Coping

Your Life’s Too Complicated. Let’s Simplify It With The Plateau-Flow Method!

Self-Compassion Blog.  Your LIfe's Too Complicated.  Let's Simplify It With The Plateau-Flow Method!

Defying Flow

I used to run with great effort, foisting myself forward with each step, and when my gait slowed, I would sprint to quicken my pace.  I was rewarded for these efforts with shin splints, Achilles strains, and plantar fasciitis.  Running and the feedback it gives your body are simple processes, and I chose to defy these communications with a fiery will, and unnecessary, complicated movements.  Life is like this for all of us.  We have values and set goals, and when the flow of life resists our plans, and gives us feedback, we resist its rhythm, determined to control it with our complex tricks and action plans.  Like any good card player, life calls our bet and raises the stakes with even greater obstacles.  Eventually, we feel overwhelmed and quit.

Trusting Flow

What if I told you that you could avoid this disempowering pattern by simply learning to trust life’s feedback?  Obstacles emerge because there is something relevant for you to learn about your personal life or work.  To meet these needs, you must slow down and address them even if they are not obvious steps towards your defined goals.  Having an interesting and evolving life requires something that most of us forget: the unknowable.  Let this sink in.  IF LIFE WERE PREDICTABLE, THEN YOU WOULD NEVER LEARN ANYTHING NEW.   Give yourself permission to observe, adjust to, and respond to things that do not instantly make sense, they just might better your life or save another’s.  Of all of the interventions I have ever used with patients, perhaps the most successful involved me making fun of myself for several hours in the middle of the night to maintain the attention of a suicidal patient at a residential facility.  Spoiler alert: she lived.  Nobody would want a moment like that, and it sure did not seem to fit my goals at the time, but my life and hers are unfathomably better for it.

The Plateau-Flow Model

It would be a terrible crime to speak at length about lessening your life complications without providing you with a model to use.  Fear not!  I have one.  It’s called the plateau-flow method, and it works as follows.  Set goals which reflect your values, and work towards a plateau (i.e., accomplishing an important goal).  When obstacles encumber your work, trust the flow, and address these obstacles with the understanding that they serve a necessary part of your journey.  When you eventually peak, switch to recovery mode, trusting that the flow of life will lead you where you need to go.

In this way, you will live an inspired and evolving, but much simpler life than before.  You will avoid unnecessary injury or illness – both emotional and physical – by trusting the feedback and challenges life gives you.  As an added bonus, the self-compassion and acceptance you show life’s obstacles will help you better understand your own life and the lives of others, which will translate in to more success and happier relationships. Much like my newfound, injury-less running, you may find that listening to life instead of dictating its terms will allow you the freedom to appreciate it, and feel at ease.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 265.  In The Books.

Self-Compassion For Your Body Image

Concerns About Our Body Image

Concerns about body image are a well-frequented self-compassion topic.  As the seasons change, people think about the newest trends in clothing.  They research these trends in magazines, on-line, and in their favorite stores.  They look in their closet, and think about which items need to be stored, and which can make a long awaited re-appearance.  Somewhere in this journey, they begin to try things on, and when they don’t fit or these new styles accentuate parts of people’s bodies that they would rather remain hidden, they begin to feel self-critical, sometimes discluded from popular culture, and they turn inward with these feelings with a sense of isolation, disappointment, and shame.

What’s Trending

Are new trends just for those of us, who maintain an athletic or skinny physique?  It appears to depend on where you live, and what is in vogue.  Certainly, big brands have catered to this silhouette for a long time.  We are seeing some changes with specific brands developing clothing for people with more voluptuous figures, but when purchasing these items, some people still feel like their beauty is qualified by an extra descriptor: big, voluptuous, plus size.

If this was not enough, many people with petite or athletic bodies feel that they have body parts that are lacking or compel a kind of interest that creates suffering in their life.  In this game of body image, there seem to be few winners, and many, many losers.  Where do people go, who just want to love their body?  Do they wait on good friends or a significant other or do they figure out a way to have it for themselves?  Maybe, it is a pointless journey, and we simply need to accept that some form of body shame will always be there.

The Genesis Of Body Image Issues

Most body image issues are powered by social values.  Social values are constructed by political, economical, and cultural forces.  Hundreds of years ago, good-looking people were those wealthy enough to have some size.  Fifty years ago, it was popular to be slight, and now athletic bodies are popular.  When you remember what drives public perception of attractiveness, this makes more sense. 

Hundreds of years ago, food was scarce, and people wanted to place a high value on food, so they could sell it for more.  So, bigger was better.  Fifty years ago, food was readily available for many in developed countries, so businesses placed an emphasis on beauty products and tailored clothes because skinniness was more scarce, and it is always easier to sell what is out of people’s reach.  Finally, in recent years, sports have become a very popular form of entertainment, and the supplement/health food market has grown substantially, so now the athletic body is in.

Knowing these things, you now understand that the bodies that are advertised as ideal are done so for profit not because they are based on some infallible equation designed by the gods.  Of course, social pressure will always be there, which makes it hard for us to accept ourselves as we are, but it is equally true that we cannot rely on a model as arbitrary as commerce to determine how beautiful our bodies are.  The only thing we can depend on there is that they find something about our body that we do not like, so that they can get us to buy something!

Increasing Your Positive Body Image With Compassion And Kindness

Save your money, and focus on self-compassion, instead.  Notice the tension that arises, when you begin to become self-conscious about your body image.  Soften around these tense areas.  Notice the thoughts and feelings as they arise, and honor them.  You come by them naturally.  Then, remind yourself that despite social expectations and our own tendency to be strive towards better that what you really need right now is to accept yourself just as you are, and give yourself kindness.  Then, and only then, will you be able to determine if you want to make an effort to be healthier (or if you even need to), and you will know for sure that you need make no effort to be good enough or whole.  You are already good enough or whole, and if you choose to make an effort, it will simply be to add one more thing to love about yourself.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 207.  In The Books.