Tag Archive | Perfection

Tips for “Normal” Eating

The following information is the best I’ve seen, as a basic model for trying to normalize disordered eating. It is especially geared for those individuals who have been chronic dieters. 

No matter how many years or decades you have overeaten or how many diets have failed you, you still can learn how to become a “normal” eater—eating when you are hungry, choosing satisfying foods, remaining aware while eating and enjoying food, and stopping when you are full or satisfied.

 

Note: You did not fail on these diets. These diets failed you.

To succeed at eating “normally”, you will need to:

  • Focus like a laser on eating “normally”
  • Stay persistent like a dog digging for a bone
  • Not expect overnight success
  • Switch your attention from the scale to your appetite
  • Learn effective life skills to manage stress and internal distress

Disregulated eaters can learn how to eat “normally.” Here are some tips to speed you on your way.

Using self-talk

Learn “normal” eating skills: Look in the mirror daily and tell yourself you can learn the skills of “normal” eating.

Think of foods as nutritional and non-nutritional: Instead of thinking of foods as “good” or “bad,” consider them as nutritional or non-nutritional. “Good” and “bad” are moral terms that are best avoided in the food arena.

Give yourself praise: Do not put yourself down for the mistakes you make with food. Instead, lavishly praise yourself for your successes, even the tiniest ones.

Try a different approach: If experience tells you that diets do not keep your weight off, do not try to convince yourself that you should diet. Instead, give yourself points for trying a different approach.

Become your own cheerleader: Never say anything to yourself that you would not say to a young child you love, including calling yourself stupid, hopeless, bad, a failure, or worthless. Become your own cheerleader by generating positive thoughts about yourself and your progress.

Avoid all-or-nothing thinking: Do not use words like “never” and “always.” Remind yourself that most of life is not black and white, but gray. Think incrementally.

Do not dwell on untrue comments: Detoxify negative things people say about or to you that are untrue, rather than repeating them to yourself. Remember that what people say belongs to them, not to you, even if your name is attached to their words.

Connect to your emotions: Ask yourself often how you are feeling, so you can connect more easily to your emotions, but explore only with curiosity, not condemnation.

Stop judging yourself harshly: Develop self-compassion. Treat yourself lovingly. Practice speaking to yourself with extreme esteem.

Keep a positive attitude: Do not keep telling yourself that learning to become a “normal” eater is hard, because saying so only programs you to find the work more difficult. Instead, substitute words like challenging or doable.

 

Recognizing hunger

Rate your hunger: Check in with yourself often to see how hungry you are by using descriptions such as “not hungry,” “moderate,” “very,” and “famished” or a 1-10 scale.

Evaluate if you are hungry: Every time you think about food, ask yourself if you really are hungry enough to eat or if you actually need something else.

Consider having smaller meals: Experiment with eating smaller meals more frequently.

Think about hunger as a signal: It means that you need fuel, not that you have to go out and seek the most fantastic eating experience of your life.

Know what hunger means: Practice believing that hunger is for fuel and pleasure, not for meeting emotional needs.

 

Choosing satisfying foods

Choose for yourself: Do not get hung up on what other people are eating. Instead, ask yourself what you would like to eat.

Forget about good and bad: Remind yourself that foods fall on a nutritional continuum (high value/low value), not on a moral continuum (good/bad).

Make a satisfying choice: Never eat without first stopping to consider what you want. Spend time making your decision by tuning into your appetite.

Stay clear of guilt or shame: Refrain from allowing guilt or shame to contaminate your eating decisions. Avoid secret eating.

Choose foods that you like: Do not eat foods that you do not find satisfying or enjoyable. Eating them will make you think that you are on a diet.

 

Eating with awareness and enjoyment

Look before you eat: Before you eat, look at your food, its portion size, and presentation. Breathe deeply. Look again before taking a mouthful.

Chew every mouthful thoroughly: Chewing a lot helps to thoroughly release the flavor of foods.

Let food sit on your tongue: This allows your taste buds to absorb the flavor and transmit messages about your appetite to your brain.

Talk or eat: When you are talking, stop eating. When you are eating, stop talking.

Stay connected: Pay attention to your body’s appetite signals while you are eating.

Forget about guilt and shame: Push away guilt and shame while you are eating. Focus only on sensory pleasure.

Pause while you are eating: Think about how you are feeling about your food in terms of quality and quantity.

Know when to stop eating: Stop eating when flavor intensity declines, as it is bound to do. Do not try to polish off all of the food in front of you. Instead, aim for the moment when flavor peaks and you feel an internal “ah” of satisfaction—then stop.

