Adults, who have returned to their parent’s home for any length of time for any possible reason, may resonate with this little story. On the surface, it’s simple, but the current of its implications runs deep.
I was a fat kid. No getting around that. Eating my feelings was my standard approach to life going back as far as I can remember. Eventually, I ballooned to over 250 lbs.
In high school, this meant I was the target of endless bullying. Desperation drove me to seek help from our family doctor, and a regime was proposed, which I grasped like a person drowning clings to a life preserver.
I dropped to 180 lbs. and finished high school with on-campus friends, feeling a part of life rather than an observer.
But the mental tapes of me as a fat kid lingered, and in the years since, I find I still dance with them regularly.
When I flew to California on 20 December to be with my Mom for what we rightly guessed could be her final days, body image and my ideal weight were far from the forefront of my thinking.
But hours after settling into the house where my parents and youngest sister reside, I was catapulted back to every lousy eating habit my young self had ever experienced.
Every. Single. Bad. Habit.
On their own, I might have navigated away or through them, but layered with the stress, grief, and pain of sitting with my mother as she moved closer to her final moment, well, the ship was sinking, and I was down for the count.
I had a few “Gollum” moments…standing at the bathroom mirror and berating myself most viciously in one breath, then seeking absolution and respite in the next.
I was a mess, and this mess finally gave in, conceding the food battle but feeling grateful I had packed some roomy, comfortable clothes. Unhindered, I ate my way through my Mom’s passing, the planning of her memorial, and the funeral itself.
As I waddled on board my return flight, confident I’d never fit into the airline seat, I couldn’t wait to get home and dust off my tried-and-true eating and exercise program.
So, feeling all the self-inflicted pressure I could muster, I dove in the morning after I returned home. Naked and chilly (winter in Maine), I stood on the scale and dutifully noted in my journal the bad news. After that, the drill was familiar, manageable, and welcome. I was on my way.
One week later (last Friday), it was weigh-in time again. No less chilly and no less naked, at 5 am, I stepped on the scale again. The news was not what I’d expected.
Nothing had changed. I was exactly the weight I’d been the previous Friday morning. Things got worse from there.
Not able to let this pass, my inner critic, The Judge who lives in my head, didn’t miss a beat and began a bombardment of debilitating accusations designed to destroy any shred of self-worth, confidence, or self-esteem I possess.
Mission almost accomplished.
Had it not been for something new in my life, the decimation might have been a fait accompli.
So, what is new, you ask?
Last summer, I was introduced to a book and its associated method for developing mental fitness.
Shirzad Chamine, a bestselling author and expert on positive intelligence, identified a common internal saboteur that undermines almost everything we do: The Judge Saboteur.
This saboteur, as he explains, is the internal voice that constantly criticizes and judges our actions, decisions, and self-worth. For people in general, and the clients I coach who are mainly small business owners and entrepreneurs, The Judge Saboteur can be particularly damaging as it leads to self-doubt, indecision, and procrastination.
One of the ways The Judge Saboteur undermines us is by causing us to second-guess ourselves. For example, a client may be considering a new marketing strategy, but The Judge Saboteur steps in and tells them that it’s a bad idea and that they are not capable of making the right decision. Self-doubt can prevent my client from moving forward with the strategy, resulting in missed opportunities for growth.
Another way The Judge Saboteur undermines us is by encouraging procrastination. Ever know that you need to make an important phone call to potential clients, but The Judge Saboteur tells you that you are not good enough at sales (or are too fat) and will likely fail? This fear and self-doubt can cause anyone to avoid making calls, leading to a lack of new clients and revenue.
The Judge Saboteur can also cause us to become overly self-critical, which leads to a lack of confidence and a negative impact on our mental and physical well-being. Welcome to my life the past few days. Tossing in the towel seemed the best idea I could come up with. Imagine the havoc caused to small business owners when listening to The Judge Saboteur can lead to burnout and even giving up on their business.
To combat The Judge Saboteur, Shirzad recommends techniques such as mindfulness and self-compassion practices, positive affirmations, and setting clear goals. Vital to success are the exercises he teaches, which help strengthen the part of the mind where positive energy lives. Mental exercises sound crazy, right? What is crazy is remaining at the mercy of The Judge Saboteur and their barrage of negativity and doubt.
I wish I could report that with a flip of a well-exercised hand, I banished the negative voices in my head. The struggle was a bit more involved than that, but I can report that rather than derailing me entirely, I held course, got back to eating and exercising, and looked forward to more positive results when I step on the scales this coming Friday morning.
In my book, holding on to positive energy rather than giving in to waves of negativity is a win.
If it sounds like a win to you and you’d like to learn a bit more…reply with a yes, and I’ll send you a free assessment to help you identify your top saboteurs. It takes less than 5 minutes, and you get the results back immediately.
My mental fitness journey started with this assessment, and I’m happy to offer it as a gift to anyone I know who finds this of interest.
Reply to this email and say “yes.” Then watch for the assessment via email.
Or, if you’re ready to have a complimentary coaching conversation, use this link.
In the meantime, I’m off to the gym for some rowing and kettle ball work. Check back next week, and I’ll update you on my weigh-in.