Our environment shapes us. It shapes what we think, how we feel and what we do.
So it’s not surprising that our self-doubt soars when we’re surrounded by people who constantly question and judge us, and don’t have our best interests at heart. It’s not surprising that we start wondering, what is wrong with me?
It’s not surprising that we consider dieting (or getting on a “meal plan”) when our social media feed is filled with fitness “influencers,” healthy living bloggers, and dietitians steeped in diet culture. Or that we start using words like “discipline” and “willpower” and “clean eating” and “cheat meal” and “being good” (for eating kale) and “being bad” (for eating a cookie). Or that we start to think sugar and bread and pasta are evil.
It’s not surprising that we start worrying about how much weight we might’ve gained because we didn’t work out a certain number of hours last week or because we ate something that wasn’t on our meal plan.
It’s not surprising that we find it very natural to pour ourselves a few glasses of wine to relax, to erase the day’s stress, and to cope with our toddler’s latest terrible tantrum because, well, we clearly deserve it. It’s not surprising we think this way after consuming endless wine-mom memes and wine-related updates (apparently Facebook has a group called Moms Who Need Wine, which has over 700,000 followers).
Our environment can create stubborn belief systems and stories that are hard to revise. And we might not even realize these damaging belief systems and stories even exist, and that our surroundings are writing them.
We can start believing that weight loss is the answer to all our woes and worries. We can start believing that we need to wait to date, to have fun, to buy nice clothes, to take good care of ourselves, to eat what we want, to pursue certain goals, until we lose ___ pounds.
We can start believing that any mistake is a flashing sign that we are failures. We can start believing that we must be flawless and not show our tender, uglier sides. We can start believing that asking for help is weak and ridiculous, and we will become a burden for doing so. We can start to believe we can’t do ______ or _______, but we should do ________ and ________.
This is why it’s vital to check in with ourselves on a regular basis about what we are consuming, and how it’s affecting our emotions, our thoughts, our behavior, our belief systems, how we talk about (and to) ourselves, and how we care for ourselves.
For instance, you can carve out 5 to 10 minutes every night or every week to check in with yourself, and reflect on how your environment is really affecting you.
Whose posts have I been looking at lately? How are they making me feel? Are they influencing me to think or behave a certain way? What have I been watching and listening to and reading? How is that making me feel? How might it be shaping how I practice self-care, how I speak to myself? How is it shaping how I feel about myself? What about the interactions I’ve had lately? What impact are they creating? What impact do I actually want?
Do I feel like my environment truly supports me and the way I want to live? Is it serving me, and contributing positively or meaningfully to my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health? Or is it taking away from each one?
It’s critical to be intentional and deliberate and particular about what we consume, about what we let into our lives (and hearts and minds). Because remember that you have a say. Remember that you have a choice. You don’t need to automatically buy into any idea that anyone is selling or promoting or perpetuating or buying into themselves. You don’t need to consume any media that’s not serving, inspiring, uplifting or nourishing you.
You are not obligated to surround yourself with anything that makes you feel awful (i.e., like crap). You have the power to pick and choose as you see fit. Don’t take away that power. Remind yourself regularly that you have it.
Your life is sacred. So is your time and effort and energy and attention. The things that you pay attention to must be worth your attention.