Evaluate how full you are: Keep asking yourself while you are eating, “Am I still hungry?” and “Am I satisfied?”

 

Stopping when you are full or satisfied

Know the definitions: Think of “full” as having enough food (fuel) in your stomach and “satisfied” as reaching thehigh point of pleasure.

Quantify fullness and satisfaction: Use words, such as “nearly full,” “too full,” or “just right,” or a 1-10 scale to rate fullness and satisfaction.

Tell your body: When you feel full or satisfied, focus on that sensation, and broadcast it to your whole body.

Disconnect from food: When you are done eating, put down your utensils, push away your plate, and get up, if possible. At least mentally move on. Do whatever you need to do to disconnect yourself from the food.

Decide when enough is enough: Make sure you do not focus on food that is left in front of you. Recognize that you do not have to finish it or clean your plate.

Changing your beliefs:

 

From: To:
“I need to diet to lose weight.” “Diets do not work long term.”
“This is too hard.” “I can learn to do this over time.”
“This will take too long.” “If I do not change now, I will only end up back in this same place again, so I might as well get going on it.”
“Losing weight is the most important thing.” “I will lose weight if I honor my appetite and learn to eat ‘normally.’”
“I am bad/worthless/ugly if I am overweight.” “I accept my body as it is and still will try to improve it.”

 

Stopping emotional eating

Consider your feelings: If you have the urge to eat when you are not hungry, identify the emotion you are feeling.

Think of a different response: Remind yourself that feelings need an appropriate response—not food.

Know the emotions that trigger unwanted eating: Boredom, loneliness, anxiety, shame, guilt, disappointment, confusion, and helplessness can trigger unwanted eating. Look for more effective ways of dealing with these feelings.

Keep a feelings log: This will help you keep track of what is going on inside of yourself all day long.

Reduce stress: This will lessen frustration, helplessness, and the overwhelmed feeling you sometimes have that may drive you to eat.

Take care of yourself: Make sure you are taking care of yourself (with rest, sleep, hobbies, and fun) at least as well as you take care of others.

Learn from your behavior: If you find yourself eating when you are upset, do not take it out on yourself. Treat yourself with compassion and curiosity. Think about your behavior as a learning experience.

Find help: If you have a history of trauma or abuse, get help through therapy. A strong correlation exists between such a history and emotional eating and weight gain.

Take responsibility for yourself: Do not blame others for your emotional eating. Take accountability for your actions.

Build emotional muscle: Tell yourself that you can bear any emotion and practice doing so. You will find that the emotional muscle you build is amazingly strong and enduring.

 

References and recommended readings

Koenig KR. Nice Girls Finish Fat: Put Yourself First and Change Your Eating Forever.New York,NY: Fireside/Simon and Schuster; 2009.

Koenig KR. The Food and Feelings Workbook: A Full Course Meal on Emotional Health.Carlsbad,CA: Gürze Books; 2007.

Koenig KR. The Rules of “Normal” Eating: A Commonsense Approach for Dieters, Overeaters, Undereaters, Emotional Eaters, and Everyone in Between!Carlsbad,CA: Gürze Books; 2005.

Koenig KR. What Every Therapist Needs to Know About Treating Eating and Weight Issues.New York,NY: WW Norton and Co; 2008.

Contributed by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, MEd

 

 

 

 

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Your Teen May Be Headed For Trouble

Your teenage girl appears to have it all together.  She is bright, pretty, has good friendships, and is athletic.  She develops an eating disorder…what happened?  When a teenager feels out of balance, when the things she feels she CAN control are out of balance with the things she feels she CAN’T control, she feels uncomfortable.  For instance, she can’t control that school pressures are enormous and she studied as hard as she could for an exam and got a 92 instead of a 98.  She can’t control that her parents argue.  She can’t control that her boyfriend isn’t ready for a serious relationship and wants to break up with her.  If she is a perfectionist, these out of control situations may even make her feel like a failure.  She is vulnerable.  She decides to go on a “simple diet” to lose 5 pounds to feel better about herself (because she has been taught by the media that thinness = happiness).  On this diet, she realizes that her weight and the amount and types of food she puts into her body, are things she can control when other things in her life she can’t always control.  The more out of control her life feels, the more important it becomes to control her weight and her eating.  If she is vulnerable enough, the dieting could lead to an eating disorder.

