My name is Cindy and I am a recovering health and wellness addict.
I have spent many years of my life in pursuit of "good health". Healthy lifestyle, healthy diet, healthy outlook. For many years, on any given night, I could have been found getting my “fix” cuddled up under a warm blanket with a hot cup of tea (organic, of course) determined to chart out all of the ways I could rid myself of negative thought patterns, heal my allergies, sleep more deeply, optimize my yoga practice, reduce my carbon footprint, meditate more effectively, and become a better wife, mother and friend......all while efficiently managing my household and my work.
Oh, how almost very relaxing those nights were.
There was never a shortage of work to be done. It seemed that with all of the glorious information out there - the books, the internet, the practitioners, the gurus - there was a constant reminder of all the spaces that needed filling and deficiencies that required correcting. When I finally felt satisfied that one area of myself had been sufficiently “healed“, I needed only look as far as the next magazine article or social media post to see what to work on next.
Down. Right. Exhausting.
Ah.....yes, but the journey is the destination, right?
I'll admit, I have used this famous phrase again and again. I have tried to cling to these words when the mountain of "self improvement” seemed so impossibly high that I could have collapsed just from trying to glimpse its peak. These words should have offered me some comfort or a way to feel less inadequate, but I didn't find them to be very consoling at all, really, because if the journey is the destination then it means the work is never done. It means that we will always be travelling and that there will always be faults to find and parts to fix.
This is how it once seemed to me, and one might ask, “What about your acceptance? What about self compassion? What about self love?”
Good questions indeed. But tell me, when alongside so much of the information on how to “fix” ourselves is the equally emphasized and all important message of “self acceptance” it sends a rather confusing message, does it not? "Here are the many, many ways in which you can better yourself, but please also love and accept yourself as you are, because you are enough.”
So, which is it? What does this actually mean and when is enough ever enough? If we are wonderful and perfectly acceptable as we are, then why exactly do we need to "improve" anything in the first place? Well, maybe we don't. Or is it that we should love and accept ourselves, but leave a little room for dissatisfaction because there is still work to do and we need to stay motivated?
And that is where I felt stuck.
What I found was that contemplating and trying to implement so much of this "health and wellness" information did nothing to help me be healthy or well at all. It did quite the opposite. It kept me cycling in what seemed like an endless spiral of non-acceptance and self criticism. Rather than being okay with where I was at, I found myself striving to "become", and being constantly grabbed and pulled out of the present moment by thoughts like, "That wasn't a healthy choice....or, I really should.....or, I shouldn't have.....and next time I will....." And on top of that, when I was done beating myself up for all of the things I did (or didn't do) I would then judge myself for my lack of self love, acceptance and compassion.
In retrospect I see that I wasn’t able to love and accept myself completely at that time even though it was always the end goal. Love was my intention but the true path eluded me. I see now that the idea that love could even BE an end goal was undermining that very intention. I saw "loving" myself as a place I would reach when I dissolved the anxiety, mastered the asana, cured my leaky gut syndrome; when I had myself all "healed". That's when I would be worthy of my own love. It was always in a future time and place rather than a way to exist in the present; an ongoing process of building the foundation from which to heal upon. The idea of love as a destination was alluring, but deceptive.
The destination was self love when it could have been the starting point.
Ironically, the pursuit of good health became my most unhealthy addiction. And I fell on and off that wagon many times over.
Cycles of addiction are exhausting, but the most beautiful thing about exhaustion is that it leads to surrender. And how perfect is that? From that place, when I finally said, “enough is enough!“ I really and truly meant it. Because I hadn‘t the energy to strive any longer, I stopped trying to change myself. I could no longer be fooled into believing that it was really even a possibility. Confucius said, “Wherever you go, there you are” and that used to make me chuckle. In the end though, it didn't matter how many books I read, laps I ran, bad habits I broke or good habits I formed, I would still be stuck being me. If I saw that situation as "not good enough" (which I had) then it was high time to change my perspective (and I did). And as it turned out, my perspective was really the only thing that truly needed to change.
Ironically, since having that realization everything HAS changed. From that exhausted and fed up place I had no choice but to be still and look at myself in the most pure, honest and humble light….and what a beautiful sight it was.
It was finally enough.
These days I spend a lot of time doing things that bring me peace, and I muse about the things I love in life rather than concentrate on what is "lacking". If I set a new intention in my life it is much more likely BECAUSE I love myself, rather than because I’m TRYING to love myself. I make a point of not using words like "fix", "correct" and even "heal" anymore because I am seeing perfection where I once believed it didn't exist. My new favourite word is "evolve". It's just a way of honouring that perfection and accepting myself and others at every step along the journey. And my life is very different as a result, even though I surrendered to changing it. Actually, my life is very different BECAUSE I surrendered to changing it. Also, I’ve noticed that my current intentions are the same ones that I have held in the past, but with one major difference: Where my actions were once motivated by fear, or a sense of what was lacking in myself and in my life, they are now inspired by love. Yes. I love myself! That is what motivates my thoughts and my actions these days. And doesn't love charge things with a different sort of energy altogether? There is no need to strive anymore. Life flows effortlessly from this place.
And when it sometimes doesn't.......
I remind myself that love is not an end goal. It is a process that is constantly evolving. A starting point, a journey and a destination.