Take What You Need, Leave the Rest

I’ve been talking to a lot of newcomers in recovery lately and they’ve reminded me of one of the road blocks I stumbled over early on in my own sobriety: getting stuck in the comparison game.

I didn’t start going to meetings voluntarily. I was court ordered to attend three a week after getting arrested for a DUI. Since getting sober was the last thing on my mind, I spent the first few weeks hidden in the back corners of rooms, never sharing and only listening to whoever else was contributing their story that day. Sitting there in almost paralyzing fear, completely reluctant to connect with anyone, I carefully noted each and every way I differed from the details that I heard.

I had never been homeless. I’d never done heroin. I’d never crashed my car. 

When I met the woman who would eventually become my sponsor and told her that I had decided I wasn’t as bad as many of the people I had been hearing, she offered me two sound pieces of advice. First, she told me to put the word “yet” at the end of all of the sentences I had just used to distinguish myself. I hadn’t been homeless, yet. I hadn’t done heroin, yet. I hadn’t crashed my car, yet. 

Point taken.

The second piece of advice was to stop comparing, and start relating. She explained that while often the circumstances and details of our stories can sound quite different, the feelings we experience are often the same. She also helped me begin to see that all these “different” people were using the same solution to get and stay sober. As much as I had wanted to remain unique, it appeared there was a perk to being like everyone else: If this thing worked for them, it could work for me too.

Relating to others and doing what they had done to get sober turned out to be a good plan. I had a sponsor, I was working the steps, I was going to meetings–that was all going well for me. As I got further into my recovery and began to get healthier though, I discovered a new problem. Now that I had the basics down, I was starting to encounter real life. I realized I needed to be a bit more particular about who I emulated. I didn’t always want the results that someone else had, which often meant that I would have to do something different than what they did. It all felt so confusing. I had connected to all these people, I identified with them. I followed their lead and life had gotten better. Now I had become so good at taking direction, it hadn’t occurred to me that the next pointer might be to start listening to my own intuition.

Over the years I’ve been continuously working to find the balance between taking direction from others and listening to my own voice inside. There’s a lot to be said for both and I think when I’m in alignment, these things work together. I believe that there’s a great power in the Universe that’s available to guide me and that power speaks through other people. If I’m not listening, I can miss out on what might be the next right thing for me to do. At the same time, my intuition has developed in a way that makes me trust it. If a message I am receiving from someone else crosses that intuition instead of matching up with it, I try to dig a little deeper and get more comfortable in that gray area. Enter, guidance nugget #3 from my sponsor: Take what you need and leave the rest.

I’m someone who always wants to improve. No matter what the task–running, writing, cooking, whatever–I want to get better. With that as a constant, I often have to remind myself that there are several ways to measure progress and the work that I put into these conquests ultimately affects me and no one else. Case in point: I’ve been struggling a lot in my yoga practice lately. I’ve recognized that this struggle has come most intensely in the past couple of months–ironically the time that I have also decided that I’d like to pursue becoming certified as a Bikram instructor.

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I’ve got a teacher that I really admire who I’ve been taking a lot of classes with lately. She offers me a lot of corrections and clearly cares about guiding me through my practice. If there’s anything she’s been emphasizing the past couple months it’s that I think too much. I can’t tell you how many times during class I hear, “Cat, stop thinking and get into the posture.”

In more ways than one, this has been one of the most valuable insights into my practice that I’ve ever gotten. I do think too much. In yoga, in running, in writing–I’m often thinking instead of doing. I’m a master in overcomplicating things. This instructor is always trying to remind me that the yoga is simple and that I know it–that it’s my brain getting in the way of my body.

I’ve listened to this advice. I’ve taken it in. In the past couple of months I’ve worked harder than ever to let go of all the garbage flowing through my head that doesn’t serve me. In some ways I think my teacher might say that I’ve missed the point–that “working on” letting go and thinking less is really just more thinking. Either way, I know that my intention is true and I do feel like I’m moving toward some new openings.

Unfortunately, I think I’ve also taken her advice and steered it in a direction that doesn’t align with my own intuition. I’ve become hard on myself in a way that feels wrong. Sitting out or getting into a posture late is the ultimate failure. Feeling out of breath or tired feels inexcusable. Every falter brings the impending thought: How are you going to make it through teacher training if you can’t handle this? 