The media, in all forms, sends messages to teenagers that in order to be happy, you must be thin and beautiful.  A teenager is bombarded by these messages in magazines portraying waif thin computer altered models.   Television is sending us messages that if dieting doesn’t work, you can even have an extreme makeover to fix your appearance flaws.  Life-threatening surgeries are portrayed as a brilliant quick-fix.

Teenagers also are living in a diet-obsessed environment.  65% of our country is overweight yet, if you’re not on the latest diet – South Beach, Atkins – something is wrong with you.  Everywhere you turn, in magazines, on TV, every news program, online advertisements,  you are bombarded with messages about how to lose weight.

Imagine being a vulnerable teenager, perhaps of normal or slightly above normal weight, struggling with all types of issues, and then having to sit at a lunch table trying to eat a sandwich where no one would eat a “carb” if their life depended on it.  Everyone is talking about how “fattening” bread is.  The peer pressure to diet is extraordinary.

So, you have this vulnerable teenager, feeling out of control, unable to communicate her feelings, experiencing academic and societal pressures, and peer pressure to be thin, and you have the perfect storm… a scenario that can create disordered eating and eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder.

What behavioral signs should a parent look for?

Behaviors vary according to the type and severity of the disorder.

  • If your teen talks more about her weight in a negative way
  • If she asks often “do I look fat?”
  • If she starts cutting out things in her diet such as foods that were once her favorite foods, such as desserts, and says she doesn’t like them anymore
  • If she exhibits rituals around her foods like cutting it up into small pieces, measuring foods, or pushing things around on the plate
  • If her clothes appear looser
  • If she avoids social situations where food is involved or makes excuses not to eat
  • If she has become a vegetarian but will not eat fats and oils or higher fat vegetarian foods
  • If she grocery shops or prepares food for the family but refuses to eat it
  • If she goes to the bathroom often after eating (to purge)
  • If she begins to exercise compulsively, doing excessive amounts of cardiovascular exercise, sit-ups, jumping jacks, leg lifts, push-ups
  • If she is using diet pills or laxatives on a regular basis
  • If, in secret, she binges on high calorie foods
  • If you see empty food packages in her room or in the garbage
  • If she avoids food at holidays

 

What strategies can a parent employ to help your teen avoid dieting/disordered eating?

  • Don’t diet – healthy weight can be achieved through normal eating and changes in lifestyle.  Be a healthy eating role model.  The “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy doesn’t work with food
  • Don’t discuss weight at home, yours or your teenager’s (especially dad)
  • Never criticize your own body
  • Get rid of your scale
  • Don’t criticize your teenager at mealtime; don’t engage in power struggles over food
  • Be a critic of the media
  • Encourage size diversity
  • Encourage your teen to appreciate her qualities other than her weight to help boost her self-esteem
  • Encourage your teen to express all of her positive and negative feelings with you
  • Have structured meals as often as you can to create a normal eating environment – if a teenager who wants to diet has an unstructured or chaotic eating environment at home, it makes it easier for her to diet and get away with it

REMEMBER, YOUR TEENAGER’S DISORDERED EATING IS NOT ABOUT FOOD.  IT IS ABOUT UNDERLYING ISSUES OF SELF-WORTH, COMMUNICATION AND GETTING NEEDS MET.

If you see any of the above “red flags” or have any concerns about your teen, call a professional who is trained in the detection and treatment of eating disorders.

 

 

 

 

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Interesting Facts!

INTERESTING FACTS

With the exception of infancy, we grow faster during adolescence than any other time in our lives.

Approximately 20% of our adult height and 50% of our adult weight is gained between 11 – 19 years of age.

It is normal to gain between 40 and 50 pounds between the ages of 10 and 16.

For girls, weight is often gained in the breasts and hips, mainly in “estrogenic” or “female” fat.  This is healthy and necessary for menstruation and pregnancy.

During the teenage years, girls will experience a widening in their hips.  This is normal and necessary for childbirth.

Women have up to twice the amount of body fat as men do.

Genetics play a huge role in determining the size and shape of our bodies.  You cannot change your genetics.

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Facts About Advertising

The dieting industry generates 50 billion dollars a year with products we buy because we are dissatisfied with our bodies.

The average person in America sees over 3,000 advertising images in one day.

The average person spends approximately 3 years of time during his/her lifetime watching television commercials.

Television commercials/advertisements cost, on average between $250,000 and $500,000 each.

Approximately 180 billion dollars is spent each year, on advertising.

Advertisers use professional models to sell their products.

Computers have digitally altered the professional models that you see in magazines.  What you see is not reality, but an image that was created to make you spend money on something!

