Keepin' it Reel - What is really going on here?
Recently I was invited to speak with a wonderful group of women about mindfulness and mindful eating practices. I shared the idea of using all of our senses to engage in eating. We also discussed alternative ways to satisfy our senses – without using food. While discussing the sense of sight, I asked the participants, “What ways can you think of to bring joy and satisfaction to your sense of sight without food?” Participants mentioned walking outside in nature, looking at pictures of loved ones, and looking at a beautiful painting or photograph; but no one mentioned flowers. When I suggested looking at flowers, one participant said, “Well, there aren’t any flowers in Connecticut this time of year.” I agreed and reminded them that we have the ability to buy flowers any time of year. I then asked the group, “When was the last time you bought flowers for yourself?” The women looked around, but no one answered. As I looked around the room at each woman I asked, “Have you ever bought yourself flowers?” To my surprise, not one participant raised her hand.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. So many of us constantly do for others and worry about what others need – while ignoring our own needs. We are caretakers, mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, and healers. We are friends to everyone but ourselves. If I asked, “When is the last time you bought flowers for someone else?”, the answer would probably be easy – birthday, Christmas, maybe when someone was sick. However, it rarely occurs to us to treat ourselves to a beautiful bouquet, or if it does we talk ourselves out of it.
For most of my life buying myself flowers didn’t occur to me either. I remember the first time it did – about six or seven years ago. It was about this time of year, and it had been a particularly long, cold winter. The weather was taking a toll on my emotions and mood. While shopping in Trader Joe’s one day I saw a beautiful display of sunflowers. The bright yellow petals were irresistible. But I remember thinking, “Nah, I can’t buy myself flowers. I don’t have the extra money.” I walked away to continue my shopping. As I reached the end of every isle, I could see the flowers. Every time I had some excuse not to buy – “they are not organic, I’ll be contributing to the destruction of the environment; they were probably picked by children, I don’t want to contribute to child labor; it’s not even the right season for sunflowers, I should wait until summer” and on and on. When I reached the last isle I looked at the flowers one last time and realized that they made me feel better. I grabbed a bundle and headed to the checkout. I remember the cashier asking me who they were for, and I felt an uncomfortable knot in the pit of my stomach as I quietly replied, “They are for me.” “Nice!”, he replied.
Later that day a friend asked what the flowers were for. Again that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach appeared. “What is that?” I wondered. In staying with this feeling for a minute I realized that I felt embarrassment, shame, and guilt – like I was arrogant for buying myself flowers. There should have been a reason for the flowers – not “just because…” I was so used to being the martyr and looking at my life in a negative way that this kind gesture for myself felt really awkward. I felt that I didn’t deserve anything nice! What my mind was really telling me is that I am not good enough – not worth it. Eventually, making my heart happy won out over all of the uncomfortable feelings and stories I told myself about why I couldn’t buy the flowers, and I did it anyway!
So my challenge to you: Notice what you are feeling and notice what your mind says when you think about doing something kind for yourself. It could be anything – going to yoga, sitting down for an hour to meditate, read, or sip tea, taking a walk, or taking a nap. Notice what happens as you move toward whatever you choose (a regular meditation practice can really help you slow down and notice). What gets in the way? What does that feeling really mean in the pit of your stomach? Could it be fear? What is that fear trying to protect you from? How would it feel to do it anyway?
If you are telling yourself that you are not worth a $15 bundle of flowers, where else in your life are you telling yourself that you are not worth it? What can you do to begin to value yourself?
Why not try this as an experiment, and let me know what happens!
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