For years, yoga is what’s taught me to be kind to myself. It’s allowed me to get quiet, to listen to my body–to honor it, keep it safe, and be patient with it. Yoga–more than anything else, is also where I’ve learned to stay in the present–to meet myself wherever I am in that moment and accept it.

It feels like that’s what’s been lost the past couple months–presence and acceptance. I’ve wanted to please my teacher. I’ve wanted to show I am working hard. In my attempt to push myself I’ve drowned out the voice that’s made the yoga room feel like a safe haven for me for years. Instead it’s felt like a stage, one where I’m performing and seeking validation.

Take what you need, leave the rest.

My teacher’s right, I do think too much. In order to get back to the practice that really serves me though, I need to stop worrying about my thinking, release all my expectations, and take each moment one at a time. Sometimes I’ll push. Sometimes I’ll rest. Judgement is not required at the end of either outcome. I realized the other day in class that becoming a teacher isn’t about me getting “better” at the yoga. It’s about becoming a conduit–a channel through which life lessons and healing can flow through and be realized and understood through physical movement. I love this yoga. It’s saved my life. It keeps me grounded and on my toes, all at the same time. It allows me to be confident and curious–content, but always seeking.

Since my package just ran out at my studio and we are going on holiday soon, I decided to purchase a few classes somewhere else to fill this week. I think practicing somewhere new in NYC and then getting to take classes all around the UK is going to help me lighten things up again. I think being a “new” student may be just what I need to get my ego out of the equation and get back to having fun in the yoga room. I’m looking forward to finding that quiet again–that soft silence where I can hear my messengers clearly, and their words can meet with my intuition and guide me along–one step at a time.

 

Do you usually follow your intuition? Do you trust it? Have you always, or has it taken you some time to get there?

How much do you value the advice of other people? 

Have you ever gotten caught up in something you loved and stopped loving it? Running, yoga, cycling? 

Do you think too much? Does it ever stop you from acting? Please share, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

header image: william farlow

34 thoughts on “Take What You Need, Leave the Rest

  1. Such a great idea doing classes while your travelling! Look forward to hearing how you find it over here. I’ve never fancied Yoga but the way you describe it has got me thinking I should give it a go. Good knows I need help listening to my body!

    As far as loving something and then hating, I would have to say this about my work as a tree surgeon. I used to love my job. I looked forward to seeing what each day would hold. What challenges I could take on. But then I got promoted to being a crew leader and my second climber was very new to the work, so all the pressure was on me. Over night I began dreading work. I hated not knowing what I was faceing each day and if I would be able to do it. To be fair I still never walked away from a job, but my love was gone. I still struggle with it now, even though I’m no longer in that position. Occasionally I have a really good day. But more often I’m just disinterested now, and looking for my next move.

    The curse of wanting a fun challenging job 😂 x

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  2. Another thought-provoking and multi-layered post. I use visual illusions to illustrate to clients that our first perceptions are not necessarily the correct or only possible way of understanding the world around us. There are times when we need to step back and re-evaluate our understanding. But I also recognise the importance of intuition and gut reactions – these are vital survival responses (in bygone days, traveling between villages, we needed to know pretty damned quick if a stranger intended us harm). We just need to be aware that sometimes our intuition may not be as finely tuned as we believe.
    Thinking too much – absolutely guilty! And I have the cheek to tell my clients they think too much! I practise yoga and martial arts, but my over-thinking in both arenas ties me in knots and makes me inappropriately tense. I will do a post soon about our minds as perpetual bubble making machines – our thoughts are multi-coloured bubbles that arise spontaneously, float a bit, then go pop. They are not reality.
    Complexity – I’m a great believer in making things simple, it is the only way I can understand difficult concepts. When supervising other psychologists working with people with seemingly intractable and complicated problems, I advise them to focus on something simple as a starting point. Wow, my comments are getting longer than my blog posts! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel honored when a post of mine inspires a long comment–I love them! Thanks for this Derek, so much good stuff here. I really love how you often (and here) bring it back to bygone days–it makes so much sense to consider where we’ve come from and how we’ve evolved over time.
      Looking forward to the bubble post–that sounds like it will be valuable to me!

