It is not uncommon when a new client starts working with me, by week two or three she starts feeling frustrated that she has not mastered the concepts she just learned.
“I should have this figured out by now.”
“I just can’t get the hang of this.”
“I’m never going to get this.”
Do you do this, too?
It’s a pretty common way of thinking, but is it really serving you?
Should you be able to master a new concept immediately?
Knowing how the brain works, I think it’s not helpful to put this kind of pressure on yourself. The frustration you create is likely to cause you to quit, which would then provide proof for the thought, “I’m never going to get this.” In this case, you’d be right.
Let’s take the example of chronic overeating, shall we?
Say you’ve been overeating for a significant span of time (for some of you it may be years or even decades). Acknowledging this is not for you to now judge yourself; instead I invite you to look at this through the lens of science. Plain and simple, your brain is well practiced in the skill of overeating. This is the pattern it knows.
Now say you want to stop overeating and set out to quit cold turkey. You try for two days, and by the third day you overeat. You get angry and frustrated with yourself and say, “I totally blew it.”
Listen, you didn’t blow it. All that happened is your brain slipped into the groove it knows very well. If you’ve been overeating for years, it’s going to take weeks, maybe months of practice to carve in the new groove of not overeating.
Do you expect to learn how to play a song on the piano without making mistakes? No, you are going to flub and skip some notes many, many times, right?
Do you expect to learn how to juggle tennis balls perfectly without dropping them right out of the gate? No, dropping balls while learning how to juggle is expected.
It should be the same with practicing your new skill of not overeating.
Expect that it will not be perfect.
And guess what?
You can make mistakes and still succeed.
You do this by not giving up.
So, when your brain happens to slip into the groove it knows and you overeat, remind yourself that this doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. All it means is that you need more practice. And you have several opportunities to practice each day. You can try again with your very next meal or snack.
It really helps if you give yourself the time and space to practice. You do this with your thoughts and words. Try these alternative thoughts on for size:
“I haven’t figured this out—yet.”
“I haven’t got the hang of this yet, but I will.”
“I’ve learned how to do many things in my life, and I can learn how to do this, too.”
When trying to change something as sensitive as overeating, you do not need your harsh inner voice reprimanding you along the way. This is not helpful.
Instead, I invite you to treat yourself with kindness and patience, always supporting yourself with your words:
“You can do this.”
“I believe in you.”
If you are a veteran of the diet war, speaking kindly to yourself probably takes practice too, but since you are likely able to say these words to a beloved friend or family member, your brain already knows how to do this. All you’ll have to do is direct those words towards you.