Re-define yourself

Here’s another mental roadblock.  The thing about this one, though, is that we all face it, whether we know it or not.  And it goes like this:


What do I mean by “inertia”?  Inertia is a property of matter defined by resistance to changes in motion.   It means that cars don’t like stopping, boats don’t like turning, and planets like to keep going around the sun in their designated trajectories.   When used abstractly, however, inertia refers to all of the mental resistance we encounter when trying to do anything, ranging from trying to get a project done, to confronting an emotion, or to making personal changes.

The point of this post is that, as human beings, we don’t like change.  We resist it.  And often we don’t like challenges, so we resist those, too.  Often this is manifested in really obvious ways, such as my insistence on walking a block further to go to Family Mart (clearly superior!) instead of 7-11 (which is actually the same exact store as Family Mart).  Or perhaps: we all know people who have heard of the paleolithic diet (perhaps we’ve tried to convince them ourselves?) but just don’t want to give it the time of day.  Compelled by fear or inertia or both, friends and family members daily come up with some pretty nifty rationalizations that make their current course of action continue to be the best one in their own minds.  Whether it actually is or not is not the question.  The important thing here is the mental attitude, and the strong, almost irresistable impulse to never change.

This is a pretty well-known fact.  People don’t like change.  Why am I beating a dead horse?   Because I think it goes even deeper than that.

Sometimes we actively want change.  Sometimes we pursue it.  Sometimes we even achieve it.   We do this by making a conscious decision (not always!), by committing ourselves to new pathways, and by following through.  But it doesn’t always stick, and progress is really difficult, and one reason this is true is because we’re stuck in the same ideas of ourselves.
I’m currently pretty thin.  That happened about a year ago.  Up until that point, however, I battled weight loss and body image issues for eight years.  There were a lot of things going on, and I could probably write a book (have I already?) on them.  Yet one phenomenon was particularly vicious.  Every time I started gaining momentum, I up and threw it away. I pinched my thighs after a week or two of good eating and they felt different.  I noticed and this was so cool.  So naturally the first thing I did was walk into the pantry.  For a long time I wrote this off as my desire to “treat myself” for my progress, but after many years and deeper reflection I realized that my thoughts were far more twisted.  My body had changed, and that was weird.  I was in a place where I could be more confident, and that was weird, too.  Stefani (that’s my given name) is not hot.  Stefani is not thin.  Stefani is not confident.  These changes do not line up with who I am.   I need to prevent that change.  I need to put a little weight back on.

And I did it!  I swear to Hera I did this for years. It was never something I was conscious of.  Instead, this monster watched me from the deep folds of my subconscious, and every time I started getting somewhere reached out and dropped this huge rock of inertia (recall: resistance to change) on top of my progress.

I find myself wrestling with the same subconscious resistance to this day.  It’s like… we have this image of ourselves.  A physical image.  And we have this idea of ourselves, this mental, psychological, personality type thing.  And we don’t rock the boat.  Ever.   Whether it’s by other people or ourselves, our unconscious minds work really hard to preserve norms.  Everybody’s does.  It’s how we’re built.

Except it might be worse in people who are struggling.  Your resistance to change might be compounded by feelings of unworthiness. I often thought: “Stefani is not thin, pretty, or confident, therefore I need to restore the qualities that made her otherwise,” but it was much worse when I thought: “Stefani does not deserve to be thin, pretty, or confident, therefore I need to restore the qualities that made her otherwise.”     This is another reason that it is so, absolutely vital to love yourself. It is vital to forgive yourself.  And it is vital to realize that whatever you’re wrestling with is not your fault.  Only after practicing these self-loving mental habits can we dig ourselves out of the mental pits of unworth, and begin to really see progress in our physical, as well as mental, health.

That said, once we’re in decent mental condition and walking on the path of progress, we’ve got to safeguard against subconscious inertia.  We’ve got to break that mental mode.  We’ve got to be in charge of our emotions and our brains, and to make sure the riptide never pulls us back under.   Subconscious perceptions of ourselves are enormously powerful.   Recognizing that fact can help you re-define yourself, and make sure that that definition sticks.

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04 2011

4 Comments Add Yours ↓

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  1. Brooke #

    Pepper, you are inside my head again! A month and a half ago one of my clients told me that it looked like I lost some weight. Since then I have been struggling more than ever, I couldn’t figure it out. But now it is really starting to make sense. I don’t think I deserve to look good. On with the inertia to change to better thinking!

  2. jackie #

    “Every time I started gaining momentum, I up and threw it away. I pinched my thighs after a week or two of good eating and they felt different. I noticed and this was so cool. So naturally the first thing I did was walk into the pantry.” This is SO SO SO true for me! I look, feel and perform BETTER after being on being strict paleo for 3 days, and then I subconsciously self-sabotaged myself by eating non-Paleo and I’m back to square one again. This has repeated SO many times that I lost count. -sigh- I don’t have that “subconscious perceptions” of myself per se; its just that I get lost in that “Oh yea I’m getting hotter now so I can indulge more” moment far too often!

    I’m 24 this year, so I’m about the same age as you, if I remember correctly . Am really inspired by you and YOUR writing. You managed to put down in black and white what I (and many others out there) have been feeling so accurately, that only people who have issues with food will understand. Thank you paleopepper. If you ever come visit Singapore, let me know!!

    PS. It’d be great if you can do a more detailed post on self-sabotage?

  3. mom #

    You know, for so so many years while I struggled with weight loss, I could never figure why whenever I started to make progress I would throw in the towel. So many times. And I was aware of it while I was doing it. The pounds would start to drop and I would start to eat. And then I would start hating myself because I was a failure. What was it about my psyche that was at work (or not at work). I guess as long as we figure it out somewhere along the way, before it’s too late, to try to heal our bodies and our minds, it’s a good thing. And if we can help anyone else out along the way its even better. It’s never too late to change…or should I say it’s never too late to accept change.

  4. 4

    I’ve been obsessed with the inertia-in-life concept for months now. And I use it often to explain why (some) people are so opposed to the Paleo diet. It took people years, decades, to accept that the Earth was round despite all of the evidence because the inertia of their ideas couldn’t veer to accept the new information. No matter how many studies (and I find a new one every single day, whether from a Paleo perspective or not) say that fat is not enemy, sugar is, that we should Eat Meat NOT Bread!, the last 30 years we’ve been told something completely different, so people can’t find the power to break the cycle. If we could all accept change with ease, we’d be happier, I think. Or, in this specific case, healthier.

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