Throughout my life I’ve often said things like: “I have an addictive personality” or “I’m just an all or nothing kind of person“. Nobody, including myself, ever really questioned that. Until the last few years. Now I’m calling bullshit on myself.
Give me a few minutes, and you might too.
In my lifetime I have had an unhealthy relationship with substances, food, social media, television, and more. I would even go as far as including fitness and personal development in that list. Crazy to think of those really great things as unhealthy, right?
Let me explain.
I have been digging deep into the underbelly of my past, analyzing my patterns, and facing everything I’d tried so hard to bury and avoid. In so doing, I realized that those “unhealthy relationships” with everything that I listed above were simply a means to an end. A distraction from what I wasn’t ready to face. An escape.
I jumped from one habit to the next, interchanging vices when it became apparent the flavor of the month was unhealthy. It started in high school with substances, which helped me to escape my own mind and feel good for a change. When things got rough and I couldn’t continue as I was any longer, I traded substances for binge eating and watching television alone in my room.
With the new vices, I was able to dissociate from reality and check out from my mind in a new way. When I became medically classified as obese, depressed, and lonely from isolating myself in shame, I traded the excessive eating and lounging for health and fitness. That helped me get into shape, feel more confident, and start living my life again.
So what’s bad about that, right?
Well… I reached the point where my weight loss journeys always seemed to plateau. I was working out 6 days a week, and I started doubling up workouts thinking I needed to go harder. I was working my body so hard, determined to crush my goals, that I actually ended up injuring myself.
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of an injury like this, the next part may make you cringe. I heard a popping sound and my leg caved in during a stretch. It startled me enough that I paused and shook myself off to assess damage. I seemed fine, so I convinced myself it was nothing and pushed myself to finish the workout.
Unfortunately I’ll never know what would have happened had I not continued with that second workout. What I do know is that I had to pull myself up two flights of stairs by the railing while hopping on one foot when I finished that workout. It took over 2 weeks for me to regain the ability to bear weight on the injured leg enough to walk without support of a crutch or a cane. It’s been 5 years since the injury, and my knee still has not fully recovered.
What about personal development… how is that possibly unhealthy? – you may ask.
That one took me by surprise too. I learned about this concept last year during Mastin Kipp’s Claim Your Power LIVE conference: spiritual entertainment. Growth (personal development) is food for the soul. However, sometimes we can use it as a way to cope with, or dissociate from, things we are trying to avoid too.
In my case, that meant jumping from course to course, conference to conference, book to book. Mastin reminded me that we can sometimes run so fast after our healing and growth that we can run right past our breakthroughs. We don’t give ourselves time to integrate the lessons or actually learn anything from them, we just consume all the things and become frustrated when we don’t reach the desired destination.
As Tony Robbins likes to say, knowledge isn’t power. It’s what you do with it once you have it that matters. You see, we all conceptually KNOW what actions we should take to solve some of our problems. And yet, we don’t execute on them.
You can study how to play a sport, but will that make you a great player if you have no experience and don’t practice? The same applies to personal development. You can keep consuming material and learning new strategies, but your life is unlikely to see real change until you start executing on what you’ve learned.
So what does all of this mean?
It means that even really good things can be used as coping mechanisms or vices without our conscious awareness. Mastin has a great 3 minute video that outlines the difference between low-level coping (substances, toxic relationships, violence) and high-level coping (exercise and dieting, meditating, self-help tools).
This was eye opening for me because I realized that while I was doing all of these positive things for my life, I genuinely thought I was doing great and “healed”. Looking back now, I see that I had actually fallen into toxic positivity and (spiritual) bypassing. That “fake it til’ you make it mentality. Positive vibes only – avoiding anything that stirs up the shadows.
Don’t get me wrong… I was making more progress than I ever had with the low-level coping, but I still felt like I was treading water. I wasn’t getting where I wanted to be because I was still unconsciously using those high-level coping tools as a distraction or an escape.
I was trying to take the easy way out and move PAST my past rather than face it and move through it. That rarely works, and that is often why there are so many yo-yo dieters. It is why the gyms are full every January, only to go back to normal capacity within a few months as New Year’s Resolutions end early.
If that sounds familiar, know that it’s not lack of willpower. It’s not that you don’t want it badly enough. It’s not that you are lazy either.
The reason we get so far only to fall off the wagon and return to our comfort zone is because we haven’t addressed the root of the issue. It’s like slapping a band-aid on a wound that needs stitches. It may heal eventually. Though it could also get infected, take much longer to heal, leave you suffering in pain longer, and leave you with a nasty scar.
What we resist, persists.
If you started reading this thinking that you, or someone you know, had an addictive personality, I hope you found this post informative and relatable. I hope that it helped you see that it is much more likely that those patterns of being all-in for different habits is actually a symptom of a different issue entirely.
To name a few:
- Unhealed, most likely unconscious, traumas.
- Old limiting belief systems that were passed down from family or imparted on you through public education, social conditioning, or the media.
- Unhealthy learned patterns that keep landing you in the same painful situations.
You deserve so much more! Only you can make it happen though. You have to be brave. Be willing to go deep within and face what you’ve tried to repress and ignore.
It won’t be comfortable, and it will hurt more before it gets better. But it WILL get better as you face and move through everything you tried to bury. That is how you heal and find inner peace.
So ask yourself a question. What is worth suffering for?
Would you rather stay in the same repeated cycles that keep bringing you pain over and over again? Would you rather keep treading water, struggling for every inch of progress? Or would you rather do the inner work that will set you on a course to a much brighter future?
Only you can make that choice. I hope you choose the latter, because you are worth the effort!