Many models have had plastic surgery to improve their appearance.

Many models have eating disorders, smoke and use drugs to try to prevent them from eating normally.

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Check Out Our Obsession With Looks

Women looking for pouty lips are now pumping their lips full of Gore-Tex, the same substance that makes your winter coat waterproof.

If store mannequins were real, they would be too thin to menstruate.

The average lipstick wearer will swallow 10 pounds of lipstick over 40 years.

Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year.

American women spend $130 million a year on cellulite creams, which are as effective as smearing your body with glue to temporarily tighten your skin.

In 2002 about 54,000 teens had chemical peels and just under 53,000 underwent microdermabrasion. More than 19,000 teens had nose jobs.

400-600 advertisements bombard us everyday in magazines, on billboards, on TV, and in newspapers. One in eleven has a direct message about beauty, not even counting the indirect messages.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), over 220,000 people under 18 years old had a cosmetic procedure in 2002.

Average cost of a one-year gym membership:  $450.

Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American people, yet they are the people that we are made to believe we should look like. 

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5 – 10 million women and 1 million men struggle with eating disorders, in part because of our culture’s obsession with thinness, obtaining the perfect body and valuing people on the basis of physical appearance rather than inner qualities and strengths.

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 What You Can Do To Help Prevent Eating Disorders

Learn all you can about anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Share your knowledge with loved ones. Genuine awareness will help them avoid judgmental or mistaken attitudes about food, weight, body shape, and eating disorders.

Discourage the idea that a particular diet, weight, or body size will automatically lead to happiness and fulfillment.

Choose to challenge the false belief that thinness and weight loss are great, while body fat and weight gain are horrible or indicate laziness, worthlessness, or immorality.

Avoid categorizing foods as “good/safe” vs. “bad/dangerous.” Remember, we all need to eat a balanced variety of foods.

Decide to avoid judging others and yourself on the basis of body weight or shape. Turn off the voices in your head that tell you that a person’s body weight says anything about their character, personality, or value as a person.

Avoid conveying an attitude to yourself and others that says, “I will like you better if you lose weight, or don’t eat so much, etc.”

Become a critical viewer of the media and its messages about self-esteem and body image. Talk back to the television when you hear a comment or see an image that promotes thinness at all costs. Don’t watch shows that you know promote these views. Rip out (or better yet, email the editor about ) advertisements or articles in your magazines that make you feel bad about your body shape or size. Better yet, don’t buy these magazines

If you think someone has an eating disorder, express your concerns in a forthright, caring manner. Gently but firmly encourage the person to seek trained professional help. If you suffer from an eating disorder, speak up and get the help you need.

Be a model of healthy self-esteem and body image. Recognize that others pay attention and learn from the way you talk about yourself and your body. Choose to talk about yourself with respect and appreciation. Choose to value yourself based on your goals, accomplishments, talents, and character.

Avoid letting the way you feel about your body weight and shape determine the course of your day. Embrace the natural diversity of human bodies and celebrate your body’s unique shape and size.

Support local and national nonprofit eating disorders organizations — like the National Eating Disorders Association or the Binge Eating Disorder Association.

Reprinted in part from Teaching Body Confidence, by Rebecca Manley, M.S.

And

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/nedaDir/files/documents/handouts/WhtCnUDo.pdf

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Restriction vs Restraint

A client recently asked me what the difference between restriction and healthy restraint was. She suffers from an eating disorder where her eating behaviors range from severe restriction to binge eating. She rarely experiences times where her eating is comfortable, easy and pleasurable. I’ve been working with her on understanding that the periods of restriction are often followed by periods of bingeing and in order to reach the comfortable eating place, she cannot continue to give herself permission to restrict. She revealed to me that she knows no other way to avoid bingeing except to restrict. It’s “all or nothing” with her eating she says. She says sometimes it’s easier to not eat at all because once she eats she has strong urges to binge and finds it impossible to resist them.  Wow. This is such a powerful statement, yet one I have heard numerous times in the treatment of people with binge eating disorder. So, I have said to her on a few occasions that she may practice “healthy restraint” at times, because it has less of a chance of causing binge eating than restriction does. So…what exactly is healthy restraint vs restriction?

Restriction, in my opinion, is rule-driven deprivation of food that overrides the body’s natural intuitive hunger, its “starting point” for eating. It is a deliberate withholding of food despite the desire or appetite for it. It may include the withholding of overall food intake, of specific nutrients, food groups, times of day, time periods, etc. It is often painful and creates heightened obsessive thoughts of food. Restriction is quite common with individuals with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Also there are numerous individuals who don’t have a diagnosed eating disorder who restrict their food in order to be a specific weight or size. It is not a matter of “will-power” or strength. Restriction is unnatural. It doesn’t make someone more powerful or “in control”.  It is counter-intuitive and often backfires.