      Also, I am right there with you with making things simple. If I’ve learned anything from sobriety it’s that. I know that i have the ability to overcomplicate things–but over and over again I’ve found that it really doesn’t serve me, and the anxiety that comes with is manufactured–BY ME! In the rooms we often say–pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. I think about that all the time, it’s rang true for me. Bad or not great things are going to happen. That’s life. Things are going to hurt. But we still have a choice in how react and respond. There are so many ways to prolong pain–to turn it into suffering. Ironically in a lot of situations, i think if we just allow ourselves to feel the pain, it ends much quicker. But that’s hard. I know that’s hard. Ok, maybe I’ve gotten into another subject now–look at me dragging on. lol. thanks Derek!

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  3. Great post! I can totally relate when it comes to doing too much thinking. Ugh. I feel like I often make simple things more complicated because I think too much. I always tell my husband, I’m a work in progress! LOL.

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes!! Making simple things more complicated, I am an EXPERT at that, lol. I think I am getting better though–especially when I focus on where I am spending my energy. The older I get the more I realize I only have so much energy to give–starting to prioritize where it goes cause it’s really important that whatever I am doing is actually serving me. Sweating the small stuff usually does not!
      So happy to have you here–thanks for chiming in! Hope you come back! x

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  4. Hey Cat. Great post! I think you hit on everything I’m struggling with. Running was fun, but it’s become part of a chore. Even as I hired a new PT, I have been running inconsistently and it’s brought my morale some. Your post reminds me to just run, enjoy being outside, and not to get too into running PR’s; PR’s will come when they’re supposed to.
    I know about overthinking as well. I struggle with depression and anxiety, stuff that ramps up my mind. It’s a nonstop storm but, like you said- take what you need- is something I’m learning in order to break my cycle of negative overthinking. Thanks a ton Cat! Can’t wait til your next post ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Petey! Yeah, definitely try to get back to some running just for fun. I think getting out there and moving sometimes is just what we need. Being in training mode ALL the time is just not maintainable (at least not for me!).
      How is the new trainer going? I’ve never worked with one before really–at least not consistently. I’m sure it’s valuable to have someone to correct your form and push you. That’s great.
      When that negative overthinking gets in there Petey, think about all you have accomplished. Give yourself some credit. You’re such a hard worker, you’re always going places. Let yourself have a little peace in that and then try to quiet your mind and remember you’ve only got to take on one thing at a time. Have a great day Petey! x

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve often felt that I have more of an internal distrust or paranoia of sorts that has kept me from ever feeling like I have good intuition. For example when Jason and I bought our kayaks the other summer we were in the Walmart parking lot figuring out how to load them on the tops of our cars and a middle aged gentleman approached us. He asked where we were taking them and said that he didn’t live far from our town and offered to haul them in his vehicle for us. Right away we both thought that was suspicious and that he might be looking to steal them. We politely declined his offer and proceeded with loading them ourselves. He stuck around and helped Jason lift them and figure out the straps and made sure they were fastened tightly. He was just a regular helpful guy, yet my “intuition” said to be wary. I often feel like that with a lot of people… it’s sad to say but I think I just don’t trust that people can be nice without having an ulterior motive.

    For years I overanalyzed so much in my life and asked for advice and I’ve come to realize most of the situations in my life that have turned out for the best were the ones that I didn’t overthink but rather just let play out as they will.

    I love the “think too much” concept because it reminds me of a kid I coached this season. His first few races of the 300m hurdles I could literally see him thinking throughout the race and it would cause him to stutter at times or slow up. After one of the races I said Kyle, just stop thinking about the race and run it, you can analyze the race after you’ve finished it. He was literally analyzing the race as he was running it, thinking about his form being bad over a hurdle and trying to correct it for the next and so on. The next race he finally just ran without thinking and everything clicked for him. By the end of the season he had dropped 6 seconds off his best time.

    It sounds like you’re definitely in need of a changeup with your yoga so I think it’s smart to take a few classes elsewhere and hopefully your trip is a good mental refresh as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alright, so LOVE the story about the kid you were coaching–that’s great. It especially piqued my interest because with my whole life coaching thing (not sure if you remember I’ve started a certification process for that), I’ve come to realize that I’d like to work with athletes. I think how the mental and physical component work together and affect performance is pretty fascinating!

