The case of: Approval V. Happiness
After too much volleyball and not enough listening to my body (yup, I am so guilty), I ended up with a shoulder injury. So severe was the pain that in three months I lost 15 pounds from teeth-gritting nausea. When I finally got relief a friend asked why my pants were loose. As a joke I quipped that I had been on the “Rotator Cuff Diet.” She immediately said,
“I wish I could be in enough pain to lose weight.”
I was astonished. Didn’t she just hear about my misery? Had I somehow failed to express my utter unhappiness during that trial? It was at that moment it struck me: She did not want to be happy, she wanted to be thin. For many of us (I used to think this way too), weight loss is not about happiness. We tell ourselves we will be happy when our body matches an arbitrary pre-set weight, but this is not always true. Actually, we are desperate for self- approval. We are willing to endure horrible pain, diets, restrictions, dangerous medications and procedure, deprivations, and a host of other yucky experiences to be thin because only then can we give ourselves approval. We withhold approval until we see the right number on the scale or wear the right size clothing.
So the answer is clearly to approve of ourselves REGARDLESS of our weight. However, the notion that we can “love” ourselves into weight loss is pretty weak. Law of attraction…mind over matter…both approaches are true, but every serial dieter knows it can be tough to lose weight and keep it off. For me it was a long road to lose 110-pounds. Instead, I am preaching the mindset of withholding self-approval directly works against enjoying ideal weight. Without acceptance of ourselves as we are TODAY, warts and all, we cannot listen to our bodies and hear our needs. We cannot see through the allure of “thin” and replace it with the better goal of balance and permanent peace with our bodies. We cannot feel the self-affirming comfort of enjoying our preferred amount of food—the portion that give us energy and leaves us feeling light. We cannot congratulate ourselves for acknowledging the need for a cookie after a lunch of spinach salad. The cookie, by the way, is a good thing if you want to be balanced and not binge. And, perhaps we cannot hear the need for physical activity, more sleep, less bread, more water, or any other necessary fulfillment that results in balance.
What’s so special about approval? Why do we ultimately care more about approval than happiness? Because without it we are utterly alone. When we withhold complete love and trust in our being “enough” we cannot truly connect with the love offered from others. We don’t believe it. During our interactions with others we may act the part of the loved spouse, friend, mother, but our “shadow selves” know better. We fear deep inside that because we know the truth (that we are not acceptable), the love of others is not warranted. Their love cannot enter our inner realm. We cannot reconcile the gaps we feel in our souls with the genuine embrace of others. Withholding self-approval and the subsequent deep-seated mistrust of the love from those around us, ultimately leaves us alone in the private spaces of our hearts. We feel marginalized, lonely, and different. Ultimately, if we don’t approve of ourselves we cannot fully connect with others.
“Separate-ness from the world” feeds binges, compulsive behavior and a host of other issues we privately exact on ourselves. So, my recommendation is you shift your conditional self-approval from a number on the scale to approving every time you connect to your body. Approve of the process instead of the end result. Did you notice how soon you felt hungry after exercising? Do you feel better after noticing your exact preferred portion size (whether or not you exceeded)? Are you more energetic after 8 hours of sleep than 6 hours? The very act of tuning in should earn us approval points because in so doing we affirm we are worth taking care of. The body is changing and will always be changing. Hanging out our approval shingle only when we look a certain way is precarious because age will certainly mar any beauty standard we set. Once we get thin, we will eventually have veins in our legs and wrinkles everywhere else. Instead, grant approval for living in the present, tuning in to our needs, and accepting our truth that we are “enough.” The payoff of approval is we support a faster metabolism because we are balanced, AND we are happier. So maybe happiness is as important as approval, it just comes from a kinder, gentler place than injuring a shoulder.
Tres Hatch is the author of: Miracle Pill 10 Truths to Healthy, Thin, & Sexy and the upcoming cook book: Daily Fuel. Learn more at TresHatch.com .