“Healthy restraint” is different. It is a behavior that many healthy people engage in every day in choosing what and how much to eat. Restraint is not about rigid rules, but more about choice. It is flexible, based on the body’s intuitive cues of hunger, appetite and fullness. Restraint is a mixture of intuitiveness and choice. It is knowing you are full or you’ve had enough and then telling yourself it’s ok to stop now because you are satisfied and you can eat more later if you want to.

By giving you a couple examples, it might illustrate the difference better. Allison has an eating disorder. She fears losing control over her intake of food time and time again. She has convinced herself that she overeats every time she is in the presence of a food she likes. She has told herself that if she doesn’t limit herself from all pleasurable foods, she will overeat. She avoids numerous foods, opportunities to eat out with friends and family because she doesn’t want to binge. She keeps a very limited array of foods in her house. She has developed very strong negative feelings and opinions regarding foods other than the very select few she deems “safe” or “good”. If she eats a food that isn’t on her safe list, she is convinced she will binge. She inevitably does binge on these foods and then restricts them once again, making her theory that she can’t eat them even stronger.  On a weekend night, Allison goes out to dinner with her family. Her family orders a variety of choices off the menu. Allison orders a salad with grilled chicken, dressing on the side. She says she doesn’t like anything else on the menu. She refuses the bread that’s on the table, she doesn’t eat a dessert.  She orders a diet soda to drink. She spends the meal making small talk meanwhile she is preoccupied with all the foods everyone else is eating, telling herself they are crazy for eating those foods, the foods are horrible, if she ate one of the entrees everyone else chose, she’d go out of control, gain tons of weight and her life would be miserable. She tells herself she is much better off only eating her “safe” “healthy” salad. Yet, all the while, she really knows she loves the other foods. She wishes she could let herself have them and eat them in the amounts that “normal” people do.   When dinner is over, she feels sad, angry and deprived. Somehow she convinces herself that it was the right thing to do. A few days later, in a “moment of weakness” while at the grocery store, she buys a box of cookies along with the other groceries. She barely gets the car door closed when she rips into the bag of cookies and eats half the box before she makes it home. Clearly, in this instance, Allison experienced restriction which led her, in part, to rebound binge on cookies. Not to say that restriction always leads to bingeing or that there aren’t multiple causes for bingeing but restriction is NOT a positive or natural behavior.

Robin also has an eating disorder. She has spent months trying to achieve structure in her eating by eating three solid meals a day and eating exactly what she desires at each of these three meals. Her breakfasts are not the traditional breakfasts. She prefers dinner foods for breakfast. She no longer follows her old restrictive rules. She listens to her intuitive side and eats well. On an occasion recently, she was invited out to lunch with several friends. As they were ordering, she listened to the women all speaking about what foods they wouldn’t order off the menu, how they would never eat “this or that”. They all ordered salads. When it was her time to order, she ordered a hamburger and fries. They all looked at her like she was crazy. She told them she wanted the burger. She had to listen them all comment how bad her choice was. Lunch arrived and she proceeded to eat her burger and fries with gusto. About ¾ of the way through her meal, she was comfortably full. It tasted delicious and she told herself that she could have eaten the whole burger and all the fries, but she decided that she had eaten enough to satisfy her and if she wanted a burger and fries again for dinner or the next day for any of her three meals, she would have it. There was no “need” to eat it all at lunch and push past the feeling of being satisfied into feeling “overfull”. She was exhibiting healthy restraint because she offered herself the choice to have it all or have it again whenever she wanted it next. This took the power away from the food and enabled her to use her intuitive skills to determine when to stop.

Now, some people truly don’t have intact intuitive skills like this so they must look at their plate of food and make sure they don’t stop prematurely, before they feel they are truly satisfied or eat it all simply because it is there. They want to go into the meal with an open mind instead of a restrictive, diet mindset or a “rebound” mindset. If they aren’t mindful, they may end up eating less than they need or more than their body wants them to.