      Anyway, the story you described with the kayaks–I don’t really see that as paranoia. I see it as intuition with guilt. Like you don’t trust your intuition enough to call it intuition. I guess it’s good to recognize it if it is just paranoia and you really don’t trust ANYONE. But I go with my gut on that stuff ALL the time. Just cause someone acts nice doesn’t mean they are good. I’ve rejected help about a billion times just cause I had a feeling. That’s part of my intuition I have always stuck with and never doubted–I think it’s a bigger one cause it involves your safety. I remember being little and we had a huge dog, a Newfoundland. She was the SWEETEST dog ever, like really, would not hurt a fly, just wanted to love you. But every once in a while, a repair man or someone we didn’t know would come to the house, and she would growl. And if he had to repair something, she would follow him and not leave his sight the entire time . My mom always said she trusted her intuition completely–and I did too. She smelled or felt something not right in the guy. Ever since I saw that as a little kid and my mom explained intuition to me (through my dogs eyes, lol) I recognized that i had that in me too, and I started to use it and listen to it. I believe it’s served me well!

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  6. I really like the tip about adding “yet” to the end of the comparisons! That’s brilliant!

    I am an overthinker, too. At some point I had to realize this is part of my personality and it’s not ever going to change, so now I just try my best to work with it instead of against it. I try to emphasize having an outlet for all my thoughts instead of trying to force them not to exist – I journal, I blog about my training so I don’t drive myself crazy thinking about it, and I do things like read a book or occasionally watch TV if I need an escape from thinking for a while. Overthinking can definitely lead to decision paralysis, but on balance, I suppose I’d rather be someone who thinks too much than someone who doesn’t think enough. Looking at our current political and social climate sometimes I can’t help wondering if maybe we could use more overthinkers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Hanna! Yeah the “yet” thing is so simple but smart, right? Awesome that resonates with you.
      I’m totally feeling you on all of this–I definitely think (haha) that my overthinking and some of my other traits that I have that for a while I thought might be negatives, I’ve started to learn to work with instead of work against–life flows much better that way!
      And yeah–some more thinking in our culture really wouldn’t be a bad thing. Perhaps if the Kardashians weren’t our role models?

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  7. Relate to the over thinking. My mother used to say:”Stop thinking so much! It hurts my brain and will get you in trouble.” But it was my friend, my safe place. Now I take all advice and thinking and write it in my journal,then look at it the next day. More perspective. Deep breathing exercises help me to let go and:”Just Be.” One good thing about thinking a lot is that I sleep like a log! Thanks for your transparency. Namaste!

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    1. I totally get your head being your safe place Pat! When i got sober I had to get out of that mentality. People would always joke–“get out of your head, it’s a bad neighborhood!” And for me for a while that was really true–too much anxiety and negativity. It’s a lot better now though.
      Glad your deep breathing is helping–that’s great! Thanks for sharing!

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  8. RE: How much do you value the advice of other people? Answer: It all depends on who it comes from and how it’s said. I experienced it during this mornings run. Went on a run and 2 new people joined who I’ve never met before (one was friend of friend I run with, other was friend of that friend.) We meet up and the 2 new people, after the small talk introduction, started making comments about what I was wearing. Bright orange shirt, black shorts, lime green socks, black shoes with lime green shoe laces. Yeah, my running gear sometimes contrasts, but I like all the color. The two new people started criticizing what I was wearing, can you go change, it’s too bright, you normally wear that in public, don’t you own any normal clothes, etc. My initial thought was, geesh, we’re all runners here. What’s with this commentary? It’s just a shirt. My friend pulled me aside and explained the reason they’re saying that is because the friend of the friend gets migraines very easily and bright colors is one of their triggers. Oh, well I didn’t know that. Sure, that’s no problem. I’ll put on my maroon shirt I have in my car. No big deal. So the “advice” of “can you change just for right now” was the same, but I’ll listen to it depending on who says it and how. One was critical of me as a person and judgmental (felt like it because of the tone that was used too) because no explanation of why that request was being said (in re: to the migraines) and one was a hey, fyi, here’s some background info and why. Oh, well, I didn’t know that. Sure, no big deal. And move on with the day. So the advice came be the exact same thing, but I’ll listen to it depending on who says it and how.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally get it C–how things are delivered makes such a huge difference! I try and remember that when i am communicating with other people. I definitely think there have been times when I have probably hurt or offended someone without that intention or realizing it. Working on being aware of the whole message I am sending out to the world. Thanks for this! x

