can help. This month, I am really loving affirmations as a really gentle way of showing self-love and compassion. If you don’t know what affirmations are, or you are skeptical like I was then read on.
September Affirmation Challenge
Affirmations are short positive and empowering statements that are to be spoken out loud or written down frequently to empower the person. To be effective, it is said they need to be in the present tense, positive, personal and specific.
The idea of saying or writing affirmations is something I resisted for many years on account of it being new-age and having no scientific foundations. I never thought saying affirmations would work. How was saying anything different to already understanding it?
When I was asked to say them I felt very resistant and was embarrassed saying them. However, I am now a believer. Saying things out loud over and over does make a difference.
So this September, I challenge you all to my ‘September Affirmation Challenge’. It’s simple, choose an affirmation personal and specific to you. (remember it needs to be positive and in the present tense so resist the urge to say ‘I once did well’ or ‘I am not bad at singing’ or something like that) Once you have chosen your affirmation please share it in the comments below or on our facebook page throughout the month. https://www.facebook.com/supportedrecoveryasia/.
Here are some of my favorites should you need food for thought. Everyone has strengths and qualities and all of us are enough, just as we are. I hope one day you can believe in yourself as I am beginning to believe in myself. Your are worth it…
- I am enough
- I am loveable
- I am safe
- I am brave
- I deserve good things to happen to me
Lots of love,