Just recently a mom came in with her teenage son (who was not diagnosed with an eating disorder) to my office. She wanted to discuss why her son gained a significant amount of weight in only six months. I asked her what the food was like in her house. She said that she never keeps “junk food” in the house because every time she does, her son eats it all and exhibits no control over it. Also, whenever he’s at his friends’ houses, he overeats on cookies and soda. I asked him if he felt deprived of these foods so whenever he got the chance, he would take the opportunity to overindulge on them? He looked at me with a sigh of relief and  began to cry because I had said exactly how he felt. He was restricted from having these foods at home and that set him up for craving them all the time. His mother agreed to have an abundance of these foods at home from now on and to never let them run out. He agreed that he would try to take the power away from these foods. I have seen examples of this type of power struggle over food many, many times. The people who have had foods withheld from them are those who often have strong cravings for them. On the other hand, it’s those who have abundance and variety of foods to choose from who are often those who do not feel deprived and therefore can choose foods without the emotional “tug of war”. In time, this teenage boy will be able to have a wider variety of food preferences. He will most likey choose “junk foods” sometimes and other types of foods sometimes. He will be able to exhibit healthy restraint because his preferences will change and be based on intuitiveness and choice rather than restriction and rebound craving.

Note:  I want to emphasize that many individuals who are in the throws of their illness or who are in early stages of recovery may not be able to differentiate between restriction and healthy restraint and therefore must ask their treatment professionals if it is a skill they can work on together. It is easy to convince yourself you are exhibiting restraint when in actuality, you are restricting. This especially would not be a skill that would be appropriate for the early stages of recovery from anorexia.

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Pursuing Perfection

The following is another fantastic post from one of my guest bloggers, Dina Maierovits, MS, RD, an eating disorder nutrition therapist in Toronto. Thanks Dina!

I went to a school psychology conference today with the goal of learning how to better help today’s teens. I left with newfound knowledge that can help every one us.

The presentation was “The Triple Bind: Saving Our Girls from Today’s Pressures,” given by Stephen Hinshaw, Ph.D., chair of the Psychology Department at UC Berkeley and author of a book by the same name. Dr. Hinshaw addressed the elevated risk in recent years for mental health disorders in teenage girls, including depression, suicide, self-harm, and eating disorders. What’s especially frightening is that in addition to becoming more prevalent, these problems are also manifesting at increasingly younger ages.

The “triple bind” refers to a set of conflicting pressures on girls that did not exist in previous decades. As always, girls need to excel at “girl skills”; they need to be nurturing, kind, and caring. What’s new in this generation is that girls also have to achieve “boy goals,” meaning that they must now compete academically and athletically, which requires showing assertiveness and ambition.  The third element is that girls are expected to effortlessly conform to unrealistic standards and be models of perfection 100% of the time. Dr. Hinshaw explained that the tremendous pressure created by this triple bind is putting more and more girls at risk for mental health disorders.

Working with teenage girls makes me all too familiar with the triple bind.  The pressure to be perfect is relentless, but it is rarely discussed or acknowledged. In the words of some girls in Dr. Hinshaw’s study, “Nobody understands what kind of pressure we are under.” “I feel this pressure all the time, but no one ever talks about it.”

Mental illness is determined not just by genes, but, to a very large degree, by environment as well. If the rate of mental health disorders is skyrocketing, what does that say about our society?

Fortunately, the presentation wasn’t just an exploration of the dynamics and consequences of the triple bind. That would have been pretty dismal! Dr. Hinshaw also had a number of solutions to offer, one of which is self-discovery.  

Dr. Hinshaw maintains that the pressure to be perfect gets in the way of developing a true sense of self. He brought the example of girls in one of his focus groups who confessed to never raising their hands in class because they were graded down for giving a wrong answer. The prevailing belief is that you don’t speak unless you get it right.

In today’s world, it’s not good enough anymore to be “OK.”  The problem is, how do you self-discover if you have to be relentlessly perfect? Forming your identity involves experimenting with different selves and skills. That means that in order to form your identity, you need to try a few things and see what you’re good at – and what you’re not good at! If you need to be perfect, you’ll think in a very narrow way.

What do you get when you’re prevented from developing a true sense of self? Well, a false sense of self. And that does not take you very far in terms of achieving happiness and fulfillment.

What’s so important to realize is that forming your identity is not just a teenage thing; discovering who you are is lifelong process. There’s always more to learn! You need to grant yourself the opportunity to take risks and not feel horrible because you aren’t perfect. It’s pretty tough to discover who you are if you never take a risk! Don’t miss out because you’re afraid of messing up. Try doing something new simply because you think it might be enjoyable or interesting. Maybe you’ll do it once and never again, but you’ll have given yourself the chance.

Plus, you might even have fun.

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