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  9. Oh I love this. I did a chair yesterday and this came up. I had my first sponsor on a pedestal and when she got me to get down and pray while doing the 3 rd step I felt uncomfortable. I knew her God was not mine but I pushed ahead. Only now when I’m doing the same step with my sponsee did I really examine what my own Higher power is. We both have a different idea of what that is( in fact mine can changeon a daily basis)but that’s ok, whatever we are handing our selves over to is working. When I was drinking I often took on the beliefs and characteristics of people I “ admired” Now I have a deeper understanding of what I believe in and a belief in myself. Looking forward to seeing you next month S xx

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    1. Ah man Saoirse I SO relate to that–taking on the beliefs and characteristics of people you admired. Getting sober is totally like “oh shit, what the hell do I believe in?!” I think sobriety is so cool because it’s this mix of both discovering AND remembering who you are. Like I know some people feel like they are totally different people. And others feel like they are back to themselves. I am somewhere in the middle. There are definitely new things I am discovering about myself but often I am also like “ahh…there’s the girl I new once.” Those moments are actually the biggest for me–cause I remember that girl, and realizing how young I lost her makes me sad sometimes! It’s like we start to grow and become who we are, and then some of us let the world pound us down to almost nothing.
      hmm. you always spark something in me and get me thinking!
      yay! see you soon! (email me when you know what day will work best!)

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  10. Wow! This is really impressive . I believe that you are going to accomplish great things. Thank you for sharing your process. Are you still going to Life Coach classes? And yes, I over think so much that it paralyzes me sometimes. I’m kind there right now. :p Trying to come up with a way earn some income without having to abandon my other responsibilities. I keep seeing obstacles everywhere!

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    1. PK, that is such a nice thing to say–thank you so much!
      And yes, I am still going to Life Coach classes and I cannot even express to you how life CHANGING they have been and are. Do you ever have those moments when you realize how little you know–or more, how much you have to learn?! That’s what I am going through with that right now. We had our first sort of “practice” session with coaching, and it was quite eye opening. I have A LOT to work on if I really want to help people. It’s great though, I am happy and excited to learn!

      I am hoping you are getting out of that paralyzed thinking. One thing that helps me–you have your goal right? If you want that goal, you’re gonna find a way, you’re gonna get to it. If you can, stop thinking of challenges along the way as barriers. Instead, if you can accept them as a natural part of the journey–things that are supposed to be there. Perhaps they are there to teach you or steer you one way or another or help you think more creatively–but they are not road blocks, they are TOOLS. Once I stop seeing challenges as barriers and more as tools that are actually something I need to get me where I want to go, I can keep moving forward–big steps or little, always forward.

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  11. “Over the years I’ve been continuously working to find the balance between taking direction from others and listening to my own voice inside. There’s a lot to be said for both and I think when I’m in alignment, these things work together. I believe that there’s a great power in the Universe that’s available to guide me and that power speaks through other people. If I’m not listening, I can miss out on what might be the next right thing for me to do. At the same time, my intuition has developed in a way that makes me trust it.” I Love this whole part. You have learned so much about yourself and your place in the world through so much of your journey through sobriety, running, yoga etc. Trusting in and Listening to your own intuition doesn’t come naturally. It takes going through pain and working very hard. You have done that. Yay you Cat.
    Also, I love reading about your Yoga process and journey. Beautiful pic of your lovely Warrior III on a rooftop over the city. That could be in Yoga Journal. So wonderful that you are going to start teacher training and more so, that you are taking a break from intense practice that is giving you doubts and taking away your Yoga joy. Don’t let that happen. It IS our safe place. Have fun being in a new class and being a student for a bit. As Alway, wonderful post to read! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for this lady. Your comment means a lot to me–it makes me feel very heard, if that makes any sense! You know when someone’s response to you is such that you’re like “yeah, they were really listening, they understand what I am trying to say!”. That’s how this made me feel, so thank you.
      I think you are really right that trusting and listening to our own intuition doesn’t come naturally. That was hard for me to accept/understand–I thought other people just had something that I didn’t. Took some time for me to get that it was something I could develop obtain over time, and constantly work on improving.
      So glad I have found others like you that I connect with on the yoga process–that’s what really drew me to your blog. So much for us to learn through our practice–and I get so much out of reading about other people’s experiences as well–they help me better reflect on my own. Thank you for that! x

