Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tossing vitamins and other ways to love yourself

The other day I swallowed -- and then choked on -- a multivitamin the size of a horse pill. After coughing uncontrollably and rubbing my throat until the discomfort went away, it occurred to me that this happens EVERY TIME I take this "good for you" vitamin. Suddenly the $17.99 or whatever I had paid for the bottle didn't seem worth the guaranteed daily gag fest. I picked up the nearly full bottle, threw it in the trash and exclaimed "Never again!" for effect. (I can be a bit melodramatic when I'm at home alone.)

It felt good. Really good. Why had I not discarded those throat-scraping choke hazards sooner? Why was I continuing to put them in my mouth, knowing I'd choke on them every time? As I chewed on these questions my eyes came to rest upon a small tin filled with bobby pins. Most of the pins had lost their rounded tips so they pulled my hair and scraped my scalp when I used them.

I grabbed the tin from the shelf and dumped the pins in the trash.

A thought flashed in my mind: What else in my house hurts me? Annoys me? Causes me regular frustration?

  • Good-bye, footstool! You're stylish, but I stub my toe on you ALL THE TIME. (I shoved the stool under a chair. If I want to use it, I'll pull it out.)
  • Socks with holes: I deserve better. Out with you! 
  • Can opener that's hard to crank and hurts my hands and makes me cuss: Adios!
  • Jacket with sticky zipper that slows me down when I'm trying to leave: To Goodwill you go!

As I went about scanning and tossing and making minor adjustments in my home, I realized just how many little irritants I was willing to accept and live with on a daily basis. It was as if a part of me didn't believe I was worth the $2.89 it would cost me to get a new set of bobby pins.

The more I sat with the idea, the heavier my heart felt in my chest. Because, in a way, this was the truth.

In recent months I've come to notice how loud my inner critic can be. The smallest thing can set off a self-scolding that leaves me stewing for hours.

You're running late again? Really, Katie? Give me a break. Did you think there wouldn't be traffic at 5:30 pm?
Why did you wait until the last minute to address this? Your time management is for shit. 
How can you be low on money again? Ever heard of a budget? How old are you anyway?
You call this meditation? Looks like a bad case of monkey brain to me. You're wasting your time.

My inner critic can be relentless ... and exhausting. The good news is that I'm aware now how much she can color the way I see myself, others and the world around me. So these days when she starts in on me, I notice it right away and I remind myself that anger is really something else: fear in disguise. That acknowledgement alone takes the power out of the diatribe and makes room for compassion.

What exactly am I afraid of? Good question.

I (try to) meditate on that. I try to notice what circumstances make me particularly self-critical. I practice mental fitness in the gym to boost my confidence and self-image outside the gym. I sometimes see what it feels like to sit with uncomfortable feelings and not immediately try to "fix it." I take deep breaths and tell myself to relax.

And I toss out expensive vitamins. A small, but symbolic way of loving myself.