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  12. Running has a LOT of comparison available and if you’re a slow runner like me, you can get very sad about being slow and “never improving” and all of that. But everyone’s different, and when a super speedy lad said he could NEVER imagine being on his feet for 6 hours in a race, that gave me a different point of comparison.

    I think you made the right choice re your yoga. It’s YOUR yoga and it’s important for you. Like I said elsewhere, my running’s too important to shove it into a set pattern or force it, because I need it to keep me mentally and physically healthy.

    I try to go by my own intuition but listen to specific advice. I know I’ll never be a super-yogi able to pretzel myself into impossible things, but if I think I can extend a posture but can’t quite work it out, or can’t do something because I can’t work it out, I will ask my teachers.

    Hope you enjoy your trip – that’s come around quickly, hasn’t it! I’ve not worked out if you’re coming through the Midlands at all or nearby …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s amazing that you were able to shift perspective like that–it’s so true, being out there for 6 hours is a whole different type of grit and bad assery!

      Re: Other’s advice–I want to trust my intuition, but I also try to remember why I was not put on this earth ALONE! Sometimes I forget how much I need other people–they shine the light so i can see!

      Ok–Midlands? I know you are in Birmingham–so I am assuming that is the midlands? So the only other places we are going besides London (in England) are Brighton and York. My only worry is that we sort of have little tours and things planned all day. If you could make it to one of those places I wouldn’t want to pin you down to a certain time–that just seems so rude! I will email you soon. i just feel badly cause we do have quite a schedule, I don’t want you bending too much to fit into it!

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      1. Of course you have a schedule, that’s understandable. Brighton and York aren’t anywhere near me but London is easy; drop me an email and I’ll see if anything’s doable. If not, I will be in NY one day!

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  13. Ah yes, can definitely relate to the comparison thing, particularly when I was in ED treatment… it’s so easy to compare ourselves to others. As someone who’s weight was restored before entering their first treatment it was difficult for me to see people on the brink of hospitalisation and thinking “that could have been me, but instead I got better / fatter”. It’s such a tough frame of mind. Both yoga and running have helped me so much with that mindset though! Yoga is grounding and running is exhausting and that leave’s very little mental space to compare. Stay strong x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am right there with you Rosie. I was of completely normal weight when I went into ED treatment. It killed me to not be able to physically personify all the pain I had inside. I felt like I had nothing to show for everything I put myself through. It took me a LONG time to not want to be that sick person anymore–well beyond treatment!
      Yoga and running have helped me so much because I love them–but in order to do them, I need to be STRONG. I’d never go back to starving myself–I would LOSE so much!

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  14. Oh, I love this so much, Cat. I think way too much, and I realize that I get my “worry” gene from both sides of the family, particularly from parental and grand-parental models (lots of teachers). Yoga is teaching me to pay attention and not always be focused on the outcome. But approval-seeking comes naturally to me given my history as well. Only very recently have I allowed my own approval to be enough. Your reflection is beautiful and vulnerable. I really enjoyed reading this.

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    1. I totally get my worry gene from both sides too lady–I never had a chance, lol. I’m glad yoga is helping you with that detachment from the outcome as well–it’s really something. It’s taken me years to improve on this as expectations are a HUGE problem for me. For so long I couldn’t even wrap my head around letting for of the outcome. Now being able to separate my intention from the outcome is very freeing–it releases a lot of the fear I used to walk around with. I know I am going to be ok, whether things “turn out” or not.
      Thanks for reading lady–hope you are deep into relaxation mode on your holiday now! x

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